Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments

What is “forensic theology”? Another way to analyze modus operandi in criminal cases? For instance, suspicion could fall on a seemingly dangerous cult, gang, terrorist group or other organized criminal enterprise? Or, an evolving tactic to analyze anti-social extreme belief systems? Such as hate groups. Still though, “forensic theology” might be a potential investigative strategy to scrutinize probable criminality among fanatical ideologies? Well then, let’s break down the components. Because there might be another option to constructing threat analyses on the basis of extremist behaviors. An allegation of the application of “forensic theology” has been suggested in relation to terroristic activities. But, why stop there? Particularly as applied to radical domestic and foreign belief systems. Or, terrorism perpetrated from a fundamentalist doctrine.

Yet, the word “forensic” holds many connotations. For which there are several interpretations and viewpoints. Often misunderstood and confused with movie and television stereotypes. For some students in undergraduate criminal justice courses, the mere mention of the word invites salacious overtones. Kind of like an allusion to the inaccurate non-scientific application of something called “criminal profiling” or some kind of “scale of evil”. Again, the titillation amplifies with mystification.

Suddenly, with sufficient media hype, as well as heavy concentration of sensationalism, everyone wants to “do” forensics. Become a crime scene investigator, work in “CSI”, or become a “profiler”. Exciting, sexy and enticing prospects for creative imaginations. Aside from any rational association with real world applications. Sort of in the same realm with fortune tellers, mentalists and psychic detectives. No long term real-word practical law enforcement expertise is ever required. Just capitalizing on exaggerated claims masquerading as authenticity. Believability relies on gullibility. What some investigators refer to as the “psychology of self-deception”.

Never the less, the term “forensic” has been applied to many philosophical disciplines. Not to mention, of course, an array of various schools of thought within certain fields of study. In modern America, for example, we have things such as “forensic debate”, “forensic science”, “forensic autopsy”, as well as “forensic anthropology”.

The list of things “forensic”, or for that matter “forensic science”, could get lengthy. Plus, we can’t forget about the pseudo-scientific notions of “forensic psychology”. And, as mentioned earlier, even “forensic profiling”. So, “forensic theology”? Why not add this to the mix of controversial criminological fascinations? Oh what the heck? The mere mention conjures an array of adventurous possibilities. However, individual fantasies aside, what exactly could this phrase mean? In one instance, the term surfaces in an investigative report discussing Middle Eastern terrorism. And, in particular, the connection between ideology and extreme forms of rebellious behaviors. As in terrorist activities connected to religious fundamentalism of an ultra disruptive nature.

An issue, for some of us criminologists, is to refine the definition. And, at some point, make practical the application of such thinking processes. Terminologies can get us all confused and misdirected if we’re not careful. We can invent all manner of urban legend. And, then call it fact, which in reality might simply be fabrication. But, in the effort to identify and understand terrorist intentions. Reading signs, symbols and significance in aggressive propaganda might bear clues to eventual intentions. Not to forget of course, the symbolism that serves as precursor to probable criminal behaviors. By analysis of writings, transactional documents, witness statements, intelligence gathering, surveillance and so forth. Possibly, intent could be anticipated. And, thereby, purposes might suggest hostile actions against communal safety and security.

Important here, to point out at this juncture. Contrary to “reading signatures” at crime scenes, of so called “organized” or “disorganized” unknown murderers, termed “serial killers”. Where the person or persons remain anonymous archetypes of some typecast generic template. Instead, with regard to “forensic theology”, we’re talking about known quantities of potential criminalities. As in terrorist groupings, gangs, dangerous cultic activities, hate mongering organizations of various ideological spectra. Of which, we can observe past, present and perhaps future probabilities in non pro-social endeavors. For them, observation notes attendant associational activities, graffiti, online blogs, web sites, assorted propaganda, and all kinds of symbolism. To this, investigators might link the authentication of emailing, chat rooms interactivities, and group linkages.

