Religion and Martial Arts

Discussion in 'Off Topic Area' started by mdgee, Oct 26, 2014.

  1. mdgee

    mdgee Valued Member

    Does this bother you when a school pushes their religious beliefs on you? I have always seen martial arts as secular. Most of what we practice now has it's origin in China or Japan, which are both secular countries. Japan's main religion is Buddhism. Bruce Lee, was passionate about being a non-believer. He felt religion was a crutch. Now, whether you feel that way or not is inconsequential.

    Recently, one of the schools I've been interacting with made their belief in God known to me. The posted several religious memes on facebook and my wall went up. I had a conversation with them about these memes and I explained that I don't believe in a deity. They informed me that "they do" but they have the utmost respect for people who don't. That was, imho, a stupid thing to say since they had just posted two religious memes. If they had respect for their audience, they would have kept religion private, and to themselves. Instead, they harmed a relationship with me that could have been beneficial to both of us. Ironically, Bruce Lee would not like this for it was a school bearing his martial art: JKD.

    I guess my question is this. How do you deal with religion and martial arts? Is it something that you've encountered before? Does it bother you when someone brings up God? If they do bring up God, does it make you uneasy? Lastly, would this put a wall up for you?

    For me, it did because where I see one mistake happening I know it will happen again because the teacher doesn't see anything wrong with broadcasting his love for a deity. I just think that his love for God should be kept private and not broadcast to all of his students.
  2. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Bold emphasis mine, that's a little contradictory isn't it?

    You might want to look a little closer at some history and how religion has been connected to the arts in Japan.

    Personally I find Christian martial arts schools a little odd, especially if the art is just used as a mechanism to "recruit". However arts that have religious connections due to their history, geography and culture don't bother me unless converting is a mandatory criteria of practice.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  3. Bozza Bostik

    Bozza Bostik Antichrist on Button Moon

    Not sure about religion but...The whole martial arts and spirituality thing bothers me. I dabble in Zen, I wouldn't consider myself a Buddhist though. The way a lot of clubs promote the idea that doing a martial art will automatically develop that side is just a load of guff. But of course, it depends on how you define "spirituality".

    Don't get me wrong...I think spirituality can be developed in many ways...or even through any activity, martial arts is just one of them, if you go looking for it. But the idea that it will just happen through throwing on a gi and bowing a bit is absurd.

    You only need to lok at all the charlatans and rubbish that occurs in MA to know it's not working out for a lot of people.

    As for religion - It should be kept out of the club / school. Seems to be a bigger thing in the US though. I don't talk about my Zen practice unless asked, so I prefer people not to talk about their beliefs until I ask them to.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
  4. mdgee

    mdgee Valued Member

    Dean, I have.

    My point is, why does it need to be pushed on students today? Japan has a different culture. If a Shotokan class bows to a statue of Buddha I can respect that. However, that is where religion would end in the classroom. It's common to bow to masters before a class starts.

    As an example, let's look at the martial arts born in Israel. Krav Maga and Hisardut were both born in Israel but I wouldn't call either a Jewish Martial Art. I know that Imi wouldn't call KM Jewish and Dennis Hanover won't do this with Hisardut. I had a chance to study KM in Israel a few years back for six months. Not one mention of religion expect to honor the Sabbath. It wasn't part of the martial art. My issue with this type of behaviour is that it's usually founded in Christianity.

    We Jews don't push Judaism on anyone and we keep our belief or non-belief in God very private. If I want religion I can go to Synagogue or Church. Don't you agree? How does someone forcing their belief in God on me benefit me or the school?

    I never see TKD Schools, Tang Soo Do, schools, Shotokan Schools, etc. engaging in this behaviour. I've just started to notice it with a few schools for Aikido and JKD and it worries me. Why add something that doesn't belong there?
  5. FunnyBadger

    FunnyBadger I love food :)

    i can't see why it should be an issue as long as you don't feel pressurised to join their church or whatever. From what I can see there should be no issue, the group made their religious views clear to you, you made your views clear and they said they respect that. End of problem so long as they don't try to 'convert' you and don't try to un-convert any of them.

    Surely the bigger issue is how much can you learn from them? If the teaching is of a good standard and the JKD 'seems legit' and the price/timetable work for you then everything should be fine :)
  6. mdgee

    mdgee Valued Member

    Bozza, yeah, I haven't seen this stuff anywhere beyond the borders of the U.S. Crazy, huh? I just watched a great panel discussion from TAM 2013 about the Woo in Martial Arts and Religion came up. It seems that are a bunch of schools trying to integrate religion to turn it into something else. As if belief in a God will affect your Chi? I don't even believe in Chi but that's me. lol
  7. mdgee

    mdgee Valued Member

    Jeff, that's the problem. I won't go to their school now. I had a meet setup with them for next week. They waved the bible at me once. Shame on them. They don't get a second chance because I know they'll do it again.
  8. Bozza Bostik

    Bozza Bostik Antichrist on Button Moon

    I'd be reluctant to go to the school. I'd give it a go if the teacher was awesome. But the first sign of any preaching and I'd be out the door.

    But you don't know it's going to be like that unless you see for yourself first hand. I wouldn't judge them on their FB thing.
  9. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Well your above comments make it look like you haven't really, not being harsh but you seem a little off in your understanding.

    You are dealing with traditional martial arts, it's part of that tradition and in the older arts can have very very close connections to the history of the school and more.

    Again look at the history of the specific systems, look at how and where they developed, the time they developed in and the belief systems in place.

    Look to the system and its purpose, you can't generalise too much here.

