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Martial Arts and Christ’s Return

November 30, 2013

 

I learned a number of very practical lessons from martial arts. I have learned how good it feels to be fit and healthy. I have learned some physical and mental discipline. I have also learned the danger of planning too much.

There was one excise from Wing Chun Kung Fu that I remember well that taught this last lesson so well. In this exercise one of us would be in the middle of the rest of the class and the others would attack as directed by the instructor. They knew they were to attack, they knew how many were going to attack, one, two, three even four, but the person in the middle didn’t.

That exercise was great fun and it taught me to be in a state of readiness to be able to react to whatever came. There was no point planning what I would do. Without knowing the direction of the attack or even the sort of punch or kick that would be used there was no way to plan my response. I also had no say in the fairness. I could have one attacker or 4, or even the whole class – it happened once!

It was hard, sometimes painful but far nearer to reality than most training. But it did get me out of a real martial arts trap of running the perfect fight scene in your head. Those sort of things only happen in the movies. Only where everything can be choreographed can you react with effortless grace to whatever comes your way – not in the real world.

In the real world the only preparation that I could do was to know my stuff, and be confident in using what I knew. In other words I could learn and practice the skills but how these would be needed – well only time would tell.

This is true of martial arts but it is also true of life in general. You can prepare all you like for job or family but that does not guarantee that life will turn our that way. How many people do you know that have ended up in the job they dreamed of as a child? Look at me, I got a degree in science and ended up being a parish priest. I have found learning and life skills to be invaluable, but not necessarily for the tasks for which I originally learned them.

This is also very true of the life of faith. As Jesus reminds us, “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come, (Matthew 24.32) and “you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24.44). Again, I can’t plan for Jesus’ return. I can’t even make an educated guess at when that return might be. To plan I need at least a good idea of when, now, next week, next month, year, century. I may not be able to make careful plans but I can prepare. I can prepare myself so that I have the best possible chance of reacting well to the return of Jesus.

And if He doesn’t return in my life time? Well, my preparations involve learning to be a more loving, and Spirit filled person. So, return or not, I win.

This preparation is about learning to hear and respond to the promptings of Christ so that hopefully, with time, I will be able to respond without needing to consider: To act so that my left hand does not know what my right is doing.

I can prepare but not make detailed plans. This is what my martial arts training tells me. This is what my experience of life tells me. This is what my life of faith tells me. This is what Jesus explicitly tells all people.

 

Now all I need to do is act on all this good

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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