Every Tuesday night, The Rev. Canon David Bauman dons a black outfit. Not a formal black clerical suit. Not a cassock with red piping Instead, he puts on a black "gi" with red Chinese characters that read "Great Love of Heaven, Deep Dignity." Bauman teaches martial arts to children, adults, and those with special needs as an extension of his parish's ministry.
Bauman, rector of Blessed Sacrament Episcopal Church of Placentia, California, teaches a form of martial arts known as Tang Soo Do. The Orange Country Register tells his story in an article by Adam Townsend.
"The old traditions in martial arts – it was a religious pursuit," said the Rev. David Baumann, sitting in the church office before his Tuesday night class. "Only in the past couple of decades was it viewed as a sport. We have taken the traditional style of martial arts and turned it into a Christian discipline."
In his class, he trains kids from the age of 4 to adults in their 50s and 60s.
The class – which is limited to 34 with dozens on the waiting list – begins with a prayer recited in unison.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," the class says, quoting Galatians.
Maria Pickering of Yorba Linda has been attending the class for about two years, and this night, she has her son Jacob Pickering, 11, and Emily Pickering, 4, with her.
"I've done karate before," she said. "I wanted my kids to do karate that is centered on God."
"I like it better than the other ones I go to because they actually teach you and help you learn it," added Jacob.
The martial arts classmates agree that Baumann has a knack for teaching, whether it's kids like Jacob and his mom, or the dozens of physically and mentally disabled students he's taught over the years. Bauman said he has used the class as a sort of therapy to help some get over years of childhood abuse.
Baumann, a fourth-degree black belt who has been training for more than 20 years, started out as a gymnast. He said he's always been interested in "the spiritual aspects of physical activity."
"Western culture tends to divide the mind, body and spirit," Baumann said. "If you want to work at your body, you go to the gym and lift weights; if you want to work on your mind you take a class; if you want to work on your spirit, you learn how to meditate or get into religion."
Canon Bauman reflects on his ministry and some of what his martial arts have taught him in his blog:
Numbers and popularity apparently mean very little to God. Only rarely, if ever, has he depended on numbers to win a battle. Usually, it’s the contrary. We are called simply to believe in him, trust in him, hold fast, and when called to do so uphold the truth. This is strength, the only strength that matters and is reliable.