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Dr. Russell Tardo on The Evil of Martial Arts

Dr. Russell Tardo (D.Min), the pastor of Faithful Word Assembly, a Full Gospel, non-denominational church in friendly ol' Kenner, Louisiana, has a few words to tell you about martial arts:

Recently, several large specialized ministries have appeared, especially featuring the martial arts and strong man stunts. The average service held by these “Christian karate” teams has them breaking bricks, boards, baseball bats, and huge blocks of ice with their heads, feet, and hands. Phone books and handcuffs are ripped apart, and other things usually associated with Eastern Mysticism and the occult (such as nail beds and walking on hot coals) are employed in a spectacular display of strength and skill.

Sounds a bit strange, but maybe they do things differently down in the Bayou.

While one may argue that Christ can be preached from any platform, we must also bear in mind that the method we employ affects the message we preach. For instance, how can someone preach “turn the other cheek” when he’s teaching self-defense? And how can one preach “love your enemies” while teaching you how to hurt them? You see, when the method contradicts the message, it destroys credibility. And seeing phone books ripped apart by a scantily clad muscleman, who bobs his head up and down, gathering momentum and mental strength as he prepares to crash his head into a thousand pound block of ice, can’t possibly prepare the heart for a message about a meek Savior who extolled humility and scorned self-exaltation.

“Meek Savior”?

Look, even Chuck Norris is a church-going, God-fearin' kind of guy.

And Chuck is NEVER wrong.

So what's the story with Dr. Tardo? It seems he had an “awakening” in his early twenties:

I was once among the millions of Americans who sought the black belt, and I dedicated almost five years of my life to its pursuit. Then, something (someone) intervened. Christ! When I received Christ, no one had to tell me that karate was wrong or unchristian, for I knew it automatically! That was almost 20 years ago. Now I am saddened by a generation of Christians who see no conflict between the martial arts and Christ.

They naively believe that karate’s source can be divorced from its practice. This, as we shall see, is faulty reasoning. The fact is, all of the martial arts were birthed from an anti-Christian womb. That is why their philosophy attacks the teachings of Jesus at every hand, and their practice conflicts with His example. I discovered that the martial arts were not harmless practices, but that grave spiritual dangers lurked in every corridor of their use.

Um … okay.

Dr. Tardo goes on in his tract to offer five main points in support of his assertion that martial arts are the tool of the Devil:

1. The martial arts all originate in false religion

2. The martial arts all have an underlying occult philosophy

3. The concept of self-defense is both unscriptural (sic) and anti-christian (sic)

4. The martial arts glorify the flesh

5. By their fruits you shall know them

Pretty heavy accusations. Let's look at the reasoning behind them …

1. The martial arts all originate in false religion

Here of course the operant word is “false”. Dr. Tardo takes the Westboro Baptist Church-view that only HIS interpretation – quite a literal one, it seems – can be correct, and that all others are subject to the Lord's wrathful vengeance. He quotes Bob Larson:

Bob Larson, a respected Christian author and researcher says, “The original religious philosophy of kung fu dates back as far as 2696 B.C. where it was rooted in the occultic forms of divination known as the I-Ching and the “Book of Changes.” Lao Tzu, the Chinese sage born in 604 B.C., added further demonic embellishments. His teachings were set forth in a 5,280 word manuscript called Tao te ching, often called simply the tao or the way. He taught that salvation could not be found in prayer but rather by the observance of nature, the natural way. With the adoption of Taoism, kung fu developed into a complex system of occult practices that included contemplation and breathing exercises. The common doctrine of ki made acupuncture an aid in the quest for health in physical development. Eventually, this led into a search for the mysteries of the alchemy, further tainting kung fu with overtones of demonism.

As someone who has spent the better part of 40 years studying the Tao Te Ching, I can honestly say that I've never heard of it referred to as “simply the tao or the way” - Mr. Larson and now by extension Dr. Tardo are starting from an erroneous base.

They also have their histories mixed up: alchemical research in Taoism occurred LONG before the advent of Kung Fu, not as a development OF it. And, it had nothing to do with demons.

