Why I Quit Karate

by Bill Rudge

As a new Christian I had two basic questions concerning my karate involvement. First — did the Lord want me involved? And if He did or didn't, how far in or out should I be? And second, if he wanted me out, was it something I should speak against to warn Christians? Throughout this booklet I hope to answer these two questions which I struggled over for many years.

Several years ago ... while traveling throughout the country, I spent considerable time researching and interviewing many martial artists who were involved in a diversity of martial art styles.

Since then, I have been contacted by numerous Christians from the U.S., Canada, and countries around the world who are involved in these various styles either as students or instructors. Many either have quit their involvement or are seriously struggling with it because they feel the Lord is speaking to their hearts to discontinue such training. They called me to find out why I quit.

I want to make it clear that some sincere Christians remain in the martial arts and feel justified before the Lord. I do not question their commitment to Christ. But I also must make it equally clear that there are many, like myself, who feel strongly convicted and led by God's Spirit to discontinue their involvement.

In this booklet  ...  I want to share the five basic reasons why I quit and also share the testimonies of three other Christian karate instructors who felt led to give it up. I pray that if you are a believer in Christ who is involved in the martial arts (or thinking about becoming involved), you will do some honest soul-searching and examine your heart and motives before the Lord. Please evaluate each of the following points and ask the Lord what He would have you do.

While I'm not trying to act as the Holy Spirit and determine God's will for anyone's life, and while it is ultimately between you and the Lord, I feel compelled to challenge every Christian involved in any form of the martial arts to prayerfully consider the five main reasons why I quit.

1) Pride / Egotism

An attitude of pride, arrogance, egotism, self-sufficiency, and a desire for power and control are often developed by adherents. Many claim humility, but I believe it is usually a false, deceptive humility. I began to think I was god and almost invincible. I became haughty and egotistical and had an air of superiority when dealing with people. And I saw the same attitude in almost every student and instructor (even Christians) I met. Many impressionable students (even many advanced practitioners) idolize and practically worship their senseis and masters.

2) Violent Nature

The violence involved in much of the martial arts is not compatible with Christ's example of love. Although there are situations where I believe self-defense and the use of force are Scripturally justified, many of the techniques being taught transcend self-defense. These are offensive and aggressive techniques designed to maim and cripple one's opponent. These tactics are not as much defensive as they are retaliatory. They are used to inflict punishment. One time before I quit karate, a man got so obnoxious with me that I actually considered taking his eyes out. I realized that this should not be an option for someone seeking to live under Christ's Lordship.

3) Temple of the Holy Spirit

Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Some of the breaking and conditioning practices, the repetitive blocks, kicks, and punches, and the full-contact sparring, for example, can be destructive and degenerative to the body. I frequently had black-and-blue marks all over my arms, legs, and chest from being an uke, or from sparring and training. While I used to thrive on that intense activity in my younger years, I realize now that I have injuries that can be traced directly to those days of rigorous conditioning, training, sparring, and breaking wood and cement blocks. Many practitioners eventually develop arthritis, joint injuries, and various other debilitation and health problems because of martial arts involvement.

4) Eastern Mystical / Occult Connection

There are definite Eastern mystical and occultic overtones inherent in the martial arts. Many who initially begin martial arts training for self-defense, physical discipline, exercise, and health benefits, or for sports competition, eventually become involved in practices and philosophies that are diametrically opposed to Biblical Christianity. In all styles of the martial arts there is an underlying philosophy that eventually conflicts with Scripture. These disciplines have an alluring effect that tends to lead a person little by little into Eastern religious and occult philosophy and practice.

5) Testimony to Others

I didn't want the testimony of my involvement to be a stumbling block to others. I thought I could (and many Christians claim to be able to) remove the mystical/occult elements and limit my training to only the physical aspect. But those following my example (and yours) might not be able to maintain that separation.

I tried to justify teaching karate classes and doing self-defense clinics and demonstrations in churches, schools, and detention centers because of the tremendous impact I was having and all the fruit I was bearing for the Lord. But now I realize that far more people got into the practice and philosophy of the martial arts than were genuinely led to Christ. People would respond to the altar calls, but a few days later they would also sign up at the local dojo. As I evaluated many of the people influenced by myself and other Christian martial artists, I discovered they were becoming more and more committed to the martial arts and less and less committed to Jesus Christ.

