Program Description: Is the field of martial arts merely for sport, or is there something more sinister at work? Tom and author Gaylene Goodroad discuss the dangers of the Eastern Way.
Find out more at Gaylene's blog: http://mylifeintheway.blogspot.com/
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could join us. In today’s program, Tom welcomes Gaylene Goodroad, author of an excellent little booklet titled, My Life in “The Way” addressing the spiritual content of Martial Arts. Now, along his guest, here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. My guest for today’s program and next week is Gaylene Goodroad, and our subject is the martial arts. Gaylene is the author of an excellent little book titled My Life in “The Way,” which gives insights into the practices of nearly all the martial arts including karate, kung fu, tae kwon do, aikido, judo, tai chi, and kendo, to name just a few.
Gaylene, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Gaylene: Thanks, Tom. It’s great to be with you today.
Tom: You know, Gaylene, I had some familiarity with you through your writings for Herescope, which, folks, is a terrific apologetics blog site. But as you know, we met for the first time at a discernment conference where you gave your testimony of thirteen years studying and teaching martial arts, those practices, before you became a born-again Christian. Now, I was not only thankful for your testimony but for the insights that you gave regarding the religious foundation of nearly all the Oriental martial arts, and as I mentioned to you after your presentation, I confirmed all of what you shared because of my own experience in judo and aikido before committing my life to Jesus. And I had nearly all the classical martial arts books that you talked about.
Now, let’s start with how you as, I’m guessing here, a 5’4”, 100-pound young lady in her late teens, how you earned advanced black belt degrees in karate, having been taught by some of the, really, the iconic teachers of the practices. Now, how did that come about?
Gaylene: Well, first of all, bless you, Tom, for adding about two inches to my stature. [laughs]
Tom: [laughing] Okay.
Gaylene: I was introduced to the martial arts in my teens by my Uncle John. He had studied a hard style Okinawan form of Karate, while stationed in Japan during the Korean War, and this was all very alluring to me. I mean, I was a shy, chubby girl, and I found, actually, as I began practicing some of these things that I had an aptitude for it, so I stuck with it. It all gave me an appetite to learn more and more, and by the way, my Uncle John was a black belt, too.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, your book is titled My Life in “The Way,” which it might be a little confusing to some of our listeners since early Christianity, as you know, Gaylene, was known as “the way” before it was referred to as Christianity, but there was also in the ‘70s and ‘80s a cult that was popular called The Way International. Now, give us an explanation of the way that you were involved in.
Gaylene: My Life in “The Way” is actually a play on that term. The subtitle of my booklet is From the Broad Way of the East to the Narrow Way in Christ…
Gaylene: …which is taken from that familiar verse in Matthew 7.
Gaylene: “Karate do,” d-o ending, as it’s called, is literally “the way of the East,” and it’s what we would loosely refer to today as the New Age. That d-o, or “do” ending, tao, it is, or denotes the Eastern religious philosophy of the tao, or the way, they’re all the same thing…
Gaylene: …and the yin and yang symbol, and everyone has seen these – we’ve seen them maybe even on our soap detergent bottles as we go into the grocery store – the yin yang is the physical representation of the way of the East, the way. It’s actually a religious path that is diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity, because it’s pantheistic, it’s monistic. In other words, all is one, or all is divine. It’s a philosophy that denies the supreme, ultimate, and sovereign Creator God. Instead, the adepts are self-cultivating. It’s self-motivating. We’re ever working to perfect ourselves on the pathway to enlightenment, and enlightenment is really that moment in time when we realize that we are, in fact, God. This is what makes it New Age. And this is the sad path, the way, of the martial arts.
Tom: Now, that’s fascinating, because you wouldn’t expect it.
Tom: You know, I mentioned to you that my first involvement with the martial arts was at The Ohio State University where I studied judo. But to me, it was just a sport. Gaylene: Mm-hmm.
Tom: There didn’t seem to be anything religious about it – judo, as I know you’re aware, begins with teaching about physics, speed, techniques, all of that – it’s promoted as a form of wrestling. Now, my question is where did you first begin to recognize the religious philosophy in manifestations of power involved in karate?
Gaylene: That is a super-good question. If you look at the way, the way of the East as maybe another esoteric system, you’ll notice that there are levels. I think the Masons, for example, they don’t start out as the 32nd or 33rd degree.
