The Occult Potential and Spiritual Dangers of Martial Arts/Part 2

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999
In this article we will examine three concerns with martial arts: 1) the occult origin of some of the martial arts; 2) the spiritistic potential of the traditional dojo; 3) the ability of martial arts practice to develop psychic powers by “generation” and manipulation of psychic energy (ki, chi, etc.). These three facets underscore the occult nature and dangers of much martial arts practice.

The Occult Potential and Spiritual Dangers of Martial Arts – Part 2

Another example of psychic development in the martial arts is seen when Tai Chi, visualization, and meditation are used to develop psychic power:

The use of visualization serves a double purpose of cultivating the psychic power of imagination. In order to feel the ch’i, we must first imagine it to be real. We must imagine it circulating through the energy channels, gathering in the psychic centers…. In this way we are employing a meditative technique, which allows the ch’i to take root, and we are actually hastening its development. The psychic energy cannot but have an effect on the object of its imagination. Two criteria are necessary—the energy must be positive and we must have a deep and abiding faith that it is real.[1]

The end result of the visualization induced psychic energy is the recognition of the alleged truth of occult philosophy that “All is One.” “T’ai Chi Ch’uan (the form and discipline) is organized specifically to discover that unifying essence or soul (the T’ai Chi) which is present in everything… [reflecting] the living connection and life-affirming oneness of all things in the universe.”[2]

In The Martial Spirit the author mentions how practice of the martial arts might encourage students to admit “the possibility of psychic or clairvoyant ability. He might even visit a psychic when he seeks the solution to an important problem.”[3] The book also discusses the importance of divination methods such as the I Ching. “Consulting the I Ching when faced with the need for a decision on some difficult subject can help the student toward greater insight…. Other members of the occult fraternity such as astrologers, graphologists and hand analysts, also can help the serious seeker after self-knowledge…. Another method the student might employ to gain greater self-knowledge is the analysis of his dreams.”[4]

In other words, the mystical aspect of martial arts self-development can lead the aspiring student into other forms of occult practice. If Tai Chi is actually based upon the I Ching, this would seem logical: “[T]he movements of Tai Chi Chuan and the [I Ching] hexagrams upon which they are based are both methods of describing the circulation of psychic energy in the body of the meditator.”[5] “The I Ching also gives practical advice on matters not directly connected with divination or philosophy. It includes information on government, numerology, astrology, cosmology, meditation….”[6]

Furthermore, in many of the traditional martial arts there is an unhealthy interest in confronting death, another feature common to the occult.[7] Professor Schmidt, cited earlier, quoting an unpublished doctoral dissertation on the martial arts, notes that “meeting or confronting one’s death has been a central teaching in the martial ways….”[8]

Another authority observes that one of the most important “learning situations for self-discovery” used to advance spiritual endeavor is “the confrontation with death.” He explains:

All spiritual systems set up a confrontation with death…. In the Chod rite of Tibetan Buddhism, practitioners visit a Tibetan graveyard at night… and invite the demons to come and take them…. In the martial arts, of course, death is a constant presence, the whole activity revolves around it…. The confrontation with death is perhaps the most important element of spirituality…. The fear of death is the greatest of obstacles for martial artists…. But freedom from this incapacitating fear releases great powers…. In the Buddhist tradition, the preparatory practices of the remembrance of death are regarded as being the great motivators on the path; this is why they are essential…. Don Juan, the [shaman] Yaqui Indian teacher in Castanada’s books, makes the same point with great clarity and power.[9]

What this approach supposedly reveals is the “importance of death as the source of life.”[10]

As a final illustration of occult potential, we cite Secrets of the Ninja. The author, a Ninja master, observes the shamanistic nature of Ninjutsu in words similar to the sorcerer Don Juan, who educated Carlos Castenada in the ways of Yaqui shamanism. He asserts, “To be a Ninja one must be a wizard. This means that he can ‘stop the world’ and see with the ‘eyes of God’.”[11]

The first part of the book discusses the nine occult power centers that are to be used in Ninja practice. The first center is described in terms parallel to kundalini philosophy:

