By Chris Surber
I am a practitioner and teacher of self-defense and Christian discipleship system called, “Totally Christian Karate.” Yeah, I get it, Christian Karate. “Really?” is the response I get from most people. “What, are you going to kick me in Jesus’ name?” Well, that really is not the point of TCK. The ancient martial arts operate on the principle that the real enemy is ourselves. In order to conquer the enemy within, we must bring our body, mind, and spirit into alignment through physical, spiritual, and mental discipline.
Those ancient martial arts had a heavy spiritual component like Zen, the Dao, or Shinto. When Eastern martial arts came to the United States in the last half-century, most practitioners and teachers ditched the Eastern philosophy and only kept the physical systems of martial discipline. That can lead to great self-defense tools but it also can lead to aggressive physical techniques lacking an inherent moral compass. What we have done with Totally Christian Karate is to empty the Eastern philosophy and replace it with Christian spirituality and the ethics of Jesus with regard to self-defense, self-control, and self-discipline.
In my experience, most Christians these days pay little attention to the mind, body, and spirit connection. In fact, any attempt to implement a program of physical training in that direction will summon heavy suspicion by many churches. To be fair, it is easy to miss this connection as a Christian. It is not exactly on the surface of the pages of the Bible, but it is present in the Bible and Church tradition.
Monks, mystics, and ascetics have been practicing physical discipline as a part of their prayerful life journeys for centuries. In I Corinthians 6:19-20 the Apostle Paul says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (NLT) Later, in the same letter to the Corinthian Church, he wrote, “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT)
Do not miss the Mind, Body, Spirit connection if you are a Christian. I am convinced that this is the missing connection for many followers of Jesus in the world. Whether it is the exercise for health, to lose weight or a prayer walk in the woods, we need to integrate all that we are because of our Creator’s design. Live whole integrated lives. We study the Bible and wisdom literature to know of God. We prayerfully engage our spirit in the mystical connection to God. We discipline our bodies in order that our health and the gluttony of this world are not a hindrance to our prayerful journey in the world.
Followers of Jesus, live an integrated whole life. Worship God in mind, body, and spirit!
Dr. Chris Surber is Senior Minister at Mt. Hope Congregational Church in Livonia, MI. He is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. Visit him online at www.chrissurber.com