    It's exists in plenty of places, especially the older arts though I haven't come across anyone "pushing" a religion on someone.
  10. FunnyBadger

    FunnyBadger I love food :)

    I might just be very different to you but I can't see what the issue is here. They have beliefs and they seem to feel passionate about them and want others to feel the same way. You have a different set of beliefs that you also seem to feel passionately about. To me that is no reason for a disagreement. If what is taught is good and they are not saying you need to go to church to train then where is the issue?

    Why do you feel unable to meet with a group just because they are passionate Christians? Are they realy going to put the pads down and turn a JKD lesson into a bible study? I don't get religion in general and don't get it at all in a MA context (peace, love, forgiveness and roundhouse kicks ?) but i wouldn't reject a teacher because I disagreed with him theologically.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
  11. LemonSloth

    LemonSloth Laugh and grow fat!

    Screw what Bruce Lee said when he was alive. Seriously. He was one man with his own life experiences and opinions. Didn't he also support diversity and individual growth?

    School as a whole or just one instructor?

    You have a right to not have religious shenanigans shoved down your throat if you don't like it and that's fine. But people have the right to express how they feel on a topic as well and have a right to have their views respected too.

    Were these on your facebook wall, on an instructors' wall, on a group page...?

    1) Eh, it's just something you put up with. I don't buy into most peoples' religious views but I try to remember that just because I don't see eye to eye with them, doesn't mean it's wrong. Just different.
    2) Once with a previous karate instructor I was with for a couple of years. He was a Christian and was relatively good about not pushing it in class but he'd make the odd comment here and there.
    3) Not particularly. It's not my cup of tea and I don't buy it for the most part, but my views are mine.
    4) Not really. The only time I get uneasy is if people ask me to pray with them (which is not often). I get that it's a nice gesture, but to me it's dishonest as a person who doesn't believe.
    5) Depends on the level of it. To be honest they'd have to be pretty bad to give me cause for concern (pushing pamphlets in class is where I start to go "no".).

    I think it's interesting you consider him making his views public a mistake. His right to freedom of speech is his to enjoy at the end of the day.
  12. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    He was also friends with many people who were - and are - devoutly religious; as with martial arts HIS way was not THEIR way is not YOUR way :)

    That isn't pushing it on anyone - it is simply sharing something they believe in. Now if it was a prerequisite of training I would probably have a different response

    Their belief system and your lack thereof is not something that should even begin to impact what they teach unless it is a prerequisite. Would you be similarly upset by them posting a politically minded piece?

    You could always reverse it too - "If you had respect for your teacher you would allow then to declare their beliefs freely without it impacting you"

    Guro Dan, Leo Fong and Erik Paulson to name three are all devout Christians so religion and JKD are not incompatible.

    I am a Pagan/Occultist and I personally know Muslim instructors, Buddhist instructors, Atheist instructors, Agnostic instructors and Hindu instructors in JKD - we run the whole gamut

    Doesn't bother me in the least. The only way it would bother me is if the belief in the instructors deity of choice was required of me or some pratcie (eg praying at teh start of class) was mandated....although even then I probably just wouldn't join in (or else make a pagan blessing) so long as teh training was good enough

    The teacher didn't do anything wrong

    You are pretty judgemental about these things - First teeth and now memes on FB. It's doubly ironic considering your stance on "big pharma" and "healing foods cure cancer" - should a teacher refuse to instruct you because your views are incompatible and based on "belief and desire" and not "facts"?

    Instead of being such a bigot how about judging a martial art and the school on it's own merit? Radical idea I know but unless you are forced to take communion before you train none of these factors affect the quality of teaching one iota.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
  13. KunLong

    KunLong Valued Member

    I can't think of why I would ever admit a secular? I figure there's a dozen mma gyms letting in anybody with the fee - I can be more selective.
    Daoism will run a tiger around a tree until he turns to butter, trying to find where spirit stops and material begins. I don't see a "group" consensus on something acutely individual. No one gives up their insides for outsides unless they are truly hapless.
  14. FunnyBadger

    FunnyBadger I love food :)

    Ok I might be having a dull day but I don't get what your point is. Can you perhaps try rephrasing your paragraph?

    Do you agree with religion and martial arts going hand in hand? Why do you think that?
  15. KunLong

    KunLong Valued Member

    I do. Because wushu, to defend, was taught hand in hand with lao tzu - another "to defend".
    What I agree most tho, is that it is a pointless argument and thank G-d these days there is a school for everyone where they might personally thrive.
    I am sorry you are having a "dull day" but I don't see the majority of people "dull" enough to accept an "all or nothing!", "is or isn't!" Argument in this area?
    Atheist, Buddhist or christian, I do not see them abandoning what they have to appease someone else?
  16. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    My instructor "likes" things on Facebook from Godvine. It comes up on my Facebook wall once in a blue moon. Doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's not addressed to me and it's his personal page to do what he wants with it. He's never said anything in class and I found out purely on chance he was Christian. The only way it's affected me is that ive stopped being such a douche by posting stuff that mocks religions. I'll still post things I don't agree with, but I outright stopped plainly "bashing" them. This is because I respect him and I should respect everyone else with the same or differing beliefs.
  17. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Hell as far as I'm concerned your teacher could post instructional clips on how to make Kitten Pie and it still wouldn't put me off training with him. :D
  18. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    You miss Greg , don't you :evil::D
  19. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Like a hole in the head. :D
  20. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    He put up instructions to make mince pies (I think it was mince) once for a laugh. That's about it.

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