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Nitar 04-08-2003 12:53 PM

Aikido and Christianity
Hi there! I have a question regarding the compatibility of Aikido and Christianity. I am very interested in learning Aikido, and I believe in Christianity. However, I have had several people say that if you are a Christian, you should not learn Aikido.

What are the thoughts on this? I realize people of different faiths practice the martial arts, why should Christianity be different.

Also, let me say I am not trying to start an argument, I am genuinely curious. I also realize that there are people that disagree with what I believe, and that's okay, too. I'm not trying to "convert" anyone. I really just want to know if there are things learned on the spiritual side of Aikido that would be contrary to Christianity.


rachmass 04-08-2003 01:25 PM

Hi Shane,

Can't see why there would be any conflict. The one issue that seems to crop up occassionally is the bowing we do in class. Bowing is not religious in nature; we bow to show respect and thanks to the founder of aikido, to our teacher, and to our training partners. I don't know any teachers who impose a religious dogma on their students, and aikido is not a religion, it is a martial art.

Hope that helps,


Dennis Hooker 04-08-2003 02:05 PM

Shane, I am not trying to break off the discussion but this subject has had much airing here and on the Aiki News website. With a little diligence I believe you will find the subject well discussed and many a varying viewpoint. Last Saturday Susan Perry editor of Aikido Today Magazine interviewed me and this subject was discussed. I am Christian also and a once-upon-time minister. Aikido can be spiritual but it is not a religion nor does it compromise ones religious believes. However, a person can be weak of faith and any seemingly contrary action can be misconstrued as irreverence or even sacrilege. The question is what is in the individual's heart and mind. If it is unshakable faith then all the Japanese trappings that go along with the art don't mean diddly. Of course you will find that occasional person that tries to mix a lot of extraneous mumbo jumbo into the Aikido and then you have a problem. Avoid the nuts and your you will be alright.

William Boyd 04-08-2003 02:06 PM

Hi Shane,

I'm a Christian also and have no problem learning Aikido as long as the sensei teaches it as a matial art. Like Rachel I've yet to met any one who teaches Aikido who imposes any religious teachings.

Joe Jutsu 04-08-2003 02:11 PM

Hi Shane,

I have to say that whoever told you that you should not practice Aikido due to your Christian beliefs was definitely misinformed. I grew up in a very religious household, the son of an Episcopal priest, and though I don't actively practice Christianity anymore I can assure you that Christianity and Aikido are in no way contradictory. Christianity at its heart teaches unconditional love. Aikido teaches us to love and respect even those who maybe trying to hurt us. Though I'm really just a beginner in Aikido, it seems to me that Aikido techniques don't truly become refined until the Aikidoist can do them with love, which comes with time (sure, you have to be doing the techniques correctly as well). In Ki Society, we read "Ki Sayings" at the beginning of each class, some of which have spiritual connotations that do not fall under traditional Christian dogma, but our Sensei's always tell us that it is not necessary to buy into the religious aspect of what is being said, because there are always other, more important points being made such as keeping a calm, immovable mind or the concept of doing good deeds without hope of a reward. Rachel made a good point that Aikido is a martial art, not a religion. If you are interested in Aikido, I really recommend taking a class or at least going to a dojo and watching a class. I promise you the experience will not turn you into a heathen!:D Good luck to you.

Peace. :ki:

John Boswell 04-08-2003 03:20 PM


A friend of mine in class is 1st Kyu and has a Masters Degree in Divinity(sp), two masters degrees that I know of. He's very loyal to his faith and active in Aikido.

I see no conflict of interest. People around you may, but if you explain their questions well or perhaps ask your Sensei to... that might solve your problems.

Good luck and enjoy!

opherdonchin 04-08-2003 03:54 PM

This was, in fact, discussed at great length just recently in this thread. I want to say here that while many Christians study AiKiDo with no difficulty, it seems to me that to say AiKiDo is not a religion is not quite right. You can read my thoughts about this (and those of many others) in the thread linked to above.

