Ask a Franciscan

Is Boxing a Sin?

Person wrapping their hands with red boxing wrap

Q. I am a 16-year-old guy and generally a spiritual person. I read the Bible and try to follow what it teaches. But sometimes its teachings and some of my own philosophies seem contradictory. I hold a black belt in karate and am passionate about studying the martial arts, which I often consider to be one of God’s answers to my prayers.

The principles that I learn from martial arts are ones that I use in my everyday life. I have recently become interested in boxing and like the training it involves. Is competing in a boxing or karate competition wrong? Am I sinning by training my body and mind to defeat my opponents? By risking injury to myself?

When I look out at the world, I don’t always like what I see. That’s what motivates me to become better and better. I don’t want to harm the world or anyone in it. I would like to improve the world.

A. There is no sin in training for boxing as long as you use those skills only in supervised, amateur competitions or self-defense. Because of the number of brain injuries and deaths that have occurred in professional boxing, some moral theologians question the morality of boxing at that level.

Training for supervised karate competitions is also fine. The skills learned in karate and boxing can be used outside the ring in cases of genuine self-defense or defending an innocent party.

More important, your karate and boxing training are teaching you discipline. You will need that if you want to improve the world whose shortcomings are quite obvious to you. The discipline you learn from sports will help you order your life properly and can be very valuable if you engage in some community service, some effort to go beyond self-improvement as a way of improving our world.

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1 thought on “Is Boxing a Sin?”

  1. Tom Delaney, OFS

    Good response, Brother Pat! Both St. Francis and Paul the Evangelist emphasized the value of subduing the body, disciplining it, as a dimension of prayerful (or penitent) life. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 is often interpreted as analogy, but athletes know that sometimes you work on the inside spiritual stuff by working on the outside physical stuff. That’s just the way it works for some people, and it’s actually a grace. Brother Pat also points to who the comfort with challenge and adversity can translate to spirituality, faith, and I would say especially in serving and helping the poor, the abandoned, and those in despair. You can be there for them with the extra strength and set of hands and heart they need in real tough situations. Train hard, take faith!

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