After over 4 decades of training in martial arts, I have observed that many instructors are reluctant to discuss the act of prayer during martial arts training, and actually praying during class is considered by many instructors as unthinkable.
It’s interesting when you consider that many instructors hype their particular style or training methods as instruction for combat or self defense. Ask any soldier who has faced real combat: how many atheists you can find in a foxhole? Prayer is as real as sparring or board breaking and has been an essential core of every culture and organized military since the beginning of civilization.
The major religions of the world are monotheistic, belief in one true God, and they all come out of Abraham: Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. They should all be considered authentic and truthful. If you accept the ancient Chinese, Korean, Japanese classics as accurate and authentic, realize that you are reading wisdom of the I-Ching, Lao Tzu, Sun Tsu, Confucius and Bokudan that has been passed down and revered for millenniums.
You cannot logically accept one ancient record of history and reject another. They are all accepted by their believers as accurate descriptions of actual events in the past. Unless you are racially or culturally biased, they all have value and are considered by many to be the divinely inspired word of God, recorded and passed from generation to generation to teach one basic message: to live life as a virtuous and moral human being.
Many Asian martial arts are based on Buddhism, which is a middle path taught by Hindu Prince Shakamuni Gautama some five hundred years before the birth of Christ. One of the principle aspects of Yoga, Hinduism, and Buddhism is emptying of the ego, realizing that true strength come from becoming more and more self-less.
Is the prayer of the Jews of Christian any less of a practical, psychological, and spiritual exercise? Or consider the constant prayer of the Native American Indian, who prayed before and after every battle or hunt for food? All warriors in all cultures have prayed as a normal and essential part of their preparation for a life or death confrontation. Prayer is mystical and effective, invisible yet as real as the wind blowing through the trees. If all that prayer will do for you is make you become aware of your emotions and thoughts and begin the daunting task of learning to truly relax your mind and body – I can think of no better way to begin a martial arts training, performance, competition, or combat.
As an instructor with over three decades of practical experience, it is my privilege and duty to share with you that more will be revealed, later. If you believe that there is a mysterious yet omnipotent element that created all that you see, including you and me, accept the fact that throughout history the greatest warriors on earth practiced the simple but powerful preparation for war to gain resolve, strength, sanity, survival, and victory.
It is hard to be humiliated when you are humble, as the Japanese Jujutsu Masters taught that the weeping willow tree survives the hurricane, while the mighty oak does not. Learning to be truly humble and meek is a source of strength, survival, and right action, in all and every situation especially when confronted with conflict with another human being.
I respect all faiths, especially when demonstrated by the good works of the faithful, but I am an American and my heritage is the Judeo-Christian ethic. My belief is that the truth, the whole truth is a philosophy expressed by Jesus Christ, a Jewish Rabbi, who lived and died and was resurrected over two thousand years ago.
That eloquent truth is simple yet profound:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Bible (King James Version): Matthew 22:37-40
I do not wish to offend anyone – or try subject anyone to my way of thinking anymore than I would force anyone to learn how to perform a side-kick, punch, or wrist-lock in the same manner as myself. But I will share my experience, training methods, attitude, strategy, tactics, and techniques because my belief is that the way I teach is the best way that I know. I will not do any less for the most important part of fully developing a human being’s mental and physical abilities, and that is to openly share my belief of the necessity of spiritual instruction, volition, and practice.
“As for my names: The first is Choi, Hong Hi, given to me by my father at the time of my birth in 1918. My other name is Taekwon-Do given to me by God in 1955” – *General Choi Hong Hi
* Dr. He-Young Kimm. “General Choi, Hong Hi – A Tae Kwon-do History Lesson” Taekwondo Times Interview of General Choi Hong Hi, Jan 2000: pgs: 44-58 page 45.