There are nine basically significant centers of power. The first of these is located at the base of the spine…. This is the occult center of the body, which holds the serpent power…. You will feel a sensation stirring at the base of the spine. It will grow, double, redouble, and race up the spine to the base of the skull…. Once in this state, begin sensory withdrawal exercises to isolate the mind and develop conscious control of the body.[12]

The second center, also reminiscent of the yogic chakras, is said to “develop power generation in the psychic centers.”[13] The third center regulates and controls the flow of psychic energy, or chi. “The practice of Kuji Kiri is the art of transmitting this energy.”[14] And at this stage, we are able “to passively withdraw into ourselves, to become one with the universe. This is sometimes known as the state of trance contemplation.”[15]

In the fourth power center one learns other exercises for transmission of psychic energy, plus “in combat, the kiai or spirit shout is drawn from this source.”[16] In the fifth power center, special exercises help one to “develop the power to relieve pain through psychic means. The yogic concept of prana is useful in understanding this. Prana is not the consciousness or the spirit, but is merely the energy used by the soul in its material and astral manifestations…. One who can learn to control this pranic energy has the power to bring it to a state of vibration that can be conveyed to others, causing them to vibrate harmonically.”[17] In other words, this power center is about psychic healing.[18]

In the sixth power center, various techniques assist practitioners to “develop the psychic sense of hearing allowing one to hear the inner voice. Further, it stimulates the proximity sense which allows one to feel the presence of the enemy and locate him in total darkness.”[19] This center “also serves as the psychic force which separates the astral body from the physical at the time of death. Meditation on this center leads to the philosophical concept of one-self—‘I am that I am’.”[20]

The seventh power center leads to extraordinary occult strength, knowledge, and willpower. And through this center, one can apparently achieve the goals of occult magic ritual.

Each of the centers so far experienced is also a center of consciousness which may be activated by the sound energy of a chant or by meditation. For each center there is a specific chant, and for each a specific mandala in the form of the visualized ideogram. By these means, the force may be channeled to perform the will. The magic of the serpent from the lowest to the site of the seventh center constitutes the first third of the journey. From here the energy rises to the Lotus and merges with the consciousness of the Infinite. At this level, one overcomes the limit of time and space, and gains the ability to control the actions of others without physical contact.[21]

In the eighth center, kundalini energy can be consciously directed at will, and there is a “marriage of spirit and matter” as “the individual consciousness unites with the universal consciousness.”[22] Furthermore, the eighth and ninth centers represent acquisition of occult knowledge that cannot be publicly described but only be passed from master to student.[23]

It should be evident by now that the martial arts can be systems of occult practice. And many of the other martial arts techniques and methods not discussed may also have occult elements. All of this is why the widespread practice of Eastern forms of martial arts should be of concern to our society. As we thoroughly documented in our eBook, The Coming Darkness, occult practices are anything but inconsequential.

Potential Physical Dangers

Besides occult dangers, there are other hazards for the martial arts practitioner. Martial arts practices can be exceptionally rigorous, taxing the body to its limits. It is hardly surprising that a practice of breaking bricks and boards—with all the punching, tumbling, and kicking—could cause injuries or, in the long run, health problems such as arthritis or other chronic pains (See closing section, “Three Testimonies”).

A master of aikido observes that those who attempt to cure a serious illness from the Zen meditation used in aikido “should be aware that rather than always cure, such procedure can be very dangerous. The likelihood is that an illness will get worse….”[24] “ A text on Ninja exercises points out that they “are strenuous in the extreme—some may produce unconsciousness. The shock to the body could be quite severe unless proper precautions are taken.”[25]

Another potential danger is physical damage to the head. An article in the Taekwondo Times, “Neurological Disorders in the Martial Arts” by Dr. Michael Trulson, cautions, “I would now like to discuss injury to the nervous system in the martial arts. Head injuries are the most commonly ignored serious injuries in the martial arts. Often they are not taken seriously and fatalities occur that could easily have been prevented. Concussions occur frequently in contact martial arts, and may occur even when the contact is relatively light.”[26]

Violence is another problem. Until recently, many of the martial arts were used defensively. However, in recent years the tendency has been more toward an offensive approach. One code espoused in some programs is “do not provoke attack, indeed, do all you can to avoid it. But if you can no longer avoid it, retaliate with total power: kill with one blow.”[27] What are the implications of teaching this philosophy to people, especially to children or teenagers? Some people deliberately use the martial arts only for offensive purposes.

