Web Dojo

an online service of the Nippon Karate-do/Kobudo Seishin-Kan

 
You are here:  Home > Philosophy  > Religion
 

 

 

 

 

"Religion and traditional martial arts do have several things in common ..."

 

 

 

 

"There are elements of religion in which martial arts have no direct bearing ..."

 

 

 

 

 

"... the core issue of all martial arts is
life and death ..."

 

 

 

 

"... establishing our religious foundation is the most important decision we can possibly make ..."

 

"... your religious beliefs must be your own personal choice."

 

 

 

 

"... one or more established religions must either be true or at least partly true."

 

Religion and Martial Arts


Martial Arts are not a religion. However, people often perceive martial arts to have religious properties, or even associate Eastern religious values with the martial arts. From time to time, you will even find people performing what are essentially religious practices, like chanting mantras and burning incense during meditation, as part of their martial arts regimen-do. It is important, therefore, to understand the similarities and differences between martial arts and religion, as well as to understand the appropriate relationship between martial arts and religion.

Religion and traditional Japanese martial arts do have several things in common:

  • Both deal with the most fundamental issues -- life and death
  • Both are designed to help develop a stronger spiritual life
  • Both should help integrate your body, mind, and spirit
  • Both should help you face the difficulties of life with greater courage
  • Both deal with developing your personal character and integrity
  • Both deal with improving your relationships with other people

By the same token, there are elements of religion in which martial arts have no direct bearing, such as:

  • The purpose of life itself
  • The existence of a deity or deities
  • Whether or not people are accountable to a deity or deities
  • What happens to our soul or spirit after death

Such questions as these cannot be addressed by martial arts, but fall exclusively within the realm of religion. In essence, religion offers a more all-encompassing view of the most crucial issues of life than do the martial arts, so our religious views ultimately form the very foundation of our martial arts practice. Whether we choose to admit it or not, we all have religious beliefs. Every one of us accepts, as a matter of faith, that there either is or is not some form of deity. We each believe that we either are or are not accountable to a deity for our actions in life. And, we each believe that our soul will or will not continue to exist after death. Since none of these can be empirically proven or disproved, we must each decide one way or the other purely as a matter of faith.

What you believe about these issues will drastically affect how you face everything in life -- including your practice of martial arts. If, for example, you believe that a deity will hold you accountable for your actions, you will have an entirely different reason not to misuse your martial arts skills than someone who believes that refraining from violence is simply a matter of personal ethical choice. The result may not always be different, but the nature and intensity of your motivation may be dramatically different. Similarly, in martial arts we understand the importance of having a purpose for living, because it creates a purpose for dying, or even risking death. Our religious beliefs, however, may provide significantly different understanding of what our purpose for living is, and that understanding will have a profound effect on what we are willing to die for.

That is why religion should be a matter of serious interest to all martial artists. Since the core issue of all martial arts is life and death, we should be keenly interested in understanding everything we can about:

  • The origin, nature, and purpose of life itself
  • Whether or not we are responsible to a deity for our actions
  • And whether there is any future for our soul or spirit beyond death

Think of it this way: if there is a God, then understanding how God views us and our actions is the most important thing we could possibly do. And, if there is no God, then understanding how that affects our life and relationships with other people is still just as important. From either point of view, establishing our religious foundation is the most important decision we can possibly make in life.

Religious beliefs are also the most personal decision you can make in life. It defines everything else about you. It determines who and what you believe you are! Are you a person who was created for a special purpose by a God who loves you deeply? Are you just an inconsequential blob of tissue that came into existence by cosmic accident? Or something in between these extremes? That's why, although many people and ideas may influence your decision, ultimately your religious beliefs must be your own personal choice.

Does that mean you can just make up your own religion? Of course! A lot of people do. They take their favorite parts of other religious beliefs and decide that's what they want to believe. Some even make it up from scratch. Unfortunately, that doesn't make it true! And it is a foolhardy approach. The wise approach is to seek the truth. What good does it do to believe a falsehood, purely out of wishful thinking? Again, think of it from either perspective. If there is a God, and you disbelieve, you may face dire consequences. But, if there is no God and you believe, you may throw your life away trying to please a nonexistent deity. Either one is a risk too great to take without making a concerted effort to find the truth.

Does truth really exist?

Philosophers have debated this question for millennia, yet I would give you this simple answer:  Yes. It is axiomatic that truth exists. It can be proven by simply considering the statement, "Truth exists." That statement cannot be false, because the contrary statement, "Truth does not exist" cannot possibly be true, since it would render itself false. So, we know that truth exists, even if we don't always know what things are true and what things are not true. Since there are so many religions -- and since they cover nearly every possibility from the existence of an all-powerful deity to no deity at all, and most of what lies between these two extremes -- one or more established religions must either be true or at least partly true.

For example, there are theistic religions (those that believe there is a God or gods) and atheistic religions (those that believe there is no deity). One of these general categories must certainly be true. There either is or isn't a God or gods. So, one place to start on a search for truth is to examine the evidence for the existence of one or more deities. If you satisfy yourself that no deities exist, then you can narrow your search to those religions that deny the existence of deities as you seek answers to life's questions of morality, purpose, and meaning. If you become convinced that a deity does exist, then you can search the theistic religions for additional truths about your relationship with that deity and your responsibilities to society.

It is highly unlikely that you will never be able to absolutely prove or disprove the existence of a deity, so you must be guided by the logical conclusions you can draw from the preponderance of evidence, and the feelings and intuition you develop as you contemplate your place in the universe and among your fellow human beings. It is neither the purpose nor the place of the Seishin-Kan to suggest that you adopt a particular religious faith. However, if -- as part of your search for meaning and purpose in life -- you feel it would be helpful to know how its founder, Len Pellman, approached this issue and discovered the faith he practices, we have prepared a resource for you.

Simply click here and you will be taken to a page that details the methodology Pellman Sensei used in his two-year quest for religious truth. What he found, and the way he found it may surprise you. It certainly surprised him!

Back to Philosophy

Please give us your opinion of this article.  Was it meaningful to you?  Did it help you better understand martial arts?  Did it help you see how martial arts can improve your day-to-day living?

Please give us your comments in our Karate Discussion Forum.

Home  |  MembershipPrivacy Policy  |  Webmaster  |  Contact Us  |  Guest Book  |  JKI Home  |  Store 

2003   Leonard J. Pellman



Free counters provided by Honesty.com.