Christian Novetzke on Kung Fu Fighting and Eastern Religions (Encore Presentation)
Date: April 16th, 2017

While we take a break for the Easter holiday, what better way to celebrate than to talk about religion and martial arts.  The following is an encore presentation of our discussion with Christian Novetzke from back in 2012.

Get into the octagon with Prof. Christian Novetzke, associate professor  at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies, as we spar intellectually about the relationship between the martial arts and Eastern religions.  We walk through Prof. Novetzke’s syllabus for the class he recently offered at the UW entitled “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Seminar on World Cultures through the Asian Martial Arts.”  We start by discussing Christian’s name and his “accidental” discovery of karate.   The first interesting challenge that arises in this interview is to define yoga as a martial art.  Prof. Novetzke does this by relying upon the concept of “self-actualization,” which he contends is related to all of the martial arts and moves us into our discussion of how religion and philosophy form a fundamental underpinning of these physical activities.  Whilst talking about yoga, we also discuss the recent criticism levelled on this form of martial art by Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.  This sets up an intriguing discussion of what constitutes religion and the relationship between religions such as yoga and Christianity.  We then also chat about Driscoll’s commentary regarding the connection between mixed martial arts (MMA) and Christianity, with Prof. Novetzke noting that a surprisingly high number of MMA fighters are also outwardly devout Christians.  We then return to Eastern religions and other martial arts covering different aspects of Zen, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Confucianism.  Throughout the conversation we also reflect upon educational pedagogy (i.e., how we teach our subjects of expertise) and what students pulled from this rather unique and interesting course.  Recorded: March 12, 2012.


 Christian Novetzke’s webpage at the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies.

Religion and Public Memory: A Cultural History of Saint Namdev in India, by Christian L. Novetzke.

Zen and the Martial Arts, by Joe Hymans.

Tao of Jeet Kune Do, by Bruce Lee.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, edited by Paul Reps.

Yoga: Discipline of Freedom, by Barbara Miller.

Blood in the Cage, by L. Jon Wertheim.


Andrea Molle on Spirituality and the Martial Arts.

Matthew Moore on Buddhism and Political Theory.

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