Martial Arts Personal Philosophy


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I don’t have my own martial arts style; but I do have a personal philosophy. It is not new or original, I don’t think, but it is not a part of the mainstream thinking in the wonderful world of martial arts.

            I was comfortable with my boxing, Kickboxing and Taekwondo experience; mixed in with some Shotokan and Kung Fu. However my life as a Martial Artist changed when I took one small class with Master Michael Proctor. My eyes were opened to take a close look at a reality I already knew, but ignored, the reality that the world has become a very violent place. The rules of street fighting have dramatically changed.

            The unwritten rules of fighting fair are now out the door. People actually enjoy just TKO an innocent person who they don’t even know. The victim could be a young man, young lady, a pregnant woman, a mom with her baby or even a senior citizen. They love to take videos of these innocent victims getting TKO and place them in Youtube. Almost immediately those videos go viral. As you read the comments it is not strange to find LOL, “Laughing out loud.” Can you explain to me how can these events be comical to anybody? It is the society we are living in today.

            Master Proctor presented the statistics. One in particular stayed on my mind since. A woman is raped in our nation every six seconds. As a married man and a father of four daughters, I then started a journey to deeply judge what I knew, the kinds of tournaments I participated in, my street fights and the traditional martial arts and how to reconcile all that with the brutality of the streets.

            I am a work in progress, but I have come to very strong convictions as it refers to my approach to teaching martial arts to my students. To start with, I don’t believe in Forms as practical tools of self-defense. I know this will create problems with many of my martial arts colleagues, but I can’t find much practicality in the use of forms. Forms are pretty, but real street fights are not. The way we practice is the way we will react. The constant practice of throwing punches with one hand while placing the other by your ribs or even waist, it is not practical, but indeed very dangerous and it is one of the many aspects that throw me off regarding forms.

            Just the other day I was talking to a military man who told me the story of this great martial arts instructor who used to specialize in teaching police officers. As he taught how to disarm an attacker with a knife and gun he would go down a line of officers, have them point at him with the weapon, one by one, he would disarm them very quickly, effectively, and then return the weapon to the officer in training. He was just teaching, no problem, right? One day this instructor found himself in a real life situation, he followed his training and quickly disarmed the attacker, but he made one mistake, he gave the weapon back to the attacker as he did countless times in the training of others. That day, had there not been additional police intervention, the instructor would have facilitated his own death.

            I am also turned off by the athletic and talented martial artist who comes up with a system that is very effective for him, but totally obsolete to the average human being such as myself. He is able to defend himself based on who he is and his natural abilities. I can try the same techniques and get killed. It is not that his techniques are no good, but they are no good for me unless I possess the same degree of athletic prowess.

            So, do I use forms? Yes, but only as an aerobic exercise, as a show and to demonstrate disciple, as everybody must learn each one of those moves. But in terms of self-defense I look for what is either universally effective or effective to that particular person. For example, I do not only teach the Taekwondo way of throwing the sidekick, but I also teach the Shotokan and the Kung Fu way. I let the students find what actually work better for them.

            This may sound unprofessional, but I love to watch Youtube videos of real street fights; those videos give a fountain of information and a better assessment of what could work or not. I do teach a pattern of a self-defense techniques, the natural way a human body will react to certain strikes and good logical follow ups. I also believe in applying pain in self-defense to give a time to escape, but I leave room for that student to find himself as a martial artist.

            In those Youtube videos I have seen men effectively defend themselves with a jab and cross; nothing fancy, just powerful 1-2 combinations. I have also seen a young man defending himself with reverse hook kicks to the face of an attacker. Some teach not to kick high, but for these young men it was easy to place a kick in the attacker’s head

            I am now in this wonderful journey of re-discovering myself as a martial artist. I still hold-on to some traditions; I still find Biblical principles to be the most valuable contribution of a martial arts instructor. However, when it comes down to self-defense we must find that middle ground between the safety of the dojo and the brutality of the street. For me, that teaching dynamic is a responsible approach to the sensitive topic self-defense; anything less is indeed irresponsible and dangerous for our students. My heart really goes out to martial artists who only train for the point system. They become champions and develop a false sense of security in their skills. When these same martial artist jumps to any full contact competition or when they find themselves in a life and death situation, they are the first ones to fall completely apart.

Martial Arts Instructor as an Elder


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The topic for this Essay does not necessarily provide a window to argue against viewing a Martial Arts Instructor as an Elder; but it did cause me to stop and reflect on the possibility. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that when I started teaching Martial Arts, I was an Elder at my church. By then, I already had certain zeal for the Lord and the things of God that I believe were very useful for the proper functioning of this ministry.

