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The word and the sword

Group of friends find way to connect swordplay with Christianity in a martial art called Tabikap

Posted: January 28, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 28, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Peri McMaster, left, and Daniel Aasi, right, of Sword of the Spirit practice sword fighting at Central Park on Jan. 14 as Jeremy Mehgaer watches.

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Drive through Central Park on any given Saturday and you might catch a group of people engaging in simulated sword fight at the Saugus park.

But for the small group of members, it’s a chance to connect nonviolent swordplay with Bible studies and Christianity.

Sword of the Spirit Christian Ministries was founded last year by friends Jeremy Meagher, Jed and Jill Hipple and Tiffani Sandoval. Their goal was to integrate a unique form of martial arts sword fighting, which they call Tabikap, with a biblical lesson in a Christian setting.

Each week, the group meets at Central Park to hold a Bible lesson and offer Tabikap lessons. Biblical lessons may include listening to God or the Christmas story; while Tabikap lessons focus on sword-fighting techniques, balance and how to use a “shinai.”

A shinai is a bendable bamboo stick with a foam tip at the end, more typically used in kendo. It serves as the fighter’s “sword.”

“Tabikap is a fun activity and also a good form of exercise,” Meagher said. “It is really a team sword-fighting martial art.”

 

The rules

The group focuses on teaching the specific techniques for sword fighting, martial arts, teamwork and combat tactics.

At the end of each class, the field is opened up for “open fighting,” in which two teams battle. During open fighting, specific rules must be followed, such as a hit to the back counts as “death” and takes one out of the game, while a hit to the arm requires the player to no longer use that arm.

“The hits are light contact,” Meagher said. “We don’t hit hard, or want any one to get hurt.”

 

Integrating the Bible

The group hopes to offer a fun activity that is Bible-focused, but is not affiliated with a specific church. The group of friends admit that this type of ministry is not common.

Each class opens and closes with a prayer and offers Biblical lessons and teachings. Jed and Jill Hipple have been involved in biblical ministries over the years and help teach each lesson. Jill Hipple received her certificate in biblical studies from Kings University.

“This is a great way to spread God’s word to different places and get exercise at the same time,” Sandoval said.

Meagher, who prayed heavily before making the leap, felt God was calling him to do this type of ministry.

“We wanted to offer a place where people that might be turned off by the idea of church can feel inclined to attend,” he said.

The group teaches teamwork, strategy and battle tactics — emphasizing the development of leadership and critical thinking.

Peri McMaster, 16, attends every week, but admits she was nervous at first. The activity was like nothing she had ever seen.

“It looked awesome but I wasn’t sure if I could do it,” McMaster said. “It is definitely one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.”

Classes are open to everyone. They meet weekly at Central Park near the basketball courts, and the program is free. Children 10 and older are welcome to attend with parent approval and supervision.

This type of stick fighting is not usually fused with Biblical teachings, but for Meager and his friends, it felt like the right thing to do.

“This allows us to share Christ in a nonthreatening way,” Meagher said. “People get to see how Christ lives in us and how we serve him.”

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