Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Christianity and Martial Arts

Father Photius is a Greek Orthodox Priest and a 9th dan. Here is his response to "martial arts seduce you into worshipping demons"

That is a very involved question. There are fanatics in every aspect of religion. I do not associate martial at all with religion, I wasn't taught it that way, and I find no "spirituality" in it that is God centered. Ueshiba belonged to a sect of shintoism that could be allogorically compared to the like of a very pentecostal holy roller sect compared to most fundamental protestantism. He imposed his religious beliefs and thoughts into the martial art he taught. He did not learn it as a religion, the Daito-ryu he studied was not taught with religion attached. Ueshiba certainly "softened" the practice, and he imposed his religious beliefs through his philosophy and "do". But his students did not always do this, even the homburyu does not really embrace the shinto sect he belonged to. Goza did not follow it, nor did Tomiki. Certainly Karl Geis does not follow it, and he is the one from whom my current practice of Aikido comes from. Neither Karl, nor Tim Joe, my direct instructor tried to put any theology, faith, or moral philosophy into what they taught.

My Okinawan karate instructor was a Roman Catholic, and he imposed nothing "spiritual" into what he taught. My Tae Kwon Do instructors did not try to infuse any spirituality into what they taught.

Is there discipline in martial art, yes. Is there discipline in faith, yes. Is there discipline in the Military, yes. Is there discipline in education, yes.
It is clear that mankind when he applies discipline to any endeavor seems to succeed better at it.

Martial art is doing. Faith is doing. You cannot write about, discuss, and philosophy about martial art and be effective with it, you must practice, train, and do. Those who practice hardest, train the most, do the best.

The same can be said for those who approach their faith with this "do" attitude and practice diligently at it and train themselves to act upon it and under its dictates. Addition of "religion" to martial arts is something that came after the fact. It was not from religion that martial arts sprang.

Men from the most ancient of days have tried to impose their religion and beliefs into their many endeavors. One must recall St. Benedict was the father of "scholasticism" in which he utilized elements of study to practice of faith. These practices, philosophies, etc. are methods men use as tools to try to help them learn to practice their beliefs.

Like any tool it can be used and abused. It is a tool, it is not an end to itself. Anyone who tries to make martial art his religion, has martial art for a religion. There are many "gods", and we of Judeo-Christianity have a commandment, "I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt have no other God before me." "Christ told us in the sermon on the mountain "Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, and then all things shall be added unto you."

Orthodox Christianity is very Eastern. It does not have a western mindset like the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches have. Many ideas in western christianity come actually from the Renaissance and not the living experience of the Church or the Scriptures.Secular humanism actually has many elements found readily throughout most western christian confessions.

It is easy to condemn something that you don't understand, or fear, or find useful to you to condemn for numerous purposes to advance your agenda. After all the High Priest and the Sanhedran condemned Christ.

To say that we received the fullness of the revelation of God to man in the person of the man/God Jesus, the Christ, and that we have that faith transmitted to us without change, neither added to nor taken away from , from the time of the Holy Apostles is a solemn statement. It does not mean we must live and behave exactly as the people did in the time of Christ in the vicinity of Jerusalem, though many would insist it should. Unique since most of them have no clue of what such a life was. It is not a condemnation of technological advancements, growth of civilization etc. Men change and need to change, to change from the corrupt beings we are towards God. We were created in the image of and "AFTER" the likness of God. That means while we were created to obtain Godlikeness, that man, when created had not yet attained that. Adam fell before attaining that.

In Adam's fall we lost the prototype. How can we know what true godlikness in man is, if we have no model? God became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus, the Christ. In Him we know what true godlikeness in man is and we try to emulate that, to become "Christ like" or "Christian."

The church has many tools to assist us in this, the divine mysteries, the scriptures, the writings of the fathers, the witness of the saints, the teachings of the Holy Apostles, prayer, symbols, many things, but each is but tools to assist us and only aid us when we use the tool properly as God intended for it to be used. To try to find God by some other method than the one he gave us is futile. He who is the creator of all things knows the path and has shown it to us. Men since the time of his coming have been trying to find alternatives and other ways, but there is only one way. Men have elevated many things to a human concept of divinity, all fall short of the glory of God.

Men have professed many "new" ways, but none are the true way. To speak of martial art and religion in the same sentence seems so ridiculous to me. I can draw analogies between my faith and a lot of things, but that does not mean because I can draw an analogy that the thing used becomes a new tool or sanctified.

Yet, all things are possible with God, and if God can use something to bring someone to Himself, He will. God does not sin, nor bless sin in any way. In fact the very definition of sin is "missing the mark" or being "off target" thus outside of God and God's will. Yet many a man has come back to God because of some Sin. It does not mean God blesses the sin, it does not mean God caused the sin, it means that God will use all means to bring man to him.

Man has a free will and God does not intervene in it. If He did, then the will would not be free. Free will is nothing more than the ability to choose to love or not love God. Love cannot be compelled, if it is, it is not love. Thus, for man to truly love God, man must have the ability to choose to not love God. While we often try to infer Free Will to many other choices that is really the only choice we have, we either Love God or we don't. Every choice or action we take is either in His will or outside of it. If in, we keep His commandments, and as Christ told us, "He who loves me keeps my commandments". If outside of God's will, then we are in Satan's will, there is no other, we think it is our will, or the will of someone else, but the reality there is in God and out of God. All outside of God is evil and all within God is Good. Men think we can keep one foot in each, but the reality is , if we do that, we really have both feet outside of God.

It is wrong to make your religion a martial art, and it is wrong to make a martial art your religion. It is wrong to make a political philosophy your religion, and it is wrong to make your religion a political philosophy. God created all things in this world, and this world as Good. Man by his sin corrupted that. The corruption is man's not God's.


  1. To paraphrase a section: "there is god's will or satan's will". Right, so there is no free will, just a gun to our head. It's a bound choice, a catch 22, a contract made under duress, a mafia protection racket. And apparently we put the gun there ourselves. "Man by his sin corrupted that." So they catch you coming and going. Yeah, I'm going to go for something that actually values people and the efforts we make, rather than something that says it values people but in actuality denigrates us for the sake of something only "verifiable" after death (laughable, that) and tells us all our good is only ever through God, and is really only to avoid the gun to our head. Screw it.

  2. If Churches want to dabble in politics, which they do, we should take away their tax-free status.
    I have nothing bad to say about spirituality that is looking to the goodness in human existance.
    But some of the most mean-spirited hypocrites I have ever met were fine, upstanding church folk.
    Many, many of our friends are wonderful Christians involved in community outreach, food banks and other such activities.
    But when some of us experiance a little "schadenfrueden" at the downfall of some "holier-than-thou" Christian preacher, Senator or other public figure, it's because they have set themselves at a higher standard than the rest of us poor slobs.
    -- I'm afraid this subject opens up a can of worms, and I'm sorry to have strayed off the Christians and Karate theme.