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What is ShorinjiKempo?

Shorinji Kempo, now more than ever, is a martial art to represent Japan. However, among Japan's many martial arts, the history of Shorinji Kempo is very young - only 56 years have passed since its creation.

In this time, over 1,500,000 people have joined. The number of branches within Japan is about 2,950, and it has also spread to 29 countries overseas.

On this page, we offer for a general readership a simple, clear explanation of Shorinji Kempo.

The fundamental approach and goals in creating Shorinji Kempo

In 1945, World War Two came to an end. In that war, Japan surrendered unconditionally, and Kaiso, Doshin So experienced defeat in war. However, in that experience of defeat in war was contained the origins of Shorinji Kempo's creation.

Kaiso spoke about it as follows:

"With my own body I experienced the realities of harsh international political realities in which power seems to be the only justice, and the state and nation's interest took priority over ideology, religion, and morality. The precious experience I gained amidst this was that the conduct of law, the military, and the government were not simply determined by ideological and religious differences, or by national policy, but that they are changed dramatically by the character and way of thinking of the people who are in the positions of action. Thereupon, my view of the world transformed, and I came to see a certain aim for my future way of living. - The person, the person, the person. Everything depends on the quality of the person."

Based on this personal viewpoint of Kaiso's that "everything depends on the quality of the person," Doshin So created Shorinji Kempo in 1947 in Japan with the aim of educating people with strong senses of compassion, courage, and justice.

At the time in Japan, social order had been discarded, and many people had lost sight of their goals in life. However, people with a sense of purpose responded to Kaiso's call and gathered around him. Now, Shorinji Kempo is spreading from its base in Japan to a broader and broader presence in the world.


The principles of Shorinji Kempo have their base in "people" and "peace."

The value Kaiso placed on "people" was transformed by his experiences around the time Japan was defeated in war, and afterwards when he examined social changes he established a way of seeing that would examine the "quality of the people" involved.

Also, Kaiso hated war, the symbol of all of humanity's foolishness, he loved peace, and he sought for the development of a real peace for humankind. Moreover, he contended that "countries and society must transform by the improvement of human hearts and by peaceful means."

To make that hope reality, he set as goals "the enrichment of people and the establishment of ideal places" when he created Shorinji Kempo.

What this phrase, "the establishment of ideal places," means is the building of societies that, while free of wars and conflagrations, are bright and plentiful both physically and spiritually.

Then, the meaning of "Shorinji Kempo's enrichment of people" is the educating of people who can live their lives as described below.

(1) People who can live with faith in their own individual potential.
(2) People who can guide their lives from their own standpoint.
(3) People who can act with consideration for the happiness of others.
(4) People who can act with justice, courage, and compassion.
(5) People who can lead lives of cooperation, making community with strangers and acquaintances alike.

One of Kaiso's sayings is, "half for one's own happiness, and half for the happiness of others." This is a representative principle of Shorinji Kempo, and expands on the phrase, "self construction and happiness for self and others."

"Self establishment" means being able to realize the nobility of the wondrous potential one possesses, to have a standard for how human beings should live, to possess the confidence to build on oneself, and to be able to live a life worthy of pride.

"Happiness for self and others" means recognizing the existence of both oneself and others, and living in a way that consistently seeks the improvement and development of oneself as well as others and society.

Now, throughout the world there are many people practicing Shorinji Kempo. At this very moment, there are groups of people enjoying a workout together in various dojo.

I have listened to some of these people talk about Shorinji Kempo.

Some say they've learned to value people, others that they've learned to enjoy relations with people, and so on in a multitude of impressions of how Shorinji Kempo has affected kenshi's lives.

As you can see, many people speak not only about the technical side, but about the way it affects their way of life, and we can consider this to be one of the big reasons for Shorinji Kempo's expansion.

Shorinji Kempo Greetings - Gassho Rei

The Shorinji Kempo greeting is the gassho rei. This is a form of greeting in which the left and right palms are held together in front of the face. We do not use a Japanese-style bow.

While gassho rei displays the form of equality, this greeting also expresses an attitude of mutual support and respect. In short, it expresses physically the thoughts of "self establishment" and "happiness for self and others."

