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Self Defense/Is Chi, meditation, and and other elements of Eastern spirituality and religion part of Asian traditional martial arts?


I am interested in taking martial arts. But my religion Calvinism forbids many pagan elements. In fact a Calvinist author even wrote a blog on Yoga and Christian religion as a whole.

With that said, you wrote in a previous article.

That all the mystic and religious stuff in Kung Fu and other Asian martial arts and BS and all that.

So I am now reconsidering. If I take authentic martial arts, would I not have to worry about chi energy, meditation, and Buddhist religion stuff? Because even in Asia you always see practitioners meditating, talking about chi, and quoting Buddhist texts (at least on the docs I saw on TV in Discovery Channel) and thus it always came to me that Asian fighting systems required you to learn meditation and such pagan stuff. But you mentioned you studied theology and other religious stuff and the real stuff is just practical get-to-the-point.

The answer is "It depends."

My wife takes karate class at the church of a friend (the teacher). Although Protestant it's not a Unitarian or Anglican, but it's pretty fundamentalist. The class is overwhelmingly church members. So they, the church, nor our friend have any problem with it.

So the question is how close to Calvin's original position does your faith land?

That's going to be a big deciding factor.

What I will tell you however, that much of what is promoted as "martial arts" in the US ... well, let's just say that that pool was peed in by Bruce Lee. Prior to Lee and his Eastern mysticism crap, the EARLIEST reference to 'marital arts' was in a 1927 Japanese tourism guide. Yeah, saying come see 'swordsmanship, archery and other ancient martial arts demonstrations."  Which is funny because stop and think of it. How did a Roman God of War get his name attached to Asian fighting systems? Yet it was Lee who popularized the term in the 1970s here in the US.
(Prior to that, they talked about specific systems OR martial sports.)

It was Lee who -- although Chinese -- picked up the 'do' aspect of Japanese systems and hung that ending on his own hybrid system. See in Japanese 'Jitsu' means practice/study/doing as in being a doctor is a jitsu. It means you're actively doing it, the study and the field.

"Do" however is where it gets 'mystic.' It becomes more of a way, philosophy, spiritual quest. Oddly enough, it's also far more useless in real life. See kendo is all the woo-woo stuff about swords. It's not actual sword fighting.

Now for the record this is mostly a Japanese distinction, others systems don't pay attention to that. Still other systems being part of the family, culture and social structure do have aspects of that to varying degrees. But flat out spiritual path? No where near as much as how Japan did it.

Lee threw in all the woo-woo shit (and rather poorly at that) to appeal to Westerners. And in doing so, pretty much defined what Americans think of as 'martial arts.' To the point that idiots argue boxing is NOT a martial art because it doesn't have any philosophical aspects.

Yeah, news flash. There's nothing really spiritual or mystic about punching someone in the face.

Thing is a lot of folks who -- well let's be blunt -- their body mechanics suck, try to hide that by stacking on the woo-woo or the traditional. That's usually a sign of what they are teaching doesn't actually work.

So if you want to study, study. But know that Eastern mysticism really doesn't have much to do with if the physical stuff works. It's mostly marketing.  

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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