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Martial Arts and Orthodoxy?

samkim

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Are the presuppositions (about self defence, honor, piety, discipline) behind East Asian Martial Arts compatible with an Orthodox mindset? I am mostly wondering about the idea of self-defence.
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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My instructor is a Roman Catholic.  He doesn't teach anything about the Buddhist/Toaist philosophy behind the art.  Conversely, he doesn't push his religious beliefs on his students either.  But he does say something very compatible with Christianity.  He teaches that we should avoid fighting as much as is possible and that forgiveness is the highest martial art because to forgive is often a "fight" with our pride.

And because he's a 9th degree black belt and a respected instructor of Kempo (Ch'uan Fa Tang Shou), I don't need to ask his opinion on self-defense.  :p  And actually, I happen to agree with him.  I don't like arguing anymore and will avoid altercations, prefering to apologize or make jokes at my expense.  But if I am cornered, or my friends or family are in peril, I will do what I have to do and repent later.
 

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Being cornered is when martial arts come in handy and are morally justifiable.

Brown belt in Shotokan Karate and yellow in Shichi-ryu Jujitsu  :police:
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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^^I love Jujutsu!  When I was taking Aikido some years back, I learned that it evolved from Jujutsu.  Alas, all that rolling and falling (ukemi) gave me such vertigo I had to move to Kempo Karate. 

I wish martial arts were made a requirement in public schools.  I guarantee we would see a major drop in violence, and a major upswing in self-respect and courtesy.
 

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We have a similar program taught at the military college I go to, taught by a 55yo woman and ex-marine captain. "Uncommon courtesy" is the motto they go by, and it's definitely a big help in teaching respect to the students.
 

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aikido did evolve from jujitsu. the reason both were formed is so that samurai could fight hand-to-hand even tho they had armour.

I do JAPANESE jujitsu, just btw. it works better in a real situation than brazilian, as we do both hand to hand (or foot) and groundfighting.
 

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there is actually an "orthodox" marital art form it is called systema.
http://www.russianmartialart.com/home.php
 

88Devin12

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I thought systema was a Spetznatz/Soviet martial arts form?
 

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The one near me incorporated Orthodoxy into it. (I added emphasis)
http://systemanw.com/philosophy_of_systema.html

There is a reason why Russian Martial Art is called SYSTEMA. It is a complete set of concepts and training components that enhance one's life. In this case, acquiring the martial art skill is a way to improve the function of all seven physiological systems of the body and all three levels of human abilities the physical, the psychological and the spiritual.

The key principle of the Russian Systema is non-destruction. The goal is to make sure that your training and your attitudes do no damage to the body or the psyche of you or your partners. Systema is designed to create, build and strengthen your body, your psyche, your family and your country.

Systema has another name "poznai sebia" or "Know/Discover Yourself". What does it really mean to Understand Yourself? It is not just to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, that is good but fairly superficial. Training in Russian Martial Art is one of the sure ways to see the full extent of our limitations - to see how proud and weak we really are. Systema allows us to gain the true strength of spirit that comes from humility and clarity in seeing the purpose of our life.

As the roots of the Russian Systema are in the Russian Orthodox Christian faith, the belief is that everything that happens to us, good or bad, has only one ultimate purpose. That is to create the best possible conditions for each person to understand himself. Proper training in the Russian Systema carries the same objective - to put every participant into the best possible setting for him to realize as much about himself as he is able to handle at any given moment.

One of Mikhail Ryabko's words to the beginners is "Be a good person and everything else will come to you." In a simple, yet comprehensive way Systema helps you choose and follow the right path.

The Heart of the Church: There is an imperishable treasure deep inside the human soul - God's gift of endless joy of the eternal life. This gift is hidden in the heart - the center of our spiritual life (This link is highly recommended by Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev).

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY AND FIGHTING
Many people who are seriously studying Systema and are trying to understand its spiritual basis, at one point face this question: If Christian Orthodoxy is love and peace, how can it be the foundation of a martial art? Balancing non-violence and acting in self-defense is an issue that every human being has to resolve for himself. So let's take a look at it.