"Relations among people should begin with ritual (rei) and end with ritual (rei). If the rei is done properly, then one's posture corrects itself, and one's heart corrects itself spontaneously. If the heart is right, dignity will naturally adhere, and the conduct of ritual (rei) will be a stately and flawlessly splendid thing. Ritual protects the body, beautifies society, and is an essential element in governing a country." stated Kaiso in his writings.

Technical Methods

Shorinji Kempo is a martial art that treats a person as a human being. Thus, it is necessary to re-affirm that the goal in practicing this technical method is that it be a means to improving oneself as a human being.

Members of Shorinji Kempo study the fundamentals of mutual human recognition and respect through technical practice. The Shorinji Kempo dojo is a place bearing important responsibilities, especially in the process of character formation for youth kenshi.

Now, I will explain about the technical methods of Shorinji Kempo.

Shorinji Kempo technical methods can be separated broadly into Goho (hard method) and Juho (soft method).

Goho are technical methods for receiving an opponent's strike, kick, or similar attack with a deflection, and overcoming the opponent with strikes, kicks or other such counter-attacks.

Juho are techniques for when an opponent grabs the arms or clothing, and in which one releases oneself, or takes a joint reverse or throws the opponent.

Goho and Juho can be distinguished in this fashion, but as the degree of training increases, Goho and Juho progress toward becoming a single body of techniques.

The reason for this is that in order to subdue an opponent based on response to that person's movements and the particular situation, one is required to master the hard and soft methods, adapt them, and come to use them effectively.

You do not compare which of the two is a more effective method. Yet I often hear comments from members about the necessity of sharpening their Juho skills in many situations. One sensible reason for this is that Juho is difficult to express in words and photographs.

Members put forth their efforts unsparingly to acquire these techniques with their difficult reputation. Making these effort is also enjoyable. Fellow members gather, and the scene of people teaching and being taught unfolds in every dojo all over the world.

Shorinji Kempo techniques are techniques of barehanded self defense. Thus, if people fail to engage in them seriously, injuries will result. In the dojo, seriousness about practice is required.

Studying amidst a serious practice has its pleasures, and one finds a fellowship that comes with teaching each other. This is the greatest reason that draws many of our members to Shorinji Kempo.

The spirit that resides within practice

The characteristic condition of Shorinji Kempo practice consistently has a state of "harmony" as its source. For example, there is a teaching that mind and body are existences that cannot be separated from each other, so in applying oneself to practice one must work for a harmony between the cultivation of the heart and the tempering of the body. Again, amidst technical practice and during zazen, the breathing is very important. Method in breathing simultaneously orders the breathing and disciplines mind and body, and is the most effective method for putting into practice spiritual strength and physical strength.

Breath or breathing is the wellspring of life for all living creatures, and the wellspring of strength. From ancient times, it has been taught that "when the breath calms the mind calms, when the mind is calm the breath is calm. Even so, the breath is the mind, and the mind is the breath."

The fact that when the breath is disturbed the mind is disturbed, and when the mind grows disturbed the breath grows disturbed is something we experience daily, but it also can happen that disturbance of the breath affects the spirit, decreases our energy, affects our physique, and so lies at the root of our illness.

From ancient times, it was thought that breath is one's spirit, an element of spiritual energy, and the source of one's life force- and ordering of the breath was considered the first thing in self cultivation.

Shorinji Kempo training is founded on a way of being rooted in the above kind of Eastern philosophy, so it is probably no exaggeration to say that it contains within it an Eastern spirit.

The root nature of martial arts and Shorinji Kempo

Kaiso taught the term "bu" (martial) in "budo" (martial arts or path) in the following way.

"It is something that stops the conflicts between person and person, that contributes to peace and culture, and that has a moral content which expresses the path of harmonious cooperation (bringing minds into harmony and uniting efforts). It never injures an opponent carelessly, seeks conflicts, or seeks solely the goal of winning against an opponent." Moreover, "budo conforms to the above meaning of 'bu,' and is a path to achieving that goal." And, "it is a path that is capable of contributing to humankind's peace and well being."

In this way, Shorinji Kempo is not simply a technology of self defense, but a method of cultivating one's character, and moreover a martial art that considers the happiness of people as individuals, and that can further contribute to the peace and well-being of humankind. That is Shorinji Kempo.

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