As a result of the influence of Christian martial artists, many unsuspecting people have become interested in the martial arts and thereby have been introduced to various mystical concepts, literature, and movies. Many of these people eventually adopt an Eastern/occult worldview.

Even Christian students and instructors are often not aware of how affected they are by the Eastern/occultic practices and beliefs that are the basis of the martial arts. In fact, when first asked, most will initially indicate that they are not involved in any questionable practices nor have they been philosophically influenced. But after a more thorough consideration, many admit that some of their involvements were Eastern and occultic in nature and the philosophy has had some effect upon them. It is alarming that most of them honestly do not recognize the potential danger of some of their practices and how their worldview is being subtly influenced.

Even before I was a Christian, a lot of my karate associates who started training when I did at least professed to be Christians. But few, if any, were really committed. It is interesting to note that a few years later almost everyone who had continued in the martial arts now practiced yoga, meditation, or TM, and some even considered themselves Zen Buddhists or Taoists.

Through demos and classes many Christian instructors have unwittingly become a steppingstone into mystical/occultic beliefs and practices by whetting the appetites of spectators and students. Then, many students want to go further than their Christian instructor will take them. Or when the student or the instructor moves away, training often continues with a non-Christian instructor who goes deeper into the mystical/occult philosophy than their Christian instructor ever intended or expected.

A Subtle Weapon of Satan

I think there are many truths in the martial arts (discipline, commitment, exercise) that we need to be applying to our Christian lives. But we've got to realize that Satan will give us nine truths to get one lie across. And that lie he wants to get across is that we can find a source of spiritual, mental, and physical reality and power, other than through the person of Jesus Christ.

Former spiritualist medium, Ben Alexander, is of the opinion that karate is a subtle weapon of Satan. In his book, Out From Darkness, he states:

I have spoken to a number of Christians who have been involved in karate and among them I find those who have been encouraged to practice meditation techniques and also yoga — along with karate lessons. Some of these brothers quit karate because they realized that the more involved they became in karate they experienced occult manifestations.

On the other hand, I have also spoken to Christians who do not use yoga but do admit to a type of meditation technique. They feel it is in no way involved in the occult.

They also explain they go to schools to demonstrate karate and this gives them an opportunity to witness for Christ. I will always praise God and say Amen that they witness for Christ. But the problem we have is that they have witnessed for karate as well. The danger is that we have opened the door for possibly thousands of souls to enter into the occult which can only lead to final damnation. Christians advocating karate must ask themselves: "Am I a stumbling block to a weaker brother?" ...

Even though one may participate in karate without offending his own conscience he must consider the conscience of another who does not have the same knowledge of the danger involved. This consideration must be given because the weaker brother in karate who may be practicing yoga and deep meditation, etc. will be justifying his actions because the strong Christian participates. These opinions are going to be formed in the minds of the non-Christian teenagers in schools after watching and listening to Christians who advocate "Karate for Christ."

Christian leaders, please understand that yoga, I Ching, the ch'i and meditation techniques are evil influences that can lead to disaster.

Remember, it is not karate that wins people to Christ. It can possibly have the opposite effect.1

Occult Influence

Although there are a variety of styles and disciplines of the martial arts, they have common roots in Taoism and Buddhism. As I researched the various types of martial arts their Eastern mystical/occult background became obvious. It also became apparent that Taoist and Buddhist overtones cannot be conveniently separated and discarded, because in reality they are the foundational principles of martial arts training and philosophy, whether the practitioners and instructors realize it or not. In some styles it is very visible, while in others it is more subtle and covert. Nevertheless, in every style I researched — even those practiced only for physical fitness and self-defense purposes — there were definite Eastern/occult influences.

I was one of the first to warn (in the mid 70s) that the martial arts were much more than just physical exercise and self–defense; once they gained credibility and got a foothold, their true essence of mysticism and occultism would become manifest. Many Christians said, "Oh, you're being overly critical." But I have been to many dojos where they are teaching blatant occultism and mysticism — as are many of the martial arts movies and magazines.

