The family that kicks together sticks together. That's Christine Ristau's new motto since she and her children joined The Salvation Army's Kung Fu for Christ program last fall. Not only has the program helped the family improve their physical health but it has also brought them closer to each other and to God.

“I've never worked out as hard, and part of this is because we're constantly reminded that we're doing it for Jesus,” she says.

Based out of Kitchener Community Church, Ont., Kung Fu for Christ is an outreach ministry that uses martial arts to connect with members of the community who may be unfamiliar with the church or the Christian faith. Each hour-long class has a devotion time that looks at a Scripture passage or biblical value and how this teaching relates to martial arts and the students' daily lives.

“If you combine values of kung fu—such as respect, discipline, self-control and perseverance—with Christian values, it gives you a solid foundation on which to introduce students to the Christian faith,” says Morgan Braganza, who co-ordinates the program with her husband, Alan, a black belt in kung fu.

The program is divided into two classes: one for children aged seven to 15 and the other for adults 16 and up. More than 70 children and 30 adults are currently involved with the program. The program has been so popular that the children's group has had a waiting list on and off throughout the past year.

Part of the attraction of the program is its cost: students can make a donation, but the classes are offered free of charge.

“My son went to a karate camp last summer, but when we were deciding whether to sign him up for a formal program, the cost was a huge factor—it's about a thousand dollars a year per child,” says Ristau. Having the option to make a donation has made it possible for Ristau, a single mother, to put her nine-year-old twins, Rachel and Christian van Schaik, in kung fu.

“It's really nice that our whole family has joined,” says Rachel. “It's fun because now we can practise together and it becomes a whole family thing.”

Ristau and her children have also started reading the Bible every day, thanks to the program.

“We award chevron badges to students for reading the Bible,” explains Braganza, noting that 27 children and eight adults have received a “dove and fist” chevron for reading one Gospel, and five children have received wooden broadswords for reading the entire Bible. “If our goal is to get students excited about reading the Bible, then I think those numbers show that our goal is becoming reality.”

Kung Fu for Christ also gives students chevrons for other achievements, such as academics. For Ristau's family, the program has provided awards for activities such as piano practising, giving the children added incentive to develop their talents beyond the gym.

Putting on a program of this size requires a strong base of support, one the corps is happy to provide. In addition to the Braganzas, the classes are led by a team of 15 “laoshis” (Chinese for “teacher”), one of whom is Major Deborah Coles, corps officer.

“The whole corps is involved one way or another,” says Major Coles. Corps members hand out Bibles and help with registration, refreshments and childcare during the adults' class. “They're also trying to connect with whoever comes in from the community, so there's been good conversations and opportunities for prayer.”

This welcoming environment has been an important part of helping participants engage with the program and stick with it.

“It's hard work practising and training, but it's really worth it,” says Rachel. “I want to be a black belt someday.”

The Kung Fu for Christ students and teachers The Kung Fu for Christ students and teachers


On Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Kiros said:



On Friday, May 22, 2015, Servant said:

Are we still saved to serve? Is the new slogan "Heart to God, Fist to Man"?

Seems to me a system of beating up others, and wearing a belt that brags how good you are at it, is just pride on so many levels. If you want to teach this to your children, please don't involve the church. Show us how respectful it is by leaving the church out of it. Walk your talk.

On Friday, May 22, 2015, Mark said:

That is sad that your niece call you a horrible name. I hope you told her that was a sin. Thank you for defending God's Word. Stand your ground. We are told we will be persecuted for defending His truth, so stand firm.

There is a big difference between being in the world, and being of the world.. We can go into sinful places and preach the Gospel, but we are never to condone sin as we are then guilty of that same sin ourselves (Romans 1). It is OK for a Christian to go into a false church and preach, but we are never to bring a preacher from a false church into the real church and ask them to preach.