Neil Mick 04-08-2003 04:08 PM


It seems to me that Aikido, being a spiritual discipline, can be also a religious path (completely on its own)...but not necessarily (also, remember that O Sensei did not "practice" Aikido, as a religion: he practiced Omotokyo. However, Opher is quite correct in stating that some ppl do practice Aikido as a religion).

Christianity, a religious faith, can be simply a generic spiritual framework, as a person identifying herself as nondemoninational is still a Christian.

IMM, it all depends upon how rigid your religious framework. Does it allow for spiritual disciplines to cross-fertilize your Path?

As with many questions, the answer is different for everyone.

shihonage 04-08-2003 06:40 PM

Re: Aikido and Christianity

Shane Fatzinger (Nitar) wrote:
However, I have had several people say that if you are a Christian, you should not learn Aikido.

The people you're talking to are likely grossly misinformed about Aikido.

It is also possible that they are superficial to the extreme.

Once, I entered a (supposedly Christian) church, out of curiosity, and a girl there started a conversation with me.
Aikido was one of the things that came up (she was cute, and I was trying, uh, nevermind).

Anyway, after a while, she looked at me condescendingly, and said something along the lines of "I understand now why people here tell me that outsiders are not of us".

That was just great.

opherdonchin 04-08-2003 06:52 PM

Count on Aleksey for the delicate touch!


Kevin Leavitt 04-08-2003 08:26 PM

To quote "The Art of Peace" by O'Sensei (translated by John Stevens)

"The Art of Peace (aikido) that I practice has room for each of the world's eight million gods, and I cooperate with them all. The God of Peace is very great and enjoins all that is divine and enlightened in every land."

As others have said already.

I think you must make up your own mind about the compatibility of Aikido and your religion (Christianity).

If you find yourselve at odds or uncomfortable with the long term you are doing yourself harm from both an aikido perspective and a religious perspective.

I don't think honestly that anyone here in this forum can validate or legitimitize your own beliefs on religion/aikido.

For me, aikido is both a spiritual path, and a religous practice since it teaches me and reminds me that I am but a part of the big machine and in order to succeed and be happy, I need to be aware of my surroundings and be at peace with things and people in the world.

Frankly, I find that to be the same goals of ANY religion and perfectly compatible with the fundamentals of Christanity.

Aikido is non-dogmatic, and is therefore should cause you no conflicts...but then again, that is a choice you must make on your own!

good luck in your path to happiness and fulfillment!

Misogi-no-Gyo 04-09-2003 01:38 AM


Dennis Hooker wrote:
If it is unshakable faith then all the Japanese trappings that go along with the art don't mean diddly.

Of course you will find that occasional person that tries to mix a lot of extraneous mumbo jumbo into the Aikido and then you have a problem. Avoid the nuts and your you will be alright.

Mr. Hooker,

While I appreciate most of what you have had to say on these boards, whether I agree or disagree being of little importance here, I would like to make mention of a point on each of the two comments you made in your last post.

1. If the Japanese trappings have no meaning, then I make the supposition that one has lost an essential part of O-Sensei's art. More importantly, for many, the trappings are what makes Aikido, as an art, different then say Hapkido, where many techniques from a physical standpoint may be "considered" the same

2. It might be said that your above description would be a perfect fit if one would be describing O-Sensei. Now while I am sure you are not saying anything derogatory about the Founder of our art, it would sell many students short to recommend that they avoid teachers that may actually have some understanding of some of that mumbo jumbo you so avidly advise to pass over. Now if you mean that once one has a firm root in Aikido that they should then take a deeper cut into the trappings and essence of the art, versus getting lost in it, and thereby losing an interest in continuing to practice, then I would whole-heartedly agree.

While I am not necessarily requesting you to reply, I thank you for allowing me to make my points.