In other words, with a workable conception of “forensic theology”, we’re dealing with the potentiality of known evidentiary characteristics, circumstantial inferences and informational data bases from definable sources. For definitional applicability, we could say then, that “forensic” means the wide-ranging spectrum of legal issues affecting the criminal justice system. Encompassing investigative, prosecutorial and evidentiary parameters. Within which, we need to consider multi-level interfaces, from federal, state and local law enforcement operations. With that, every effort should be made to ensure methodical verifiable analysis of targeted objectives. Added to the application of “forensic” operability, we could associate a concept of “theology” or “thinking”.

Again, in regard to those things “theological”, the term could be broadly interpreted. Bringing together critical thinking efforts to address anticipation of violent behaviors backed by dogmatic philosophies. This would cover the careful study of belief systems that formulate extremism outside conventional social interactions. More generally, this is suggested to be the analysis of religious, spiritual and ideological thinking processes. With a focus on those individuals, collusive entities and groups that could be potentially anti-social in a destructive sense. Such as with gangs, terrorist cells, organized crime and others. The investigative process would be shaped by an external assessment of probable criminality. So, together, we have a thumbnail depiction for a concept of “forensic theology”. This focuses mostly on group threats to social stability.

In assessing criminal motivations, the classical perspective offers the rationality of choice. Criminals, not unlike the rest of us, freely choose their planned, calculated and selected targets for opportunistic self-gratification. As with humanity in general, selfishness is at the core of motivational purposes. For terrorists, as an example, aggression, violence and intimidation serve the basis to achieve individual or group advantage over others. While they tend to operate on a larger scale, with a political cover story. Similar to transnational organized criminal elements. Terrorists, like street criminals or corporate criminals, commit typical crimes of murder, rape, robbery, theft and so, for the sake of personal enrichment. They may plead or advocate a publicly seductive cause, such as the environment, animal research and oppression. None the less, their ideological dogma remains an illusion for their real intentions.

Behind the psychic scenes, that is, in the cerebral conduits of human thinking processes. Not “psychic” in the sense of the paranormal, as in ghosts, goblins and other ghoulish sleight of hand trickeries. Religiosity, philosophical belief systems and lifestyle choices manifest a multiplicity of motivations toward criminality. We’re all looking for opportunities to advance our covert agendas. Criminal inclinations are part of human nature. Indwelling as it were, inside the essence of human potential. Not on the outside, but internal to each of us. Our complexity of personal being, neural networking and spatial presence. Everyone possesses the elemental desires to satiate prurient passions. Libidinous reasons in the private ability to carry thoughts into reality.

Criminality’s a rational component for the cause and effect in premeditated intent to knowingly breach communal constraints. Freely chosen through willful decision-making, people create their own adversity, victories and calamities. In particular, we’re seduced willingly by our darker side. Drawn to offense-specific endeavors given the level of our offender-specific skills and abilities. We enhance our self-indulgent competitive edge in the individual quest to achieve personal advantages. Neural complexity remains dynamic in the selection of modes for maladaptive behaviors. Yet, once caught in the act, excuses abound at every twist of the criminal event. Cover stories sell front page headlines in well-calculated cover-ups. None the less, criminal activity is the result of rational choice, hedonistic intentions, and personal gain through thoughtful planning.

Criminality finds much kinship. Crosses every socio-economic strata, as well as geo-political nation-state boundaries regarding a diversity of doctrines, creeds and tenets. Thus, with the intentions of extremism, cloaked in dogmatic facades and deceptive doctrinal traditions, social disruption is exceptionally probable. Such terrorism spans the societal spectrum. From cultic religious enclaves, to ethnic “gangsterism” and racial supremacists. Not to forget, of course, many other forms of domestic and foreign terrorist groupings. Diabolical, oppressive and tyrannical purposes hide behind a front of mass media illusions. We can witness a diverse exhibition of such humanistic activities on a daily basis. Across the globe, from sea to shining sea, groups of one persuasion after another foment the cover story for varied anti-social endeavors.