Physical conditioning, mental awareness, meditation, visualization, breathing exercises, breath control techniques, development and utilization of the ki force, and ultimately spiritual development are some of the practices and goals which emphasize the influence of Taoist and Buddhist religious and philosophical principles on the martial arts.

I interviewed a 5th degree black belt in Poekoelan (an Indonesian style of the martial arts). His father was a ninth degree, one of the highest ranking martial artists in the country at that time. He told me that one night his father came to his house and "flipped out." He attacked him with a samurai sword. He said he wouldn't have fought back, but his family was sleeping upstairs and he was afraid his father would kill them too. He and his father fought for almost an hour. He had some 40 cuts on his body and half his throat ripped open. Finally, he killed his father with a pair of nun-chucks. The son was tried for murder but released on the basis of self-defense.

Investigations revealed that his father had voodoo dolls with pins stuck in them. He had a black candle which he used when meditating and he was involved in other occultic practices. The son told me there is no possible explanation for what his father did except that he was what the Bible calls "demon possessed." Another power had taken control of him.

Energy Force

Many martial arts practitioners get into the development of ki (a supposedly impersonal energy force that pervades the universe). Allegedly as a result of tapping into and controlling ki through meditation and breath control, they are able to do some phenomenal feats.

This impersonal universal energy force is called by various names. The Japanese call it ki, the Chinese refer to it as ch'i, the Indian yogis call it prana. From research, Scripture, and spiritual discernment, I am convinced that this is not scientifically explainable, natural energy but is an occultic energy or demonic power.

According to cult/occult experts John Ankerberg and John Weldon:

People who experience this energy are often powerfully influenced to accept new age teaching or to become active in occult practices.

Essentially, modern new age health methods have only adopted the energy concepts of various pagan cultures and/or traditional occultic theories, such as the ch'i energy of ancient Chinese Taoism, the prana/kundalini energy of Hinduism, the mana energy of Polynesian shamanism, and the psychic force of the occultist and parapsychologist.

In theory, anyone can argue that some form of mysteriously structured energy might exist "within" the human body as in the flow of ch'i through the meridians, or prana through the chakras. It can be argued that no one, for example, knows the internal "structure" of the human spirit. Christian promoters... often argue that ch'i, prana, mana, etc., are unknown and unidentified natural components of God's creation which circulate within the body through invisible channels.

But these energy systems are theoretically suspect because of contradictory teachings, and in practice, too closely associated with occultism for us to be comfortable with the idea of "neutral" or natural life energies.2

One of the numerous illustrations I could cite occurred while I was lifting weights at a gym in Arizona. I met a man who had been involved in a Chinese style of the martial arts for many years. As we talked I led him into a discussion on ch'i. He explained how he developed his ch'i and told of some of the feats he and his instructor could do as a result of their concentration of ch'i, such as moving objects with their minds. Supposedly, his instructor could extend his arm and point his finger at someone, and by concentrating on extending his ch'i, he could knock them down without touching them — and do many other seemingly superhuman feats.

I asked him the source of this power. He said, "All around us is energy. All we have to do is tap it and redirect it for our purposes. Ch'i is the eternal life force from which everything was made and consists of. We develop these powers from within through meditation and self-development."

We went deeper into our conversation. I was trying to make him admit the "true source" of this power. He soon did. He told me that sometimes as they performed kata (prearranged patterns of fighting imaginary opponents), if they were totally yielded, the spirits of dead masters possessed their bodies and controlled their movements — greatly increasing their skill, performance, speed, and power. He also said they can put hexes and spells on people, and told of other occultic powers and phenomena, thus revealing the "true essence" of his power of ch'i.

Pat Means, authority on Eastern mysticism, states in his book, The Mystical Maze:

According to Taoism, one of the dominant religions in China, there is a great energy flowing through the universe and our bodies. This energy consists of two forces, yin (female) and yang (male), which constantly complement and harmonize with each other. When one is in harmony with this energy, then his life and body are also in harmony ....

In sum, eastern meditation, yoga and the philosophical varieties of the martial arts all share the same pitfalls for the Christian: an experience that tends to condition his view of reality, and the possible impartation of an underlying monistic philosophy that directly conflicts with the Bible.3

While many Christians wisely avoid the more mystical/occult laced "soft" or "internal" styles, they wrongly and dangerously conclude that most "hard" or "external" systems are safe.

