Grafenwoehr chaplain ministers with martial arts

Base chaplain Maj. Kevin Hovan, left, demonstrates an aikido move on Pfc. Nikolas Petrosyan during an aikido class at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.


By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 25, 2017

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — A pious warrior teaches Eastern martial arts to a group of eager, young disciples. It may sound like the plot of a kung fu movie, but it’s happening here at a U.S. Army base.

Base Chaplain (Maj.) Kevin Hovan teaches aikido to soldiers at the Grafenwoehr fitness center every Tuesday and Thursday. “It gives people an outlet to take out some aggression in a safe way,” Hovan said.

Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art often translated as “the way of the harmonious spirit.” Developed as a method of self-defense that protects opponents from injury, it uses several throws and joint locks.

The style of aikido Hovan teaches is called Nihon goshin aikido, a more aggressive, combative form of aikido that utilizes strikes as well as traditional aikido moves.

“I understand there is some conflict of interest here,” Hovan said. “Chaplains are supposed to prepare people to meet their maker, not arrange the meeting.”

Hovan views teaching martial arts as part of his ministry. “There’s a lot of elements of martial arts besides just the physical aspects,” he said.


Part of aikido is about taking somebody else’s energy and flowing with it, rather than creating your own. This can be done physically or mentally.

“Think about having an argument with somebody, and instead of creating your own negative energy, you flow with theirs,” Hovan said. “There are a lot of life lessons to be learned from aikido.”

Before Hovan began holding aikido classes, base chaplain Capt. Andrew Calvert taught tang soo doo, a Korean martial art similar to karate.

“It is sort of a strange coincidence that all the chaplains know martial arts,” Hovan said.

Hovan speculates that many chaplains learn martial arts because, as noncombatant soldiers, they can fight only in this manner. The philosophies behind many martial arts complement their preaching, he said.

Classes are 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. They are open to everybody on base, ages 10 and older. Parents must accompany children ages 10-15 and no experience is necessary.

Twitter: @Marty_Stripes


Chaplain Maj. Kevin Hovan at the Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, demonstrates an aikido move during an aikido class, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.