Saturday, January 1, 2011
Christianity and Martial Arts
All my life I've wanted to study a martial art. Being the non-athlete that I am, I just figured it was outside of my reach. After finishing undergrad and rethinking who I was and what I "could" try, I decided I was going to take up the practice of...something...I just had no idea what.
I looked into kung fu, tai chi, jeet kun do, krav maga...all kinds of arts. Besides price and availability, I ran into one big impediment to practice. Some arts do contain a spiritual element, and though I read testimony of many Christians that practice internal arts, I was never quite comfortable. That's not to say it's not possible, but it wasn't going to work for me.
During my search, I ran into a lot of Christian MMA and BJJ organizations. I couldn't figure out why so many Christians were drawn to what appears to be such a brutal sport. I eventually ended up practicing Brazilian jiu jitsu (an art many MMA fighters train in) after stumbling across it in a search for a muay thai school...both external arts...and I think the internal/external question is a key element in the link between martial arts and religion.
An interesting theory I read on a forum once...that external arts like jiu jitsu and muay thai are better suited to Christianity because of its core teaching of separation from the body...contrast that with a physical practice like yoga (connected with the practice of Hinduism), that teaches enlightenment through a deepened connection with the physical. So, if you're punching someone in the face, you're causing harm to the actual spiritual being.
There's a quote from George Foreman thrown around...after he was asked how he, as a Christian, could practice such an aggressive art. He responded that none of it was done in anger. After spending some time with MMA fighters, I'm inclined to believe that. They are some of the most "slow to anger" people I've ever run into. It's really got me thinking why, even in the internal arts, are they so frequently practiced by monks and holy men.