WARNER ROBINS -- When Jim Scott teaches strikes, punches, roundhouse kicks and other taekwondo moves, he’s got more in mind than the stereotypes people get from martial arts movies.
Scott said he’s thinking fitness, character development and yes, self-defense.
He said he’s also thinking biblical principles and the opportunity to share Jesus Christ with others.
Victory Taekwondo is more than a taekwondo school. It’s a ministry of Shady Grove Baptist Church, where Scott has served as pastor since 2012.
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“It’s an outreach ministry we started in January that teaches biblical principles through practical application,” Scott said. “We teach perseverance, self-control, confidence, respect, humility and other virtues to all ages, demographics and races. It’s a way to share the Gospel and God’s word through a fitness program a lot like they do with Upward basketball.”
Scott said like Upward, the school charges fees, but it is a nonprofit outreach serving Christians and non-Christians. He hopes one day it will pay its own way at its facility on the corner of Gunn Road and U.S. 41 -- just a mile or two down the road from Shady Grove’s church campus -- but for now the church foots the bill.
“We’re associated with the American Taekwondo Association,” Scott said. “ATA has two ways of approaching their schools. One is to be attached to an organization such as the YMCA, a fitness center or a church. When the Lord laid this on our hearts that was the obvious choice.”
Scott said he first got involved with taekwondo in his 20s as a young man in the Air Force looking for something positive to do with his spare time. He even dreamed of becoming an instructor.
But he said those dreams, and his involvement with taekwondo, faded as career, family and other demands increased.
“But I got involved again last year,” he said. “My youngest son was taking lessons at Perry taekwondo, and I was just another one of the parents sitting on the sideline watching. But I got up and got back at it.”
That was in June, and Scott said he wasn’t sure where it would lead.
“I had these thoughts that God might use it, but I wasn’t sure,” he said. “I decided to compete in ATA’s world event that July, but since I’d been out of the sport for 25 years I was skeptical about how I’d do. But I did well. I placed third in my 40-49 age group classification among second and third degree black belts. I was dumbfounded and started feeling God really was calling me back into it.”
Scott began working toward ATA instructor qualifications, and the church started talking about using taekwondo as an outreach.
But using eastern martial arts? A potentially violent sport for outreach?
Scott said he sees no contradictions.
“ATA is a pretty Americanized form of taekwondo,” he said. “The martial arts were developed by farmers to defend themselves from aggression, not to be aggressors. Quite honestly, because of my role in the military I’ve dealt with some of these issues before and seen how Scripture promotes the idea of national defense and of people defending the poor and oppressed. The Bible points out that God is ultimately our defender. We teach true meekness, power under control with humility. Plus, what we’re really doing day-to-day is simply strengthening our mind and body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s not an offensive art. We’re a family oriented martial arts school that believes in biblical values re-enforced through taekwondo. Aggression is not tolerated.”
Plus, he said, it’s a lot of fun.
The church’s vision is that Victory Taekwondo grow to become a community center of sorts offering various opportunities for young and old. Scott said that’s already taking shape as Ron Shively, a longtime instructor with Karate for Christ, also is using the facility. Shively offers classes including a rape awareness class and a free tai chi class for seniors.
Scott, who is a chief master sergeant serving with the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base and who will retire at the end of this year, said he never expected to end up doing what he’s doing now.
“I became a Christian as a youngster, but I never expected I would be a pastor,” he said. “I never expected to get back into taekwondo or that God would bring an opportunity to teach. I believe he’s doing it all for his glory -- and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.