Compare an athlete fighting in the ring and a warrior defending his homeland. Both are prepared to hurt another human being, but what a huge difference in justifying their actions! The goal of a ring fighter is to show that he is superior to the other fighters, to prove that he is the best. While the goal of the warrior is to save his family, his friends and his country from death and misery. The warrior clearly has a noble goal, at that moment he is close to God. While the main motivation of the ring fighter is PRIDE, the warrior is driven by LOVE, love for his family, friends and country.

Thus, training to be a true warrior is not only justified, but is necessary. How else can we save the innocent people from evil? We have all seen the events in Beslan. How else can children held hostage by the terrorists be saved? Professionals such as soldiers and police officers are trained, armed and prepared for the task of saving lives. They put their own lives on the line with humility and honor.

Orthodox Christianity teaches us that fighting becomes a sin only when there is pride and aggression in it, or if it contains hatred, revenge or callousness, when the causes are greed, vanity, envy, desperation and other such vices. Otherwise, if it is fighting for defense, for rescue - it is a sin not to fight and let your loved ones get hurt or killed or have your country destroyed.

There are numerous examples of righteous warriors since the creation of the world. The first Warrior known to mankind is Archangel Mikhail - God gave him the sword - the power to fight evil; and with that sword He had banished the fallen angels (not killed but banished) from God's Kingdom, all those who no longer served God, but only served their own pride. It had to be done, so that evil does not take over.

We see the Prophets in the Old Testament - such as Gideon or Samson - they were blessed by God to fight the evil. All the way to our times, when during World War II, many nations had to go up against the evil.
The Word of God in the bible tells us that there is no bigger sacrifice than to give up your life for others. Thus, anyone who prepares to be a true warrior, who undergoes training and takes a weapon in his hand, accepts this possibility of sacrificing his life in the name of love for other people; in essence, he prepares to become a martyr.

The ultimate quality that Systema develops in its practitioners is humility. Training in Systema lets the person see his own egotism and other weaknesses and gives him ammunition to overcome them. A humble person devotes his life to fighting the evil in his heart and constantly asks God to help him with that. In reward for his hard work and resulting humility, God gives him this amazing gift of peace, joy and absence of resentment no matter what happens.

If humility becomes our character, there is no more room for pride, aggression, vanity, greed and envy. Our spirit will always be with God and you will fight only when it is absolutely necessary, only for a noble cause, always causing the least possible damage to the opponents, in a calm, firm, fearless and professional way. We have to do it, otherwise evil will take over. 
 

Sinner Servant

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Systema is truly amazing. As an avid martial artist for many years (no longer though) I can attest to the fact that Systema is effective; attested by the fact that many in the Spetznatz use it. Systema as taught by Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev is based in Orthodox spirituality. The breathing techniques one finds in Systema is rooted in Hesychasm and its training in general is very rigorous but full of love for you training partner. For more information on Systema's relationship with Russian Orthodoxy see: http://www.meibukanmagazine.org/Downloads/MeibukanMagazineno7.pdf
 

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samkim said:
Are the presuppositions (about self defence, honor, piety, discipline) behind East Asian Martial Arts compatible with an Orthodox mindset? I am mostly wondering about the idea of self-defence.
I gave up Aikido a few years ago after feeling uncomfortable with the large amount of Ueshiba's spiritual thoughts insisted on by even the more secular instructors.

However, I don't think that self-defence is un-Orthodox. After all, Christ did say that whoever does not have a sword should buy one.
 

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I studied tae kwon do for about a year and I really appreciated the self-defense aspect.  TKD emphasizes not attacking someone, but only doing enough to defend yourself without seriously injuring someone.  Not that you can't really hurt somebody with those moves, but it's preferred only to deflect attacks and use the least force necessary.  Also, my TKD instructor was a very committed/involved evangelical Christian so he translated any spiritual aspects of the class into Christian terms. 

