Shorinji Kempo The Art

The Shorinji Kempo | What is Shorinji Kempo | Shorinji Kempo History | Shorinji Kempo Description | The Founder of Shorinji Kempo | Background of Shorinji Kempo | Shorinji Kempo Philosophy | Technical Requirements for Belt Ranks | Shorinji Kempo The Art | The True Strength | The System of Shorinji Kempo

Shorinji Kempo was established in Japan in 1947 by Doshin So, as a means for people to learn to establish mutual trust and cooperation.

Prior to this, Doshin So had travelled widely in China, particularly Manchuria. There he studied techniques whose origin can be traced back to the the famous Shaolin monastery – where fighting arts were synthesised with Zen Buddhist philosophy – and beyond, to the spread of Buddhism from India.

Repatriated to his native Japan after the Second World War, he observed that his country, in the despair that followed utter defeat and occupation, was bereft of compassion and spirit.

Determined to remedy these failings, he founded Shorinji Kempo as a vehicle to this end. His belief was that the foundation for a peaceful and responsible society must be the development – both mental and physical – of the individuals that make up that society.

Doshin So, who we call Kaiso (simply: ‘the Founder’), summed up this vision of the individual in the Seiku (meditation) known to the millions who now practice Shorinji Kempo around the world:

I am my own refuge and source of strength.
On whom may I rely if not myself?
With self wisely disciplined I find a
truly rare and precious fountain of strength.
By doing evil, I contaminate myself.
By not doing evil, I purify myself.
Purity and contamination come from within,
and others cannot purify my heart.


Principles and Practice: The key principles of Shorinji Kempo are self-defence, strength of character and a healthy body. In accordance with the aims of the Founder, Shorinji Kempo’s martial techniques are predominantly conducted in pairs to foster a spirit of mutual co-operation.

Although one person may take the role of a defender and the other the attacker, the aim is not to find out which of the two wins, but together to improve techniques through partnership. This form of practice is not without technical benefits, for important skills such as an awareness of timing and distance can not be developed by training alone.

Another of the key principles of Shorinji Kempo is that one should defend first and attack second. This is not only for moral reasons, but also practical ones; in striking or grabbing an attacker leaves themselves open to counter-attack.

The responses Shorinji Kempo teaches are based on evasion, deflection, speed, precision, balance and using the force of an attack against the attacker. Because of this Shorinji Kempo can be effectively used by anyone, regardless of strength, sex or age.

Martial Techniques: Goho and Juho: The martial techniques of Shorinji Kempo are divided into so-called hard techniques, known as goho, and soft techniques, known as juho. The intention, however, is that eventually the student will be able to seamlessly combine the two. The techniques have a functional style and are practised from a comfortable natural stance.

Goho is typified by delivering and avoiding a variety of strikes including kicks and punches. The emphasis is on swift, accurate strikes and on evasion, rather than meeting force with force.

Juho encompasses defensive techniques that are used when grabbed or held against ones will. These comprise of releasing from a grip or throwing an attacker and applying a lock to subdue them. Added to this, we learn a system of break-falls in order to escape uninjured if thrown or tripped by the attacker.

Unlike arts such as Karate, which teaches only blocking and striking techniques, or Judo and Aikido, which teach only locks and throws, Shorinji Kempo teaches every aspect of defence. This allows the student to respond most effectively and efficiently to any situation that may arise.

Other Aspects: Seiho and Chinkon: Seiho is the name given to the therapeutic techniques that Shorinji Kempo teaches. It can be used to relax tensed muscles and joints or to treat any minor injuries which might occur during training or elsewhere.

Seiho draws on a variety of different sources, mostly traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, and is practised through massage, joint manipulation and an understanding of the body’s vital points (which, of course, also have a martial application). More experienced practitioners can use Seiho techniques to stop nose bleeds and even revive people knocked unconscious.

Seated meditation, or Chinkon, is practised in Shorinji Kempo as a means to mental development. It also promotes awareness and breath control and is a integral part of the Zen philosophy on which Shorinji Kempo is based.