Well, it’s been a bit since I typed up something to share with you all. It’s been an interesting time here at Fallout Shelter Ministries. Since the first of the year, we have trained around 800 people in self-defense, in the USA, Costa Rica and Mexico. The Fallout Shelter gym is always filled with happy kids kicking stuff, learning perseverance, self-control, courtesy, integrity, and building indomitable spirit. Our boxing program is growing, and the self-defense and firearms classes are consistent. Our opportunities to serve in the kingdom of God are always present, and sometimes that looks like a mission trip to Costa Rica, sometimes that looks like a conversation on the couch in the gym, transporting a person who needs help, or praying and feeding a homeless person on the sidewalk of the strip in Las Vegas.
If you have read the other messages here, you know our mission is to Prepare People for the Unexpected. In doing that, we want to remind people that they are priceless, and we want to share the hope of salvation with them. As I (Rich) have grown in faith, I’ve had the opportunity to serve half-time at a small church in Lake Preston, South Dakota. July 2022 was my two-year anniversary. This experience has allowed me to study the gospel more deeply, and share it’s message more boldly.
I wanted to update you, but I also wanted to discuss why we are using the traditional tenets of taekwondo in our self-defense training. Sometimes people have an misunderstanding of the martial arts. It’s common to assume that the lines between our faith and eastern religions or philosophies are blurred, or that the tenets of taekwondo do not align with the truth laid out in the Bible. The following are the tenets of taekwondo and how they align with biblical truth.
Courtesy: This one is easy. Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves, and there are more than just a few references to courtesy in the Word: Titus 3:2 says, “Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people.” Galatians 5:14 says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These and numerous other directives from the Bible make it pretty clear that, as a follower of Christ, we should be courteous—kind, caring, helpful, and loving everyone.
Integrity: The idea of maintaining good character, telling the truth, and doing the right thing when no one is watching—that’s integrity. It is a fundamental and necessary component of a good martial artist, and also of a follower of Christ. Proverbs 11:3 declares, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” First Peter 3:16 says we need to be “keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Again, back to Proverbs 12:22—Proverbs has a lot to say about integrity: “The lord detests lying lips, but delights in people who are trustworthy.”
Perseverance: This is the idea of doing something despite the difficulties or delays in achieving success. This is a big one in my opinion. The ability to persevere shows mental and physical resilience. It’s the foundation of “toughness,” and it is necessary in every facet of life. It is the opposite of the instant gratification that our society loves. The apostle Paul is a great example of perseverance, and his writings are filled with encouragement, such as Philippians 3:12-14: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Every athlete can relate to the idea of straining forward toward a goal. Romans 5:3-5 is a solid description of dealing with suffering like doing a hard workout. It’s relevant to building perseverance through the increasingly harder workouts in martial arts. Perseverance can increase our mental resilience for trials; our faith muscles are built by suffering in life. Paul says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” James, Jesus’ earthly brother, has this to say about perseverance: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Self-Control: This characteristic is a self-defining concept, but one which people struggle to achieve. Actual control of ourselves implies that we must choose to respond to a stimulus instead of reacting to it. Self-control begins with moving from a primal brain reaction to a logical response. When little kids start in martial arts, they often do not have the practice of self-control ingrained. They are reactive; they do not think about the consequences or what the correct response could be. It’s a theory that as we mature our self-control improves. You can look across the world, however, and see societies full of people who do not choose their responses; they react out of their emotional and primal biases, not allowing logic or rational thought to take place. Martial arts training helps people build self-control of bodies and minds, improving survivability, communication, relationships skills, and more. Paul talks about making his body his slave—literally controlling his body for the purposes of the kingdom of God. First Corinthians 9:24-27 says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Second Corinthians 10:5 says to take every thought into captivity, demonstrating we are not only meant to have control of our physical bodies, but of our minds, too. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Indomitable Spirit: Webster dictionary says this means that a person has the quality of being “incapable of being subdued, UNCONQUERABLE.” Another online dictionary says that the characteristic means to be “very determined and impossible to defeat.” We know that all men are physically conquerable. To believe otherwise is to lie to yourself. But an unconquered spirit? That’s a different animal.
I love the poem by William Ernest Henley, entitled Invictus[CH1] :
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
The writer of the poem describes a person who has built his spirit through trials, effort, and perseverance, and is now formidable. The person who has indomitable spirit has great faith. They know hope. They have adopted the Pauline idea expressed in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In Matthew 10:28, Jesus is quoted saying, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Jesus intentionally directs us to care for our eternal souls rather just our bodies. Paul reminds us of what indomitable spirit is in this life in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
All of the previous tenets add up to the final one—courtesy, integrity, perseverance, and self-control are all a part of an indomitable spirit. The person who can adopt the mindset described herein can overcome great obstacles. They persevere where others falter and give up. They can achieve great things. Failure becomes fuel to drive further up and further in[CH2] .
At Fallout we look at things a bit differently than most martial arts places. We want good things for you, but we also know that the trials make you and I stronger. Physical workouts that push the limits make all of us stronger. Learning how to manage fear, keep our thoughts captive, respond instead of reactive, and feed our mind good things, all make our minds stronger. Trials, suffering, joy, hope, and a passion for knowledge about God and a relationship with him[CH3] all help build an unconquerable soul. When the poet talks about being captain of his soul in Invictus, he means he is steering it to the best place there is, and that, my friends, is the safe harbor that is salvation in Christ Jesus and our hope of joining him in heaven.
[CH1]I would make the poem center-aligned but also single-spaced.
[CH2]Quote from CS Lewis, The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7)