Christian research expert Bob Larson states:

Eventually two schools of martial arts evolved: Ch'uan Fe (kung fu) based on the hard (external) school of Buddhism, and other arts founded on the soft (internal) school of Taoism ....

The undercurrent of Buddhism found in some martial arts is illustrated by the emphasis on bowing, breathing exercises, seated meditation, intense concentration, and heightened awareness. Reflective thinking is discouraged — another influence of Buddhism. Since karate is a practice of the spirit, its stated purpose is to unite mind, body, and spirit to achieve the unity envisioned by Zen ....

While it may be true that the various disciplines of martial arts have different forms, they all have similar religious backgrounds and goals. Because of their roots in Taoism and Buddhism, they view the entire universe as an interplay of harmonizing opposites, the yin and yang. These principles are expressed by the relaxed state of movements. 'The way' of Tao is accomplished by yielding and never resisting, and by responding sympathetically to each action of one's opponent. As illustrated in kung fu, each movement is uninterrupted and flowing. The end of one action is the beginning of the next, thus balancing the yin and yang. When the Zen goal of stilled senses is also achieved, this balanced harmony is supposed to help one merge with the Universal Consciousness ....

The religious and philosophical roots of most martial art forms presuppose a pantheistic perception of the cosmos. Even the cautious student runs the risk of being conditioned by the techniques that pursue a goal of impersonal oneness with the universe. The Taoistic and Buddhist overtones represent more than a historical root. These principles are an integral part of fulfilling the ultimate spiritual aims of most art forms.4

My Gradual Discontinuing of Karate

As a new Christian and a Bible college student in the early 70s, before many (including myself) were aware of the true essence of the martial arts, I was struggling with practicing and teaching karate. I had a "gnawing in my stomach" that something just wasn't right. I contemplated quitting. A well-meaning Bible college professor and also a minister, both of whom I respected, and several other Christian leaders encouraged me to continue, stating that God could use the natural laws (physics, physiology, kinesiology, anatomy, psychology, etc.) for good and I could warn about the Eastern and occultic overtones. So I continued teaching at the Bible college and in churches.

After graduation from Bible college, I founded the Christian Martial Arts Association (CMAA). I developed some impressive demos for churches and schools during which I demonstrated and shared numerous Biblical principles: balance, commitment, courage, self-control, discipline, and determination. I also illustrated through demo and message the evidence for Biblical Christianity and how to grow in Christ, be available to God, glorify Him with every aspect of our lives, overcome peer pressure, and be proficient in spiritual warfare, as well as many other Biblical truths. I explained why I, as a Christian, was involved; I warned about the Eastern/occult teachings associated with the advanced stages of the martial arts. I also developed innovative total fitness and defense clinics that became very popular.

Through the CMAA I also researched, exposed, and presented Biblical apologetics of various cult, occult, and Eastern mystical groups. But the more I researched, the more I became convicted and the more Christ's Lordship in my life became threatened by my continued involvement. So began the gradual discontinuing of all my karate involvement — a process which took several years.

My Conviction Grows

At first I was convicted about developing the power of ki and mental powers, so I discontinued that mode of training. Years later, in one of my file cabinets, I discovered some of the old training materials I had used for my classes. Before destroying them, I read them. I was shocked to discover what I had innocently taught my students years before when I was a new Christian. I realized I had begun to teach occult techniques to develop mental powers and the power of ki (impersonal energy force) — all in the name of Christ!

And few, if any, ever questioned what I was teaching. Nor did any Christian leaders I considered credible rebuke me. In fact, most loved it and encouraged me! But now, after many years of research and seeking the Lord, I clearly see where I could have ended up by following that path. I thank God that His Spirit dealt with me about the inherent and potential dangers of these practices.

Later I felt I should stop training in dojos and stop teaching karate classes, so I only did defense clinics and demonstrations. I also threw away the notebook materials I had developed for my karate classes.