Possibly, a process of so called “forensic theology”, taken in a broader sense, could utilize known data elements to postulate motives, objectives and purposes of a variety of dissident groups. Perchance, through investigative processes, by way of logic, reason and deduction, we may be able to discern an estimate of hostile capabilities. That is, by scrutinizing the verbiage, propaganda and symbolism of collective antisocial forces. Naturally, such a critical thinking technique, for a viable threat assessment tool, would necessitate a practitioner’s realistic knowledge base. And, to this, we should add his or her pragmatic field experience in the real world. An experiential foundation that reflects a well-trained skillful and tactical approach to criminality.

That is to say, applications for an evolving nature of “forensic theology” should focus less on theory and more on reality. Given the facts of the case, hard evidence remains essential. Investigatively, there would be decreased emphasis on the speculations of theoreticians. As in the towered confines of academia. And, more relevance on the convincing credibility of the realist. Genuine accuracy transforms intuitive processes from the constant engagement with real world scenarios. Understanding criminalistic intentions (forensic) requires analysis of ideological assertions (theology). As such, this invites a critical examination of symbols, messages, images, verbiage, and propaganda of all kinds. As well as cultic signposts, gang graffiti, inmate tattoos, and so forth.

All of these human aspects reflect mental proclivities transforming psychic processes into potential action. In trying to anticipate the criminality of various associational linkages, we often get fixated on the things that influence our subjective bias. Cults typically conjure an array of salacious images. Mention for instance, “satanic cults”, or communal “religious sects”, and all kinds of prurient passions get aroused. Yet, we get distracted, overlook and forget abut the many other types of human collusions. These include cultic extremists, gangs, racist enclaves, terrorist groups and other formations of organized criminal enterprises. Every faction has an ideology. Within this foundational basis of collectivity, people manifest their belief systems. Adherence can be extremely dedicated and strongly entrenched. Even in spite of evidentiary contradictions. Many cling to their reliability on subjective validation of ancient tenuous doctrines.

Terrorism comes in many forms of criminality that transcends global boundaries. Likewise, these and other threat groups pose a danger not only to local communities, but also to national security as well. Thus, early warning through proactive intelligence gathering remains critical. In so doing, practitioners therefore become tasked with constructing logical and well-reasoned threat assessments. These could be based on the implications of “forensic theological” appraisals. As an investigator, one must bear in mind that nothing is ever foolproof. So, care and caution are extremely serious factors to keep in mind. Evidentiary factors are vital to provability. Plus, we have to understand that there are many variations of criminal group collusions. The ideological spectrum has many representative factions, in diverse places all over the planet.

Regardless of doctrine or dogma, group criminality expresses the collective inclinations of the human membership. Dangerous cult associations, street gangs, terrorist cells and other organized criminal enterprises are precisely that. They are criminal organizations assembled for the purpose of committing criminal actions. Commonality of purpose expresses the basic seductive driving forces in our human nature. One good and the other evil. Objectives include exclusivity of membership and perpetuation of “elitism” among adherents. Doctrine forms the basis of a pretext in the deception of disguised orthodoxy. In other words, symbols, images, signs, etc, are used as cover stories, legends, and mythology to cloak their real intentions.

Criminal entities seek to maintain their anti-social viability through whatever criminal means possible. They may or may not express a so called “political agenda”, “religious affiliation” or “social righteousness”. For that matter, they might subscribe to discernable political or religious goals. But, then again, some do others don’t. Never the less, their intended purposes are to be monopolistic, employ aggressive violent means, and ensure profit continuity at all costs. To this end, groups collude with other groups when it is to their mutual interests. In the process, they promote conspiratorial activities in the coordination of varied illicit activities. Gain is in the primacy of their motivating factors. From within their structural framework, they utilize predatory tactics to intimidate, instill fear and corrupt others in order to achieve their objectives.

To facilitate discovery of malice aforethought in premeditated intentions, as opposed to the usual rubric of “motive, means and opportunity”. As these are often illusionary at best and deceptive at worst case scenario. The investigation might want to gather all manner of suspicious documentation, evidentiary artifacts, and known associated evidence. Subject everything to insightful critical analytic processes. To this endeavor, we must ensure qualified forensic analysis. That means too, we have to apply logic within a rational framework. In the process of scrutiny, you should conduct a thorough validation for subject authentication. Also included could be reviewing the abundance of hate oriented information sources, published group rhetoric, demonstrated history of public displays, internet blogging, news stories, background histories and assorted media expressions. In addition, assessment entails targeting potential criminals, selecting targets for surveillance, covert analysis and extensive intelligence gathering.

