Article Source: Bristol Herald Courier/Associated Press BLOUNTVILLE
Christian Karate instructor mixes martial arts with the Bible
When David Collins opened a martial arts school on a quiet street in Blountville, some of his neighbors eyed him with suspicion. When they learned he was teaching Bible study right along with it, they were all the more curious. "People ridiculed us and told us we couldn't mix martial arts and Christianity. That's one of the biggest battles we fought, even in our own neighborhood," he said. "People passed judgment without ever coming here and seeing the wonderful things that were happening here."
Twenty-eight years later, Collins' "Fire and Water" school is one of the oldest in the region and still going strong. That, more than anything, should prove he's doing something right, he said. "Abused and neglected children and children from broken homes are coming here, and they're finding a place they can come and feel comfortable," he said. "Through the martial arts, they're getting discipline and they're learning about focus and self-esteem. And then they're hearing Bible verses each night before class. It's changed a lot of kids' lives. "I've had them come back in later years with their own children and tell me stories about how we kept them out of jail. They took their frustrations out here instead of on the streets."
Collins, 51, got interested in martial arts when he was 14, and he said it was for all the wrong reasons. "Like most children, I was made fun of and beaten up a lot by neighborhood kids," he said. "I was an only boy -- had four sisters. In the beginning, I got into the martial arts to get back at those guys. But the more years I spent in it, the more I realized what a wonderful discipline it was." Collins teaches his own style of martial arts -- sort of a "blend of American boxing with the best foot-fighting techniques in the world -- aikido and judo," he said. Collins endured criticism not only for blending the martial arts with the gospel but also for mixing fighting techniques. His Fire and Water technique has been recognized by the monks of China's Shaolin Temple, where martial arts as we know it is believed to have originated from around 500 A.D. Collins earned the monks' OK even though his style has all but abandoned the tenets of Buddhism. "We steer away from a lot of the Buddhistic and Zen ideals like you see in a lot of the other schools," he said. "We don't even allow bowing here. I really have a problem with an American bowing to a Japanese or a Chinese or Korean flag."
Collins said he sees no reason why Christianity and martial arts can't be taught side by side. It was men of the cloth, after all, who perfected kung fu, he said. "These holy men were being persecuted -- being robbed and killed just for the clothes on their back," he said. "They designed it to defend the innocent and to defend themselves without having to harm the opponent. They felt like taking the opponent down or sending him off balance was better than taking a life. "Christianity teaches the same thing -- turn the other cheek." Collins got his first black belt more than 30 years ago, then joined the Army. His stint took him to 16 countries, where he furthered his martial arts training under some of the world's masters.
Today he still works as a military adviser and survival-skills instructor. He also works with local police forces and SWAT teams. More recently, he found himself thrust into the role of counselor. He said he believes that providing all the answers isn't what's important. Sometimes kids simply need someone to listen, he said. "I don't wear a sash or a belt when I'm teaching class because I want to be approachable. I want them to feel like I'm their friend, their big brother, their neutral dad."
Author: Lee Davenport, Bristol