- The sect's history
- Their theology
- Tips on how to share the True Faith with them
The martial arts are fighting systems designed primarily for sport, self-defense, and physical fitness. Why, then, would I discuss this as a religious sect? Most people are unaware that many (although not all) martial arts are a pathway to the occult and false pagan religions. By starting at a dojo (i.e., martial arts school of Japanese systems) you may also be starting down a path to falsehoods that become all-consuming. The dangers with many systems are threefold:
- Occult meditation
- Exalting the sensei, sifu, or master (various names for a martial arts teacher) to a cult of personality
- Even when engaged in for physical purposes, many times the student will be introduced to an underlying pagan, Eastern religious philosophy--primarily Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism
In the show, David Carradine (d. 2009) portrayed a Shaolin Buddhist monk named Kwai Chang Caine, the son of an American sailor and Chinese woman, who is orphaned and raised in a Buddhist monastery. Later, he is forced to flee China and come to America looking for his American half-brother in the Old West (late 1800s). While searching for his half-brother, he encounters prejudice and helps people using his Buddhist "wisdom" and martial arts skills. (Ironically, the idea came from martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Lee was himself the son of a Chinese father and Irish-Catholic mother, and wanted to star in the title role. He was rejected for an Irish-American actor because the producers didn't think American audiences were ready for an actual half-Chinese actor as the star).
In each episode there is a flashback wherein Caine thinks of when he was learning in the Buddhist monastery. In the flashback, one of his Buddhist "masters" would spout some nonsensical mumbo-jumbo, to "enlighten" him. Armed with the remembrance of Buddhist teaching, he was able to save the day. In one episode he somehow knew that if a rancher killed a pregnant cow, the rancher's pregnant wife would have a miscarriage, so he must stop the man from killing the cow. Caine has a flashback where he is reminded how "all life is interconnected"--whatever that means. I was impressed by it because it sounded profound, much like "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"
Luckily, I never delved deeper into that pagan influenced show which lead many to investigate (and convert to) Buddhism. Carradine knew nothing of kung fu when he started the hit show. He would be trained in it by Kam Yuen, a kung fu sifu (teacher). The actor became obsessed with Buddhism through the martial arts, writing a book Spirit of the Shaolin in 1997, wherein he called himself an "evangelist" of kung fu. The Shaolin Monastery practices a stringent form of Buddhism, and the head monk thanked Carradine for his contributions in spreading kung fu and Buddhism.
A sexual pervert, David Carradine accidentally killed himself in 2009 by performing autoerotic asphyxiation ---the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for the purposes of sexual arousal. He was hanging himself by the neck to accomplish this arousal when the chair on which he was standing broke, and he strangled to death at age 72. (See https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=7763422&page=1). Other "action heroes" who spread pagan philosophy via martial arts include the aforementioned Bruce Lee, Steven Seagal, and Jean Claude Van Damm.
This post will focus on the spiritual dangers of the martial arts.
All forms of the martial arts have their origin in Eastern paganism. According to several sources:
It is said that in the year 470 AD, Bodhidharma, the 28th Buddhist Patriarch, travelled from India to China. During his journey he was attacked frequently by bandits. He was able to overcome his assailants by learning a fighting technique which he supposedly learnt from the observation of animals. Supposedly he stayed for nine years at the famed Shaolin Monastery, a place that figures prominently in the lore of the martial arts. For a total of seven of these years he sat meditating in front of a cave wall, 'listening to the screams of ants'. During-this time he became enlightened of a new mystic type approach to fighting. The technique that he developed was based on the Ch'an Meditation concept and Yoga.
The Shaolin Temple is always linked with modern day Kung-fu, but, this is only part of the Shaolin technique. There were many systems which became separate techniques and are today many and varied. These systems included 'hard' techniques., such as Karate, and 'soft' as in Tai Chi. (See, e.g., Lawler, Martial Arts Encyclopedia , The Martial Arts Encyclopedia, Corcoran & Farkas ; Emphasis mine).
All martial art techniques were based on the concepts of Chi or Ki. Ki is the "life force or breath". There are said to be many ways of developing chi in the varied philosophies from the East. It is said that the Shaolin monks saw the need, through their breathing exercises and meditation, to not only develop their fighting prowess, but also to develop their consciousness to a higher state of mystical awareness.
Through this occult meditation, the person tries to lose contact with the conscious mind for an altered state of consciousness. This disassociation is meant to allow a person to become "one" with "the Divine." Even those who do not get to such altered states, have unwittingly opened themselves up to a decidedly pagan worldview and possible demon possession. The idea of being "divine" is the opposite of Christianity which tells us we are sinners in need of Redemption by the God-Man Jesus Christ. Traditionalist Catholic meditation is the conscious, focused, reflective, cognitive attention to God, such as when one meditates on the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary. Occult meditation and breathing techniques, like those in many martial arts, result in an altered state of consciousness; really a form of self-hypnosis.
The idea is to "release the divine" within and is manifested in alleged feats of superhuman strength such as breaking boards, bricks, etc. While much is simply sleight of hand chicanery, some may be legitimate and would come from a (decidedly evil) preternatural source. I had one encounter with an obvious fraud in the late 1980s. I went to a karate demonstration at the request of a friend. After the sensei had finished meditating, he stood up and asked the audience (we were sitting on an auditorium floor) to move back. Five of his black belts ran in (one at a time) and smashed him over the back and chest with wooden baseball bats. The bats splintered and flew all around. It seemed amazing. A gentleman sitting in front of us heard our gasps of wonder. He turned to us and said, "I'm sick of this phony! The bats are carefully cut so you can't see it and they break very easily. Watch me." (Dialogue from memory--Introibo).
