By Dr. Richard A. Guion (guest blogger)
In August 2010, I began to offer free martial arts lessons at Christ Fellowship Church (CFC) to interested young people. This was in response to the big potential of being able to reach out to so many teenagers attracted to the field of martial arts training. The goal was to lead them to Jesus Christ and make them His disciples. In the succeeding months, a good number of students enrolled.
However, it was evident that the potential of martial arts training as a context for youth evangelism and discipleship was not being maximized. After every martial arts class, I invariably just preached a mini-sermon. Later, I realized that the youth have peculiar developmental characteristics that necessitate specific methods if one is to successfully get through them and impact their lives. Unfortunately, what I was doing in the club was devoid of any consideration of this. Moreover, there was the foundational question of whether or not it is spiritually and morally acceptable for Christians to train in the martial arts and to employ force in defending oneself from threats to one’s physical safety.
So I decided to write my doctoral dissertation on this topic, seeing its vast potential to significantly enhance CFC’s martial arts ministry. I embarked on a serious investigation on youth ministry, adolescent development, martial arts vis-à-vis Eastern religions, the compatibility of martial arts and Christianity, and martial arts ministry. After many months of painstaking research and writing, I was able to develop a program that promotes a well-rounded and balanced growth in the essential areas of the Christian life, utilizes various elements of martial arts training, and is well-informed by an accurate perspective on adolescent development.
Based on the foregoing study, I conclude that martial arts training is a spiritually and morally valid endeavor for Christians to undertake, provided that Eastern religious elements are banned from the class and the essential purpose behind the practice of the said arts is self-defense or physical fitness and not to harm others. With regards to martial arts ministry, it is a very potent tool in reaching out to numerous young people drawn to martial arts training. This is especially true if the program takes into consideration the physical, cognitive, and psychosocial makeup of the youth, thereby adopting strategies that resonate with them.
Note: Sensei Denny Holzbauer, the grandmaster and founder of American Bushido-Kai Karate Association, an international martial arts ministry based in Oklahoma, U.S.A, is planning to publish my dissertation soon. Should anyone of you be interested in my dissertation’s topic, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Rev. Dr. Richard A. Guion (B.Th., M.Div., D.Min.) is the Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Church, a multiethnic congregation in Davao City, Philippines, which started out with Chinese-Filipinos and later on also attracted Filipinos and expats like Americans, Koreans, and Indians. His sermon videos are being broadcast daily on Skycable Davao Channel 39 (CFC) and Skycable Bacolod Channel 34 (MY Channel). His sermons can also be heard on The Edge Radio Davao 104.3 FM. Pastor Rich, as he is fondly called by church members, began learning martial arts when he was thirteen years old. He now has a black belt from American Bushido-Kai Karate Association (ABKA) and a black belt from Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA). He has also received varying degrees of training in other arts such as jeet kune do, traditional aikido, combat aikido, kali, muay thai, and jujitsu.