Just drove Young Son to Irish dance and musical theatre. Their performing arts studio is in a neighborhood shopping center with a sandwich shop and pizza place, a chinese food restaurant, a small computer shop — and a huge, very busy martial arts place with big glass walls across the front so you can watch from the sidewalk or your car, called Karate for Christ Ministries.
I’ve waited for the kids and wondered about this incongruous pairing of east and west before. School football players in the South seem very well-educated if Christianity is the standard and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is the measure. My favorite quarterback Gator Tim Tebow is always blessing the tv announcers and thanking his lord Jesus Christ for his touchdowns. His whole family goes on mission trips and he even convinced his coach to join him on one last summer. But school football and school religion are compatibly American — at least so I was taught — especially in the Bible Belt.
Karate though? For Christ?
So today as Spunky started a new conversation about what it means for a child to be “well-educated” I noticed it afresh and thought I’d mention some of what it makes me wonder, about what’s being taught and learned and why to our kids out of school, not in.
The phone number is painted on the glass, too: want your child well-educated in mind, body and spirit all at the same time? Who needs School OR Church? Just call 8-WE-KICK.
I called up wikipedia instead:
Hypothetically, any unarmed combat system could accurately be called “karate” since the Japanese phrase literally means “empty hand.” This is not necessarily an acceptable conclusion. To separate fact from fancy requires understanding issues of nationalism, lineage, primacy, and philosophy.
Open hand? Every time I go by, the little boys have long wooden rods in both hands, that they spin like batons and with which they energetically whack away at big dummies with men’s heads and karate clothes. There are as many attack dummies as pupils; does this mean anything, I wonder? (Are they rebelling against their own fathers, perhaps, or fighting their own future selves to avoid becoming their own worst enemy?)
Or is it more literal than that, are they all expecting to need to fight for their place in the world against the men who came before them? Or expecting a pre-ordained invasion force they’re being schooled to face, hmmm. . . whatever, it seems in karate a child could become well-educated in “nationalism, lineage, primacy and philosophy” but not linguistics or logic, because use of the open hand is not the idea at Karate for Christ. And philosophically, forget about the rod comforting or turning the other cheek. Nationalism? — well, I already asked if it fit with American tradition and I don’t see it. We shoot, we lynch, we box and race cars and play football.
Later each boy will spin himself in the air, leaping and kicking his personal menacing man-enemy-dummy in the head and solar plexus. Open foot maybe. Not open hand. And not very Christ-like from what I remember of my own Sunday School education, except I notice after they kick one side of the target head, they do turn (to kick) the other cheek.
Fencing was my own school sport of choice, and granted, swordfighting isn’t exactly Christlike either. But then I never said it was, nor did anyone I studied with, learned from or competed against (as far as I know.)
As Rachel Maddow says, does anyone want to talk me down from this? I’d ask Nance, whose unschooled son is an accomplished martial artist, but I don’t think religion east or west had anything to do with that. 😉