Taekwondo & the Martial Arts: Mere Exercise or Trojan Horse??
(An article for the February 2,000 Anglicans for Renewal Magazine)
I was personally involved in Martial Arts, Karate in particular, for a number of years between the period of 1971 to 1991. My enthusiasm for martial arts even led me to successfully recruit other Christians to join me. Through the prayer ministry of the group Wholeness Through Christ, I chose to renounce my previous involvement in the martial arts. Previously, I was opposed to some of my friends dabbling in community centre yoga, but had rationalized my involvement in the martial arts as something innocuous.
In the spring of 1999, my sons discussed with me the expectation that they would take part in Taekwondo as part of their Christian school gym class. In discussing our concerns with their principal, it was agreed that my sons would be exempted from this expectation. It was also agreed that I would do some research regarding our concerns about Taekwondo, and present my findings in a paper to the principal and the school board.
As a renewal-oriented Anglican, I believe that it is vital that the charismatic gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10) not be neglected in this neo-gnostic, confused age. As part of the discernment process, I carefully researched dozens of pro-martial arts books, with a special emphasis on taekwondo books. I also consulted extensively with a good number of taekwondo and Martial Arts instructors from North America and around the world. My research led me to believe that taekwondo and the Martial Arts (MA) are far more than just physical gym exercises. Rather Taekwondo and MA are Zen(1) (footnotes) Buddhist meditational technique designed to bring a person into the experience of satori or Buddhist enlightenment. As Buddhism essentially is reformed Hinduism, so too the Martial Arts are essentially Martial Yoga. Few westerners have enough experience with Zen Buddhism to initially notice the hidden religious nature of martial arts. Chuck Norris, famous for his role as Walker on the TV show Texas Ranger, holds unreservedly that ‘the ancient system of Zen (is) the core philosophy behind the martial arts.’(2) It is no coincidence that the occult circular symbol of Ying-Yang constantly appears on even many innocuous-looking Taekwondo WEBsites and brochures.(3) One of the goals of Taekwondo and other martial arts is to enter a zazen meditational state so that ‘the everyday experience of the dualism of subject and object vanishes.’(4)
In the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs (5)John Ankerberg and John Weldon state that "Because most (martial arts) methods incorporate eastern teaching and techniques, the martial arts are easy doorways into Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and other non-Christian religions." They went on to comment that "Traditionally, martial arts are forms of spiritual education that function as means towards self-realization or self-enlightenment. It is true that the spiritual dimension of martial arts can be downplayed or ignored, but that is not consistent with their ultimate purpose historically."(6)
Taekwondo and other martial arts can be traced to a 6th century Buddhist monk Bodhidharma who travelled from India to China and established Zen Buddhism at the Shaolin temple of Ko San So Rim. There he taught them both sitting meditation and the martial arts (moving meditation) to enable his disciples to free themselves from all conscious control in order to attain enlightenment. (7)
Since Taekwondo’s Olympic debut in 1988, its popularity has spread like wildfire across the world.(8) Taekwondo means ‘ Hand (Tae) and Foot (kwon) Way (do). According to the Official WTF Taekwondo book, Taekwondo ‘is now the national sport of Korea.’(9) Eddie Ferrie holds that ‘every child in (Korean) school is compelled to practise Taekwondo…’ (10) David Mitchell notes that Taekwondo ‘is taught to all members of the Korean armed forces’. (11) It is estimated that 20 –30 million people worldwide now have been initiated into Taekwondo. (12)
One of the major concerns by Christian researchers is the sitting meditation commonly done in Taekwondo and most Martial Arts. The Fighting Back Taekwondo book describes the Chung Shin Tomil or sitting meditation as ‘another essential part of your taekwondo training’. (13) "Before and after any taekwondo class, the students meditate…first, you may be asked to clear your mind of all thought and to relax completely…The 2nd method of meditation is related to visualization."(14) Mitchell claims that ‘…the empty mind (is) needed to master taekwondo.’ (15) Key to both Buddhist and Hindu occult meditation is manipulation of one’s breathing, which is described as Hohup chojul and Jiptung (synchronized breathing) in Taekwondo. In contrast, biblical meditation is meditating on God’s written Word the Bible, rather than meditating on the empty mind by using occult breathing and visualization techniques.
Another area of concern relates to the ritual forms or poomse used in Taekwondo. The karate equivalent to the poomse is the kata patterns. As the Taekwondo author and instructor Eddie Ferrie puts it, "Many of the patterns of taekwondo are rooted in semi-mystical Taoist philosophy and their deeper meaning is said to be far more important than the mere performance of a gymnastics series of exercises. This is not immediately obvious, either when performing or watching the poomse being performed…" (16) The eight Taegeuk poomses performed in taekwondo are derived from the eight triagrams of the occult I’Ching. (17) Richard Chun holds that ‘the forms of Taekwondo…are more than physical exercises: they are vehicles for active meditation.’ (18)
One of the most questionable poomse patterns is the Ilyo or Ilyeo poomse. Ferrie teaches that the "Ilyo is a pattern which has a spiritual orientation containing 24 movements. The title of the pattern refers to the development of a state of spiritual enlightenment which is one of the ultimate aims of the disciple of taekwondo. The student who has attained Ilyo is capable of completely spontaneous reaction without any interference from the conscious mind." (19) I was surprised to find out that the Ilyo poomse is done in the shape of an actual swastika. Hitler stole this ancient occult symbol from the Buddhists and Hindus who had used it for centuries as a symbol of monism (20) (all is one, and all is God). The Taekwondo Textbook teaches that ‘The line of poomse symbolizes the Buddhist mark (swastika) in commemoration of Saint Wonho (or Won Hyo), which means a state of perfect selflessness in Buddhism where origin, substance, and service come into congruity.’ (21) The Buddhist swastika in Taekwondo ‘teaches that a point, a line, or a circle ends up after all in one. Therefore the poomse Ilyeo represents the harmonization of spirit and body which is the essence of martial arts.’ (22) The swastika in Taekwondo has the occult (i.e. Hidden) purpose of teaching the higher-level students that all is one and all is God.
In conclusion, my research and personal experience has led me to the conviction that Taekwondo and the Martial Arts are not merely physical exercise, but in fact are Zen Buddhist meditational practices, both in their sitting and moving forms. Taekwondo and MA are a Trojan Horse in the House of the Lord, eroding the spiritual barriers between Zen Buddhism and the Christian Gospel, and potentially leading vulnerable children and teens into the early stages of eastern occultism. As a result of this research, our Christian School Board decided to no longer offer Taekwondo or other Martial Arts. The good news about religious syncretism is that it is never too late to repent and start afresh, serving one Master and one Master alone, Jesus Christ our Lord (Matthew 6:24)
The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church, North Vancouver, BC
ARM Canada Missioner
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