We are supposed to be enemies of the world, and their teachings. Assuming poses to other gods is not something any Christian who understands the 10 commandments would ever partake in. The key word is "understands". The mature Christian needs to teach the immature, so that they don't fall into these snares. Unfortunately, church discipline is a command that is routinely ignored, to the point where people now openly embrace and promote these false idols and philosophies.

Of course exercise and discipline are important, which you can find in scripture, along with the warnings against these false teachings. But false religions are not the only ones who exercise and the only ones who teach discipline. Those are just words of distraction they use so you won't notice the false teachings.

There is an exercise program called T-Tapp. It has nothing to do with any religion. It teaches balance, posture, spinal alignment, and the movement of your lymph nodes. The basis for it is medical. The creator of it even mentions eating God made food verses man-made food. That is just one example. It teaches discipline, exercise, balance, alignment, health, and you don't have to hurt yourself or others in the process. People have even stopped being diabetic after following this program, because of the lymph node focus. This program is even taught in some public schools today - without any objection- as there is no basis or foundation in any religion.

Christians need to be more discerning, and stop trying to be like the world. We need to be light in a dark world, not bring the darkness into our light. Yes, there are alternatives that don't violate the Law.

People who have been saved out of those false teachings will tell you of the struggles they have with it. How do you think they feel about this being taught to children? We need to make wiser choices ...and heed the warning of Jesus.

On Thursday, May 21, 2015, Donald Jefcoat said:

I am one that struggles with the arrival of yoga, martial arts, etc into the church. I even struggle with some of the new music. I am as old fashioned as they come. I recall once reading an article on an Army corps using Yoga as part of its drug treatment component. I was livid and made mention to it in a Facebook status. My loving niece called me a horrible name, and I was ready to tar and feather her. But I went to prayer to have God convict her of her evil thinking. God convicted me instead. Though we are to conform to the ways of the world we are to be all things to all people.

One the most revered and respected leaders of the Early Church (Apostle Paul) loved the theater. And often quoted lines from it. The theater was at times thought to be of paegan in nature and something the "Church" should not be participating in. Even in the Army world one of the things I loved hearing about was the Army doing some pretty strange things to get the attention of the lost. Sometimes these antic would get the officer or ministry team tossed into the local jail. The Army was notorious for going into enemy territory to wage war against Satan such as Pub ministry. And the meeting hall was packed.

So lets fast forward to today's time. What does evangelism look like for today's world? What do people do to pass the time? Quilting bees are a thing of the past in many communities unfortunately. We could open the doors to Sunday Meetin Time and hope people will wander by and hear our love songs to Jesus. Or we can find ways to attract the world to something they like. More and more people are getting mixed up with Yoga and in my town there is Martial Art facilities on every block. I think there are more Martial arts or Yoga facilities then coffee shops in my town.

As I prayed for God to convict my niece God laid into my heart the question, Why not? Why not strip all the false religion, and new ageism of such activities and replace them with the truth. The O & R for soldiers even dictate we should do excersize. That we should keep our minds and hearts clean. That we strive to have healthy lifestyles. And if our society is on that path using ungodly council why not walk directly into the enemies territory plop down our flag and present to these people in a way they understand the Gospel of the True God, The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Can you imagine my struggle as a pastor when a wonderful Christian Lady sat down in my office and wanted to do Christian Reiki. Not through the local Church but as a business and personal outreach. I wanted to jump up and do an excersisim on her right then and there. But then God reminded me He designed the human body and if one of his people knew how to help align it and was willing instead to pray over people and to testify about the true and living King great just another way to kick the devil around on his own turf. I say bring it on. Be the Army, and lets declare war on the enemy and lets win souls for Jesus. I believe we could easily reverse the decline in our churches if we got out of the 1800's and became the church dealing with life in 2015.

On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, John Stephenson said:

I think this Kung Fu program is great. From what I read there is no emphasis on the non-Christian practices of the Zen Buddhists. What Kung Fu as a martial art does is teach self-discipline. When this is centered in Christian teaching it is a good thing. This is not an honoring of a paganistic faith but is doing what William Booth and gang did with the saloon and tavern tunes of their time.
This may be one of the few times Rick Zelinsky and I are full agreement on something.
Using sports of any kind to teach self-discipline and bathing it in Christian teaching can only be a good thing.

