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MartialArts

Part of being the best persons we can be includes care of our bodies and wellbeing of both ourselves and others. Pastor Greg Spencer is a second degree black belt instructor of traditional karate and Tai Chi Chuan. Part of the ministry then includes physical fitness, developing physical abilities, and sharpening our minds.

Both of these arts provide help in body and mind and the dimension of self-defense. No one should be or feel like a victim. Study and practice of Martial Arts helps us to live confident and safe.

Why are Martial Arts a part of Way Stations Ministries?

 
A few days ago a reader asked “Why are there Martial Arts pages on a spirituality/faith site?” I figure there are a number of people who have the same question so to answer:
 
 
In the summer of my 12th year I was with a large group of friends enjoying the day at a community park when suddenly we were approached by a gang, the leader of which was a bully and singled me out for a fight. I don’t know why he picked me or what he did not like but it was clear he wanted to put me down. As a committed “Christian” I was opposed to fighting but he was determined. Because I would not raise a fist in anger I refused to strike back. The result was a pummeling and humiliation I still remember. Torn clothes and bloody cheeks streaked by tears and dirt as I limped home alone. I had some serious questions about faith, its cost and effectiveness. I decided no matter what happened to me spiritually I would not allow something like that to happen again. I decided that a “Christian” does not have to be a victim and looked for a way to learn how to have courage and to defend myself. I found the Shuto Society School of Karate.
 
 
I trained long and hard. I enjoyed the physical development, the defense skills, the camaraderie and friendship and the self-confidence I gained through Karate. I continued to go to church but I started to wonder about the dichotomy between the teachings of the church and the martial training (and the attitude some “Christians” had towards it). I loved the lord, but I would not be a coward or a wimp. Some friends considered giving up their Christian faith for eastern philosophy but I believed the two were not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, the philosophy of the school was to be persons of character and peace, not fighting. We were trained to be the most responsible citizens, capable to effectively to any sort of situation and to do what was necessary for the good of all. Then as I matured I started studying the physical dimensions of Christian spirituality. I discovered that the mental and physical disciplines of karate training made me sensitive to a physical approach to Christian spirit and faith expression. Faith for me became much more than a matter of the mind but included all aspects of one’s being. And I found that faith and spirit being a choice and mental discipline did not have to be exclusive but can be informed by other principles, philosophies and persons. Bottom line: karate was not incompatible with my faith.
 
 
Ever since I have enjoyed bringing together east and west, how to help people improve their lives by being responsible, making better choices, building self confidence and strengthening relationships and faith. I reject the idea that in order to be faithful one has to be a pushover or pansy and I have found that to be a true disciple of Christ requires courage and sacrifice. Martial Arts training provides physical fitness, mental discipline and inner self-confidence. It empowers courage and helps one to work in spite of fear with effectiveness. Furthermore, physical fitness, mental sharpness, resourcefulness, and an inclination toward service with concern for others enable a wide variety of ways to make a difference for self, for others and the community at large.
 
  
In my experience bringing the spiritual and physical dimensions of life together has empowered both faith and life. I know there are some martial artists out there looking for a solid spirituality and there are spiritual people who are looking for ways to build their abilities to cope. Way Stations can be one place where the two may come together in community. It is a place where the weak can become strong, where the strong can find heart and fellowship and where all can come together in respect, community and mutual contribution to wellbeing of self, faith community and the worlds in which we live.
 

I have found that there is considerable confusion around the subject of martial arts and spirituality. Some see the dedication and zeal of many martial artists for their schools, instructors and/or eastern philosophy and become concerned about the effect of the arts on faith and spirit. They see these students turning their art into their religion. Out of fear the observer could reject spirituality of the martial arts out of hand as opposed to their faith. Admittedly there are some students who can become religious in their passion for their art (as is true of just about any discipline). But it has been my experience and is my considered opinion that spirituality is a matter of heart, mind, and choice of the individual, and that spirituality, and specifically Christian faith is not mutually exclusive with the training of martial arts.

Many, if not most paths of faith and spirituality include some physical dimension of expression. Some traditions highlight body postures or positioning such as standing, kneeling etc. Some incorporate movement such as dance, nodding of heads, swaying, or waving of arms etc. Expressions of faith and actions to practice it can include vocal dimensions from silence to song, shout, or musical instruments to help the faithful relate to the holy. In my own experience it was the study of karate and its physical disciplines that helped me to appreciate the significance of the physical practices to enhance and amplify one’s spiritual life, including kneeling, breath control, self discipline and choice with intention. It also expanded my mind in concepts of the possible and our human capacity to go beyond what we think or feel as necessary.