Nitar 04-09-2003 07:54 AM

Thanks for all the replies! Based on what I've read here, and in other places I decided to start an Aikido class. I'm really looking forward to it, and I think that many times people in the church have preconceptions about a particular activity, and they think it must be wrong.

It may be because that is what they were taught, and they didn't actually research it themselves. So I decided to start, and make a decision based on this first (beginner) training class. From what I have seen and read though, I don't think that there is a conflict of interest between what I believe and what Aikido teaches.



rachmass 04-09-2003 07:57 AM

Terrific Shane! Now, where are you located? Do you have a good school to start at? AikiWeb has an excellent "dojo finder" section in case you haven't already located a school.

best wishes,


Don_Modesto 04-09-2003 01:01 PM


Opher Donchin (opherdonchin) wrote:

Sorry, off-topic: Why do you spell aikido this way?


Veers 04-09-2003 01:16 PM

Shane, I, too, am a Christian who just started aikido. I did a lot of reading on the topic, and decided that as long as your motives are correct (self defense, not offense, ie) and watch your step around aiki issues (nature and purpose of man, among others), you'll be fine.

Don, not sure, but maybe because "Ai Ki Do" is actually three words, and is usually translated with caps: "The Way of Universal Harmony" (one translation) and not "the way of universal harmony"...they mean the same thing, but the first is a name, the second is not.

(BTW, not putting all that there for your sake, I'm sure you know what aikido means and such...just making myself clear for others)

Opher, why don't you enlighten us? lol

Shane, hope you have fun!

Nitar 04-09-2003 09:55 PM

I decided to go to Kyushinkan Dojo. It is located near my workplace, and they had a 6 week beginner class starting. I live near Atlanta, and I do a ton of driving. So, I was a bit concerned about location. The class started yesterday and I attended my first class there.

I have to say that I really enjoyed it! I was looking forward to the next class right when the first one was finished... :)

To answer the question about motives, my motives are among other things, self defense. I also wanted a type of excercise that I really enjoy. Not to mention the fact that I have been interested in Aikido for well over a year. I've just now gotten serious about deciding to start learning.

I think I'll probably have other questions now. More related to techniques, and how to remember, practice, etc... Obviously those are topics that have probably been discussed at length in other forums.

As far as the spiritual side of things, I have decided to take what I learn with a grain of salt. I'm not saying that in a bad way, just that I will measure what I learn in Aikido on the spiritual side against what I believe from my faith. I think there is a lot to be learned, as far as calmness and relaxation. I have a problem sometimes dealing with anger, and from what I have read Aikido is a good source for learning to deal with that. Not that I freak out all the time or anything, it's just that in some areas I have a short fuse. Traffic is definitely one of those areas... However, I digress.

Thanks again for all the insightful replies!


opherdonchin 04-10-2003 12:32 AM

AiKiDo with caps: gosh, I never really thought about it. Jonathan's explanation makes a lot of sense to me. It might even be right. I wonder if I'd thought about it hard enough I would have come up with that.

Grains of salt: one of the things that I like about AiKiDo :) (at least the way I was taught and learned and teach) is that you are welcome to carry out of the dojo exactly those aspects that suit you and to allow the other parts to flow over you easily. There have been years at a time in which I felt that much of the philosophy was irrelevant to me. I felt pleasantly challenged by the philosophy, but it was not a feeling of having anything forced on me. I think that's because you are just as welcome on the mat whether or not you 'believe' or 'accept' or whatever. You are welcome on the mat if you used to believe and then changed your mind. You are welcome on the mat, generally, no matter what is in your head.

In truth, I think this approach is slightly insiduous: over time, the philosophy and spiritual aspects seep into you. You find yourself having accepted them through the sheer force of practice and practicality. They just work. Still, that was my experience, and I know plenty of highly ranked AiKiDoka who seem to have no connection at all to what I see as the important stuff.