On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, Chris said:

Dear Peter,

My children are in the program and they know the 10 commandments, they've read 3/4 of the bible they received at the beginning of the program - I know because I read it with them every single morning - it's been a year and a half since we began and we never would have thought we could read the bible in it's entirety but here we are encouraged by the program. My children could tell you all about the Jesus' life and death and the purpose of both, they could tell you the difference between Christianity and most other religions. Could they defend the Ark and Creation? They are 10 years old and working on their knowledge every day, give us another year of study and I would most likely say yes!

On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, Rick Zelinsky said:

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but opinions are best expressed with some knowledge to back them up. Sharlene and both hurl many accusations, but I'm guessing that you aren't aware that Kung Fu, in this context, is about teaching children discipline and respect. It is not about incapacitating or kicking people in the face. Those images ought to be reserved for Hollywood.

These leaders are godly people who teach children to memorize scripture, to first and foremost bow to their true master, Jesus Christ, and who follow up their classes with devotions and teaching from God's word. They have hijacked this martial art for Jesus, and in every part of their teaching and instruction is founded in the teaching and life of Jesus.

As for eastern religions? I know what you mean, but again, our faith is grounded in the East, and the teachings of Jesus are more in line with an Eastern context than they are with the false religions of materialism that dominates our Western Culture.

As for invoking William Booth? He would be laughing at the genius of using the popular culture of the world and using it for the glory of God. I'm guessing if he had a website many would lambaste him for having church in dance halls, and mobilizing women to preach the gospel, and advance the mission.

On Monday, May 18, 2015, Peter said:

I wonder how many of these children know the 10 commandments? How many know the books of the Bible? How many know the Gospel? How many can scientifically defend Creation in 6 solar days? How many can defend God's flood and the facts around the Ark? How many know what separates Christianity from all the other false religions? (like the one promoted here)

What is sad is how many children know so little about God, history, scripture, science, Jesus, etc - yet they will learn 8 ways to hurt others. What did Jesus teach? Turn the other round-house kick? Inflict pain on your enemy? No LOVE your enemy. The enemy love model is what separates Christianity from every other religion. This is just another way to water down truth so that people who are victims of this eastern religion can feel better about perverting truth.

You can love your enemy, or you can study ways to injure them. Why spend time learning about important things, when you can learn how to be disobedient? Learn scripture? Why? So you can quote it to them as you knock them unconscious? Do you tell them you love them before or after you incapacitate them?

This is the epitome of hypocrisy.

On Saturday, May 16, 2015, Sharlene said:

William Booth would be disgusted that the Salvation Army's "Blood and Fire" logo is being put onto this new age religious nonsense. Instead of sharing the Gospel, we are teaching people Eastern religious lies, while pretending to be Biblical. Is the Blood supposed to be the blood of the person you are kinking in the mouth, instead of sharing the Gospel? Is the Fire now the revenge in your hearts? Didn't anyone involved ever study the teachings of Jesus? Clearly not. But it is easier to pervert His Word, than to live it. It is easier to fight like the world, instead of putting on the ARMOUR OF GOD. His Word is sharper than any sword, or any kick in the teeth. If we equip our children with the Armour of God, they won't have to lower themselves to the level of others.

Even the Biblical quote on their website includes the words "Kung Fu" which everyone knows is not in those verses. They are quite literally butchering scripture in order to teach eastern religious philosophies, worship poses, and meditation. Instead of loving our neighbours, we now teach them multiple ways to hurt them. But what is injured the most is the hearts and minds of young children that should be hearing the Gospel.

The Salvation Army is becoming more and more wordly, and less and less Biblical. It is very sad that noone in leadership would object to this blasphemy. This clearly is NOT just about exercise as your could do that (and should do that) without any reference to false religions and religious practices. Pandering to these lies is just another way that Satan uses to remove the power from the Gospel.

