View Full Version : Class mixes religion with martial arts

7/03/2007 3:42pm,
Class mixes religion with martial arts

By Jaclyn Shambaugh

While tying his black belt over a crisp white karate uniform, Michael Lowery, in his own words, described himself as “pretty unconventional.”

Lowery, 48, owns and operates Black Belts of America and Christian Martial Arts, Inc., a group of academies that meld the teachings of martial arts and Christianity.

Unconventional is an apt description of the concept.

Christianity is the most prevalent religion in the United States, with more than 84 percent of the population identifying itself as Christian, according to 2006 reports by the Association of Religion Data Archives.

But in the martial arts world, Lowery, a licensed minister, is going against the grain of centuries of conventional Eastern philosophy.

Students at CMA learn Bible verses and Christian concepts as part of the road to earning belts, wearing patches on their uniforms that read “Black Belts for Jesus.”

Lowery was exposed to Christianity and martial arts at a young age.

He was taught lessons from the Bible by his grandfather, a Church of God pastor, and his father, a Baptist minister.

During his summers, Lowery traveled to Washington, D.C., to work at farmers’ markets. It was there that Lowery’s lessons in martial arts began.

“An Indian boy in Washington at that time didn’t fit in too well,” said Lowery, who is a Lumbee Indian. “I grew up street-fighting. I’d been mugged by the age of 8. I was angry and becoming self-destructive.”

A friend of Lowery’s father noticed the boy’s troubles and began teaching him martial arts at a playground on 14th Street.

Lowery became serious about martial arts in the 1970s, gaining black belts in karate, ju-jitsu, kung fu and taekwondo and mastering traditional weaponry.

While Lowery was growing as a martial artist, he was also growing weary of the teachings he found in Christian churches. Though he is a licensed minister, Lowery considers himself non-denominational and rarely attends church.

“You’ve got one camp that says there is no rapture, then you’ve got another that says you can’t be a Christian if you don’t believe there is one,” Lowery said. “One group says there’s no such thing as gifts from God and speaking in tongues; another says that’s what it’s all about. I never could mesh with any of the organizations.”

In 1991, Lowery experienced a calling from God to make a change in the way martial arts worked in his life.

“I was sitting in one of my instructor’s classes, and I felt that I was spoken to by God,” Lowery said.

The voice directed Lowery to use martial arts as a way to spread Christianity. He ignored the voice at first, and he stepped away from martial arts for two years before finally setting out to follow his calling.

While working at a chemical plant in Wilmington in the early 1990s, Lowery’s plan to open his own martial arts school was stifled by demanding work hours.

“I was a shift worker, and I couldn’t hold classes on a consistent schedule. Well, I got laid off.”

Lowery took his savings and opened his first CMA studio in Wilmington.

He was immediately met with opposition from local churches.

“I’ve been slammed by some churches. I had a woman call me from a church in Wilmington to tell me that the preacher there was going to write a letter on me to go out to all the members, and that they wanted me to defend what I was doing. I said, ‘I’ve got no defense for what you think it is. This is my conviction.’”

Lowery’s business has grown despite the conflict with some churches. He teaches 125 students and offers adult and youth classes at five locations in as many cities.

A sixth location is being built near Wal-Mart on Raeford Road in Fayetteville. It is due to open in September.

CMA students include churchgoers and non-churchgoers, but the promise of a Christian atmosphere draws customers to choose CMA over traditional martial arts instruction.

Kimberly McGregor of Raeford sought out Lowery’s class for her 7-year-old son, JerVonte, after learning that the lessons were consistent with the McGregor’s beliefs.

The McGregors are members of From the Word Fellowship Ministries in Laurinburg, and JerVonte attends Berean Baptist Academy in Fayetteville.

“For me, this supplements what he’s learning from school and church. He’s getting it at home, getting it at church, at school, and then I can bring him here and he gets the same thing, discipline based on Christian principles,” McGregor said.

Lila McKnight has been training with Lowery for two years, enrolling in the adult class after accompanying her son, William, to youth classes. She has since become an assistant trainer.

“This isn’t an alternative to church, but having an instructor who’s a licensed minister is really good,” McKnight said. “Anyone can teach you to punch and kick, but I like the life lessons that the kids will take and use, not just in martial arts, but outside, too.”

“Other people are promoting martial arts as the entity that solves your problems,” Lowery says. “I’m promoting that there has to be a spiritual context in the martial arts or else there’s a void.”


A bit more of a complicated story than other religion and martial arts stories I find.

7/03/2007 3:46pm,
As long as you are learning how to defend yourself and everyone is honest about what extra-martial things are being taught, everything is ok.

From Bell2Bell
7/03/2007 3:53pm,
As long as you are learning how to defend yourself and everyone is honest about what extra-martial things are being taught, everything is ok.

Yeah, you're right, as long as he's honest I have no real complaints... that's not going to stop me from snickering though:tongue5:

Goju - Joe
7/03/2007 4:13pm,
It's no sillier than Buddhist monks doing kung fu

Ohh wait .....

7/03/2007 10:52pm,
I'm holding out for a class that mixes ecstatic mysticism with swimming lessons.

Flash Kick
7/03/2007 11:16pm,
Does this mean "The meek shall inherit the Earth" has been trangressed by "Let he who is without sin kick the first ass"?

Seriously though
I'm happy to see a real devout Christian to something productive like this.
If it's a good youth program that teaches the values parents want as Christians then all the better, (couldn't end up worse for parents than wasting $2000 on a black belt they didn't earn, at least here they get values)

The church shouldn't waste its time analysing something like this and should feed the homeless or something