- On the cover of Bob Jones University's Spring 1992 issue of the BJU Review is a picture of black belt karate master and senior at BJU, Jim Pitts, in full karate garb, Bible open, giving the "invitation," while the rest of the members of BJU's "Champions for Christ karate team" are kneeling in prayer by their cinder-block bricks. On the inside cover is a picture of Mr. Pitts breaking four bricks with his right arm, while the other team members are watching, with Bibles open. The editor of the Review declares that:
"Champions for Christ is one of many different extension groups that go out from the University each week, bringing the Gospel to needy people throughout the Southeast. These extension ministries give all students the chance to sharpen their soulwinning skills, be an encouragement to others, and use their skills to glorify God." (Emphasis added.)
- Many other so-called youth and evangelism ministries promote the martial arts as a means of motivating youth in evangelism, spiritual warfare, etc. For example, the March 1992 Baptist Bulletin (GARBC) contains an article about a husband-wife ABWE missionary team helping "teenagers understand God's power in their lives" by exhibiting his (the husband's) karate skills ("such as breaking boards with his hands and demonstrating samurai swords and nunchakus") at GARBC youth rallies. The missionary team claims to want "to help the teenagers understand God's power in their lives ... [and] to motivate them to join God in the spiritual battle of the present age."
- Should a Christian's "soulwinning skills" include karate, and can that "skill" be used "to glorify God?" And what has karate to do with the reality of "God's power" in a teenager's life? Even though one might find it difficult to see how the so-called "skill" of karate could or would be used by the Holy Spirit to draw the lost to Christ, the overriding question must be: Is there a philosophy antithetical to Christianity that is at the root of karate exhibitions?
- Karate has a unique and unusual history. It was handed down centuries ago from Zen Master to Buddhist monk by word of mouth, and always in strict secrecy. Even today, everything done in karate can be tracked back to some principle of Zen Buddhism. An Indian Buddhist priest named Bodhidharma in the 6th century A.D. in China, synthesized karate techniques and Yoga meditation in order to unite mind, spirit, and body. (Among the Chinese styles are kung fu or gung fu, wu shu, and pa kua. Tai kwan do and hapkido are among the Korean styles.) Karate is clearly a mental and moral exercise, indeed, a spiritual experience. In each practice session there is a concerted effort to unite mind, spirit, and body just as Bodhidharma sought to do with Zen priests.
Karate is founded on scientific principles of body movements that develop the karate devotee into a healthy, well coordinated person, both physically and mentally. The Chinese karate masters considered karate to be an extension of their religion. The Okinawan karate masters considered it to be a way of life:
"It is, rather, an expression of life lived 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Indeed, the way of karate is a philosophy of life -- a rich, rewarding philosophy if carried through, past the boundaries of obvious self-defense techniques, into the realm of mind-searching discipline. Within karate-do is the potential of a new person: a person huge in all the capabilities that will make him respected and confident" (The Way of Karate).
- Karate is Zen -- so says Master Oyama and many other karate masters. Zen is a school of Buddhism that has been called the "Religion of Immediate Reality." The aim of Zen is to awaken the student to his true self and thus bring about a degree of self-knowledge through inward meditation. Zen students seek peace of mind through an enlightened awakening of an intuitive wisdom, which they feel is dormant now in all people. Zen meditation tries to achieve "no mindedness" which may be acquired by concentration and special breathing exercises. Karate, when combined with Zen meditation, is used to assist the student's quest for peace of mind and equanimity in the face of conflict and tension.
- Although many, especially here in the United States, tend to disregard much of the Zen Buddhist philosophy in their training, some impact of that philosophy is made upon every student of karate. This is because Zen meditation and yoga-like breathing exercises -- whether for thirty seconds or for two hours before and after every practice session -- are an integral part of any Oriental martial arts program. If one truly aspires to master the art of karate, he cannot ignore the spiritual implications.
Zen meditation provides a false "inner peace" that is at best a counterfeit of the peace only God can give. There is only one source of inner peace -- the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We can choose between the self-control developed by the Holy Spirit, or the self-control of Zen. And with the self-control of Zen, as with any Eastern meditation technique, one could also be opening himself up to demonic activity.
While God calls us to humility, the martial arts cater to human pride. For even in gaining mastery over one's self through Zen, it is still recognized as an accomplishment of self. That self-pride then manifests itself through a desire to prove oneself superior.
- Although some proponents for a "Christian" martial arts do concede that karate has roots in occult, pagan, and/or Eastern religious philosophy, they also claim that the primary philosophy behind the martial arts actually originated in Old Testament Biblical times (citing such passages as Gen. 14:13-16; 2 Sam 6:14; Psa. 144:1; Eccl. 9:10 as proof-texts), even going back all the way to the Garden of Eden! (Christian Martial Arts, Tottingham & Tottingham, pp. v & 2). Therefore, according to these advocates, Satan made "inroads" into the true Bible-based martial arts, capturing them for himself, and that all we need to do now is to reclaim them and change them "from an Asiatic philosophy to a truly Bible-centered Christian philosophy" (Christian Martial Arts, pp. ii & 2). Once these "dramatic changes" in "approach" are made, we are told, the "Christian can indeed study the martial arts in total harmony with his walk with the Lord" (Christian Martial Arts, p. v).
This, of course, is the same logic men use to "Christianize" any worldly, pagan, and/or occult philosophy or practice, whether it be astrology (the "Gospel in the Stars"), psychology, Eastern "medicine," magic, pyramidology, graphology, numerology, etc., etc., etc. The logic goes something like this:
"It was originated by God (which requires a few verses out of context to 'prove' it), Satan stole it and/or counterfeited it (under the false assumption that 'Satan can't create, he just steals from God'), we need to reclaim it and re-Christianize it, and then we can use it 'to glorify God'" (Christian Martial Arts, pp. 75 & 83).
- The violence associated with karate smacks of anything but "Christian." Legendary karate "masters" were reputed to have superhuman powers, including the ability to kill small birds with a yell ("the shout of doom"), a secret knowledge of how to touch lightly at a spot on the body to cause death ("the touch of death"), and the ability to penetrate an adversary's body with a bare hand to withdraw his still-beating heart. The very nature of these violent forms of expression runs counter to God's Word.
- How then can any Christian justify his involvement in karate or any of the other martial arts? He can't. Not even by claiming that such involvement is for self-defense, exercise, to learn discipline, etc. (let alone justifying it for evangelism purposes!). There are other methods by which these results may be obtained -- methods not associated with harmful violence and false doctrine.
* The chief source of our information for this report was a special report written by Albert Dager of Media Spotlight. Other sources used were various encyclopedias and three books on karate/martial arts: The Way of Karate, Karate Within Your Grasp, and Christian Martial Arts.