One of the ideals of a faith following Jesus Christ is for the faith and its principles to apply to and influence all aspects of the adherent’s life. So, rather than fear the influence of martial arts upon the faith, one could choose to bring the principles and values of the faith to bear on the practice of martial arts. In other words, the disciplines can be mutually beneficial and influential. What is required is clear values, supportive community, respect and an open mind.

Something I found complimentary in philosophy in both the Christ following faith and the Shuto Society is the value of respect for others, learning from one another, and the concepts of great good coming from the sacrificing of self for the sake and wellbeing of others and community.

In the end faith and spirituality is a matter of personal choice and adherence by the individual. Such a choice is of major import and should not be taken lightly. And the discipline of the martial arts and the spiritual disciplines of faith lend strength of character and sharpness of mind to make important choices wisely and well, allowing them to give shape and influence to others aspects of life as well. For me, I am proud to be a martial artist and a follower of Jesus Christ. I have enjoyed the added depth and dimension of eastern thought with the faith and the expansion that has brought to understanding and principles of faith and life. In fact the disciplines have helped me to face conflict of all sorts effectively. One commonality of both orientations is to make the greatest effort possible to do the least harm possible for the greatest possible benefit for all.

 

 

SpencerDojoThe study of karate begins with physical fitness and the use of hands, feet and their bodies and techniques for self defense. The student soon learns that the art includes significant life enhancing principles that lie beneath the surface. These principles help you to master yourself mentally and physically. Karate teaches physical skills and self control and builds self discipline and mental sharpness. The disciplines and skills training build self-confidence, and the team spirit of good training helps build good citizenship and responsibility.

 
The art is taught to help one to defend against all sorts of adversity and/or opponents with the mind (making intelligent choices and responsible speech); speed, strength and techniques; and increased awareness and swift response. Though weapons training has a place at the more advanced levels, the primary focus is to equip a person to be resourceful and able to deal with life effectively with or without tools or advantage.
 
In the Shuto Society we teach many important maxims of character. Here are posted a few to give a taste of the content and focus of our approach to martial arts and life:
 
 
            Humility:        “The more you show, the less you know”
 
            Responsibility (for self and others): “To end conflict with the least harm possible to anyone and to enhance or improve the situation to the benefit of all, especially those in need.
 
            Integrity:        “The Martial Artist represents not only themselves, but school, instructor, and the art in all they say, do, and choose, all the time, everywhere.
 
            Citizenship: “We have a stake in the wellbeing of the community and we have a responsibility to contribute to the safety and well being of individuals and society as a whole.
 
 
 
At Way Stations we offer simple basic training online. For deeper study and mastery of self and art we recommend you join a good school and train regularly.
 
BEFORE YOU BEGIN WORKING OUT OR MARTIAL TRAINING
Check with your doctor: The Shuto Society strongly encourages participants to discuss and seek advice and counsel with their doctor. Share your intentions and goals before beginning an exercise program and/or martial arts training.
 
For more information on the Shuto Society Schools, Lessons and Instructors email your request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Be sure to write “Martial Arts” in the subject line. Thank you.
 
 
 

TaiChiTai Chi Chuan is a mysterious and surprising martial art with many facets and benefits. A “soft” style means of self defense, the skills developed and applications gained are more intuitive than direct. Whereas in Karate a strike is countered by a block in Tai Chi Chuan the response is more than simple block, it engages, re-directs, and facilitates subsequent movement.

 
A series of specific “temple” exercises coupled with the techniques and specific forms or series of movements Tai Chi develops physical fitness, flexibility, and “natural” movement which is supremely effective in self-defense applications. Individually the techniques are not difficult to learn, yet their complexity builds mental pathways which rejuvenate the mind and enhance alertness which is highly beneficial to older practitioners. (While excellent for all ages often younger persons have an additional challenge of having to learn patience, discipline and perseverance in order gain and appreciate the full benefits of this training. Tai Chi is not aerobic.
 
