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?
Philosophies of Traditional Systems. Meditation in the Martial Arts & A Biblical Response.
History of the Traditional Martial Arts: Chi energy, Yogic breathe exercise and Altered States: (editor's explanations within footnoted research in parenthesis are to clarify and contrast definition of two opposing worldviews - eastern mysticism vs. Biblical view)
Around A.D. 525, a Zen Buddhist monk by the name of Boddhidarma traveled from India to China's Shaolin monastery. There he combined Chinese boxing or fighting techniques with Yogic breathing exercises to improve the health of the monks. The monks eventually mixed their religion of Taoism with India's Buddhism in their martial exercises. All marital arts systems were originated in China's ancient monasteries no matter what their name today, they all have their roots in the philosophies of ancient China and India's Hinduism. The Chinese monks soon learned to combine physical exercise with yogic breathing techniques, meditation, and inner body control through altered states reached in eastern-type meditation. These were used to develop needed fighting and healing skills. Inner strength or a high level of Chi (psychic) development always outperformed pure physical strength alone.
The concept of Chi (psychic "energy" tapped into from so-called universal consciousness which the Bible defines as the supernatural demonic realm) is rooted in ancient Chinese medicine and is described as one's life force essential in maintaining health, energy, and well-being. The martial artist is taught that Chi development is essential for proper fighting techniques and power. And what fighter would not want to take advantage of something that could turn them from merely a good fighter into a greater fighter? A martial artist could be taught Chi Kung at various levels from subtle breathing and relaxation techniques to attempting to shoot one's energy out through the body to forcibly move an opponent.
Chi means energy (i.e.psychic powers) and Kung means work (i.e.to work with supernatural powers). Chi Kung is "psychic energy work" combining various rituals. Yogic type breathing combines with positions which are understood to be symbols or replicas of deities. The movements themselves align with the supernatural forces (energies), and eastern style meditation (based in eastern philosophy), are believed to maintain health (both spiritual and physical) and promote a state of "well-being" (essentially a religious technique to bring oneself into oneness with deities understood to be "wellness").
This technique is called breathing exercises, longevity method, or internal training. Just as in Yoga, Chi Kung exercises are often promoted in the belief that they bring health and wellness benefits to the practitioner. And for some martial artists, the promise of extraordinary fighting ability is too much to resist.
In Chinese Chi Kung, meditation (the ritual to advance altered states) is key. The slow subtle movements of Tai Chi (once a real fighting system) are nothing more than a moving meditation, or a moving Yoga. Concentrating on the breath and emptying the mind are most important. In the Japanese arts, Chi is referred to as Ki, and Chinese movements are referred to as katas. They all have the same source in supernatural deities.
The sect of Shaolin is an offshoot of the Buddhist school known in Chinese as Ch'an and in Japanese as Zen. Most martial arts schools in the West do not concern themselves with the religious aspects and mainly promote the non-religious aspects of a mixture of Taoism and Buddhism. The philosophical Taoist is atheist and deity independent looking to nature for harmony rather than to a personal god. By looking to nature, the ancients observed the fighting skills of various animals, and copied these movements. Thus many systems of Shaolin Kung Fu are named after animals; i.e., white crane, tiger, drunken monkey, etc.
Chinese Taoism seems to have originated from a Chinese sage named Lao Tzu, who wrote down his wisdom in a book called the Tao Te Ching, or The Book of the Way. His YIN and the YANG philosophy of the universe forms the spiritual roots of Taoism. He believed that YIN and YANG are opposite forces that make the universe run. He claims the concepts of opposites, soft and hard, light and dark, female and male, good and bad cannot exist without one another. The YIN/YANG symbol of two intertwined "fish" can be found in many modern businesses and in numerous martial arts schools.
Martial artists apply this knowledge in their art by realizing their "style" of fighting is neither hard nor soft, but all styles combine the essence of both, just as the Tao does. So, one can "softly" deflect or absorb an opponent's energy within a strike, and then attack the opponent "hard" using the concept of YIN and YANG. An undiscerning Christian or parent may not recognize the Taoist philosophy contained in the lesson, and perhaps even the instructor may not realize the eastern mystic religious roots of his teaching.
The famous influential martial artist Bruce Lee used the YIN/YANG symbol in his Jeet Kune Do emblem. Lee integrated the martial arts with Taoism. He wrote, "The point is to utilize the art as a means to advance The Way (the Tao)." He also believed, "Technical skill is subordinate to the psychic training, which will finally raise the practitioner even to the level of high spirituality." Bruce Lee is still admired by many people for his martial arts skills and movies. He has influenced an entire generation of young martial artists. But, his philosophy is pure Taoism.
Martial arts systems that are referred to as "internal systems" because of their emphasis on cultivating the Chi such as Hsing-I, Pakua, and T'ai Chi Ch'uan were founded by theistic Taoists, which developed complicated schools of ceremonial magic. The movements of the martial art Pakua are based on the building of hexagrams contained in the ancient Chinese book of divination, the I-Ching. After studying some of these internal arts in search for more fighting power, Villanueva found himself using the I-Ching to make important decisions in his life. He learned the occult magic method of building hexagrams by meditating, tossing three quarters and consulting the I-Ching for its divining interpretation.
Meditation in the Martial Arts:
The undiscerning person may not see the harm in sitting under the tutelage of a "master" in the martial arts, but many teachers have formed their foundation on Taoist/Buddhist philosophies. For example, author and martial arts trainer Liang Shou-Yu started training in Chi Kung (breath energy work) when he was six-years old. He learned "breath-control" and "energy work" from his renowned grandfather. He was taught esoteric skills when he was eight-years old. After learning Chi Kung, he started training in the martial arts. He has devoted his life to the practice of special martial power training. Of course a student under the tutelage of a master like Liang may easily be introduced to the deeper philosophical teachings of the martial arts and meditation without realising its spiritual dangers.