Ideological scrutiny directs a microscopic focal point on the attendant militancy within selected group affiliations. It is not limited to seemingly overt hostile elements alone. Within a particular subculture, the inspection also addresses the less conspicuous probabilities. Any group, social, economic, political, etc, could summon the convergence of attention due to its illicit preoccupations. Because groups, including the broad spectrum of social interaction, are naturally collusive collectives, with associations of diverse people. Likewise, they can execute corporate intrigue, commercial espionage, con games, frauds of every type, commit major crimes and engineer economic turmoil. Commercial aggrandizement for business executives can also be extremely conspiratorial. Whereby, money laundering and promotion of regional conflicts, insurrections and aiding enemy operatives, ensure profit continuity.

Deciphering the clues requires creative decisiveness, critical thinking, logical analysis and efficient examination of the evidence at hand. Conjecture, speculation and wishful thinking are constrained to the movie world of fiction and entertainment. Plots, schemes and conspiracies come in many organized forms. They reflect human ritual within the nature of criminality. Anyone can justify anything, including multiple murders, genocide, ethnic cleansing or a holy warfare. Terrorism just adds the press coverage with a political flare. Veiled by some ideological press release, so that perpetrators can cover their tracks about the real intentions in their criminality.

Take for instance, the gangster dubbed “Islamic Terror Suspect”. From a street gang in an urban core, a clever criminal wears the cloak of the dedicated religious fundamentalist, or ideologue playing “Robin Hood”. Whatever, nothing new here. Mobsters have done that decades. So, the criminal hood travels to a foreign land. Joins other criminals. Studies military tactics and techniques. Learns how to make bombs. Applies oneself to the purposes of skillful social destruction. By converting to the chosen belief system, another inventive form of story telling. The gangster becomes able to advance the skill levels necessary to commit more crimes. But, deterministic social engineering would have us believe otherwise. Many, desiring to be gullible for their needs. Buy into his lack of social opportunity, immigration policies, ineffective public schools, bad parenting, absentee father, neglectful mother, peer pressure and unemployment.

Excuses never end and intentions are always ready, willing an able to inflict cross-cultural damage to satiate personal desires. Nevertheless, we like to fool ourselves. Pretend how civil we are. Alleged our civilized progress. Make things simplistic, trouble-free and easier for us to look in the mirror. Maybe that’s the reason people choose to so easily believe in strange, weird and nebulous notions. Even among seemingly well-educated persons, like college professors. Academia can be an intellectual war zone of psycho-babble masquerading as alleged truths. We laboriously seek to makeover inner psychic struggles for an effective confrontation with life and death realties. From which, we quickly, outside the security of our communal group, find fault with those external to us. Justifications for the ruse of ideological hatreds surface without hesitance. So that we can take advantage, manipulate, and control the others.

From salacious inclinations, we pursue the amative means to unleash our competitive edge. Conflict gives us a chance to project ritualized selfishness into social survival engagement. After all, good and evil are the essence of human nature. This duality is fundamental to our very makeup. We’re capable of any heinous act in the name of some doctrinal rationalization. And, from there, we possess the ability to kill to ensure the precepts for our continued communal competition. Cognitive bias roams the byways of credibility in the hunt for subjective validation. All too often facts are avoided to the allure of unfussy foggy murmurs of inferential fallacies for hasty generalizations.

Application of a working hypothesis, for a applied theory of forensic theological analysis, requires the never ending quest for factual materiality. To that, add competence, experiential essentialities and relevancy. Sound logic demands a special temperament in developing a rational coherent investigative process. Generally, this might be calculated as a standard operating inquiry using the traditional concept of what some of us call the “W.H.O.A.”. As such, you could pronounce it “Whoa!” with emphasis to show focused commitment to the mission at hand. Or, add a slight military flare of, “Who-Ah!”. Regardless, the consideration is for answering basic queries. Such as, “Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, Observations and Actions”. For a basis in the use of forensic theology, we want to apply critical thinking skills.

