These are types of questions usually reserved for my once every few months Optimus mail bag,.but enough requests were put forth that I had to formulate a response regarding something very near and dear to my heart. The Martial Arts have always been and played a huge role in my life from when I was very young. I have experience in Judo, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Shaolin Kung Fu/Chinese Boxing, American Boxing and recently, the last little while, some Jiu-Jitsu. Two concussions, several knee surgeries later, my 33year old body only seeks to maintain some basic skill and thus switch it up from traditional resistance and core based training programs.
The question remains whether or not Martial Arts are compatible with the Catholic Faith? Well, in order to answer this question we must first divide Martial Arts into Traditional and non-traditional forms, or in laymen's speak, MMA versus Authentic. First off, having experience in both let me assure you that qualifying MMA as a Martial Art is very much a misnomer. In all actuality, it is really a sport. The training consists of core related training/interval cardio conditioning similar to american boxing. Authentic Martial Arts are a different story. It originates within a philosophical mindset rooted by and large in 'Chan' or 'Zen' Buddhism. This is where the issue comes in. We know already that Buddhism and Christianity are not compatible simply put because their views on salvation are radically different. Buddhism is silent about God, whereas Christianity is an Abrahamic Faith preaching faith in monotheism.
Traditional Martial Arts are rooted in Qi Gong or 'Ki.' Qi is what is considered the 'life force' of an individual and learning how it circulates can lead to health benefits and an overall better quality of life. Invoking false 'gods' however can lead to err,..problems,..BIG PROBLEMS! (See different posts regarding exorcism.) The million dollar question,..are Qi Gong and Catholicism compatible? Well,.depending upon the angle and vantage point an individual can get lead away from the Faith and into complete darkness. Looking at it from the vantage point of breathing,..yes, breathing,..(Qi-Gong is breathing,..BTW) there would be no harm in it. As a whole, the philosophy of Qi Gong and Catholicism are not compatible. The same is true for Yoga. The exercises and breathing are fine, the invoking and chanting of mantras are not. The dangers involve the Faith and mental stability of the person attempting to reconcile the two. As a practicing Catholic, I know there is an empty tomb and trust in the Passion, Death and Ressurection of the Lord. Any other philosophical outlook becomes mediocre or at times dangerous, especially when it focuses the attention away from our Faith and into a false belief system centering upon trust in ourselves as salvation and not God.
To conclude, the overall question of whether Martial Arts and Catholicism are compatible depends upon which set of lenses you look through. It is fine to say that health, exercise and Catholicism are compatible but philosophical ideologies at odds with objective truth are not. We must remember that as Catholics, we still name our days after pagan gods(yet don't sacrifice animals to 'saturn'), allow brides to wear white while not invoking virgins of spring time! As both a Martial Artist and a Catholic, I have seen first hand the damage done to people getting too wrapped up in the philosophy and not paying attention to the exercises! Stretching is 'Yoga' people!!! You have to call it 'Vishnushivamantrawhatever' in order to get out a good stretch!
St Michael the Archangel,..Ora Pro Nobis!