The movements of Tai Chi and it’s gentle style help to build flexibility, improves range of motion, and as a self defense art teaches how to use minimal movement and minimal confrontation to be highly effective in changing position or using minimum energy necessary to evade and overcome danger.
 
 
At Way Stations we offer simple basic training online. For deeper study and mastery of self and art we recommend you join a good school and train regularly.
 
BEFORE YOU BEGIN WORKING OUT OR MARTIAL TRAINING
Check with your doctor: The Shuto Society strongly encourages participants to discuss and seek advice and counsel with their doctor. Share your intentions and goals before beginning an exercise program and/or martial arts training.
 
For more information on the Shuto Society Schools, Lessons and Instructors email your request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Be sure to write “Martial Arts” in the subject line. Thank you.
 

ShutoSocietyThe Shuto Society School of Karate was founded by Grand Master Tom Handest in Warren, Pennsylvania. Second in authority to Handest and the main dojo is Grand Master Dave Salyards who operates a dojo in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Currently there are several Shuto Society dojos across the north eastern United States and in Great Britain.

The Shuto Society is symbolized by a “shuto” or open hand. The shuto or “knifehand” is a martial arts tool and technique used in self defense, but for these purposes the open hand signifies  the schools’ emphasis upon peace, respect and friendship. The martial arts taught assist the practitioner to develop, mind, spirit, and physical abilities. The training develops self-discipline and drive as well as the ability to defend/protect one’s self in the face of danger, and to be responsible and responsive in times of emergency or need.

Skills taught by the Shuto Society incorporate many elements from both “hard” and “soft” styles of martial arts. Specific training and courses include traditional karate, Kun Tao, Chinese Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan and more. The primary focus of training is to provide real, practical, applicable skills for fitness and protection of self and others. Of secondary importance to the Shuto Society is “sport competition”, or ranking. Promotion is slow and comes as signs of mastery of self and skill are not only accomplished but incorporated into one’s character.

For the Shuto Society, the martial arts are tools to be used in the development of the self and to assist in the care and provision for the wellbeing of the community. Strong, but not vain ego, courtesy and manners, self-discipline and humility, responsibility and consideration of others are marks of character and quality. These we hope to develop in every student so that they may reach the fulfillment of their finest potential.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN WORKING OUT OR MARTIAL TRAINING

Check with your doctor: The Shuto Society strongly encourages participants to discuss and seek advice and counsel with their doctor. Share your intentions and goals before beginning an exercise program and/or martial arts training.

 

Questions? Email Greg Spencer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sensei Greg Spencer (Instructor at Way Stations)

 

Greg Spencer began studying Karate in 1971 in Warren, Pennsylvania under Grand Master Tom Handest. In 1990 he was promoted and directed by Handest to open his own school. A pastor by profession Greg has taught classes in churches where he has served ever since. Spencer Sensei currently holds the rank of 2nd Degree Black Belt. (In the Shuto Society there are only 3 degrees of black belt, followed by master, great and ultimately grand master). In 1998 Grand Master Handest certified Greg as a teacher in Tai Chi Chuan. Greg has since been steadily teaching Tai Chi in churches and communities.

The word “sensei” commonly attributed to instructors means “One who has gone before”. In other words the sensei has walked where the student walks and is a guide to help the student grow and prosper in the common art and discipline, but also on their own path. Spencer Sensei is not only a student and instructor in the martial arts he is also a disciple and pastor of Jesus Christ serving in leadership at a wide variety of locations and settings of churches.

Greg is married. He and his wife Chris have 2 sons Benjamin and Jackson, who have both trained with Greg in karate and are also athletes in school participating in Cross Country and Track. Chris is a teacher, certified in elementary education.

Greg’s hobbies include: swimming & surfing, skiing, camping, canoeing, rock climbing and repelling, and travel.  He enjoys photography, drama and music. Other interests include current technologies in computer, audio, video, staging & lighting. Looking forward he dreams of learning to fly.

Greg has found that his calling, vocation and joy is to help others to explore and realize their fullest potential. In Martial Arts that has come to mean becoming physically fit and skilled, confident and disciplined. In matters spiritual that means building relationships with others and with God, finding joy and peace in one’s heart and mind, and being able to live well through or in spite of their circumstances. It is to become vital and whole in life by truly and practically living out one’s principles and values. So all his teaching (in faith, defense or fitness) has a common practical theme: “Live Your Faith”. And he works tirelessly to make that possible for any and all.