What is Shorinji Kempo?

Kaiso (Founder) So Doshin photoShorinji Kempo is a martial art first founded in Japan in 1947 by a man named Doshin So.  Shorinji Kempo practitioners call him “Kaiso,” which means “the Founder.”  Kaiso had the opportunity to study martial arts in China for 17 years before and during World War Two.  After witnessing the moral devastation of war, Kaiso had an epiphany that he expressed in a famous utterance, “The person, the person; everything depends on the quality of the person!”  Kaiso dedicated himself thenceforth to the education of individuals who would be spiritually and physically fit enough to build a better and peaceful world.

But how would he do it?  What would be a suitable method?

At the Shaolin Temple(少林寺)in China, Kaiso was moved by a mural depicting Chinese and Indian monks smiling as they together practice martial arts. He worked to see that scene reproduced by ordinary people. He named the system he taught Shorinji Kempo.(少林寺拳法)

Today, Kaiso’s daughter, Yuuki So, heads the Shorinji Kempo Organization. Shorinji Kempo is now practiced in more than 33 countries around the world under the World Shorinji Kempo Organization (WSKO.)

All branches in this web site are officially registered under WSKO.

What are the basic characteristics of Shorinji Kempo?

There are six basic characteristics of Shorinji Kempo.

1. Ken Zen Ichi Nyo(拳禅一如) Mind and body are one.
We practice to bring our intentions and our actions into alignment.

2. Riki Ai Fu Ni(力愛不二) Love and strength are not separate.
Love without strength cannot act to change things for the better; strength without love is merely violence.

3. Shu Shu Ko Ju(守主攻従) Defense is primary; offense is secondary.
There are both moral and tactical advantages in refraining from attack, and instead learning how to avoid or deflect an initial attack, then counterattacking.

4. Fusatsu Katsujin(不殺活人) Do not kill; preserve life.
Use only that level of force which is sufficient to stop an attack, and to extinguish an enemy’s desire to attack.

5. Go Ju Ittai(剛柔一体) Hard and soft techniques make one whole.
To meet any type of attack, it is essential to master both hard and soft techniques.

6. Kumite Shutai(組手主体) Pair work is fundamental.
We improve only by working with others, who bear discomfort so that we can improve.  Each of us in turn bears discomfort to help our partners learn.

What Kind of Techniques Are There in Shorinji Kempo?

There are three main branches of techniques in Shorinji Kempo.  The first is go ho—“hard” techniques: punches, kicks, and blocks.  The second is ju ho— “soft” techniques: escapes, joint locks, throws, pins, and falling techniques.  The third is sei ho— “adjustment” or “balancing” techniques: knowledge of pressure points, plus techniques for spinal alignment, joint adjustment, and resuscitation.  A fourth, non-technical branch of knowledge in Shorinji Kempo is tetsugaku, “philosophy” — the moral and ethical principles that define and limit our art, and govern our conduct towards one another.

How does someone start doing Shorinji Kempo?

Anyone can visit our local dojo (a studio/club where we practice) observe a practice. If a prospective student and the instructor agree that Shorinji Kempo is right for that person, the person will be invited to join in Shorinji Kempo practice. New students will be asked to complete an application form, which is sent to headquarters in Japan.  After this official registration, a student can get a curriculum book and philosophy book to study Shorinji Kempo.


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