In the martial arts, the state of musing or "mind-no-mind" is the ability to empty the thoughts and circulate the Chi (spirit being) in the body. It is the same goal as Zen meditation. Emptiness of the mind is the agenda. Once the mind is in this dislocated state: mind separated from the control of the person who should own his own mind, strangers are able to possess the mind or body, and enter through altered states bringing delusions: visions, sounds, voices, appearances, all of which are common to deep meditative (altered) states.
Dr. Glenn Morris in his book Martial Arts Madness, documents several horrible experiences others have had with meditation associated with the martial arts. In a chapter titled, "Magic and Mysticism: Experiences from the Field," one preacher's son was attacked and bitten by a vision of a giant spider while practicing Chi Kung, and since then has been visited by a dark haired woman even when not meditating. He has been diagnosed as a functioning psychotic.
Another claims to have been visited by a large bat, which bit him on the nose during deep meditation. The next day he had physical puncture wounds around his nose coupled with confusion. And there are several stories of ancient grand masters of the martial arts visiting people while engaged in deep meditation. Stories are the same, the visions of these masters tell the students they are lazy and need to practice more, and get deeper into meditation.
One young girl was mixing meditation with marijuana to help in opening her so-called chakras (psychic wheels along the spine) and obtaining kundalini arousal (serpent awakening). She started at age fourteen, and meditated four years prior to becoming fragmented from her persona and emotions. Her sense of reality became gray, full of pain from fried endocrine and nervous systems. She spent time in hospital schizophrenic wards, and now lacks the appropriate skills to function in the real world. Apparently according to Dr. Morris, these stories are common among avid Chi Kung practitioners.
It is not sinful to defend oneself and it is not sinful to learn how to defend oneself. It is sinful however to practice, embrace, endorse, promote, and adhere to pagan rituals and beliefs that are rooted in demonic philosophy.
Psalms 119 encourages meditation on God's ways and to fill our thoughts with His statutes, precepts, and testimonies. We are to fill our minds (an active and deliberate intention to obey God) not "empty" them (put the mind in neutral permitting entrance to demonic influences). There is a vast difference between cognitive meditation on God and His Character as identified in the whole counsel of His Word and eastern style meditation that calls for "stilling" the mind for entrance of demonic spirituality. Meditative practices in the martial arts are never Godly and lead to the ultimate destruction of mind and spirit through eastern rituals. A Christian should never practice exercises that self focus on the so-called moving of breath resulting in self hypnosis for the purpose altering states of consciousness which neutralise the practitioner's mind for entrance for another to operate it with so-called Chi power.
In Luke 11:24-26, Jesus taught that when demons or unclean spirits leave a person they wander about seeking rest, and finding non desire to return to the home now "swept clean and put in order". When the demon discovers the person is empty (vulnerable and open without resistance) it is able to enter with seven other spirits more wicked than the first to dwell there again. The last state of that person is worse than the first. But the "swept clean" person has the continual choice of inviting the Power of Jesus' Holy Spirit to take over their the mind (2 Cor.10: 5) or can willfully choose to reject that protection and invite in "stillness" or "emptying" of the mind resulting in access given to another spirit. (2. Cor. 11: 3-4). The choice of free will is of singular importance in spiritual warfare, whether the power is given to the True Spirit in obedience to the knowledge of Jesus or to the doctrine of demons and deluding spirits. (1 Tim. 4:1)
A person who confesses the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation is "born again" (John 3) and becomes spiritually reconciled with the Father, renewed and set free from demonic control: sin (disobedience). The Born Again believer lives in Christ and is "a new creature with the passing away of old things" (2 Cor. 5:17). The True Believer seeks to please the Creator God with all strength and fills their house with Godly commandments, precepts, and teachings. If the Believer falls into the practice of occultism (e.g. demonic meditation) they allow entrance through a willful consent made in the mind for occupation of spiritual forces (demons) who are always waiting for any invitation. The demons often enter with beautiful experiences that impersonate goodness and light and no wonder for Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11. 14). The True believer in Christ must vehemently reject occultism (hidden wisdom and demonic experiences) which enter through yogic breathing, eastern meditation, and movements designed to arouse the "kundalini" serpent.
 George Kirby, Jujitsu: Basic Techniques of the Gentle Art (Santa Clarita: Ohara Publications, 1983).
 Ron Gatewood, Kung Fu San Soo: Secret Art of the Fighting Monks (La Mesa: San Soo Journal Publications, 1996), p. 24-25.
 Ip Chun, Wing Chun Kung Fu: Traditional Chinese Kung Fu for Self Defense and Health (NY: St. Martin's Griffin, 1998), pp. 138-139.
 http://www.shaolin.com/philosophycontent.aspx Accessed on December 5, 2009.
 Bruce Lee, ed. John Little, Jeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee's Commentaries on the Martial Way (Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1997), pp. 341-342.
 Ashida Kim, The Secrets of the Ninja, (Boulder: Paladin Press, 1981), p. 5.
 Liang Shou-Yu, Chinese Fast Wrestling for Fighting: The Art of San Shou Kuai Jiao (Jamaica Plain: YMAA Publication Center, 1997), p. vii.
 Glenn Morris Martial Arts Madness: A User's Guide to the Esoteric Martial Arts (Berkeley: Frog Ltd. 1998), pp. 129-146.