Question: I'm a parent of children who are a few years away from becoming teenagers. We live in an area of a city in which personal safety is a real issue. My husband and I have had numerous discussions about this particular concern for our children and we both want to do that which is consistent with the Word of God. We've considered enrolling our son and daughter in a martial arts class, but I understand some classes involve occult practices.
Response: My views are based upon my experiences as well as my understanding of the Scriptures, so they are simply offered as a perspective that you need to consider as a Berean. In other words, you need to check out what I write, first and foremost, to see if it rings true to the Word of God. Then you need to do your own research regarding any class or program in which you have your children participate.
I practiced Judo and Aikido while in college and beyond, the former for eight years, the latter for about six months. Judo is a sport that was derived from Jujitso, a self-defense practice. Its techniques are purely physical, that is, a player of the sport utilizes athletic abilities such as quickness, strength, agility, and leverage in attempting to throw an opponent to the mat, the primary method of winning a contest. Matches can also be won by grappling techniques. It's similar in many ways to wrestling. In my experience, there were no mystical or occult methods involved in the sport.
Aikido, on the other hand, is a self-defense practice that has as its foundation what is alleged to be a spiritual energy known as "ki." Supposedly ki is a nonphysical energy that flows through all things. It is claimed that humans have it within themselves and have the ability to connect with "ki" in others and beyond themselves in the cosmos.
Common demonstrations of "ki" that I witnessed are "unbendable arm" and "unliftable body." An instructor would have students try to bend his arm or lift his body off the ground. It made no difference how many students attempted to bend the sensi's arm or lift him, my class was never successful at it. However, there is no physical explanation for how it works.
The idea of a spiritual energy or power is central to Eastern religions such as ki in Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism, prana and kundalini in Hinduism and its practice of yoga, and chi or qi in Taoism and Chinese Buddhism. Those religions espouse an impersonal god or Life Force that permeates everything. That belief is contrary to the biblical God, who is personal, transcendent, and not part of creation.
Any Christian who participates in a martial arts practice (or healing program such as reiki, or exercise program such as yoga) that involves a spiritual energy (ki, chi, qi, prana, etc.) is engaging in a belief system that cannot be reconciled with the Word of God, that fosters a false view of God, and that offers powers that are very likely supplied by the Adversary of God and his demonic spirits. The Bible gives many examples of demonic powers, from Satan afflicting Job and others to the superhuman strength of a demon-possessed man who couldn't be restrained by chains. Scripture indicates that Satan will use such deception to keep people from receiving the gospel ("...after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" — 2 Thessalonians:2:9-10).
Obviously, a Christian needs to steer clear of anything that promotes "spiritual energy." Even martial arts programs that avoid such practices need to be closely scrutinized by parents who are considering enrolling their children. More important, parents need to question the value for each child. For some, it may be detrimental, while for others worthwhile. Yet the bottom line is, will the activity be consistent with their godly obligation to raise their child in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Again, this is a faith decision that needs to be submitted to the Lord and supported in prayer.