Are the martial arts a religion is a question that a person with religious convictions might ask when considering if taking up a martial art would clash with their own faith.
At a casual glance the martial arts, with Buddhist numerology and Taoist symbology sometimes present, seems to have religious undertones. Are the martial arts a religion?
With martial movements having names like three prayers to Buddha and Buddhas attendant strikes the mortar, religion seems to play some role. There are even martial art monks living in temples and references to immortals. Is ant all of this clear evidence that the martial arts are a religion?
The various martial arts do become in twined with the cultures that they have sprung from. A formative part of every culture is the religion of that part of the world even if the majority of the people no longer believe in it. How many people in the West go to church at Christmas and yet that time in December is a big celebration in Western culture.
A standard line to start a conversation particularly favoured by hair dressers is to ask the client about their last holiday. Holidays were originally Christian holy days but a trip to a beech in Turkey is now more lightly to be the destination rather than a pilgrimage to Canterbury cathedral!
A moral code.
Traditionally martial arts have at least tried to engender some sort of moral code. A high level of disipline, respect for the teacher seniors and fellow students along with learning to except defeat gracefully are all good character building attitudes.
These qualities are not dependent on a faith in an after life or a belief that you have lived before. They are part of an attitude that gradually develops through consistent martial arts practice although not always! Indeed qualities such as self control and respect for your teacher are necessary for classes to function and students to learn.
Martial art monks.
It is true that the roots of many kung fu styles trace back to the monks of the Shaolin temple. Christian monks were the earliest historians and their engineering skills played a big part in the development of the water wheel.
Does this mean that engineering or the writing down of oral histories has anything to do with Christianity? Isolated vulnerable monks in war torn China would need the protection afforded by some of their number being skilled martial artists.
A good disipline.
We all need some sort of discipline in our lives and for many a martial art fits the bill. There are unfortunately fanatics in every walk of life and some people treat football as a religion, this does not make the sport of football a religion. Various martial arts come from different parts of the world were different religions hold sway and they can become in twined with the cultural wrapping paper surrounding a martial art .The wrapping paper is not important it’s about the gift inside!