I also like the idea of martial arts being trained in school... really, any martial art I've seen teaches a healthy respect for everyone, from the instructor to the black belts to the white belts who just started to the person who is attacking you.  No one is meant to be a punching bag and it's much preferred to talk out disagreements than to duke it out.
 
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My family (my Dad, his sister, her three sons) and I studied Isshin-Ryu karate, and our Sensai never pushed any spiritual aspect. He was USMC (Retired) and always taught that we should only use karate ONLY as a form of self-defense, and even then, we were to just disable our attacker so we could run away and get help (i.e. call the police.)

 

Punch

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While not a "hand to hand" martial art, I have had advanced training in handgun fighting.  Some time was spent on hand to hand combat and disarming.  What impressed me with all levels of my training was the strong emphasis placed on awareness and AVOIDING conflict, even if it meant some humiliation on your part.  When all else fails, I see nothing in the Orthodox Faith that is in conflict with the human desire to defend oneself and the innocent he may be charged with protecting.
 

Punch

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EofK said:
Punch said:
While not a "hand to hand" martial art, I have had advanced training in handgun fighting. 
Despite your user name.  ;)
LOL - My user name derives from my favorite cigar, not my preferred method of fighting. 
 

EofK

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Punch said:
EofK said:
Punch said:
While not a "hand to hand" martial art, I have had advanced training in handgun fighting. 
Despite your user name.  ;)
LOL - My user name derives from my favorite cigar, not my preferred method of fighting. 
;D  I figured it was something like that, or maybe a tribute to Punch and Judy.
 

samkim

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I guess I am just reminded of the story of St. Seraphim who did not resist attackers, but suffered to be crippled by them.

This is an interesting video of a Qigong master in China who is descendant of Assyrian Christians. He is apparently a devout Roman Catholic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw-aDENlHWA

For anyone interested in Martial Arts, here is a video of a little known (in the modern West) Korean Martial Art called Taekkyeon, which is significantly older than TKD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt_Vbp0G7hQ
 

Punch

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samkim said:
I guess I am just reminded of the story of St. Seraphim who did not resist attackers, but suffered to be crippled by them.
Yes, but he carried an axe with him everywhere after that.
 

Schultz

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HandmaidenofGod said:
My family (my Dad, his sister, her three sons) and I studied Isshin-Ryu karate, and our Sensai never pushed any spiritual aspect. He was USMC (Retired) and always taught that we should only use karate ONLY as a form of self-defense, and even then, we were to just disable our attacker so we could run away and get help (i.e. call the police.)
I studied Isshin-ryu in my youth, too!  Oddly enough, my Sensei was USMC, too, and a prison guard to boot.  I have yet to meet a tougher man.  He also taught us to "fight enough to get away".
 

Simayan

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We're taught to take it pretty far (usually ending in the other's death/severe injury), but then again, it's not really meant to be used outside a battlefield situation.  :-\
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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We're taught to take it as far as is needed.  Typically, after an attacker has his energies redirected (see video ), he understands the necessity to rethink his motives.  Should the attacker decide to pursue the matter further, it then becomes necessary to to belabor the point, i.e. bring a little more pain and, if necessary, debilitate the attacker. 

I favor joint locks and throws because they require far less energy on my part than, say, punching or kicking (although we learn plenty of that as well).

My aikido instructor always used the analogy of a chair to help illustrate the point; when a chair is sitting on all four legs, you have to use more energy to move it than if it were propped up on just two of it's legs.  Now imagine the chair tilted back on only one leg; your ability to move the chair in any direction you choose requires little more than a thought and a gentle push.  It's the same way with joint locks and torques.  Owing to the fact that we naturally and reflexively move away from pain, the attacker essentially helps me move him where I need him to move. 

 

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Quinault said:
there is actually an "orthodox" marital art form it is called systema.
http://www.russianmartialart.com/home.php
I've heard of it. And also about hopak.
 

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Can't read Ukrainian, but Systema looks like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7_dzu4TQDs
 

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I don't believe that martial arts are compatible with orthodoxy. I asked my spiritual father, and he said that I should NOT do karate.
 