Next, I decided not to wear a gi and belt during the demos and defense clinics to distance myself further from karate. I wore street clothes and tennis shoes. I reasoned, "Besides, who is going to be attacked in a gi anyway? You're more likely to be attacked in street clothes." But that was insufficient. I felt led to discontinue all potentially harmful practices: heavy sparring, breaking wood and cement, etc. Because of neck injuries from a car accident, I felt it would be wise to stop doing backflips and other snapping techniques. Then the Lord led me to even quit practicing on my own and to get rid of my personal workout routine notebook so it wouldn't entice me to begin studying, training, and teaching again.

Finally, the Lord led me to discontinue doing defense clinics and demos. I was reading Luke 18:18-30 during my Bible study and the Lord spoke very clearly to my heart that the time had come for me to discontinue doing defense clinics and demos. So I threw away all my defense clinic and demo materials. I believe it was another step toward focusing all my energy into reaching a world of spiritually hungry people for Christ through speaking, radio, cassettes, and literature.

For several more days I continued to pray about it because it was a difficult decision — I loved these things; they gave an excitement and credibility to the ministry. However, I was compelled to obey the Lord and not be persuaded by appearance, circumstances, or feelings. I did not want to be like the rich man in Luke 18 who would not give up "everything" to follow the Lord. I was willing to give up something I greatly enjoyed and that was important to me for something even more important — my desire to obey the Lord in every area of my life.

Wisdom From Joshua

Following this decision to be obedient, the Lord led me to read Joshua 23:6-16 ––

"Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now. The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God. But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you. Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. But just as every good promise of the Lord your God has come true, so the Lord will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord's anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land He has given you."

I do not want to only halfheartedly obey the Lord — I want to wholeheartedly obey the Lord and to do and to be everything He desires me to do and to be. I desire the Lord's "resurrection power" more than any physical power.

Why It Took So Long

I've often wondered why it took so many years for me to make a total break with the martial arts. Either it had a stronger hold on me than I realized, or the Lord in His mercy had dealt with me and led me in stages, as I sought to follow Him each step of the way.

The last demo I did was one of the best ever, and the last defense clinic was also one of the best. I didn't give these up because I had to, but because I willingly chose to obey the Lord's leading. The defense clinics and demos seemed inconsistent with the tremendous goals and vision the Lord was placing on my heart. I had to be willing to give up physical power to obtain even greater spiritual power. I would not settle for a superficial relationship with the Lord. I wanted everything He had for me.

To be certain I would not go back to doing them again; I obeyed the Lord's voice and threw away all my defense clinic and demo materials in my notebooks. I felt this material still had a drawing effect on me and might entice me to start training again. I wrote in my records at the time:

I am discontinuing the defense clinics and demos in faith and obedience. I have no idea how this will all work out. We will see what the Lord has in store!

I found out that instead of being less effective, my speaking engagements had even more power. The response was greater once I quit doing the demos in connection with my ministering and the focus was put totally on Him. Usually the demo gave me the attention, security, and impact I felt was needed. So I said, "Lord, I am obeying and honoring You by not doing the demo, so please help me to keep their attention and impact their lives." And the Lord was faithful! I didn't do any type of demo for the next speaking engagement, yet the Lord blessed with the best response ever!

Greater Power in Christ

In my opinion, it's not karate for Christ — it's karate or Christ! God's Word and Spirit have given me greater peace, joy, blessing, power, protection, and victory than my martial arts involvement ever could. Read my pamphlet, The Impossible, which contains excerpts from my upcoming book by the same title. You will see why willfully laying down my dependence on the "flesh" has resulted in a greater outpouring of God's Spirit and has enabled me to walk in victory in circumstances I could never have overcome through the martial arts.

The feats many martial artists perform and the occultic power they develop are impressive, but Revelation 6:15-17 puts this in proper perspective ––

"Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of Their wrath has come, and who can stand?'"

Isaiah 2:17-22 tells us ––

"The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear. Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth. In that day men will throw away to the rodents and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth. Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?"

When I compare the greatest martial artists to the resurrected Christ (Revelation 1:14-17), there is no comparison!

Please also consider the following testimonies by former Christian martial arts practitioners. Following their testimonies I will share several questions that every Christian involved in the martial arts should ask themselves.

The preceding is excerpted from Bill Rudge's book, Why I Quit Karate.