But they don't stop there – oh, no. Dr. Tardo invokes Larson's “expert” knowledge concerning Bodhidarma, the founder of Buddhism, and indicts HIM as well:

“The next development in the history of kung fu took place when a monk named Bodhidharma brought Buddhism to China in the sixth century A.D. When he discovered the monks sleeping during his lectures, he introduced exercises to assist them in meditation. Known as I-chin Sutura, it combined kung fu with philosophical principles of Zen to develop a highly sophisticated form of weaponless defense. The monks at his Shaolin temple became famous for their savage abilities of defense employed whenever they were attacked in the course of pilgrimages. Eventually two schools of practice evolved: Ch’un Fe (kung fu) based on the hard (external) school of Buddhism and the soft (internal) school of Taoism. As the martial arts spread beyond the monastery to the fields of war, some of the religious flavor was lost. But the essential undergirding pagan principles have never been completely overshadowed, even unto today.”

I'm sorry but I seem to have misplaced my goat's skull … give me second here …

There. That's better.

Friend, if a corrupt root cannot produce good fruit (Matt. 7:17-18), how can we possibly believe that the rotten core of occultism lying at the root of the martial arts does not taint and pervert them? The Bible does not tell us to embrace the occult, but to flee from it!

“Let us cast off the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of the light” (Rom. 13:12 Literal Translation)

… and now the Scriptural quotes. I was wondering where they were – they're ALWAYS trucked out by the Fundamentalists in these discussions.

2. The martial arts all have an underlying occult philosophy

This is just another way of stating his first proposition, but let's see where he goes with it.

In the martial arts, the practitioner exercises “mind over matter” and through meditation taps into a consciousness of greater power.

Surprisingly, many Christians miss the connection between karate and the occult. They see it as mere physical exercise but are blinded to its spiritual and philosophical aspects, all born of the ancient Orient.​

Bad, bad, naughty ancient Orient! They have just extinguished the eternal Lamp of Truth which, as I recall, is vaguely Grail-shaped.

Explaining the visualization process involved in board-breaking, he says:

... he must see through the boards, see his fist emerging through the other side of them. This is the occultic practice of visualization, and mind over matter. The same is true for shattering bricks or ice. He must empty his mind of the thought of either pain or failure, and concentrate all of the energy of his body on a specific target. In entering such a mental state, the practitioner, willingly or not, has crossed over into the sinister realm of the occult.

So, every time you prepare to do a break you're invoking the Devil. Good luck with that.​

After quoting Mas Oyama on the necessity of combining the physical and spiritual elements in martial arts, he offers this little gem:​

As Oyama said, Zen (occultism) is an essential ingredient in karate. In fact, it is precisely this occult connection through which the karate master derives his uncanny powers, such as: catching bullets between his teeth, pulling punches short of striking the body (with the effect still felt), exercising psychokinetic powers (i.e., moving objects by mental force alone), etc.

Wow. Just … wow. I don't know about y'all, but I've never had bullet-catching as part of my training – maybe I've missed something here? ​

Gee, Wally – do you think Dr. Tardo might be confusing stage magic with martial arts? ​

Oyama has also engaged in unarmed battle with bulls. In his lifetime, he dealt sudden death to three of them, and broke the horns off 48 others! Obviously, such amazing feats of strength spring from no mere human source.

Of course! Before taking those horns he sacrificed twenty virgins – everyone knows that!​

Furthermore, there is a form of divination (fortune telling, or knowledge of future events) that begins to operate in those who advance in karate disciplines. Hidetaka Nishiyama and Richard C. Brown, in their book KARATE, The Art of Empty Hand Fighting said,

“At an advanced level, it is even possible for a karate expert to sense the movements of his opponent before they take place.”

Though such divining is not uncommon in any practice of occultism, any manner of it is not only forbidden by God, but is an abomination to him (cf. Lev.19:26; Deut.18:10; Isa.19:3; Acts16:16).

