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Thoughts on Christians and the Martial Arts

Many people feel that christians should refrain from participation in martial arts due to a perceived unseverable tie with oriental religions. After converting to Christianity, I also avoided the martial arts because of the integration of oriental thought into the styles that I had studied or was familiar with. This avoidance persisted for many years because I thought that the marriage of oriental religion and philosophy with the martial arts was a universal, unchangeable condition. However, beginning in the mid 1990's, I began to encounter many martial artists with obvious genuine professions of faith in Jesus Christ. While it is true that there are elements attached to the martial arts that a christian should have no traffic with, I am convinced that it is possible for an individual to engage in various martial arts and at the same time not compromise christian values.

There are many reasons for someone to participate in the martial arts: self-defense, health, art, personal fulfillment, discipline, etc., but often what attracts an individual is the traditional eastern philosophy. Many feel that our modern western society has become void with nothing to offer in this respect, but I must disagree. Western Civilization also has a rich martial arts philosophy of it's own, for which we do not have to dig too far into our past to discover, it is called Chivalry. The generation of my grandparents was familiar with it (go back and watch some old Earl Flynn movies), but it seems to have faded away in many segments of our society over the past few decades. Some may remember being taught to open a door for a lady or to show respect for seniors by standing when they enter the room, but Chivalry entails much more than just those simple elements of common courtesy. I offer some information below in an effort to introduce you, the reader, to the values inherent in the Chivalric Ideal.

The following Information on Chivilry (Western Martial Arts Tradition) was retrieved from


Chivalry, the Chivalric Code and the Chivalric Ideal -

Etymology: Middle English chivalrie, from Middle French chevalerie, from chevalier knight -- more at CHEVALIER
Date: 14th century
1 : mounted men-at-arms
2 archaic a : martial valor b : knightly skill
3 : gallant or distinguished gentlemen
4 : the system, spirit, or customs of medieval knighthood
5 : the qualities of the ideal knight : chivalrous conduct

The Decalogue -

The Ten Commandments of the Code of Chivalry, known as the Decalogue, are detailed below. These ten commandments are a recurring theme throughout the long history of Knighthood with respect to the Church. Essentially, these commandments were the Church's attempt to convince Knights to use their might for right rather than for their own selfish ends.

From Chivalry by Leon Gautier

  • Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches, and shalt observe all its directions.
  • Thou shalt defend the Church.
  • Thou shalt repect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
  • Thou shalt love the country in the which thou wast born.
  • Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy. Thou shalt make war against the Infidel without cessation, and without mercy.
  • Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
  • Thou shalt never lie, and shall remain faithful to thy pledged word.
  • Thou shalt be generous, and give largess to everyone.
  • Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.

The Knightly Virtues -

1. Prowess: To seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a knight, martial and otherwise, seeking strength to be used in the service of justice, rather than in personal aggrandizement.

2. Justice: Seek always the path of 'right', unencumbered by bias or personal interest. Recognize that the sword of justice can be a terrible thing, so it must be tempered by humanity and mercy. If the 'right' you see rings true with others, and you seek it out without bending to the temptation for expediency, then you will earn renown beyond measure.

3. Loyalty: Be known for unwavering commitment to the people and ideals you choose to live by. There are many places where compromise is expected; loyalty is not amongst them.

4. Defense: The ideal knight was sworn by oath to defend his liege lord and those who depended upon him. Seek always to defend your nation, your family, and those to whom you believe worthy of loyalty.

5. Courage: Being a knight often means choosing the more difficult path, often the personally expensive one. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices in service of the precepts and people you value. At the same time, a knight should seek wisdom to see that stupidity and courage are cousins. Courage also means taking the side of truth in all matters, rather than seeking the expedient lie. Seek the truth whenever possible, but remember to temper justice with mercy, or the pure truth can bring grief.

6. Faith: A knight must have faith in his beliefs, for faith roots him and gives hope against the despair that human failings create.

7. Humility: Value first the contributions of others; do not boast of your own accomplishments, let others do this for you. Tell the deeds of others before your own, according them the renown rightfully earned through virtuous deeds. In this way the office of knighthood is well done and glorified, helping not only the gentle spoken of but also all who call themselves knights.

8. Largesse: Be generous in so far as your resources allow; largesse used in this way counters gluttony. It also makes the path of mercy easier to discern when a difficult decision of justice is required.

9. Nobility: Seek great stature of character by holding to the virtues and duties of a knight, realizing that though the ideals cannot be reached, the quality of striving towards them ennobles the spirit, growing the character from dust towards the heavens. Nobility also has the tendency to influence others, offering a compelling example of what can be done in the service of rightness.

10. Franchise: Seek to emulate everything spoken of as sincerely as possible, not for the reason of personal gain but because it is right. Do not restrict your exploration to a small world, but seek to infuse every aspect of your life with these qualities. Should you succeed in even a tiny measure then you will be well remembered for your quality and virtue.

Chivalry Related Links

* Chivalry Today
* The Code of Chivalry and Courtly Love
* Knighthood, Chivalry & Tournaments Resource Library
* Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.

* The American College of Heraldry
* Welcome to Tempus Peregrinator's Little Heraldry Book

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Copyright 2002 by William Lamkin
Revised: 08/08/2002