Youth Pastors Encouraged to Learn Self-Defense

Given the number of church shootings that have increased across the country, pastoral ministry could be considered an at-risk profession, according to an instructor of a fighting method used for Hollywood movies such as "The Dark Knight."

"It should be evident to all that we do not live in a perfect world. There will always be violence. That is just reality," says Jeff McKissack, an instructor of the Keysi Fighting Method (KFM) in Dallas and the U.S. KFM ambassador.

"[A] violent situation ... can happen to anybody at anytime," he adds.

This past weekend, McKissack offered a KFM workshop to Dallas-area youth pastors to expose the "defense-only" fighting method to those unfamiliar with it and to help them learn how to defend themselves against attacks and also help protect the youth they lead at church in an increasingly violent world.

"People do crazy things, and we live in a crazy world," Galen Davis, a junior high youth pastor at Calvary Church in Irving, told The Dallas Morning News. "I don't think there's anything wrong with learning to protect yourself."

"Doing this is better than doing nothing," added Robert Cirtin, a Missouri-based church safety consultant. "It does get you to think in terms of your surroundings."

News of the recent workshop in the basement of Highland Park United Methodist Church has raised flags, however, particularly from those who disagree with McKissack's assertion that KFM is a "theologically sound" approach.

"OK, first of all, I was a youth pastor for 20 years, taking kids to some pretty sketchy places like Lima, Peru and Juarez, Mexico. And, while I occasionally felt that we were threatened, never once would the Keysi bob-and-weave have come in handy," wrote emergent church leader Tony Jones in his "The New Christians" blog in multi-faith site on Sunday.

Jones also criticized one youth pastor's claim that Christians are not meant to be "just stomped on."

"But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also," Jones wrote, citing the words of Jesus Christ.

McKissack, however, insists that Jesus advocated self-defense, pointing to scripture in Luke 22:35-36, in which Jesus told his disciples before sending them out to carry their money, their clothing and a sword.

"Over the years I have encountered truly sincere people who believe we should always 'turn the other cheek' … at all costs. The problem with that ideology lies in the fact that it does not only foster martyrs, but victims as well," he argues.

Furthermore, McKissack says, youth ministers are charged with protecting their flock, whether on missions foreign or missions domestic.

"In fact, in these times you almost have to be concerned taking teens anywhere as 'trouble' and 'teenagers' seem to attract versus repel as far as dynamics at work in the universe," he stated Monday, laughing.

McKissack is planning to hold another workshop for ministers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Friday, Apr. 10.

The origins of KFM date back to the 1950s, when gypsies in Spain used it in street fighting. Today, it's incorporated in a number of Hollywood action movie because, as filmmakers say, the fighting method makes fight scenes look more real.

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