This is the foundation for “pro-thinking” instead of “anti-thinking”. Rational, reasonable and consistent in purposeful authenticity. The search, as a skeptical enquirer, mandates a personal policy in the rational hunt for credible evidence. Rather than chase speculative assertions based on inferential fallacies. As in trying to profile everything, anything and all things. Attempts at “profiling”, naming multiple occurrences as “serial” this and “serial”, and developing “scales of evil”. All these run risk of expressing personalized egocentric self-interests that prove nothing substantial. These spurious assertions come close to the edge; sometimes cross over, into racist, prejudicial and ethnocentric thinking practices. An example, might be trying to define who is “Hispanic”, “Arabic”, Asian and so forth. There are too many exceptions, diversities and variations in terms of global ethnicities. Instead, we must focus on relevant evidentiary issues.

To comprehend the nature of criminality is to investigate every possible aspect of the human inclination toward anti-social behaviors. It is, in every sense, a keen ability to suspect everyone, trust no one and ensure a Holmesian eye for detail. Ensure a healthy sensory awareness for an edgy cynicism concerning the “altruism” of human beings. For which, we need to be cautious as to bogus claims as to “why” certain things happened. Particularly, if we seek to evaluate ideological expressions steeped in religiosity. Plus, we need to go to great lengths to analyze every probable suspicion. A healthy grip on practical skepticism is essential to combat unquestioned acceptance of faulty information and dubious conjecture. All too often, inquiries seek supportive collaboration for initial hypotheses. That is, the theory finds friendly “evidence” to make it right.

Facts fuel the fruition of formative evidentiary characteristics for credible forensic analyses. Investigatively, we remain skeptical as to all claims contrary to actual proof. Instead, we want to examine the evidence at hand and prove the reality of evidentiary artifacts. All too often, one hears a premise or theoretical construct argued from the standpoint of selective validation. As though such an assertion were actually true without a shadow of a doubt. Preconceived notions, based on contemporary commonality of practice, absent critical verification, may lead to erroneous conclusions. In terms of the several criminal justice systems, and associated investigative processes, that could be very dangerous. Very often, we want to find what we think we are looking for. So, we gather whatever we discover to make sure we prove ourselves correct.

Many are quick to pre-judge the outcomes of initial speculations. Your proposition hunts down and locates by personal selectivity the necessary “evidence”. For that effort, the scheme of an issue finds subjective reinforcement to back up the original insinuation. For the sake of a concept of “forensic theology” we must ensure realistic applications are sufficiently reliable and adhere to judicious assessments. Investigative processes must avoid the pitfalls based on fallacies of inference. In like manner, personal opinions have to be tempered by careful evaluation from a forensic standpoint. Too frequently, cleverly presented personal stories, opinions and viewpoints, remain in the speculative realm of hearsay. And, to this prospect, they offer little credible substantiation and eventually devolve into intellectual heresy. So, long term, not much is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Or, for that matter, is it reinforced by the conviction of reliable evidentiary provability. The idea of “forensic theology” is about the intricate examination of belief systems, motives and intentions. Or, overall, the very intricate nature of humanistic thinking processes, along with the probability of threat potential. In this regard, the tool of critical thinking skills are essential along with a healthy inclusion of common sense. Better yet, a proclivity for profound uncommon sense.

References Consulted:
1 Carroll, Robert T., articles relative to “Psychic Detective”, and “Criminal profiling…”;
2 Grey, Stephen, an article regarding “Follow the Mullahs”;
3 Samenow, S. E., from the book – Inside the Criminal Mind;
4 Siegel, L.J., Criminology – The Core – Third Edition;
5 Alexander, J.B., Groller, R., Morris, J., The Warrior’s Edge; And others in the original research;

by Randy Gonzalez

The Application of Academic Research


This article will seek to highlight the numerous academic aspects of the martial arts and sciences and how they might be of serious interest and value as objects of research by various specialists. It will demonstrate their worth to researchers from other disciplines, providing them with a wealth of potential material to examine, experiment with and catalogue. Indeed, they are an extremely rich resource that has, for the most part, been completely neglected, with only a few brave and/or curious even bothering to explore the possibility.