Marc1152

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My son's teacher was Greek Orthodox but I don't think very Churchy. He had a Kami-dan in the dojo ( an alter to the Japanese demi-Gods)
 

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Any martial art that injects New Age junk into its system is obviously a problem. Many westerners spiritualize Chinese Martial arts, for example, mystifying the concept of Chi (breath) to mean some sort of rogue spiritual energy.
 

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Quinault said:
there is actually an "orthodox" marital art form it is called systema.
http://www.russianmartialart.com/home.php
A predecessor to Systema, SAMBO, has numerous practitioners who are Orthodox, including the rather famous MMA star Fedor Emelianenko.  An Orthodox archbishop in Japan was credited with bringing Judo to Russia if I'm understanding the story correctly, and the Soviets formed it into a sport they called SAMBO.  It's still taught around the world today.

I've studied Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, along with a handful of varieties of Japanese and Korean striking arts and a bit of Wing Chun.  Not a fighter by any means, but I don't see what I learned as inconsistent with Orthodox Christianity.  Where I am concerned, I don't worry too much and would walk away from a fight if I could, but where my wife and children are concerned I have a duty to protect them and part of that is having the ability to do so if need be. 
 

Marc1152

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Here ya go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anEuw8F8cpE&NR=1

 

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I'm afraid I'd have to question the claim that Systema is an "Orthodox martial art". I've heard some pretty whack things about it, involving no/low-touch knockouts, supposed "pressurepoint" abilities, and other red flags.

Stuff like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJDnMDJVWmQ

Is autosuggestion, not a martial arts ability, and doesn't work on opponents. The whole "soul strike" thing cannot be something an Orthodox Christian ought to get involved in. People in the West are incredibly susceptible to "bullshido"-- that is, spirituality and false claims masquerading as martial arts. This deception puts lives in danger, because people are duped into believing they can actually defend themselves. I'm not condemning all of Systema, I'm just saying that it's one of those martial arts infested with fraud.

Forgive any insult, I am merely trying to warn potential inquirers into the martial arts.
 

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The martial arts I experienced was very "spiritually loaded".  That's actually why I left.

It also didn't manifest itself around "turning the other cheek".
 

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Bullshido... been a while since I heard that term... good site for info, though the guys there can be jerks (I fit right in!  :D )... turning the other cheek ain't gonna protect the empire against the barbarians and invading armies... the Roman empire must live on!...
 

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Asteriktos said:
Bullshido... been a while since I heard that term... good site for info, though the guys there can be jerks (I fit right in!  :D )... turning the other cheek ain't gonna protect the empire against the barbarians and invading armies... the Roman empire must live on!...
O Lord, save Thy people,
and bless Thine inheritance!
Grant victory to the Emperors
over the barbarians,
and by virtue of Thy cross,
preserve Thy habitation.

I'd like to hear that chanted by Fedor or Andrei Arlovski before a fight.  :laugh:

 
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I have nothing of spiritual value to add, but practitioners of ju-jutsu, please note that there is no "I" in the word.

Ju-jutsu -- "gentle technique"
Ju-jitsu -- not a word in Japanese, but might mean "gentle truth", depending on how it is written

I know some people try the argument that "ju-jitsu" has been used for so long in the West that it is now correct but I just can't abide that. Especially in a culture that works so hard at getting French right -- but then French confers I'm-better-than-you points when pronounced correctly, right?
 

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Asteriktos said:
Bullshido... been a while since I heard that term... good site for info, though the guys there can be jerks (I fit right in!  :D )... turning the other cheek ain't gonna protect the empire against the barbarians and invading armies... the Roman empire must live on!...
Question -

Jesus Christ told us to turn the cheek, love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute you.
I see many Eastern Orthodox Christians here ready for fight and warfare?

Isn't this a conflict of interest?

The very early Christians did not fight back.