The death of the late Bruce Lee at the young age of 32 appears to have resulted from a brain aneurysm. Lee was hypersensitive to meprobamate, a drug used in painkillers, and this sensitivity apparently caused a fatal reaction in the brain.[28] But it is also possible that a cofactor in his death was trauma to the head from vigorous martial arts practice. Furthermore, there is speculation among some practitioners and masters concerning the possibility of a more esoterically induced death. A reliable source told us that several masters boasted (independently of one another) that they were the ones who had put the “touch of death” upon Lee.

Other theories were also put forth. One text said that “his early death was a tragedy. Speculations on the true cause of his death by cerebral hemorrhage are rife, but it seems possible that one factor was his misuse of breath-holding ki exercises….”[29] Because the martial arts may deal with the same kinds of “psychic energies” found in the occult and yoga, they may lead to the same hazards associated with such practices. Just as yogis have unexpectedly died from manipulating this occult energy, the possibility would seem to be present in martial arts practice as well.


  1. Jerry Mogul, “Tai Chi Chuan: A Taoist Art of Healing, Part Two,” Somatics: The Magazine-Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences, Autumn, 1980, p. 46.
  2. Ibid., p. 48.
  3. Herman Kauz, The Martial Spirit: An Introduction to the Origin, Philosophy and Psychology of the Martial Arts (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1977), p. 66.
  4. Ibid., pp. 66-67.
  5. Da Liu, Tai Chi Chuan and I Ching (NY: Perennial/Harper and Row, 1978), p. v.
  6. Ibid., p. 7.
  7. Tal Brooke, Riders of the Cosmic Circuit: Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Muktananda…Gods of the New Age (Batavia, IL: Lion, 1986), pp. 105-20.
  8. Richard J. Schmidt, “Japanese Martial Arts As Spiritual Education,” Somatics, Volume 4, Number 3 (1983-1984), p. 46.
  9. Peter Payne, Martial Arts: The Spiritual Dimension (NY: Crossroad, 1981), pp. 29-31.
  10. Ibid., pp. 29-32.
  11. Ashida Kim, Secrets of the Ninja (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1981), p. 2.
  12. Ibid., pp. 10, 12.
  13. Ibid., p. 12.
  14. Ibid., p. 17.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid., pp. 17, 19
  17. Ibid., pp. 20-21.
  18. Ibid., p. 22.
  19. Ibid., p. 24.
  20. Ibid., p. 24.
  21. Ibid., pp. 24-25.
  22. Ibid., p. 26.
  23. Ibid., pp. 27-28.
  24. Koichi Tohei, Aikido in Daily Life (Tokyo, Japan: Rikugei Publishing, 1973), p. 22.
  25. Kim, Secrets of the Ninja, p. 6.
  26. Michael Trulson, “Neurological Disorders and the Martial Arts,” Taekwondo Times: Martial Arts Fitness and Health, Volume 7, Number Two, January, 1987, p. 84, emphasis added.
  27. Payne, Martial Arts, p. 35.
  28. “Biography—Bruce Lee,” hosted by Peter Graves, January 22, 1994, A&E Network.
  29. Payne, Martial Arts, pp. 22-23.


  1. […] The use of visualization serves a double purpose of cultivating the psychic power of imagination. In order to feel the ch’i, we must first imagine it to be real. We must imagine it circulating through the energy channels, gathering in the psychic centers…. In this way we are employing a meditative technique, which allows the ch’i to take root, and we are actually hastening its development. The psychic energy cannot but have an effect on the object of its imagination. Two criteria are necessary—the energy must be positive and we must have a deep and abiding faith that it is real.[1] […]

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