I recently received an email asking me about ‘Christian Karate,’ as a church in England was thinking of starting such a group. This might be unusual for Britain but in America such groups abound; a pointprovenby typing ‘Christian Karate’ into the Google search engine on the Internet.
Atheist and sceptic, David Kostinchuk refers to this in an article on the web:
“Judging from advertising on the Internet, in recent years there has been a phenomenal expansion in the number of people practicing Christian Karate. This has even extended to the formation of large Christian organizations such as the ‘Gospel Martial Arts Union,’ ‘U.S. Christian Martial Arts Association’ and ‘Karate For Christ.’ There are Christians who avow that traditional karate is demonic or, they believe that Christians might be influenced by other religions during their karate training. Other Christians see nothing wrong with practicing traditional karate.”
My mind went into overdrive at the phrase, ‘Christian Karate,’ did you kick your opponent in love? Maybe you chopped through heretical books instead of the telephone directory. Or maybe it was a new Cartoon from some enterprising American television station.
No, none of those things, it was Karate taught by Christians and for Christians. Immediately two major questions came to mind,
1. Can we ‘Christianise’ the power of Karate and allow the Holy Spirit to direct us?
2. Even if the answer to the first questions was yes, are we giving credence to something that is definitely not originally from God?
This article shows what I discovered and my conclusions.
First I needed some clear definitions of what Karate was and what it aimed to achieve in a life. Was there a power at work in the first place? First the website of Shotokan Karate of America said this,
“Karate can also be described as a martial art, or fighting method, involving a variety of techniques, including blocks, strikes, evasions, throws, and joint manipulations. Karate practice is divided into three aspects: kihon (basics), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).
“The word karate is a combination of two Japanese characters: kara, meaning empty, and te, meaning hand; thus, karate means “empty hand.” Adding the suffix “-do” (pronounced “doe”), meaning “way,” i.e., karate-do, implies karate as a total way of life that goes well beyond the self-defense applications. In traditional karate-do, we always keep in mind that the true opponent is oneself.
“Shotokan founder Gichin Funakoshi has said that “mind and technique become one in true karate.” We strive to make our physical techniques pure expressions of our mind’s intention, and to improve our mind’s focus by understanding the essence of the physical techniques. By polishing our karate practice we are polishing our own spirit or our own mentality…
“One of the unique features of karate training in SKA is what we call Special Training – a series of intensive practices during which we try our best to ‘face ourselves’ and polish our mentality or spirit.”
Similarly we read on another web site
“After what’s been said, it is clear that Karate-do and Karate Budo are much, much more than mere self-defense techniques, actually, such a definition is a far shot from the real essence of Karate as a philosophy, which strives to develop the inner qualities of a human being and the search of perfection of your character…”
We can see from this definition that Karate goes beyond just the physical and delves in to the ‘spirit’ or deeper part of man; doesn’t this produce conflict for the Christian?
The very fact that it is called ‘Christian Karate’ shows that there is that which is not Christian in the original definition. How, then, does such a group answer these problems. We read on the Christian Karate Association website something that many other groups agree with:
“We believe that Christians can study the martial arts and do so in holiness as unto the Lord. We, however, recognize the strong occult powers entrenched in Asian practice and academics. We also understand that the martial arts predate the oriental martial arts and our goal is to reclaim the martial arts for Christ.”
In other words there is an agreement that the source and power of Martial Arts, as used originally, is not of Christ. However they would claim that martial arts predate oriental martial arts; however no information is given as to the source of this statement. Did God instruct the Israelites in the powers? Did Jeremiah use martial arts as a self-defence mechanism against those who attacked him? Then, how about Paul or Peter or any other of the early disciples?
Nowhere do we read of Martial Arts coming from the Spirit of Christ and so how can we reclaim something for Him which was never His in the first place. It is hard to see from the brief history below how it can be said that originally there was no eastern influence in Martial Arts.
Most would say that actually the history of Karate began some 1400 years ago, although as we have seen some want to claim it is older. At this time, Daruma, founder of Zen Buddhism, a system of meditation, introduced Buddhism into China, incorporating spiritual and physical teaching methods. The physical training was heavily influenced by Daruma’s philosophical principles. The development was influenced by two separate movements, one from northern China and the other from southern China. This is said to explain, the ‘double character’ of Karate; on the one hand extremely violent and efficient but at the same time a strict and austere discipline and philosophy with a non-violent emphasis.
Master Gichin Funakoshi introduced karate to mainland Japan, in 1916 and in 1955 Tsutomu Ohshima came to the United States and was the first person to teach karate in the US.
First we need to make clear that not every teacher of Karate is seeking to draw on ‘demonic spirits’, many would say indeed that there is no spiritual input in the way that they teach. However, is this possible? If you are using the basics of Karate can they be totally divorced from the original powers?
I always asked the question, “who holds the copyright?” I have published a number of books; if they wanted to, an individual could reprint the books and sell them for a profit. However, I would be entitled by law to claim every penny of profit they made as the copyright is mine. In the many times I have considered this issue I have never been able to find the Bible teaches that we can ‘Christianise’ something that has come from a different spiritual realm.