Gaylene: As you go up in your ranking, you become more enlightened. You get more of the knowledge, and it’s the same way – you know, we start with a white belt, and ultimately our goal is black belt, and the levels within the black belt. Now by the time I was an upper level brown belt, I knew that I wasn’t simply in a self-defense system but a lifelong religious endeavor, because by the time in that training, I mean, the rote techniques are set. You know, your kicking, punching, all the basic techniques that you learn as a white belt are fairly automatic.
Gaylene: I mean, think about learning how to type or drive a car: it just becomes automatic. My first black belt exam was actually a test of my intuitive skills, or my mystical abilities. One of the drills I was involved in required being blindfolded in a dark room with multiple “attackers,” and the whole purpose was to test my abilities in manipulating and utilizing the ki force – you know, the ubiquitous impersonal energy force that is said to lay dormant within the body. Well, I was being tested on how I used my ki in sensing danger. Now, at the conference, I gave an example and everybody that I know of has seen the very first Star Wars movie. You know, Luke Skywalker is aboard the Millennium Falcon, and he is trying miserably to get better on his light saber, and there’s this little remote unit that’s shooting these rays at him, and he’s trying to deflect them, and he’s not getting anywhere. So then Obi Wan Kenobi, his sensei, tells him, “Hey, let’s put the blast shield on. You need to cover your eyes, because your eyes can deceive you. You need to reach out with your feelings, Luke.”
Well, this is exactly what was involved in my own black belt test. And then later, you know, as we went up in the upper belts, we were taught stories of all those famous karate masters who exhibited these superhuman abilities, and one of the examples I gave in Niles was Morihei Ueshiba. He was the founder of the aikido system of martial arts, and some of the abilities that he had I don’t doubt were real, but the power that he had didn’t come from the Holy Spirit of God, they came from the occult. Well, all of these things – harnessing this ki and developing this power – became our ultimate goal. This is how you became better and better and able to show others that you actually – there was something about you that was different. You had progressed.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Gaylene, I’ll give you a personal testimony, personal example of this: as I mentioned my studying judo at Ohio State University, I was the president of the judo club. It was not a varsity sport, but it was definitely a sport where we traveled all over the country, we competed against other universities, competed AAU, even at the World’s Fair for the Olympics, to try and get into the Olympics. And we had a second-degree black belt. He was about 260 pounds. Our football team wanted this guy so bad. He was so quick, so fast… Now, considering judo just to be based on physics, speed, technique, and so on, this guy had it all. He had size, he had everything, and we had an instructor, a visiting instructor from the Kodokan, and you’re familiar with that organization, this is the premier – Kodokan judo, this would be the premier headquarters for that, and he was a red and white belt. Now, as I remember the degrees, when you got up to seventh or eighth degree black, it turned to red and white, and then it may have gone to red, or vice versa, I don’t remember exactly…
Gaylene: Yeah, they all – some of them differ a little bit.
Tom: Right, but this was a – I think he was almost 70 years old, and he got on the mat with this young guy that I was telling you about, and our judoka, okay, our best judo player, couldn’t lay a glove on this guy. This old man threw him all over the place, and we were stunned, because there was something going on here besides technique…you know, the physical aspects went by the boards when this guy on our team stepped on the mat with this guy. I mean, it was a reality.
Now, we’re going to talk a little bit later in our discussion about aikido. You see, once I saw this, okay, and we’ll talk about this later, I’m thinking, “Wait a minute, there’s something else here. I like that!” Okay? And then of course at the various tournaments that I would go to, almost inevitably there would be a demonstration, and you would take some of the best judo players in our country and many of them Oriental, okay, Japanese – seventh-degree…not seventh-degree, but let’s say third- or fourth-degree guys in incredibly physical shape, and they would talk on an aikido master. Guess what? No contest. I don’t care if there were four or five judo players, incredible shape, they were thrown all over the place by this one guy!
Gaylene: It almost looks staged.
Tom: It does! You know, if I didn’t know that the guys who got on the mat with him, I’d say, “Wait a minute, this is a hoax.” But then I studied aikido later, which we’ll talk about, but…
So the other thing that I think we need to establish is let’s talk about the Eastern worldview versus a biblical worldview in terms of creation. How do you compare those two?
