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Fight of Fist or Fight of Faith?

Thursday 27th August 2020

When I was a Morling student few years back, the Morling Student Representative Group organised the Morling International Day to celebrate the diverse cultures represented within the student body. Morling students were encouraged to showcase the cultural activities from their home countries. I volunteered to demonstrate the national sport of my country of origin, Korea - Taekwando. I roped in the support of my family to choreograph a series of Taekwondo movements, and together we demonstrated the patterns at the event. We received positive feedback from staff and students and were glad that they enjoyed the demonstration. Shortly after, we had another opportunity to repeat our demonstration at the Macquarie Baptist Church's Spring Fair. I was thankful that our Taekwondo skills could be used for the church's missional event to connect with their increasingly diverse local community.  

Some Christians may question whether the violence and Eastern spiritual connection of some martial arts like Taekwondo would make them incompatible with Christianity. Can Christians practice martial arts? As a Taekwondo practitioner myself and a Morling student, I had to answer these questions for myself first. I wanted answers from a theological perspective with facts rather than speculations.

In the course of my research, Dr. Ross Clifford, the principal of Morling College, told me he had in fact written a book with Philip Johnson about this very issue. I immediately purchased a copy of the book, Taboo or To Do? Is Christianity complementary with Yoga, Martial Arts, Halloween, Mindfulness and Other Alternative Practices?” (Darton, Longman and Todd, 2016). The book has a whole chapter on Eastern Martial Arts that addressed my questions.

The chapter examined the history and development of major martial arts and provided helpful suggestions to consider in each case with discernment, with some real-life examples and case studies. The following is a quote from the book:

"As this chapter outlines the discernment will be two-fold: is the training as it is practiced still overtly linked to Eastern spiritual beliefs, and does it promote violence? The other issue for reflection is what is the teacher's worldview with respect to these two points?"

Contrary to what many assume, Taekwondo promotes peace and actively discourages violence. In fact, one of the basic tenets of Taekwondo is courtesy and respect. Actually, the tenets of Taekwondo have much in common with Christian virtues. For example, you will find familiar Christian virtues such as integrity and perseverance in the tenets as well as self-control, which is listed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Within the Bible itself, Paul used analogies of athletics often to describe the Christian life (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7). He also affirmed the benefits of bodily exercise (1 Timothy 4:8).

As I looked further, I even discovered that some churches in Korea were using Taekwondo to reach out to communities in Korea and overseas for their missional activities and some colleges were providing courses in creative Christian ministry with a Taekwondo component.

These findings helped me answer my questions and I was confident that I could practice my Christian faith and Taekwondo at the same time. I could even use Taekwondo to help my ministry in some ways. Of course, there were health benefits of keeping me fit and flexible.

As it turned out, this was just one example of how my education at Morling helped me to answer real-life questions in practical ways, theologically and biblically. I could now do the fight of fist and the fight of faith together.

Dennis ParkLater that year, I took my daughter to Peru to represent Australia in the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championship (Poomsae mean choreographed set patterns of Taekwondo moves). A couple of years later, I had the privilege of being selected to represent Australia in Taiwan for the 2018 World Championship, and this all happened while I was studying at Morling.

I have now completed my Master of Ministry at Morling and will be accredited as a Baptist minister in October this year at the Baptist Gathering. The Lord has also blessed me with a role at Morling College where I oversee Vose's VET courses in Ministry and Leadership & Management.

I am so grateful for how the Lord has shaped and equipped me throughout my time at Morling. I often ask as Paul did, "Who is equal to such a task?" (2 Corinthians 2:16b) and answer with the words of the very apostle himself, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect." (1 Corinthians 15:10a) In the end, I want to say, just as Paul said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Written by Dennis Park

Dennis Park is a Morling graduate (2019) and pastor of Sydney Grace Community Church (a Baptist New Start church plant) at Wentworth Point. He also works part-time at Morling overseeing Vose's VET Ministry and Leadership & Management courses. He is 4th Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo and trains/teaches with Lee Taekwondo Club at Wentworth Point.

Dennis Park's Blog