It will highlight the efforts of the IMAS in striving hard to encourage and promote education, training, research and qualifications in the martial arts and sciences and, by so doing, gradually causing them to become more accepted as an academic subject of very real merit and worth.


Researchers in the following disciplines would find much of worth in the martial arts and sciences:

1. Anthropology

Anthropology is the scientific study of the Human Being, at all times and in all types of societies, cultures, civilisations and situations. The origin of anthropology is to be found in both the Natural Sciences and the Humanities. It asks questions such as: What defines a human being? Why do we tend to behave the way we do? And why do we develop particular belief systems?

Therefore, it is quite easy to see from the above that the martial arts and sciences have a great deal to offer this subject specialism, particularly in what is called “cultural anthropology” which is a sub-division that tends to concentrate upon “ethnology” or the study of certain systematic comparisons between different cultures. For example: A well known author wrote and published a definitive work upon the European knight. This book was very well received and, a couple of years later, the same person decided to write another work, this time upon the Japanese Samurai, so drawing comparisons between the two while also highlighting certain differences in the attitudes and behaviour of each. (We can see from this example one of the many “crossovers” that frequently occur between academic disciplines. This author was writing these works as an historian, although they could just have well have been presented (with a slight modification in context) as an anthropological text)

The comparison between the different warrior castes and their indigenous martial arts would be a perfectly acceptable study for any cultural anthropologist to embark upon and would no doubt, yield a wealth of interesting data for the researcher(s).

1. Philosophy

Philosophy deals with the life’s really BIG questions such as who are we? And why are we here? The meaning of truth and even life itself, Etc. There are many different schools of philosophy, as well as diverse areas of study (Epistemology, Logic, etc.) But, the areas that would be of special relevance in the martial arts would be both Aesthetics (which concerns itself with art) and Ethics (which concerns itself with morals, duty, scruples and generally “doing the right thing for the right reasons)

The martial arts would be most relevant to the oriental schools of philosophy that have their origin in religions such as Buddhism and Daoism, but certain European schools would also find much of interest, in particular Stoicism which concerns itself with the control of the emotions, and the Existentialism of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre among others, that subscribes to the theory that the human being must take full responsibility for the human condition rather than simply blaming it upon “Fate” or “God”.

2. Psychology

Psychology is the study of the functions of the human mind. It concerns itself with perception, cognition, personality and behaviour, etc. Again, it has many schools (Behaviourism, Cognitivism and Humanism, etc) and specialist areas (such as educational, industrial, etc) However, the martial arts would be of most use to psychologists researching the following aspects:

o Anger Management
o Conflict Resolution
o Stress Control
o Sports enhancement
o Education
o Performance coaching
o Etc.

There is a lot of interest in the way that martial artists utilise certain mental disciplines or “mindset” if you will. The ability to control their mental and physical abilities to the extent where ordinary flesh and bone can be used to break hard objects for example.

The psychology of warfare and the mindset of traditional warrior castes might even be able to shed some light upon the causes and treatment of certain mental health issues suffered by modern soldiers, chiefly, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which causes such a lot of misery to so many. So, once again, martial arts have a lot to offer from a psychological standpoint.

3. Sociology

Sociology is the study of human society and behaviour. It encompasses such things as the way society and culture influence the individual and also how individuals manage to find their place in the greater scheme of things and concentrates upon building up a body of knowledge regarding the effect that such things as religious and political beliefs exert upon the attitudes and behaviour of communities and society at large.

Up until quite recently, members of local communities maintained quite strong, close relationships with each other. They went to the same school, relaxed in the same bars or cafes, and worshipped in the same church or temple. These days, most of that has changed. Parents will actually up-stakes and move to another area in order to try and get their child in to the school of their choosing, because of the improved transport system, people tend to travel further afield if they want to go for a night out and not that many people are as devout with their religious observances as they were in times gone by. And, even if they are, it is now possible to worship in many different temples and churches, with it being possible to change your denomination, or even your entire religion, almost every week!