Gaylene: They’re totally incompatible. The Eastern mystical worldview sees all of creation – that would be including human beings – as part of the same divine whole. It’s a pantheistic belief. “As above, so below,” would be the same as the cult maxim. There’s no separation between the supreme creator and his creation because everything is one. And according to this philosophy, individuals need to be awakened or enlightened to the reality of their own divinity, so you’re on a quest. The life’s mission is self-cultivation by, as we talked about, mastering this ki flow, by staying in harmony with self and the environment…I mean, it’s thoroughly New Age. It’s devoid of truth, devoid of life, and on the other hand, the Bible – the Bible commands believers to deny self…
Gaylene: …to surrender self to the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the way is the Way. The Way is the Person, it’s Christ. The believer’s life is lived by faith in Him and His Word.
Tom: Right. The terms that you’ve been using – ki, ch’i – we could talk about prana, we could talk about kundalini power…these are all energies, correct, that – supposed energies that work through the universe, even something like feng shui, okay? Decorate your house according to the energies of the universe. It isn’t just that these are not true in the sense that they are objective energies out there, these are demonic powers.
Gaylene: Absolutely, and that’s why it’s called serpent power. I know that in the Hindu religion and of course it goes on into the yoga practices, the kundalini, the ki, is said to be a sleeping serpent at the base of the spine. And so then there are these basic channels throughout the body, the shakras, and when we learn to harness and manipulate this ki, we awaken the sleeping serpent, and that is how we are able to do these superhuman feats or, you know, become balanced, or you know, it’s even ki that’s used within the alternative health mechanism.
Gaylene: It’s the use and manipulation of ki, which, by the way, is the basis for all sorcery and witchcraft, learning to manipulate that occult power.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, some of the terms you’ve used, kundalini and so on, may perhaps, many of our listeners say, “Wait a minute, that sounds a little bit like yoga.” But one of the things that you surprised me with and you really surprised me, for a guy who really has a, you know, some background practice of the martial arts before I became a Christian, but here’s how you surprise me: you said that Babylon, some of these, the martial arts, the historic development of these things, go back to ancient Babylon. Could you tell us about that?
Gaylene: Well, all roads do in fact lead to Babylon, don’t they?
Tom: That’s right.
Gaylene: There is, you know, of course, a continuing debate where all of this actually began, because all of it was passed down in the oral tradition. But many believe that the martial arts in fact did begin in Babylon, because there have been archaeological evidence found in ancient caves on plaques or murals depicting sparring or martial arts themes, but one thing that they are in agreement is that the ancient fighting methods that we believe that began in Babylon were later picked up, developed, and then broadly promoted by Bodhidharma who was a 16th century Indian warrior monk. He was the one that was proficient in Zen meditation, and Indian fighting arts. He set out across the Himalayan Mountains. He wanted to teach the Chinese monks at the Shaolin Temple a systemized form of yoga. We keep talking about yoga, but this is where all of this really originated from. It became early forms of kung fu, and then something to keep in mind is all of these yoga disciplines that actually birthed into the martial arts, they were designed to facilitate the Eastern meditation and the spiritual enlightenment, not self defense. So all of these things, as they migrated from Babylon, then to India, then to China, then we think to Okinawa, then to Japan, then to the rest of the world. Everywhere these techniques and philosophies move, they took along with them tenets of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism, Taoism, and then I might also add elements of Gnosticism and Alchemy, and Alchemy, of course, is that quest for immortality apart from the cross of Christ.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, we mentioned Babylon, and certainly with regard to, perhaps, fighting techniques, but the heart of it goes back to Genesis:3:1: “Yea, hath God said….” You know, the offer – the seduction of Eve was based on godhood, that she could achieve godhood, and that’s the end-all be-all. So no matter…
Gaylene: That’s exactly right.
Tom: …whether it’s Shamanism…you know, there’s also a relationship – not quite, but close to Shamanism – here you have a technique that involves mediating between the spirit beings, that’s what a witch doctor does…
Tom: …that’s what a Shaman does, and what’s interesting about that is you have cultures, you have tribes, you have people groups who have never had any contact with one another from…well, the term Shaman, that’s Siberian. It’s a Siberian term. Yet you could go to Asia, you could go to – I’m thinking about Haiti, or any of these places where there are small groups, where they have a witch doctor. The techniques, the ideas, the concepts are all the same. So we know there has to be a specific mind behind it, and we know that’s the adversary, Satan.
Gaylene: Well, you know, in my background, I’m a Native American. My family actually grew up on a reservation up near Canada, and we had – in fact, we called it Indian medicine, but it was Shamanism, and there was a point person who was involved in doing what you just described, whether it was to, you know, help financially, or usually it was that someone was in need of medical attention. We would seek these powers to try to heal people, so I’m well familiar with all of that, and it is – there is a power; there is an undeniable power behind it, but it doesn’t come from the God of the Bible.
