ChristianWeek News

Karate for Christ Canada celebrates decade of martial arts training

By Michelle Rickard | Monday, October 31, 2011

CAMBRIDGE, ON—Karate for Christ Canada, one of the fastest growing Christian martial arts organizations in Ontario, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The faith-based martial arts program has been providing a fun karate experience based on Christian values to hundreds of kids and adults since 2001.

"Our main goal is to teach self defense skills with life lessons by positively encouraging kids," says sensei Neil McGillivray, founder and chief instructor of Karate for Christ Canada. He adds, "If you are a Christ-follower you don't have to worry about eastern mysticism as all of our classes are taught by Christian martial artists. We only serve one master and that is Jesus Christ."

McGillivray, a former youth pastor and Bible College instructor, has more than 28 years of martial arts experience. He also has a black belt in Chinese Kenpo Karate and Modern Arnis (Filipino stick fighting). He says that merging his love for God and martial arts wasn't something he had ever considered.

However, that changed during a men's breakfast meeting at Cedar Creek Community Church in Ayr. McGillivray, who was sitting with the church's pastor, says he excused himself early so he could make it in time to London where he was judging a karate tournament.

"Our pastor's response was that he had no idea I was into martial arts and asked me if I would be willing to provide a demonstration sometime for the Sunday school classes. I said yes and left for my hour-long drive to London.

"Along the way I started dreaming about whether or not I could use my martial arts experience to serve God. So I started praying for the Lord to give me an opportunity to work with young people, where I could talk to them about Jesus and teach them martial arts."

Following those prayers, McGillivray submitted a 12-page proposal to the church's board members, outlining his plans to form a Christian karate ministry. The members embraced it and Karate for Christ Canada was born. That was 10 years ago.

What makes Karate for Christ Canada different from most other martial arts training facilities? "We present the Gospel message through Bible lessons at the beginning of each class and classes are offered at no cost to participants," says McGillivray.

"Students don't have to worry about paying for classes. However, they do have to pay for a uniform, which is usually $35. There are also no expensive belt gradings as we charge $25, regardless of the rank you are testing for," he says, adding that most black belt exams are more than $500.

The martial arts program runs from September to June with students attending one class each week. Students also have the opportunity to participate in three to four regional karate tournaments. Modern Arnis lessons are open to ages 10 and older while karate classes are open to those six years and older. Little Ninjas is offered to three to six-year-olds.

"We do ask that kids already registered in other programs not attend our classes, simply because they are offered for free. We aren't trying to take away business from those who make a living teaching martial arts. However, we are looking for students who want to experience a different worldview—a Christian one," says McGillivray.

Current classes are being offered at Alliston Pentecostal Church in Alliston, Ontario, and Calvary Pentecostal Assembly in Cambridge. Plans are also underway to open a dojo (a gathering place for students of any Japanese martial arts) next year in the community of Ingersoll.

Tim Hyjek, connections and community outreach pastor at Calvary, says not only does Karate for Christ Canada offer a free 32-week training program in karate, but, more importantly, a Christ-centered teaching that builds confidence and self-esteem.

"Partnering with this organization has given our church the ability to offer a top notch program for our community within our four walls."

McGillivray says he would love to see more programs start up in Ontario and across the country. "I have already developed the Bible curriculum and martial arts program. We just need trained martial arts instructors who are born-again Christians to implement the program in their hometowns."

Although not a registered charity, McGillivray adds that Karate for Christ Canada does have a need for funding to be able to purchase mats, signage and sample uniforms. The organization is also looking for a volunteer who can assist with administrative duties such as proposal writing.

For more information about classes, volunteer opportunities, or on starting up a new program, visit