martial art (mär´shel ärt)
Any of several Oriental arts of combat or self-defense, such as aikido, karate, judo, or tae kwon do, usually practiced as sport. Often used in the plural.
Martial Arts, various methods of unarmed combat, originally used in warfare in East Asia and shaped by East Asian philosophical concepts, notably Zen Buddhism. The better-known forms include karate, kung fu, jujutsu, judo, aikido, tai chi chuan, tae kwon do, sumo wrestling, and kendo.
Kung fu is, with karate, the best known of all the martial arts. It employs kicks, throws, dodges, holds, leaps, handsprings, and somersaults. Jujutsu is directed toward deflecting or controlling an attack. Judo, a popular wrestling form developed from jujutsu, attempts to turn an attacker's force to one's own advantage, using throwing and grappling. Aikido is, with tai chi chuan, the gentlest martial art and is not practiced as a competitive sport. Tai chi chuan, more popularly referred to as tai chi, is an ancient Chinese exercise and fighting system, still practiced mainly for its health benefits. It employs slow, graceful movements that are stylized renditions of arm and foot blows. Tae kwon do is a type of fighting system that originated in Korea and that employs kicking, punching, and various evasive techniques. In sumo wrestling, huge men attempt to force each other out of the ring, or to bring each other to the mat. Kendo is a sport derived from ancient sword fighting; bamboo swords are now used.
Contemporary interest in the martial arts often focuses on their spiritual aspects, as means of increasing self-confidence, assertiveness, concentration, and personal defense. The martial arts have also become popular as forms of self-expression, similar to dance.
Christianity as a meme:
Churches across the country are starting "martial-arts ministries" to lure teenagers to religious services. Emmanuel Baptist Church in Lewistown, Mont., which started teaching karate two years ago, has since baptized 24 of its karate students, and attendance at Sunday services has doubled to 130. According to Jim Garrett, youth pastor at Cathedral of Praise in Ohio, action movies are a big help. "Every time a new karate movie comes out, our class booms," he says. "Kids want to re-create their favorite scene."
Karate does, however, present practical problems for churches. Bryan Hebert, who heads Kicks for Christ Ministry in Archdale, N.C., has had to dismiss three students for using their Christian karate to beat up people. To avoid such conflicts, Sherry Brown at Mount Pleasant Christian Church requires her karate students to memorize three Bible verses a month. Other Christian teachers are less concerned with Jesus’s lessons of restraint. As Ken Jezek, who runs Warriors for Christ in Gilbert, Ariz., puts it, "When in doubt, take it out."
Dave Sutterfield, whose seven-year-old son studies karate at Mount Pleasant, has decided to explain Jesus’s stand on self-defense at a later date in order to avoid confusing the boy. "We just want them to get the basics about sin and Jesus’s love first," he says. (Wall Street Journal, 10/18/99)