Tom: Yeah. You know, it’s also a very sad scenario that the rationale among professing Christians, you know, as we talked about yoga or even the martial arts, it’s nearly always the same. They claim to have disregarded or eliminated the spiritual aspects. Gaylene, is that possible?
Gaylene: No, it’s impossible. It’s like attempting to drink a glass of water with just a few drops of arsenic mixed in without swallowing some of the poison. You can’t do it. This is especially true if you’ve been studying some of these things for years and years. After a while, these basic things become automatic. You know, the repetitious drills, the pattern training, the regular practice of all the basic stuff, it not only helps to engrain the physical martial arts techniques within the practitioner, but the religious elements, too. The Eastern religious tenets form the core, the very heart of the martial arts. They can’t be separated out. The karateka is going to swallow some of the poison.
Tom: Mm-hmm. You know, we have been saying on this program and, you know, I’ve interviewed Caryl Matriciana, who was born in India and has one of the best documentaries out there, Yoga Uncoiled, dealing with all of that, but…
Gaylene: Great book.
Tom: …it always comes back to you, Caryl, others that I know, Rabi Maharaj, you know, a guru comes to Christ – they’re saying, “Absolutely not. You cannot divorce this from the religion.” And yet, and I want you to give me some examples, we have Christians, professing Christians, maybe true believers, I don’t know – I don’t know their hearts – but they are Christianizing the martial arts. How does that work, and give us some examples?
Gaylene: Well, if you do just a simple Google search on your computer, you’ll discover millions, not a few hundred, millions of files on the Christian martial arts. Not simply Christians who practice karate, but Christian martial arts. Many of these groups claim to “reclaim,” that’s a quote, “reclaim” the martial arts from its Eastern mold in order to Christianize it, but it’s a fraud! You can’t…the martial arts can’t be reclaimed from something it never was – Christian. As I said before, the way of the East is Buddhist, Taoist, Confucianist, and yet these professing Christians today, they’ve created…you should see some of the logos: martial arts dojos and organizations, and they’ve Christianized the name – you know, “Christ-jitsu;” “Yeshua-do;” “Gospel Martial Arts Union;” and on and on and on. And nothing else has changed but the name. They’re still practicing the same Eastern techniques, the philosophy remains the same… I mean, if you take, for example, the karate katas – you know, everyone’s seen those floor patterns, the forms – every one of the martial arts, I don’t care if it’s hard or soft, have these floor patterns, these katas. These are actually meditation in motion. They are called “a moving Zen study.” How could we ever sanctify this wretched practice and then call it Christian?
Gaylene: Now, most claim that, “Okay, we’re going to do this. We’re going to Christianize the martial arts so that we can better share the gospel of Jesus Christ.” But this is not possible. What you’re doing is you’re trying to mix East and West, and I might add the most egregious error that I have encountered while studying all of this is the attempt for many of these Christian groups to equate that serpent power that we talked about, the ki force, the kundalini, they’ve tried to equate that power, that occult power with the Holy Spirit of the living God, the third Person of the Trinity. And this is just blasphemy.
Gaylene: East and West do not mix.
Tom: Gaylene, we have about two minutes left in this part of our discussion – Lord willing we’re going to pick up with this next week – but it is grievous. It’s syncretism at least and, as you said, it’s blasphemy. I was trying to give people some examples, because, you know, I talk about this all the time with regard to yoga, and how, first of all, those who are true yogis, those who, you know, are committed to Hinduism, are just…
Gaylene: They’re outraged.
Tom: …appalled! They’re outraged! And I would say the same for those who are, you know, practitioners of…you know, I’m not giving them kudos or credit for having something right, but the thing is, I can see why they’re indignant. We are at least homogenizing something that they hold sacred, okay? And it’s a real problem.
Now, Gaylene, in next week’s program, I really want to get into some of those who are promoting this: we’re going to talk about – you know, we’re going to deal with and address individuals like Chuck Norris; I mean, certainly he professes to be a Christian, and we’re going to deal with other issues with that. Children, young people tell me all the time, “Well, I want to build self-esteem and confidence in my child,” and so on. No, this isn’t the way to go. Not only is that a bad attitude, a wrong attitude, but it’s counterproductive and it’s contrary to the Scriptures.
So, Gaylene, I look forward to our discussing this more, and the Lord willing, we’ll pick up with it next week.
Gaylene: Thanks, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at P.O. Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we hope you can be here again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.