            I don’t think that you have to be necessarily and Elder to be a Senior Martial Arts Instructor in a Christian school, but without a doubt, possessing the qualifications of an Elder is crucial in the process of impacting lives, not only with the kicking and punching, but most importantly, with the Gospel. First Timothy 3:2-7, A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (KJV)

            In these verses we specifically see 16 characteristics of an Elder. Without a doubt, each one of these qualifications could serve as self-assessment guidance before considering the title of Christian Martial Arts Instructor. Lets take a brief look at some definitions in the original language.

  1. Blameless: “To seize. One who has nothing which an adversary could seize upon with which to base a charge.”[1] This speaks of taking our personal testimonies serious. It is not perfection, but it is pursuing perfection; somebody that truly has his/her DNA doing, not only the right thing, but the Godly thing in every situation.

  2. Husband of one wife: Does this mean the disqualification of the divorcees? Some believe so. I believe that we are talking about a man who is married and who is faithful to his wife, a good husband.

  3. Vigilant: “To be sober. Sober, temperate, self–controlled, especially in respect to wine.” As martial artist we also teach self-control, not only in terms of what we eat and drink, but also as we face potentially violent situations.

  4. Sober: “Discreet, sober, temperate, of a sound mind (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:2, 5); self–disciplined in one’s freedom, self–restrained in all passions and desires.”[2] This characteristic seems to reinforce the prior, however, this one seems to focus more on mental and emotional control.

  5. Of good behavior: Behavior is obviously what others can see. An Elder is a person who knows how to carry himself appropriately in public.

  6. Hospitable: A hospitable person is a cordial person. However, this implies more than being cordial. This is a person that is actually bringing people to his/her house. During the time of the disciples, as they preached from town to town, they encouraged their people to be hospitable. They did not necessarily stayed in five star hotels. They stayed with one another. So I add that a hospitable person is a person that loves people. Dealing with people in our jobs and communities is one thing, but to bring them to your home is a whole different ball game.

  7. Apt to teach: An Elder must be clear in sound doctrine. It is not that he knows it all, but he knows the foundational teachings of the apostles.

  8. Not given to wine: Not a drunk

  9. No striker: “A striker, a violent person, figuratively a reviler, one who by reproachful and upbraiding language wounds the conscience of his brethren, a contentious person, a quarreler (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7).”[3] A striker is an instigator. A martial artist is to never start a fight, but to actually avoid them. Fighting is the absolute last resort. To teach our students this important principle is one of the most important teachings of a Christian Martial Arts Instructor.

  10. Not greedy of filthy lucre: With the commercialization of Martial Arts it is very easy to place our focus on making money. A Christian Martial Arts Instructor is not focused on money, but His primary desire is to serve the Lord. I don’t have any problem with making a living, but as a Christian Martial Artist we should care about the condition of people’s souls more than about their ability to pay. In my years of teachings martial arts I have never rejected anyone for inability to pay. I work with everybody. Yes, some will take advantage of that, but they will not last long; most importantly, they will hear the Gospel before leaving. That is the reason why I don’t make Martial Arts my primary source of income; I follow the example of the Apostle Paul who actually worked with his own hands to make a living. That gave him the flexibility to minister.

  11. Patient: “Fair, equitable. Fitting, appropriate, suitable, proper, to be lenient, yielding, unassertive.” [4] We have students with different abilities and different attitudes. Patience is a key ingredient as we teach them and see them growing at their own pace. They are all different and they are all special in their own way.

  12. Not a brawler: “Without, and máchē (3163), battle, controversy. Not disposed to fight, not contentious or quarrelsome.” [5] We can clearly see the rejection of violence.

  13. Not Covetous: “without, and philárguros (5366), lover of money. Not fond of money or covetous.”[6] I think that we must remember, as Christian Martial Arts Instructors, that we are ministers first and then instructors. If we keep that in mind we should not be affected by the size or influence of other martial arts programs. We should be able to understand the vision and purpose that the Lord has given us and operate within that vision.

  14. One who rules well in his house: For some time I struggled with the proper definition of what this means. In the Bible we see great men like Prophet Samuel and Josiah, who were great before the Lord, but their sons were to the contrary. Does that make them bad fathers? Does that disqualify them from ministry? So as it refers to an elder ruling his house well, this is an elder who does not compromise in spite of his beloved children’s rebellion. Just as we rebel against All Mighty God, how much more our children are capable of rebelling against us?

  15. Not a novice: This is not a job for an inexperienced person. A Martial Arts Instructor should be well versed in whatever style they teach, but most importantly, they should be mature Christians. You need both!

  16. Good report in the community: Good testimony.

            May God help us all!

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[2] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[3] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[4] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[5] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[6] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.