In response to several letters about Martial Arts we approached Police Lt. Paul Villanueva (Ret) for his insights, both physical and spiritual, in an attempt to answer the question, "Can Christians be involved in Martial Arts without compromising their faith, and avoid spiritual dangers?
We have divided Villanueva's answers into a 3 part series...
Part Two: Non -Traditional Martial Arts. In Search of Power. History of the Traditional Martial Arts.
Non-Traditional Martial Arts:
Today, there is a new breed of systems and schools calling themselves "Mixed Martial Arts," or MMA. Made popular by events such as the Ultimate Fighting championship (UFC) and other various forms of "cage fighting," these schools gather and mix the best techniques from a variety of martial arts rather than being locked into "traditional" systems. Most of these schools do not adhere to the ancient philosophical and spiritual applications of breath control, meditation, and internal power training. Their goal is to teach people how to fight not levitate.
One such street fighter's commentary exemplifies this movement away from the mystical. In Fists, Wits, and a Wicked Right, author and trainer Marc MacYoung described the Hollywood portrayal of traditional martial arts in the 1970's, and noticed many people flocking to the martial arts masters to learn this "secret" power of fighting. MacYoung observed that people training in traditional martial arts were losing street fights to street fighters. He writes concerning the street savvy fighter, "Instead of hanging around and duking it out toe-to-toe, they'd just bust a chair across the would-be karate hero's teeth. The situation was, in a word, ugly." People like MacYoung clearly separate the esoteric from the practical. In another book he wrote, "There are countless differences between street fighting and martial arts."
The founder of Krav Maga, the combat system of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), took this name from 2Samuel 17:11 where the Hebrew word Krav means struggle. Maga means close or contact. Krav Maga teaches Israeli soldiers close combat techniques. Although the building blocks of this fighting art have existed for thousands of years and are rooted in the fighting systems of ancient China, it was Emerich Lichtenfeld that developed, modernized, and fine-tuned the techniques during Israel's War of Independence. In training the IDF, techniques of fitness, bayonet, sentry removal, knife fighting, and other military oriented problems that require a creative solution are taught with no ancient Chinese mysticism involved. This is pure hand-to-hand combat. Yet, the techniques, movements, and principles have their origin in the ancient Shaolin temples of China.
It was this complete separation of practical fighting and mysticism that first attracted Villanueva to Kung Fu San Soo. Although it had a very Chinese sounding name with its techniques rooted in ancient China, the modern instructor Villanueva found was repulsed by the mystical, and only believed in techniques of combat. Like Krav Maga, the ancient fighting techniques of San Soo had been modernized, systemized, and made practical without any of the philosophical mumbo jumbo associated with the traditional martial arts.
Author Greg Jones in his book Sudden Violence, The Art of San Soo, describes the practitioner of San Soo as having no need for trophies, cheering crowds, hands of stone, appearing pretty, and certainly no need for "bowing or rituals." Jones continues to elaborate that San Soo is a method of self-defense applying logical principles with spontaneous simple and direct techniques. It does not use brawn, speed, animal instincts, or "mystical powers."
Paul recounts his experiences as he searched for Power.
Paul took the second path of seeking more power. Although he trained in a school that shunned the esoteric side of the martial arts, he personally wanted more power and better fighting ability. So, he searched for internal power training outside of his art. The very thing he wanted to first avoid was the thing that he began to desire. He began taking Tai Chi classes at the local university, which led him to examine some of the more esoteric principles of Chi development using Chi Kung.
Using breathing exercises to transform the breath into energy was an everyday occurrence. An ancient saying is, "When transforming the breath, the inhalation must be full to gather the magic. To gather the magic, fullness must be extended. When it is extended it can penetrate downward. When it can penetrate downward, it is magic." Paul learned that he could become more aware of his body functions and develop "a familiarity with experiences that reverberate in the esoteric teachings of the main religions of the world." Glenn Morris writes, "The esoteric Buddhist system of waking up the chakra ("wheel" - seen to be an "energy point") through assuming attitudes and performing exercises alters the personality of the practitioner, " and this is what happened to Paul.
Soon Paul was practicing moving meditation and standing meditation. The stretches and movements were specifically designed to open up his "chakras" and engage the kundalini (snake power said to lay dormant at the base of each person's spine) energy, the same kundalini power evoked in the practice of Yoga. Paul found himself practicing less combat techniques and more internal power training.
This meditation on emptiness and voiding the mind opened Paul up to a demonic presence. Before long, he was involved in the practice of many pagan rituals and traditions, which eventually caused his life to implode.
It was not only the allure of "secret power" from the martial arts that led Paul along this downward spiral. It was also his entire search for spirituality and power, which included ancient Native American wisdom, rituals, and ceremonies, as well as participation in esoteric fraternities like the Freemasons. Whether involved in traditional or non-traditional martial arts, one must be highly aware and discerning regarding the potential pitfalls of both because all the combat and fighting systems are rooted in the same ancient Chinese philosophical history and all that is overseen by the powers and principalities mentioned by Paul in the Book of Ephesians. Parents must especially protect their children from these historical influences.
 Marc MacYoung, Fists, Wits, and a Wicked Right (Boulder: Paladin Press, 1991), p. 4.
 Marc MacYoung, (Cheap Shots, Ambushes, and Other Lessons (Boulder: Paladin Press, 1992), p. 224.
 David Kahn Krav Maga: The Contact Combat System of the Israel Defense Forces (NY: St. Martin's Griffin, 2004), p. 15-17.
 Greg Jones Sudden Violence: The Art of San Soo (Boulder: Paladin Press, 1998), p. viii.
 Glenn Morris Martial Arts Madness: A User's Guide to the Esoteric Martial Arts (Berkeley: Frog Ltd. 1998), p. 18-19, 26.