Because of this changing social structure, people are now far more independent rather than co-dependent. In the UK in particular, our churches and public houses are shutting down at an alarming rate, so this process is continuing and might even be speeding up somewhat.

In this climate, local martial arts clubs tend to endure as bastions of strength in the community. The vast majority are run by local people for local people, and make a very real and concrete contribution to their communities: Martial arts instructors continue to play an important part in keeping their local communities healthier and safer, and can also exert a tremendous influence upon the children and young people that come to them for lessons. They take part in important events in their local area such as putting on displays at garden parties and fetes, and engaging in fund-raising activities for charity, etc. In this manner, martial arts clubs actually help act as the “cement” of their local communities, attracting literally all kinds of people to come together in a spirit of trust and respect. Therefore, as instructors, we must be mindful of this fact: Our field of influence extends way beyond the mat, into the family unit and throughout the community at large.

Sociologists with an interest in the historical aspects of their science would find much of interest in the martial arts, as wars have always played a pivotal role in shaping the society we live in. The selection, training and fighting arts of the warrior, together with their strict code of ethical conduct, have had a heavy influence not only in the way that wars were fought, but also in how nations eventually evolved and came into being.

Therefore, martial arts can prove to be a rich source of both historic and contemporary information to sociologists.

4. Theology/Religious Studies

The martial arts of every country have always been very heavily influenced by certain religious beliefs and philosophies. Even today, it is possible to see the residue of these influences very clearly in not only the various histories of our arts, but also the rituals and traditions that are still so much a part of them. If we look into the historical origins and of many combative systems, we will find monks, priests and philosophers nurturing them and helping them to develop, if not actually inventing them altogether.

Indeed, if it were not for the warrior monks of many cultures and societies, then the martial arts we all know, love and learn today might not have survived at all. This is especially true when we look at such arts as Gatka from India, Shaolin Kung Fu from china, certain styles of Bersilat from Malaysia and Kyudo from Japan. Each of these martial arts is inseparably and indelibly linked to a religious belief and philosophy, with each still retaining certain undeniable aspects of these within their training regime and philosophies. Still other martial arts, such as Thai-Boxing and Sumo wrestling, clearly still bear the marks of theology upon some of their practices, requiring special blessings, prayers, rites and rituals as an integral part of their competitions.

5. Historic

As already stated above: War and religion are two of the sharpest tool’s employed in the shaping of human culture and society. In this manner, it could be argued that the martial arts and sciences have helped to both build and destroy entire empires and nations. Fighting and the use of weapons are so ancient that they actually even predate our own species: The great apes have been shown to demonstrate crude strategy and tactics, as well as modifying sticks into forms of primitive spear. The most primitive of weapons would include the stick, stone and bone, and any combination thereof the martial arts we practice now as a healthy pass time were then, quite literally the tools of the trade. It was upon the battlefield that a great deal of martial arts and sciences have their roots and continued development, from ancient times up until the present, with people like Fairbairn and Styers researching, experimenting and modifying the traditional techniques found in the Japanese and Chinese systems so that they could be of more efficient use in 20th century conflicts, the Israeli armed forces developing Krav Maga, and the United States Marine Corps with their military martial arts programmes of today which aid young marines to prepare for and fight battles, physically and mentally. These constant modifications are a necessary part of evolution where only the strongest survive.

Historians already find much of interest in the martial arts. Hence, you have serious researchers who delve into the weapons and armour of bygone eras. In addition, you have very respected institutions such as the Imperial War Museum that actually employ martial artists and Masters at Arms to demonstrate their abilities, so allowing the general public a rare opportunity to witness historical combat “up close and personal”. Martial arts, then, are actually pieces of “Living History” that allow both historians and the general public a unique insight into the past.

In addition to the above, there are several other disciplines that would find much of interest and worth in the study of martial arts. The very practice of martial arts techniques themselves contains a wealth of scientific application. Anatomy, Physiology, Bio-Mechanics, Kinetics, etc, are all a very real part of any training session. Health and fitness, Sports Science, Teaching methods and coaching all also have their place. It is about time that the martial arts and sciences were acknowledged and accepted as being the rich repository of knowledge they truly are.