The sensei asked if there were any questions. The man said he had an important question but had to go out to his car quickly. He returned about two minutes later with a baseball bat of his own. He asked the sensei if he "could feel his enormous ki power" and experience his bat break when hitting the sensei across the chest. The sensei explained that he couldn't comply because his "ki" was very low after the demonstration. The man said, "You mean I'd put you in the hospital, you fraud!" The sensei turned red, said nothing, and we all left; decidedly less impressed than when we arrived.
Cults of Personality
For many, the martial arts becomes all-encompassing, and the leader of the dojo or martial arts system is given god-like status. I had a friend in college who would bring up his martial arts instructor at least twice every conversation we had. He told me he was an atheist, and when I asked the reason for his disbelief, he said, "My sensei says there is no God!" (No God--except for his sensei, whom he followed in everything without thinking for himself).
To give an example of how far attributing "god-like" power and status to a martial arts instructor goes, here are just some urban legends about Bruce Lee:
- He needed special equipment because he could break almost anything with his skills
- Standard film speed wasn’t fast enough to capture his lightening-fast moves
- He was impervious to pain
- He could defeat two dozen men at once
- He died from a special "death touch" from another martial artist which murdered him by "disrupting his ki." There was no other way to beat or kill him
There are a lot of problems spiritually with the history, philosophy, and practice of karate and all forms of the martial arts. It was created, passed down, and taught by Buddhists and Taoists, followers of a pagan and religious idolatry. The basis of both religions is a pantheistic world view which sees life as cyclical, not created. Other differences include:
- Many martial arts say God is all matter and/or phenomena in the universe.
Christianity says God is a real, personal and sovereign Being (1 Chronicles 29:11).
- Many martial arts emphasize the inactivity of the mind and the passivity of their followers.
Christianity emphasizes a full and active mind continually pursuing obedience (Joshua 1:8-9).
- Many martial arts say salvation is something which can and must be accomplished through each person by “attuning oneself to the rhythm of the universe ...” (See Nichols and Mather, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions, and the Occult  p. 271).
Christianity says salvation is something which must, is, and can only be accomplished through His One True Church (Cantate Domino)
Karate, like almost all martial arts, is an Eastern art. Whether you chose to participate in it for exercise or as a way toward self-defense, you may be engaging in something which is purely pagan, in both thought and practice. The philosophy of many martial arts is based mainly on Taoism and Buddhism. A look at those two philosophies will suffice to show how one can be drawn into the religion through the martial arts.
Various Chinese shamans and magicians incorporated into their own existing belief systems the ideas of Taoism, producing what came to be known as religious Taoism. The primary objective of religious Taoists was the attainment of physical immortality. Meditation, along with various magical practices, physical exercises, breathing exercises, and sexual practices, was considered the means of retaining vigor and achieving everlasting life....The practice of breath control (called chi kung), in particular, figured prominently not only in the quest for immortality but for control of the universe. As a backdrop, chi (sometimes written as qi or ki) was believed to be a mystical energy, a “substance surrounding and including all things, which brought even distant points into direct physical contact.” Indeed, since one single substance joined all corners of the cosmos into a single organic unity, it followed that mastery of qi was equivalent to mastery of the universe.”
Attaining strength and power was also of interest to Bodhidharma (c. A.D. 5th-6th century), an Indian monk who is said to be the originator of the Shaolin boxing tradition and the father of the martial arts.20 Believed to have been a member of the warriors/rulers caste of India, Bodhidharma brought with him a brand of Buddhism known as Zen, which advocated mental control and meditation as means to enlightenment.
As the story goes, Bodhidharma — disturbed by the Shaolin monks’ inability to remain awake during meditation — devised a set of calisthenic exercises that later formed the basis for their unique style of boxing. “Bodhidharma explained to the monks that body and soul are inseparable. This unity must be invigorated for enlightenment.” Hence, “physical fitness became a part of Shaolin life with his introduction of systematized exercises to strengthen the body and mind. Not only was health perfected, but self-defense movements were devised later from Bodhidharma’s knowledge of Indian fighting systems. These early calisthenics (in-place exercises only) marked the beginning of Shaolin Temple boxing.”
(See Stephen Schumacher and Gert Woerner, eds., The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion , , pg. 356; See also Charles Holcombe, “The Daoist Origins of the Chinese Martial Arts,” Journal of Asian Martial Arts, January 1993, pg. 13).
It is shown how many martial arts are based on the pagan idea of a “god” within that is to be actualized through meditation, breathing patterns and exercises. As faith in an outside creator God and morality wanes, the search for stability and meaning keeps shifting inward. Eastern religions and personal spiritual disciplines are pouring into that gap. Witness the incredible spread of yoga and meditation, which actually were created to foster Eastern-style “enlightenment” but are now popular in Protestant and Vatican II sect churches. Martial arts also use terms like "inner tranquility" and "enlightenment" that are "spiritual" without being "religious." Therefore, atheists can hop on board and deny a Personal God for an impersonal force that allows them to still use the term "atheist" loosely and feel special. Also, moral absolutes are absent in Eastern paganism--perfect for our relativistic culture.
Proselytizing Martial Artists
It is important to realize that no proselytism may be necessary, and a Traditionalist could conceivably join a dojo if the following conditions are met:
- Ascertain whether the instructor under consideration is himself a believer in Eastern religion. Don't merely take him at his word, see how the dojo operates. Is he treated like a "superman" to whom all must bow and no one can question?
- Is the martial art street-fighting based, or a sport? If so, there is probably no Eastern religion involved
- Keep an eye out for Eastern religious books, symbols, and the like, that might be in the dojo. This may help one discern what practices and beliefs are being espoused during training.
- It may also be wise to observe an advanced class. This will help the prospective student determine whether Eastern philosophy is taught as training progresses