I was wondering where the Scriptural quotes went … so now in addition to everything else I am, I'm an abomination. Huzzah!​

Again, I seem to have been lax in my training - ​

Additionally, martial arts practitioners traffic in other aspects of pagan/idolatrous religions, i.e; walking on hot coals, lying on nail beds, etc., which practices are linked to Buddhism and Hinduism, not Christianity.

Dr. Tardo questions how one who practices “martial” arts (“deriving from Mars, the ancient Roman god of war”) can be a Disciple of Christ?​

Yeah, how?

3. The concept of self-defense is itself both unscriptural (sic) and anti-christian (sic)​

You'd think a pastor would know enough to be able to spell words that are germane to his profession, but there you have it.

Some believers may argue this point, considering self-defense both justifiable and “Christian.” But even they must realize that the violent spirit of karate is neither!

A. It violates the Golden Rule, Matt.7:12.

B. It contradicts the direct commands of Jesus. For instance, He said:

*love your enemies (Matt.5:44)

*turn the other cheek (Matt.5:39)

*resist not evil (Matt.5:39)

*bless them that curse you (Matt.5:44)

*do good to them that hate you (Matt.5:44), etc.​

In fact, the alert reader will at once realize that both in practice and philosophy, the martial arts directly violates not only all of the aforementioned, plus at least half of the principles in the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount; i.e., being merciful.

(Matt.5:5); being pure in heart (5:8); being a peacemaker (5:9); etc.​​

Yay, Scripture!​

Without a doubt these are hard sayings, but this is how Christ calls His followers to live. Is this the philosophy you will learn in karate? Turning your cheek, or kicking your adversary’s cheek? Surrendering your goods to the robber, or harming the robber it you can? After all, did Jesus teach and set an example of self denial, or self-defense?

4. The martial arts glorify the flesh​

The Martial Arts glorify the flesh, by involving bodybuilding and the entire body-worship scene. A few pertinent questions are in order here. If we dedicate ourselves to diligent body-building, will our great physique draw the lost to Christ? If so, then do men of greater statue, like Goliath, who follow false religions, have a distinct advantage over Christians of smaller size? Will their huge size enable them to convert more to their religion than we can to ours, simply because they are bigger than we are? Was then the apostle Paul’s ministry a complete failure because he was short?

Let’s be brutally honest. Who is increasing through martial arts and bodybuilding demonstrations? Isn’t it the karate practitioner who is attracting all of the attention, praise and admiration as he grunts and kicks, jumps and breaks boards and bricks? Isn’t it the strongman who rips apart phone books, and snaps baseball bats who is admired, and not Jesus? And isn’t it possible that impressionable young people go home committing the sin that Jude condemns in Jude 16:

“having men’s persons in admiration….”

Is Christ displaced to the far background while MEN take center stage in these demonstrations? Is the eternal principle of John 3:30 directly violated? John the Baptist said “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

But how can Jesus increase at the same time MEN increase? How does the muscleman decrease while strutting his stuff across a stage? Isn’t it obvious that such displays glorify the creature rather than the creator?​

I'm wondering how once again Dr. Tardo confuses “strongman” stage stunts with martial arts? Where is he getting all this? Was his mother scared by Charles Atlas when he was a fetus? ​

He rants and raves about these stunts but doesn't mention a few other examples, such as Moses parting the Red Sea and schlepping those heavy stone tablets around. What about Jesus doing those few magic tricks of his own? What – it's OK because he has a Union card?

Those who promote the martial arts in spite of its inherent occultism, endanger the very souls of young and tender Christians. Every stream of the martial arts flows from the same polluted river-occultism. To downplay this occult connection, or worse yet, to deny it altogether while at the same time promoting the Martial Arts, is to “throw the Christians to the lions.” Innocent young believers are sucked under in the deep undercurrents of the Buddhist and Hindu spirituality that permeates the martial arts, and many of them never resurface. They become prey, and the Church or individual Christian who initiated them into the martial arts becomes guilty of their blood, and responsible for their deception. God will hold them accountable!

