What Is the Bible’s View?
Should One Train in Judo or Karate?
IN MANY parts of the earth there has been a real surge of interest in judo and karate. What accounts for this? And what does the Bible say that has a bearing on training in such arts?
In some places judo and karate are viewed as just a “sport” that provides healthful exercise. So some persons who are interested in physical fitness might feel that such training is comparable to swimming or general calisthenics.
Yet there is no question but that a prime reason for the interest in judo and karate is the hope that they can be used for self-defense if necessary. In many countries people are concerned about the dangers of being mugged or otherwise assaulted. Many men and women believe that having skill in judo or karate is a safeguard.
In order to evaluate the matter in a balanced way, it is good to have in mind just what judo and karate are, what their background is, and what proficiency in them might involve.
Basically, judo and karate are methods of unarmed combat that originated in Japan. As forms of combat or self-defense they are classed as bushido, which means “The Way of the Warrior.” One encyclopedia pointed out that bushido “had its sources in Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism.” Ancient Japanese warriors trained in these techniques so they could bare-handedly fight armed or unarmed enemies.
Thus both judo and karate are rooted in offensive or defensive violence. The Encyclopædia Britannica (1971) describes jujutsu, from which the modern form called judo developed, as: “A system of fighting without weapons. The object is to cripple or possibly kill the antagonist.” And the Illustrated World Encyclopedia says: “The object of judo is to kill or so injure an attacker as to make him completely defenseless.”
Karate is even more violent and dangerous. As E. J. Harrison points out:
“Karate resembles both jujutsu and judo. But as a purely ‘fighting art’, designed to dispose of an enemy in the shortest possible time with no means barred, I think we must admit that it transcends them both in its deadly efficacy. And why this should be so will appear from the fact that a single karate technique, if executed in earnest, is capable of inflicting fatal injury upon its victim more surely and speedily than either jujutsu or judo.”—The Fighting Spirit of Japan, p. 74.
Unquestionably violence is on the increase world wide; we cannot and should not ignore that fact. But does a person who wants to align his thinking and actions with the Bible feel compelled to resort to training of this sort? And even if a person’s interest is mainly physical fitness, is this sort of training an advisable way to keep in good condition?
The Bible does not categorically condemn self-protection, even the use of force if necessary. But authorities in the field of protection from crime often stress that reliance on a weapon—whether a gun, a knife or techniques such as judo or karate—is not the wisest course. In most cases what are primarily needed are reasonable precautions to avoid dangerous situations. Good sense usually provides far more protection than physical prowess or weapons. Rather than urge that someone ‘trust in the arm of flesh,’ the Bible recommends that a Christian place confidence in Jehovah, realizing that He is able to provide a spirit of wisdom even at times of crisis.—Jer. 17:5; Phil. 4:6, 7.
Proverbs 3:31 says: “Do not become envious of the man of violence, nor choose any of his ways.” Christ’s counsel and example prove that he agreed with and applied what the proverb said. (John 8:59; 10:39; Matt. 10:23) Accordingly, Christians seek to avoid violent encounters. When faced with threat of violence, they resort to flight when practical. They show thereby that they are not trying to “return evil for evil” or to rectify this system’s injustices, but are waiting on Jehovah to express wrath against evildoers.—Rom. 12:17, 19.
A related principle that Jehovah intentionally included in his Word is: “As far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Rom. 12:18; 1 Pet. 3:11) A person responsive to that advice would certainly consider how it applies in connection with training in “The Way of the Warrior.” Also, he or she would not disregard this consideration: What conclusion would neighbors and other observers reach if they see a Christian who espouses ‘not learning war anymore’ choosing to learn the military or martial arts of unarmed combat? (Isa. 2:4) True, some have reasoned that such training is solely for self-defense. But even in the military many of the weapons and training procedures (including judo and karate) that are “for self-defense” are also employed offensively.
In Japan judo and kendo (swordsmanship) have in recent years become required training for youngsters in school. However, in the Japanese mind there is an unmistakable link between these techniques and the military arts. So young dedicated Christian witnesses of Jehovah there decline participation in this training. And some school authorities have taken a reasonable position, not forcing these students to share in what is viewed there as conflicting with the advice to ‘beat swords into plowshares and not learn war anymore.’—Mic. 4:3.
Whether a person considers training in judo or karate as for self-defense or merely for exercise, another aspect should not be overlooked. One Japanese writer pointed out: “The art of jujutsu is an important ally on the field of battle. Even in practice one should try to imagine one’s opponent an actual enemy.” Jesus Christ, however, counseled: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.”—Matt. 5:44, 45.
Hence, no matter what a person’s motive in considering training in judo or karate might be, he should have in mind how that training would affect his outlook. Would it be aiding him to apply Jesus’ words “love your enemies” or, rather, stimulating just the opposite attitude?
As to special exercise for the sake of keeping fit, each person has to decide for himself whether such is necessary and, if so, what form it will take. The apostle Paul’s counsel to Timothy was: “Bodily training is beneficial for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.”—1 Tim. 4:8.
So, if exercise or bodily training is engaged in, it should not be allowed to encroach upon or overshadow your interest in spiritual matters. Physical recreation should not become the ‘big thing’ in life. The Christian knows that it is not bodily training that holds promise of eternal life. Nor is it the contents of your wallet or purse. What contribute to everlasting life are things such as sincere application of Bible principles, pursuit of godly devotion and being at peace with God.—1 Tim. 6:6-8, 11, 12.