Question: "Is it right for a Christian to be involved in martial arts?"
Answer: It is stated by one of the founders of martial arts, Gichin Funakoshi, “The mind and technique become one in true karate.” By polishing our karate practice, he believes, we are polishing our own spirit or our own mentality. Karate is a system that can be considered a “way of life,” merging the spiritual and physical sides of our human existence. A Christian involved in martial arts should have a difficult time finding comfort in the roots of the martial arts. As seen above, they focus much attention on the physical development (which is not a bad thing), but also combine the training with Buddhist or Zen philosophy.
What does the Bible say about the mind? First of all, the heart is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). In the Scriptures, the heart and mind are often considered to be the same thing. Since our hearts and our minds are wicked, we are not able to think clearly about our spiritual situation, and therefore unable to “polish” our own spirits as karate claims it is able to do. We are in need of a Savior to clean our hearts, and develop within us a new spirit. Titus 1:15 gives us insight into the mind of the unbeliever: “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” The philosophies contained in Buddhism, as well as most all of the religions of the world, are developed by flawed men with defiled minds. They do not offer advice suitable for Christians to follow.
The Scriptures teach us what we are to do with our minds. We are not to conform our thinking to the world’s way of thinking but “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). The picture in Romans 12:2 is like that of a mold we use for making cakes. The batter is placed inside the cake mold, and when the baking is complete, out comes the cake in the same shape as the mold. Our minds are not to be shaped by the world’s mold. We are to set our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2). We should train our minds in how to serve the Lord and please Him in all that we do.
While the physical side of martial arts is probably a good form of exercise, and many Christians do participate in martial arts, it may be a dangerous activity to allow the mind to become influenced by the philosophies associated with karate and all other forms of the martial arts. The false religious overtones of Buddhism are there whether they are expressed verbally or not. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to separate the philosophies from the activity, and therefore it would be wise for the Christian to use much caution before participating in this kind of activity.