All of the above is already happening (albeit in an extremely sporadic way.) Research papers have been submitted by academics of several disciplines throughout the past few decades. Even so, there is not enough of this valuable research for martial arts per se to be taken seriously as a subject worthy of stringent academic examination in its own right, with only certain specialised aspects being investigated by researchers from several other specialisms. And, it has to be said, the majority of faculty within the Institute (myself included) have, of course, all undergone their academic training and gained qualifications in various academic disciplines other than that of the martial arts and sciences, simply because the opportunity did not exist for us to research the arts we all loved to practice and teach. In a way, this has helped to make our faculty both strong and varied. But, the time has now come for the martial arts to “come of age” as an academic subject in its own right. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons as to why this institute has come into being, and remains one of its primary goals.

Earlier this year, the Institute of Martial Arts and Sciences held its first ever conference. It was a small affair but, never the less several very interesting research papers were submitted and presented. It is hoped that this research will soon be published so others might gain access to them and perhaps even be inspired to conduct research of their own. In addition, members of faculty constantly work hard at establishing strong links with several other learned institutes and universities the world over, and continually publishing books, articles and letters in both specialist journals and the martial arts press. So it has already started. The face of martial arts have changed irrevocably for the better, thanks to a scant handful of determined academics, researchers and educators who also happened to be very highly ranked martial arts practitioners. It is those few who have made it possible at last for the martial arts to be studied not only on the mat in a martial arts club, in the sporting arena or even on the battlefield, but also in classrooms and lecture halls. Martial artists can now also sit academic exams as well as undergo grading examination tests. And they can gain useful academic, professionally accredited qualifications as well as belts or sashes, and these qualifications mean just as much outside of the martial arts club as they do within it. Martial arts and those who practice them are now beginning to gain the status and recognition they so richly deserve.

Universities and Christian Right

Many on the Christian Right claim that American universities teach all sorts of esoteric things, from Pacific Islander cultures to gay and lesbian studies, but don’t teach Christianity. That is not true. Every major university has a theology department, and a student who wants to deepen his understanding of Christianity can do so by taking theology classes. But if the Christian believer feels that the universities do not pay enough attention to Christianity, there is a very simple reason for that.

Christianity is taught all over America in churches, Sunday schools and Christian community programs. An American student has very little to gain from hearing at the college level the same thing that has been the substance of his upbringing. Whereas the university may be the only place where an American college student may learn about the ways of people who are outside the tradition in which he’s been raised. For this reason anthropology and comparative religion are of interest to many American students. They find out about the ways of life other than theirs, which gives them a fuller understanding of the world.

There is very little sense in teaching students at university level what they already know from their childhood. One might as well be teaching them Algebra I. Whereas ways of life that are practiced by people whom one knows nothing about are both interesting and informative, and the university, being a center of learning, is exactly the place where such things should be taught.

If a student takes a class in gay and lesbian studies, that does not mean that he wants to be homosexual, nor does it mean that he is being trained to be a homosexual. He simply wants to find out about people who are not like him. If a student takes a class in anthropology and studies the ways of Native Americans, that does not mean that he wants to be a Native American nor that he is being trained to be a Native American. Once again, he wants to find out about people who are not like him. In a huge country, where there is (or is supposed to be) liberty, knowing about people who are not like oneself is necessary for dealing with people who are not like oneself. And the more the student finds out about people who are not like himself, the more grows his understanding and the greater becomes his ability to get along with people who are unlike himself.

Which means that the knowledge that comes from anthropology departments, comparative religion classes, and other aspects of education that deal with other ways of living and thinking, is in fact good for informed and responsible citizenship. The student finds out about people who are not like himself; and the more he does so, the more he can get along with people who are not like himself. The skills and perspective that are learned in the process can then translate into dealing with people in one’s own community or in the neighborhood on the other side of town. There are few more valuable ways to prepare people for life in democracy than to teach them about people who differ from them, and the service provided to American democracy by professors in these fields is priceless.