Combat Team

The Combat Team’s Brian Bryan kicks a board held by John James during a performance. The team will present several shows across the area next week.Courtesy | Combat Team

The Combat Team will kick off — and punch, break and crush — a string of performances in the area during the coming week.

The martial arts group presents a mix of karate and gospel for an all-ages audience.

“For karate, if you can break a couple of boards, you can draw a crowd pretty quick,” said Brian Bryan, CEO and founder of the Combat Team. “People love martial arts. When they come, they get to see all the fancy kicks and strikes. It’s a cool way to fellowship with people and encourage one another.”

The Combat Team’s upcoming schedule includes assemblies at area schools, Souls Harbor and the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri. Their full-scale, public performance will be at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at Carterville Baptist Church. It will last about 45 minutes to an hour, and admission is free.

The audience can expect an exciting and interactive experience for all ages, Bryan said. The show will involve lots of smashing boards, crushing concrete and high-flying kicks.

All of the karate demonstrations will be a platform to share the Gospel and help people become healthy all around, he said.

“We might do a few breaks, and then talk about what God is doing in our lives,” Bryan said. “We’ll do a few more breaks and then, at the end, we’ll share the gospel with people. That’s our ultimate goal.”

Bryan has practiced martial arts for the past 40 years. He has an eighth-degree black belt in taekwondo and a fifth-degree black belt in aikido. He was a Golden Gloves boxer in his youth and has studied several other martial arts.

In 1997, Bryan said, the Lord led him to start an evangelistic martial arts demonstration team that would travel around the world doing karate and sharing the gospel. Living in Joplin at the time, he moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to attend the Victory Bible Institute. Once he started the Combat Team, he began traveling throughout the United States and to 30 to 40 countries, sharing his mix of martial arts and gospel.

“Everybody thinks about karate as hurting people,” Bryan said. “In the movies, that’s what they show. Really, though, martial arts is about treating others the way you want to be treated: with respect, discipline and humility. All those traits sound a lot like Jesus. We use karate as a way to help people better themselves.”

The Combat Team also performs for school assemblies across the country. It will make stops at Bess Truman Primary Center and Harry S. Truman and Mark Twain elementary schools in Webb City, Steadley Elementary in Carthage and Monett schools in the coming week. At these assemblies, they teach kids about good character traits, encourage them to make good choices, involve secular lessons for building character and talk about anti-bullying.

In addition to the performances, Bryan leads a program called Combat Team Roots that establishes martial arts schools overseas. These worldwide schools have been set up in places like Belize, Ghana, Uganda and Lebanon, and teachers share a mix of karate and Christianity.

“When you’re building the body and mind up with karate, you build the spirit up with the word of God and prayer,” Bryan said. “Then you’re building the whole being.”

Whether it’s performing locally or establishing a martial arts school a continent away, Bryan believes in his call to spread God’s word. He also takes inspiration from one of the great martial artists.

“I heard Chuck Norris say once, ‘If someone comes in to take my karate class, they’re really coming in saying they want to be a better person,’” Bryan said. “I always thought that rang true to me.”

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