PeterR 04-10-2003 01:11 AM


Jonathan Lyons (Veers) wrote:
Don, not sure, but maybe because "Ai Ki Do" is actually three words, and is usually translated with caps: ...

Actually Aiki is one word made up of two kanji and the use of caps is unusual.

Aikido itself is pretty benign - it does not require you to change your beliefs in order to practice. Conversely though there is a danger of overlaying your beliefs onto Aikido. Some state with absolute certainty that Aikido is all about X when in reality X is more to do with the persons personal beliefs than what is generally understood.

mike lee 04-10-2003 02:54 AM

state of mind
People all over the world of numerous faiths practice aikido. The main hangup with some Christians seems to be the bowing, specifically to the photo of the Founder of aikido. While some people like to make this into a religious gesture, most do not. Bowing is just a way of showing love and respect for the man that made this wonderful art available to us.

In my mind, aikido is the most "Christian" of all of the martial arts. I sincerely hope that you have a great experience!

opherdonchin 04-10-2003 08:16 AM

I've run into Jews and Muslims who opted not to do the bowing. In their religious understanding, it was not at all benign.

mike lee 04-10-2003 08:46 AM

Bowing is clearly an Asian tradition similar to shaking hands in the West. When we learn aikido, we also learn something about Japanese culture.

PeterR 04-10-2003 07:02 PM


Opher Donchin (opherdonchin) wrote:
I've run into Jews and Muslims who opted not to do the bowing. In their religious understanding, it was not at all benign.

In the next sentence of that same post where I used the word benign I said Conversely though there is a danger of overlaying your beliefs onto Aikido. Your example is a classic case of this - where the significance of their bow is applied to the bow in the dojo when, as Mike pointed out, it is not the same.

Aikido in and of itself does not force you to compromise your religious beliefs. If your religious beliefs disrupt the wa of the group that is another matter and the question arises - are you forcing people to adapt to your beliefs.

With respect to observant Jews and Muslims I know several that practice and have no problem bowing. I also know a few that do and approached the teacher and other students in a respectful manner resulting in some interesting compromises.

taras 04-10-2003 10:38 PM


Some religious people make statements, which from their point of view are correct, according to their beliefs. But very often those people are not really familiar with the subject they discuss. If someone knows bible it doesn't mean they understand Aikido even if they think they are right.

I had Adventists telling me that it was a sin to train on Saturdays (because you sweat and Saturdays are sacred). The best one was that 'all martial arts are idolatry because they come from China and they are all Buddhists there, aren't they?' I replied that the cup of tea that man was having while we had the conversation was also Buddhist, following his logic, as that tea came from India. To him it sounded ridiculous although his statement seemed true to him. I think they key word to this is ignorance.

As for they bowing to kamiza - you should know what's in your heart and what you mean by it. Apostle Paul said that some people do not eat certain food and do so for the Lord, others eat everything and do so for the Lord; and Paul didn't have a problem with either, as faith was not about keeping the Law to him.

Dennis Hooker 04-11-2003 08:10 AM

I approach the religion issue in my dojo this way. I do not require of anyone anything that might go against their religion if in doing so it brings no harm or disorder to the dojo and its members. If someone needs not to bow then don't, if a girl can not touch a man other than her husband and she can arrange to work with only women, then so be it. I as the dojo head must be convinced that the request is genuine and not frivolous. I have ask people to go else where because they were playing games in my opinion and trying to just be different. Yes I have the right to do that! One time in Pensacola I had a large club at the University of West Florida. I had two young men from warring Muslim sects. The training room had two large doors on either end and each man would enter his own set of doors, I kept them separated for the fist two years. The third year they begin to interact in the class. Just before they left after the fourth year they came to me together each giving me his prayer rug and gratitude. I still have both, the rugs and the gratitude. The rugs on my mantel and the gratitude in my heart. Aikido did good!

Dennis Hooker

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