He's really getting warmed-up now!​

Scripture declares that the Christian’s weapons are not carnal (cf. 2 Cor.10:4; Eph.6:10-18). That is, they are not fleshly, tangible or material. Since our warfare is a spiritual one, against a spiritual adversary (the devil, cf. 1 Pet.5:8-9), then obviously the weapons with which we fight and resist must be a spiritual and not carnal or fleshly nature. Our weapons are the spiritual weapons of praise, prayer, faith, the Word of God, the blood of Jesus, and the name of Jesus.

… and of course prayer, faith, following some “Holy Book” and worshiping the bodily excretions of some guy who may or may not have existed has NOTHING to do with “occult” knowledge … ​

Wasn't there some reference in the Bible about “First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother's eye”?

5. By their fruits you shall know them.

Dr. Tardo talks in this last section about how one church-sponsored karate demo team “converted” an entire high-school football team, yet the team never appeared in church afterward. He points this out as a sign of the ineffective and ill effects that martial arts have on youth. He goes on to list several additional drawbacks of teaching the arts to children …

* Children kicking and punching their brothers and sisters.

* A new interest in violence in Christian homes, i.e, violent toys, returning to violent movies, and even a desire to inflict violence upon others. With the learning of the martial arts comes the longing to use it.

* Children getting into fights, at school, in the neighborhood, etc. Karate students often develop a sense of “cockiness” and an inflated sense of their self-defense ability which can lead to trouble. Fights they formerly would have avoided or walked away from (which is the true Christian pattern), they now engage in. More than a few “six month karate experts” have discovered too late that they know just enough karate to get hurt. In spite of the what the movies show, today’s violent street toughs are not likely to be defeated by karate. They have fought many times before, and yes, they’ve even fought “karate” men before, so they won’t scare with some stance or yell. In fact, in many cities, jumping into a karate stance will almost guarantee a fusillade of bullets. Karate offers little defense against automatic weapons.

Officially, school is still out on whether those who study the martial arts get into more fights than those who don’t, but the fact seems likely.

* Legitimizing the occult. It is always wrong to use occult practices in church for it legitimizes them in the minds of the impressionable. If the martial arts are acceptable, so are their attending elements: occult meditation, fire-walking, employing Hindu nail-beds, etc. Unfortunately, the martial arts are simply another form of Easter mysticism that has crept into the Christian church along with other New Age practices and beliefs.

* Paranoia. Speaking from experience, many karate students soon exhibit the exact opposite of that which Jesus promised his disciples. Instead of enjoying peace, calm, love and joy, they are consumed with fear, imagining everyone as their potential enemy.

This can and does ferment to the point of paranoia.

This guy is so far from the mark, from peer-reviewed sociological research into the benefits of training children, that it isn't even funny.

Note that he says “speaking from experience” in regard to the paranoia supposedly developed in training … gee, I wonder if that might have been a pre-existing condition?​

Nothing like believing that a huge Sky King is watching your every move, and will punish you in flames for eternity if you make a wrong move, to get rid of that paranoia, right?

Dr. Tardy summarizes thusly:

The whole concept and practice of the martial arts contradicts Christianity. It is at once, occult, fleshly, man serving, and Christ denying. It is, in fact, anti-christian in spirit, philosophy, and practice.

Worse yet, smashing ones enemies opposes the plain teaching of Christ (cf. Matt. 5:39,44; 7:12, etc.)

The ultimate goal of karate is not merely physical, but spiritual enlightenment-occultism! It is a veritable “spider’s web”, seeking to ensnare the unwary, the ignorant, and the self-confident who believe they can dabble in the devil’s web (occultism) and not become his prey.

My Warning

Now here's my OWN warning: there are people like this “out there” – probably not a lot of them, but all it takes is one to ruin your day. Don't ever believe that there aren't. A little bit of paranoia might be a fine tool to have in this matter – don't blithely go through your day thinking that everyone you meet sees you the way your fellow martial artists see you.

If you have the misfortune to live in a hell-hole like Kenner, LA and you practice martial arts my heart goes out to you. Run, before the Righteous Ones come for you!


Martial Arts Philosophy


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