Anyone reading this essay is probably already involved with the martial ways. I use the term “ways” to cover the variety of intent involved with these practices. Let me take the three basic approaches that are practiced in the 21st century martial ways.
The most recent of these has really developed just since the 1970’s. These are martial activities. Whole martial schools have developed: to provide a place for individuals and families to exercise and learn some basic self-defense and, to provide a sense of discipline that has begun to fade in our society. Some of these dojo have after-school programs for children and even provide transportation. Some provide a wide range of activities, including: kick boxing, weight training, martial aerobics, weapons, grappling, etc. Parents and children can do these activities together, providing family time and bonding relationships. This is probably the most positive development for martial awareness in current culture. The only way for the average American to be unaware of martial activities is to avoid TV and all of popular culture. It has become very socially acceptable to be a martial activity student.
And then there are martial sports. There have always been contests between martial artists throughout history. Most of these ended in death of one or both of the participants. After the end of World War II, martial sports began to develop and to compete with other sports for their continued existence. Rules for contests, proper techniques to win, and having a sportsman attitude all became priorities. Sports have fans, coaches, trainers, a lot of support personnel and, of course, sportsmen (and women, and now even children). Martial sports have become an industry. They are based out of martial schools that practice all of the other martial activities. But some schools really emphasize the competition. This is not bad in itself, but like all sports, there is a finite time limit for a competitive athlete. Then what? Does the martial sportsman become a teacher, or just retire?
And now we come to the martial arts. By this, I am referring to martial methods that do not embrace sports or an activity for the family or for a healthy lifestyle. Traditionally, martial arts were meant to kill people. These were military arts on the whole, or practiced by families to ensure survival. The U.S. Military and ISIS both practice martial arts. Martial Arts can be used for good or evil. Martial arts techniques are not taught for sport or for discipline. They are used to cause intentional harm to other human beings. When I was learning Judo, I was taught to do the least possible harm. Restraint and arrest techniques were emphasized. While studying Aiki-Jujitsu, I was taught how to kill and to take prisoners. As one of my instructors said, “Arresting someone is difficult. You are not trying to hurt them. Taking a prisoner in combat is easier, they just have to be able to walk and answer questions during interrogation. They don’t need arms for that. Killing is the easiest. But you have to live with it.” Pretty grim.
These three types of martial methods tend to blend martial arts schools in the modern world. A school that is mostly about families and children will usually have a sports component and even an emphasis on self-defense (at least for the female students). Other schools are more sports oriented, but will have the other aspects. And, a few very traditional schools will also allow for sports (a little) and for families.
Let me address one last area of martial methods. The MMA (mixed martial arts) are sports. They are a very dangerous sport and are usually practiced in an even more un-Christian manner than most. There are Christians in MMA, but relatively few. It is not an activity that lends itself to humility.