Pray for the parents of these children to study His Word, and follow His Ways. Not the ways of the world, or the ways of false religions. We are to have nothing to do with the world, and false philosophies. Nothing. We are to be salt and light. We are to show the follies of this kind of worship.

On Wednesday, August 20, 2014, Aimee Patterson said:

I had the pleasure of speaking with Morgan Braganza about her Kung Fu for Christ program just prior to start-up. I feel the need to defend this program from allegations of blasphemy. The word just doesn’t apply here. The program is clearly centred on Christian scripture, values and prayer. Based on the successful Karate for Christ ministry, it offers opportunities for underprivileged children and their families to share in character-building activities. It encourages physical activity while strengthening relational ties. It provides occasion for Christian leaders strong in their faith to mentor participants. Students not only listen to and learn about scripture; they also memorize it and pray.

Throughout its history the church has adapted to different cultural and religious contexts in order to share the good news effectively. Although the gospel never changes in substance, it is both translatable and transformational.

Aimee Patterson, PhD
Consultant, Christian Ethics

On Monday, August 18, 2014, Chris said:

Hi Mark,

I can understand your concern but would like you to know that the reason I was thrilled with the opportunity to put my kids into this program was because they wanted to learn this type of self-defence and I wanted the discipline for them that martial arts teaches without the mysticism and non-Christian teaching that goes with most other martial arts programs. The emphasis here is completely on Christ and His teachings. Please come out and check it out - you may be surprised!

On Sunday, July 27, 2014, A Salvationist said:

Look at this wonderful program! I find it sad when people paint all martial arts activities with the same brush. Surely they can and should be redeemed and used for Christ's glory. William Booth did it with bar tunes that were considered the "devil's music," why can't we do it in this day and age with sport? The article makes it pretty clear that no one is teaching Eastern religions, but rather that the focus is on Christ. Why be so reactionary? Please read the article and the wonderful results before passing judgement. Let the kids have some fun. You'd be hard pressed to find those kind of numbers in many Sunday school programs around the territory. I say, "Well done, Kitchener!"

On Sunday, July 27, 2014, Mark said:

That is great for the Zen Buddhists ... they will feel right at home with their religious activities. You think getting spiritual strength from a false religion is a good thing? Scripture is clear that we are to avoid false teachings, and warns against the severe consequences of doing so. Pray for these leaders to repent. Using His name in conjunction with something that glorifies Buddha is blasphemy. We are to keep His Name Holy. (3rd commandment)

The purpose of the church ... is to preach the Gospel to those who are lost to false religions and religious activities. Instead of showing them the light, we encourage them to stay in the darkness?

What do we advertise next for Jesus and bring into His house of prayer? Tai Ch? Yoga? Meditation? Horoscopes? Masons? Mormons? JWs? Muslims?

Remember when Jesus was the focus? When He was the attraction? When we went to church to learn His Word? And focus on prayer? When the Gospel was the message of salvation from those false philosophies?

Now the focus is hurting others, and the pride that brings. Nice.

Sad days we live in.

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Victor Stasiuc said:

I was teaching youth Kung Fu in Czech Republic so if you need an extra teacher, I'm on!!! =) Through self defense lessons we has build a very good relationships with Czech youth, it was a bridge between youth and TSA in Krnov. Has worked out great, so keep doing it!

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Rick Zelinsky said:

When I first saw this I thought of David Carradine from my youth in the TV series "Kung Fu", and wondered about the place of Kung Fu in a church...It turns out Kung Fu isn't just about martial arts, but is about training and strengthening one's body and mind. I guess any religion or philosophy could be applied to the Martial Art and used for their own purposes, but I think it is pretty awesome that the church is using it for physical and spiritual strength. I'm reminded of Romans 12:1-2...Paul tells us to give our bodies as living sacrifices, and to be transformed into Christ-likeness through the renewing of our minds. Good for you for using this for God's glory...You have done well grasshopper!

Leave a Comment