Martial Art and Spiritual Discipline

In honor of my belt test this evening, I’m reflecting on why I enjoy my new-found sport of Taekwondo. I started over the summer because, after months of watching Arianna do it, I thought it looked like fun. I’ve found it’s so much more than that.

I took dance lessons as a child and young woman, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was a great source of confidence and poise, and great exercise. At the same time, the world of dancing can be difficult for a young woman who is not exactly built like a ballerina. I loved it, but hated the competition aspects of it, and often felt entirely too tall, heavy, and curvy for the rest of the group.

Taekwondo is wonderfully inclusive of all body types and skill levels, and although there are opportunities for competition, one’s greatest competition is with oneself. Like dance, it is great exercise and promotes poise and confidence. Like dance it celebrates both the beauty and power of the human body.

But I’ve found a greater gift from Taekwondo. I’ve found spiritual disciplines.

Recieving my yellow stripeIn the context of Taekwondo, I also practice patience (never easy for me!), humility (have you met me? then you’ll know this is a challenge for me!), physical and mental discipline, times of silence and meditation, and a respect for my instructors and those with higher ranks that almost borders on– dare I say it– obedience. If you told me a year ago that I would bow to a person whenever I entered the gym, I’d have laughed at you. Now I happily do so out of respect for Masters Choi and Winters’ expertise and willingness to teach.

These concepts– patience, humility, discipline, meditation, and obedience– are also central to my faith as important spiritual practices, and yet, they have never come easily for me (not that they should). In fact, I’ve never felt that I made good progress in any of them, despite knowing their importance for me as both Christian and pastor. But in the practice of the Martial Art form, I have also found a spiritual element that strengthens my own personal spiritual journey and makes me, I believe, a better spiritual leader and spiritual person overall.

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6 Responses

  1. I agree. I’ve been studying martial arts for a while now, and there’s a lot that “will preach” that I’ve learned through martial arts. I strive towards non-violence throughout my life and I think martial arts has helped me in my goal. God is in dialogue with his people in many forms and languages and martial arts can definitely be one of them.

  2. I took Taekwondo as a middle schooler for about 2 years. Then I got heel-kicked to the nose by the cutest girl in the class and it made me bleed. I quit in shame.

  3. I like this post so much. I don’t know who I’d be without Taekwondo, but it wouldn’t be anyone close to who I am now.

  4. I love this post. I train in the Chinese arts of Taijiquan and Pudaoquan rather than Taekwondo and practice Judaism instead of Christianity, but have very much the same experience as you describe. Ego flies out the door during training sessions (no small thing for me!) and I’m left with a fulfilling sense of humility (if that makes any sense at all). I am often struck at how similar I feel after a Saturday morning synagogue service and after a Sunday afternoon martial arts class.

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