The Bible always talks about, death, burial and then new life, our old way of life being crucified (see Romans 6:1-11). It does not talk about cleaning-up a life but finding a totally new life with a new source, (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). The Bible does not say that at Calvary Jesus claimed back the things of the Devil, it rather says that He destroyed his works (1 John 3:8). This is a very different picture to teaching that we can Christianise something. When the children of Israel entered the promised land they were not told to Christianise the ways of the people of the land before them, rather they were told to have nothing to do with them (Deuteronomy 18:9)
Sceptic David Kostinchuk, who I mentioned earlier, makes an interesting point in his article; although, it should be understood that the hidden agenda he refers to, might be ‘Christianity’ from his perspective:,
“People considering enrolling, or enrolling their children should read up on karate and other martial arts before they enrol themselves or their children. They should question if the instructor mixes religion with karate. You must think of your children’s future welfare. The instructor could have a hidden agenda. Besides the cost of lessons the child could suffer psychological damage? Proliferation Methods Sports can be a very useful tool by evangelist zealots to proselytize members from different Christian groups or even non-Christian religions such as Islam and Hinduism.”
Whatever he meant, I think it is good advice because having ‘read up’ on Karate and seen that there is a different spirit at work, how can I join even if it has the adjective, ‘Christian,’ before it. But more than this, we need to consider something very important here.
Just supposing the type of Karate you are teaching does not open up someone to a ‘demonic spirit’. A person joins and is happy with you but later moves house to a different area. He goes with the feeling that Karate is obviously fine because he learnt it at an evangelical church. He saw Karate advertised regularly on the notice board and in the weekly bulletin, therefore there is nothing wrong with it. He joins another Karate class but this one is very different, it is the traditional type with all the spiritual trappings.
We are told to abstain from every appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) but our actions have given approval to something that will open this person up to a different spiritual realm. We are indeed told that all things are lawful but not all things are expedient for us to do (1 Corinthians 6:12). Paul teaches that he knew his place of security in Christ but there were certain things he would not do in case weaker Christians were stumbled (1 Corinthians 8:9). I firmly believe that teaching Martial Arts comes within the bracket of this teaching.
Kostinchuk goes on to explain away acts such as bowing and meditation. Indeed neither of these things need be a doorway through which Satan can come but the question that is not answered, is, “where does the power of Karate come from?”
One website lists 12 ways of increasing power all of which are to do with body position etc., but the thirteenth is, “and the mystical ‘ki’ energy”
We read further about ‘ki’
“Ki is the Japanese word for a concept that has been variously translated as mind, spirit, energy, life force, or intention. Although it is generally associated with Asian cultures (in Chinese it is Ch’i; in Korean it is Qi) almost everyone has experienced what they considered a “sixth sense” or a “gut feeling” at one time or another… Given the broad range of translations of the word, it should be clear that the idea of ki has many other applications as well. The shouts that karate students give are called kiai, meaning a focusing of ki.”
Tom Harris says,
“In the long history of martial arts, expert fighters have used their physical skills as a means of building mental and spiritual skills. This is especially true of karate; in fact, for many karatekas, the art is primarily a path towards spiritual fulfillment rather than a means of self-defense…
“There are many strong connections between this philosophy and karate. In solitary practice, karatekas must learn to concentrate on their own movements, letting everything else go. This is a powerful form of meditation… Not all karatekas practice Zen Buddhism as such. Karate masters might be Jewish, Christian, Hindu or agnostic – the martial arts discipline fits well with a wide range of religions and beliefs. But to advance through the higher levels of karate, it is essential that a karateka cultivate spiritual power, whatever their religious beliefs. The basic element of this power is ki.
“Ki is an amorphous, undefinable force, but it is generally described as the energy of life itself. It binds all living things together and gives each person his or her spiritual, physical and mental power… As karatekas develop heightened physical control, they become more aware of the seat of ki in their body… Ki is absolutely crucial in the higher levels of karate: It gives masters the power they need to break blocks and topple much larger opponents.”
It is possible to find those that say ‘ki’ is not a problem but many others will show, as above, that ‘ki’ is a real problem to Christians. Certainly the ‘ki’ gives the power to Karate and without it all that is being taught is self-defence and it should never be called Karate.
What is this ‘ki’? At best it must be a latent force within man and at worst a demonic spirit. The one thing it cannot be is the Holy Spirit. The graphic depiction of the ‘ki’ is the yin/yang symbol, a half black and half white circle, totally in balance, with a small part of the white in the black and a small part of the black in the white. However, there is no darkness within the Lord (James 1:17) and so by very definition ‘ki’ cannot be of God.
‘Ki’ can then either be the spirit of man or the spirit of the Devil but in either case it is not come from God as its source. With this uncertainty we believe that the only conclusion we can come to is to steer clear of Karate completely.
That is not to say that we believe self-defence to necessarily be wrong but if we teach something that protects us physically, with a technique that possibly opens us up to a wrong spiritual force we are making life worse for that person.
More emphasis on the benefits and disadvantages of self-defence in karate with a christian view.As many people claims that they do it just for fitness or self defence.I was like that before and I need some help for letting them know that Karate has some weid stuff behind it. By the way I have practised Karate for about two years can this still affect me now.Thank you God bless.