My husband has always said I should take karate. Maybe it’s because he wants me to be able to defend myself against a potential attack. Maybe he knows how much I need and enjoy physical fitness. Maybe he understands the mental and spiritual connection to the sport.
Although I’ve yet to take a karate class, I still fully appreciate its mind and body connection, even soul and spirit connection. Now, there’s no need to scold me here. I realize the martial arts have roots in Eastern religion, but most of the folks I know who “do” karate don’t chant or pray to a foreign god. Most of those in my sphere are Christians. I’ve even met a sensei, Japanese for master or teacher, who uses the Bible as a basis for her classes. I knew she ran a Christian karate studio. And because I had become so intrigued with fighting and what Scripture had to say about it, I talked with her for some possible insight.
In her dojo, or training hall, she told me her students recite these words before each class:
So do not fear, for am I with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
That’s Isaiah 41:10 - not typical karate class language. It’s not eastern philosophy, either. The classes also recited the Lord’s Prayer. So, as it is with many other forms of physical fitness, karate trains more than the body.
My interest in karate also led me to watch again the 2010 version of the film, The Karate Kid. In this edition, Dre, the young karate student, after being injured in a match, has a poignant conversation with his teacher, Mr. Han, about courage:
Mr. Han: You don’t have to fight anymore. You have proven everything you need to prove.
Dre: What, that I can get beat up easy and quit? That’s not balance. That’s not real kung fu. You said, when life knocks you down, you could choose whether or not to get back up. Well, I’m trying to get back up, and why won’t you help me?
Mr. Han: Because I don’t want you to get hurt anymore.
Dre: Please, Mr. Han, please.
Mr. Han: Just tell me, Xiao Dre, why...why you need to go back out there so badly?
Dre: No matter what happens, tonight, when I leave, I don’t want to be scared anymore.
Dre does go back out and fights, and wins. But, of course, the point for Dre isn’t the winning. The point is not being scared anymore.
I want what Dre earned for himself - to not be scared anymore. Maybe it would be better to say I want to not be so scared as to be paralyzed by fear. You know Nike says to “Just do it.” Well, that’s what I want, to go ahead and do the thing, even if I’m scared.
All of the great movie quotes on fighting I’ve shared these past few weeks from The Karate Kid, 300, and The Lord of the Rings are a source of motivation and inspiration for me. I frequently quote them to myself. But that’s mostly as a walk around the house or Walmart or something. I must confess I don’t always have the backbone to back up those words.
I think I’m drawn to fighting so much because of my insecurities. Fighting is powerful, and many times, I feel powerless. In this life of seeking God and being a Christ-follower, I somehow feel let down. Where is this assurance of the power of Christ? Of the Holy Spirit? Where is the Church’s power? Where is my power?How can I tap into the power? How can I stay grounded in God and yet fly high with Christ?
In this journey, I hope to move beyond the trite and normal and come to fully know the power of living in freedom. Yes. When life knocks me down, to choose to get back up. To not be scared anymore. To have that balance, that wholeness of body and mind and spirit. And when it doesn’t come easy, to have the courage to fight for it.