This is why the Anabaptists seem to mirror this belief - Non resistance.   
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN6nJV_mxU4

One of the many reasons I have Anabaptists listed in my faith.  They were massacred by protestants and Catholics alike and did not resist.
By all means I'm not attacking, but meekly nudging, being in the true church, isn't martial arts a conflict of interest?
 

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GreekOrthodoxDude said:
I have nothing of spiritual value to add, but practitioners of ju-jutsu, please note that there is no "I" in the word.

Ju-jutsu -- "gentle technique"
Ju-jitsu -- not a word in Japanese, but might mean "gentle truth", depending on how it is written

I know some people try the argument that "ju-jitsu" has been used for so long in the West that it is now correct but I just can't abide that. Especially in a culture that works so hard at getting French right -- but then French confers I'm-better-than-you points when pronounced correctly, right?
In the Karate Dojo I mentioned before ( Orthodox Sensai) they also had a group of guys who practiced Ju-jitsu. They would use the place when there was no regular classes. They allowed black belts to practice with them and maybe get a duel belt, so my son went a few times.

They were an interesting bunch. The Sensai was French and would lace most commands with either a sexual reference or curse word. Once my son needed to reverse the guy on top of him and then pin him.  The Sensai screamed ( in a thick French accent) at my son:
"Get on top !!!!!  F...him like a Woman !!! "

To which my poor son replied all out of breath and fighting as hard as he could:  "I dont know how to F.. a Woman. I'm only 16 !!!"

Whenever he would leave  Ju-jitsu class, he would stink of cigarettes from contact with those guys...   :D
 

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yeshuaisiam said:
This is why the Anabaptists seem to mirror this belief - Non resistance.    
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN6nJV_mxU4
The Anabaptists only want to mirror an ideal of pacifism now because they were defeated in their neo-donatist separatist wars they tried to fight against the Catholics and other Reformed Protestants. All conquered peoples play nice sometimes.

yeshuaisiam said:
Asteriktos said:
Bullshido... been a while since I heard that term... good site for info, though the guys there can be jerks (I fit right in!  :D )... turning the other cheek ain't gonna protect the empire against the barbarians and invading armies... the Roman empire must live on!...
Question -

Jesus Christ told us to turn the cheek, love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute you.
I see many Eastern Orthodox Christians here ready for fight and warfare?

Isn't this a conflict of interest?
First off, I believe Asterikos was joking.

Second, EO countries have historically had to defend themselves against barbarian hordes (muslims). It is one thing to allow oneself to be slain by highwaymen, and another thing to have millions of women and children raped and slaughtered by invading armies.

As for the Martial Arts, they can be done for sport, for exercise, health, etc. In actual combat, how one uses the tools one has learned is up to the individual. The tools themselves are amoral.
 
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Marc1152 said:
GreekOrthodoxDude said:
I have nothing of spiritual value to add, but practitioners of ju-jutsu, please note that there is no "I" in the word.

Ju-jutsu -- "gentle technique"
Ju-jitsu -- not a word in Japanese, but might mean "gentle truth", depending on how it is written

I know some people try the argument that "ju-jitsu" has been used for so long in the West that it is now correct but I just can't abide that. Especially in a culture that works so hard at getting French right -- but then French confers I'm-better-than-you points when pronounced correctly, right?
In the Karate Dojo I mentioned before ( Orthodox Sensai) they also had a group of guys who practiced Ju-jitsu. They would use the place when there was no regular classes. They allowed black belts to practice with them and maybe get a duel belt, so my son went a few times.

They were an interesting bunch. The Sensai was French and would lace most commands with either a sexual reference or curse word. Once my son needed to reverse the guy on top of him and then pin him.  The Sensai screamed ( in a thick French accent) at my son:
"Get on top !!!!!  F...him like a Woman !!! "

To which my poor son replied all out of breath and fighting as hard as he could:  "I dont know how to F.. a Woman. I'm only 16 !!!"

Whenever he would leave  Ju-jitsu class, he would stink of cigarettes from contact with those guys...   :D
I lol'd at this, hahahah.
 
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