The Word: Self-Control

By David Havard
Havard is a fourth dan in Tae Kwon Do and an ordained pastor.

When I started martial arts back in 1983, we began class by reciting the tenets of Tae Kwon Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, Indomitable Spirit, and Victory. Later, as a pastor and Tae Kwon Do instructor, it was easy to align these tenets with Biblical principles by using the life of Jesus Christ or the Apostle Paul as examples. While all of these principles are important, the one that stood out the most was that of self-control – after all, it is listed as a fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:23! But while self-control is important for Christians in general, it is especially important for a Christian martial artist. Luke 12:48 says that “to whom much is given, from him much will be required.” While I understand the primary application of this verse, I believe this principle also applies to the martial artist. Martial artists have been given more knowledge than the average person and they are responsible for the proper application of this knowledge.
The ultimate example of self-control is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself. When reading the gospels I am amazed at his self-control in the presence of continual provocation by the religious leaders of his day. I reminded students that not only did he have to control his actions, he also had to control his thoughts! While we may have the self-control to not respond physically in a confrontation, how often are we seething on the inside and visualizing our favorite technique being applied to our antagonist’s head? When I think about Christ as Creator and the reason the universe holds together (Col. 1:16-17), I often wonder what a stray thought from him may have done to those who were cluelessly taunting him. What if Christ had directed the thought of “you go to hell” to someone? Would there have been a “poof” as the person disappeared from earth and reappeared in hell? Of course, our thoughts do not become reality, but how often have we refrained physically while mentally wishing someone into perdition?
Students are taught that verbal provocation is not a valid reason to respond physically. It is hoped that with the confidence gained from martial arts training they will not feel the need to respond to such verbal attacks. However, as Christian martial artists, we need to take this a step farther and realize that self-control applies not only to our actions but to our thoughts as well (2 Cor. 10:5).
Instructors are the gatekeepers to the ranks of black belt. When evaluating whether students are ready to test for black belt, consider their self-control – both physically and mentally. As Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” (NIV).

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