"Tai-Chi Makes Me A Better Catholic"?


I ran across that remarkable assertion on another forum. The discussion was on techniques that built-up inner peace. The Rosary and certain forms of Yoga were also discussed, but I particularly wanted your input on that statement.


Is there a Patron of whacking people? (Ok, that was gratuitous pickiness, but I am curious…)


Some opinions on this topic from the saint-mike.com Spiritual Warfare Q&A:

Concerning TAI CHI & Yoga?

Is Martial Arts Okay?


This quote from Bro. Ignatius Mary puzzles me as it is well accepted, I believe, that some saints bi-located. St. Padre Pio and St. Faustina are two.

"But the mainstay of the truly miraculous-appearing feats, such as levitation and materializations (if genuine, and that is a BIG if), are not of God and therefore must be sourced in the demonic (albeit unbeknownst to the yogi himself), or hoaxes.

“Such feats as levitation and materializations, bi-locations, and the like are mostly tricks and lies. If, and I say “if” such feats are in any way real, they are not of God.”


Tai-Chi could, possibly, make one a better Catholic - by practicing self-discipline in the martial art, which may well spill over into self-discipline in other areas of life.

"Is there a Patron of whacking people? (Ok, that was gratuitous pickiness, but I am curious…) " I don’t know, but there is nothing wrong with learning how to defend yourself and others. That is the point of martial arts. Take Taekwondo, which I practiced for about 15 years - it was made abundantly clear to us that if we ever used it aggressively we would be expelled from the Dojang. And yes, it is a full contact martial art - I would have had no interest whatever in learning just to make movements with no purpose! If someone attacked me, I want to be able to put a stop to it.

Martial arts are not for everyone - but they are useful. I also learned patience and persistence as well as becoming fit, more flexible, and unconsciously showing inner confidence such that at least a couple of would-be attackers avoided me (most would-be muggers look specifically for prey that they believe are weak and would not give them a fight!).


I had acutally asked a Catholic friend of mine about Tai-Chi, because I was thinking of trying it myself. I was told it was anti-Catholic because of the Eastern Culture/ties to Buddhism. I guess at times you have to say things that are anti-Christ or something? I am so ignorant about this subject but would love to hear from those who aren’t.


I think it’s important to be aware of the spiritual effects, the effects these systems can have on your whole person. I say this as someone with 5 years of Karate and 2 years of Iaido experience.

While there are elements of Eastern mysticism in some martial arts systems, it has to be said that much of what the Chinese understood as mystical and supernatural is really just a pre-scientific understanding of the natural. Notions of Ch’i for example, while tied into a cosmology that is un-Christian, basically boil down to pragmatic notions of the body’s energy and breathing. If your faith is strong, and you are not too susceptible, I would say you could approach the mystical elements with the proper scepticism of a faithful Catholic and still get some good things out of the physical side of martial arts training.

However, the more serious spiritual effects can come from the adrenaline that comes from fighting. Don’t forget that many of the systems, particularly the ones made popular in the West, such as Judo and Karate, were basically invented in the early 20th century by the neo-fascist imperial government of Japan to train people to be better soldiers, that’s why there’s so much emphasis on discipline, on repetition, etc. The same can be said of many of the more commercialised Kung Fu schools, which have their origins in the Boxer Rebellion and the Chinese Republic. I stopped with Iaido, Japanese sword fighting, because it places so much emphasis on striking to kill - ultimately, as beautiful as it looks, and as much as it teaches precision and control, the only real reason to draw a sword is to kill your opponent, and it doesn’t do the soul any good to constantly re-enact that desire, even if you claim you are learning to control it. Having said this, I’d say the same about making regular visits to a firing range. (When you hold a weapon that can kill - and the sword is both gun and bullet, so you really do feel the power it has - you realise why widespread gun ownership is such a bad idea, but that’s another topic.)

Don’t be fooled even by the idea that there are generic virtues. All the virtues are universally accepted in the broad sense, nobody would say they disagree with bravery for example, but what bravery means can mean different things to different systems of thought. Take truth for example, both Catholics and atheists would say they were committed to an honest search for the truth, but the origins of their notions of truth would be very different.

All I’d say is the same common sense advice about taking up anything that’s going to have an effect on your life, “by their fruits you will know them”, take care and watch what effect the practice of martial arts has on your life, your thoughts, your actions. I’d say the same about watching TV, or reading a series of books, taking up a sport, or a new job, campaigning for a political party or even attending a Bible study. Just watch where it leads you, be ready to walk away if it leads you away from Christ, even a little.

Sorry to have rambled so much, just my take on things, sometimes the ‘Eastern spirituality’ question masks more obvious issues and concerns with the martial arts. I’m not saying they’re good or bad, just saying what I think.


Before I get any farther: Diana! Congratulations on being official! :thumbsup: I’ll admit to more than a smidge of envy. Maybe someday…sigh.

Lemme give some background so that the o-p makes more sense. One of the first things impressed upon me when I started my “journey” was that I needed to figure out what “Rosary” meant and start doing it. The deeper I get into my pre-Nursing classes, the more I realize the Rosary is a bigger miracle/stroke of genius than the parting of the Red Sea, sliced bread, and rock n roll combined. The things it can do to unite the hemispheres is amazing.

I began to look at Yoga as more than just some disposable bit of fluff when I heard it could have some effect on the cerebellum. Then I recalled that some forms of martial arts focus on precise body movement that could lead to the same effect. Further: while I am now a black-belt in the form called “Running Away,” I may desire other skills if I start leaning toward psych Nursing. So, I’m trying to gather more information.

I also tend to let the warnings that “any sort of meditation invites demons and probably causes zits” go in one ear and out the other. I admire the fact that Catholicism combines the ultimate in both spirituality and reason…while understanding that there are still occasional knee-jerk reactions from some people.


Thank you EZ, thank you! For the warm congrats at becoming Catholic, and for your opinion on Tai-Chi. The main reason I had started inquiring about it was that I viewed it as something I could completely get into without getting bored, as an exercism regimen, as well as a way to calm myself and clear my mind. I don’t know enough about it, I must confess. When I first asked about it, I was told not to start any form of anything that incorporated Buddha…I didn’t know it did that…so I stopped researching it.


That’s good, because there is such a thing as Christian meditation. :slight_smile:

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation


First up, the Rosary and Tai-Chi are in totally different categories. One is a prayer, the other is a form of physical activity. One connects us to God, the other conditions the body. At root, I think the biggest risk from Eastern ‘spirituality’ is to place it on the same footing as Christian Spirituality. Eastern civilisations draw the secular/religious divide in a very different place - defence, medicine, midwifery, weapon-making and wine-making can all fall within the ‘spiritual’ for them. The same could be said of the way scholars were always monks in medieval times - medieval civilisation considered writing to be a ‘spiritual’ task, whereas now we see that as secular. Tai-Chi isn’t ‘spiritual’ in the way the Holy Rosary is spiritual, and if we get into the business of thinking it is, then there’s a real problem.

Also, if you’re a psychiatric nurse, I’m sure you’ll be taught all the techniques of self-defence and restraint that you will need to deal with difficult patients. Martial arts training is about facing off an opponent and incapacitating them, often by any means necessary. As a nurse, you’d do more harm than good using such training on a patient, no matter how violent they might be.

Running away is a good skill! Seriously. It’s the best form of self-defence there is. Even as someone with a black belt in Karate, I would still run away before I would fight if I was attacked. Somebody wants your wallet - you have maybe $200 max in your wallet, and you can cancel your credit cards - give them your wallet. Sure, you might win in a fight, but you might still lose some teeth, or break an arm, or get a scar - is it worth it for $200? Worse, you might do your attacker the kind of damage that would land you in jail, you might fly into a rage, you might kill him, or intend to kill him, and that would be a mortal sin. Is your conscience worth so little you’d part with it for a wallet?


Becky! Wanna be my newestbestest friend? That thing is gonna take some time to digest, but what I’ve read so far is tasty indeed.

(off-thread: The ONE thing I wish I could get Protestants to do is the Rosary, but the Ave and the “no repetitive prayer” stricture seem to be the hang-ups. The Jesus Prayer seems to be a wonderful alternative. I’m gonna bounce this past a few of 'em and see if it’ll work.)

I am still in the process of researching. I therefore am not in a position to definitively argue some points. I will say however that if my theory that the Rosary ties together the hemispheres is valid, then there is reason to believe that movement can be incorporated into prayer and Mister Cerebellum can join in the fun.

I would also point out that my psych professor has admitted to getting very nervous around some types of patients. I have a suspicion that “they’ll teach you all you need to know about safety” underestimates how much I’d feel comfortable knowing:D.


Running away IS a good skill. However, it should usually be used BEFORE you get attacked - you know, when you see the possibility of a confrontation arising.

By the time you are attacked it is likely that you will need to defend yourself aggressively - it’s no use trying to run when the attacker is beside or on top of you, unless you are an Olympic sprinter!

The code of self-defense is -

Run, rather than hurt.
Hurt, rather than maim.
Maim, rather than kill.
Kill, rather than be killed.

What this means is - take the least necessary action to save yourself and get out of the situation. You will not maim or kill someone who wants only your wallet - but, how do you know that is all they want, or whether they are prepared to kill you because you saw their face? These days, criminals are killing for no reason at all.

No matter what your profession, you need to be alert, aware of things around you, and capable of doing something to help yourself in emergencies. Martial arts, which were developed for war but are now mostly taught as a sport, can be very helpful with that.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.