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. 

Shaolin Monk
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.


  1. I just have to say, I absolutely love these posts. I read all of them and I always want to write a brilliant, well composed response, but I find myself pondering the post for a few days. Point being, please keep writing your perspective.

  2. Thanks Dagney. I know you know as a blogger, that sometimes you wonder if anyone is actually reading what you post or if it's just sitting, taking up space on the internet. Thanks as always for your great comments AND your blog:)

  3. Interesting. I have never had much interest in martial arts, so never really thought about the spiritual implications. REgarding yoga, I got sick and tired of hearing about the evil connection to Hindu or Budhha or TM or whatever. It's just a freakin' exercise of the body. Why can't Christians meditate and go inward to our bodies, too?

    Good, informative and thought-provoking post!

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  5. Yeah...I dated a guy (also Christian) that freaked out when I said one of our assignments for a spiritual symposium was to meditate more. I think the concept is grossly misunderstood within Christianity. That said, I do think there is a key difference between Christian meditation and that practiced in Yoga.

    Christian meditation encourages you to quiet the mind to better hear from God by focusing on him. Yogic meditation teaches you to focus on nothing. That aside though, I believe the movements are just movements, and not inherently dangerous to a Christian practitioner.

    Thanks for reading!

  6. Interesting approach to the subject. Appreciate the compliment on my blog as well

  7. Hi, I am an English actor, christian and MASSIVE martial arts fan who is going crazy, trying to decide if its 'OK' to study BJJ. Your comment about internal/external arts is hugely helpful. I box regularly and actually, cant see the difference between that and grappling, not 'spiritually' anyway. Any further thoughts Megan?

  8. Hi Propeler!

    First. Do BJJ. Seriously...just do it because it's amazing.

    To address your concerns more directly, I can honestly say there's no inherent spiritual component to the art unless an instructor is interjecting it themselves. One of the pastors at my church just started training at my school and is loving it.

    Also, check out this FB group if you'd like to talk to other Christians that train: