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What is Shorinji Kempo ?






What is Shorinji Kempo??

Shorinji Kempo (少林寺拳法) was established by Doshin So (宗 道臣) as a system for self-improvement and training (行: gyo or discipline) in Japan in 1947 based on Shaolin kungfu (and using the same kanji).

The training methods are based on the philosophy “spirit and body are not separable” (心身一如: shinshin ichinyo) and “train both body and spirit” (拳禅一如: kenzen ichinyo). In this way, Shorinji Kempo has been known to have 3 benefits of “self-defense and training” (護身錬鍛: goshin rentan), “mental training ” (精神修養: seishin shuyo) and “promoting health”(健康増進: kenko zoshin).

Shorinji Kempo also incorporates an education system aiming to “establish oneself” (自己確立: jiko kakuritsu) and promote “mutual comfort” (自他共楽: jita kyoraku’) employing well organized technical training schedules (科目表: kamoku hyo) and a thick handbook for the philosophy and techniques (少林寺拳法教範: Shorinji Kempo Kyohan).

The organization of Shorinji Kempo group is divided into 5 corporate entities. The religious entity (金剛禅総本山少林寺: Kongo-zen Sohonzan Shorinji, foundation entity(財団法人少林寺拳法連盟: Shorinji Kempo Foundation Federation), educational entity (学校法人禅林学園: Zenrin Gakuen College), global entity (少林寺拳法世界連合, WSKO: World Shorinji Kempo Organization) and intellectual property entity (SHORINJI KEMPO UNITY). The relationship between these 5 entities is very tight because of the unique fusion of religion, budo and education. source: web site of Shorinji Kempo Foundation Federation and Shorinji Kempo Kyohan written by Doshin So)

It is important to know that Shorinji Kempo derives its basic philosophy from ancient buddhism and its basic techniques from old Chinese martial arts.


There are two sides of Shorinji Kempo which are believed to be true budo (武道) and educational system. As the latter, the organization is well known among boys and girls for their mental training institution as well as body training facilities (道場: dojo).

Doshin So as the founder of Shorinji Kempo wanted to establish not only an organization which incorporated mental and physical training but also wanted to educate Japanese people who had been completely demoralised by World War II/ Pacific Rim War. His aim was to defuse those who had lost their way and rebuild Japan for the future. It is said that he tried to teach philosophy based on the original buddhism and zen but no one followed him. Then he thought to follow Bodhidharma who was believed to be the originator of zen as the mental training and ekkin-gyo as the body training (易筋行) according to his book. Both of these are later to become the main training methods of Shorinji Kempo.

As the part of the philosophy Shorinji Kempo aims at self-improvement for the person and world peace by creating never-bending courage, harmonious personality and compassion for others. To help create a peaceful and ideal society, Shorinji Kempo has been insisting every person be a real leader of their respective area.

Technically, Shorinji Kempo has a whole set of defense techniques but the demonstration known as embu (演武) is the commonly demonstrated technique. It is usually performed by 2 persons and called kumi-embu (組演武). The embu consists of 6 sections and each section includes a series of techniques which are either goho (剛法) or juho (柔法). During the embu, one person attacks and another person defends, they then swap roles and repeat the technique immediately. Each technique is known as hien (飛燕) or flying swallow which represents speed and smoothness of those techniques. The embu is occasionally performed wearing a black gown (法衣: hoi) at the beginning ceremony of annual taikai (大会) or convention.

The relationship between Shorinji Kempo and Song Shan Shaolin Temple

The name “Shorinji” is a literal reading of the Chinese word “Shaolin Temple” from the Shaolin Monastery in Song Shan district (嵩山少林寺: Suuzan-shorinji) in Henan Province (河南省) in China. Doshin So inherited the title of the 21st master of the Giwamon-ken (義和門拳) system, which is believed to have been used during the revolt of Giwadan-school (義和団乃乱) or the Boxer Rebellion for the defense of Buddhist priests in 1900 and 1901.

Also, Doshin So was very much impressed to see paintings on the wall of Byakue-den (白衣殿) chapel at Shaolin Temple. The style of the buddhist priests who are practicing the martial arts was very fresh and vital to him. He thought it was the origin of the existing martial arts techniques in China. (source: a book “Hiden Shorinji Kempo” 秘伝少林寺拳法「光文社」written by Doshin So, published by Kobun-sha Kappa Books)

A monument of Doshin So was erected in the 50s of Showa era (around 1975) representing the long term relationship of Shaolin Temple and Shorinji Kempo group. The Chinese film titled “少林寺 or Shaolin Temple” starling action star Jet Li (李 連杰) was shot at Shaolin Temple supported by members of the Shorinji Kempo group.

According to Doshin So, he would like to put ho (法: dharma and truth) after ken (拳: fist) because even the power of the techniques need to follow dharma and truth. The name of Shorinji Kempo consists of Shaorin Temple, fist (means power and techniques) and dharma/truth.

It is said that the word kempo (拳法) is seldom used in China. The pronunciation of these two characters in Mandarin Chinese is “quan2 fa3” (the figures 2 and 3 indicate which of the 4 tones of pronunciation for these two characters.)


Doshin So (born in 1911) spent his younger ages in northern China in order to do something for the Japanese nation and people. He joined the Intelligence Agency of the Japanese Army to collect military information during the war. During his stay, he met master Chen (陳 良) who was an expert of Giwamon-ken. Learning his techniques, Doshi So traveled Manchuria on his mission and duty and learned more about existing Chinese martial arts. Then master Wen (文 太宗) took him to visit Shaolin Temple in Hana Province to inherit Giwamon-ken (義和門拳: Yi He Men Quan) letting Doshin So become the 21st master.

On 9 August in 1945 the Soviet Army proceeded to Manchuria and he was forced to live under the occupation of the Soviet Army. Finally, he recognized and understood the “nature of the human being”. According to his book, this is extremely important since the politics, law and living are all conducted by human beings.

After coming back from China, he thought he would establish a cram school for the young people. He was stationed in the small town called Tadotsu in Shikoku island in Japan to teach Buddhist philosophy. However, he failed to convince people without something new or different. So, he established Shorinji Kempo to take the concept of ken-zen ichinyo by following Bodhidharma and made use of techniques he learned in China. He was confident to provide courage and opportunity to learn the doctrines of Buddha for the young people in order to be a leader of the coming generation.

(source: a book “HIden Shorinji Kempo” (秘伝少林寺拳法) written by Doshin So, published by Kobun-sha Kappa Books)

This promotion and campaign was called as Kongo-zen undo (Kongo-zen campaign) and expanded Shorinji Kempo throughout Japan by his pupils. This campaign and concept was inherited by his daughter 宗 由貴 (Yuuki So) after his death in 1980 till present. After his death, Doshin So has been called “Kaiso” or the founder and the grand master.


Shorinji Kempo is not a usual budo or a kind of sports to the utmost. It is said to be as a religious gyo among pupils. According to the Buddha’s doctrine, the spirit and fleshly body are not separable. Practicing Shorinji Kempo technique and learning its philosophy, it is believed to have firm body like a pair of standing Vajradhara (金剛神: Kongo-shin or 金剛力士 Kongo-rikishi) and never-give-up spirit like Bodhidharma (菩提達磨).

It is said that one who has illness in mind cannot be healthy with one’s body. In this regard, Shorinji Kempo is believed to be a teaching which is aiming at creating the leadership contributing to the society by establishing the character of the human beings based on healthy body and spirit.

Kempo and zen

As mentioned above, Shorinji Kempo incorporates zen as a mental training. According to the teaching of Kongo Zen, training of body and sprit can never be carried out separately. The trainings of the body consists of 3 categories which are goho (hard techniques such as punch, kick), juho (soft techniques such as drawing out, throwing) and seiho (correcting techniques such as spine adjustments). Doshin So recalled in his book that he had aware to follow Bodidharma for his revelation and also expand the fighting techniques (阿羅漢乃拳) which was believed to be transferred from India and was painted on the wall of Byakue-den chapel at Shaolin Temple. Please note that Shorinji Kempo is a gyo and it exists under Kongo Zen teaching.

The people who entered Kongo Zen are called pupils (門信徒) and who are practicing Shorinji Kempo are called kenshi (拳士). Kenshi always salute with “gassho-rei” the greetings commonly used among buddhist pupils. gassho-rei is also “gassho-gamae” stance, the both palms are put together and raised in front of one’s face.

1947 established religious entity
1948 established “Nippon Hokuha Shorinji kempo Society”
1951 started “Kongo Zen Sohonzan Shorinji” (金剛禅総本山少林寺)
1956 established educational entity
1957 established “All Japan Shorinji Kempo Federation”
1963 established “Shorinji Kempo Federation of Japan” as corporate entity
1972 established “World Shorinji Kempo Organization” (WSKO)
1980 Doshin So died
1992 established “Shorinji Kempo Federation Foundation” as a foundation entity
1997 celebrated 50th anniversary
2000 Shorinji Kempo Group organized
2002 Busen (Shorinji Kempo Budo Academy) opened high school
2003 Busen renamed to be Zenrin Gakuen College
2003 designed the new mark so-en and new logo of Shorinji Kempo
2005 migration from manji to so-en
2007 60th annversary
2008 established All Japan Junior HIgh School Shorinji Kempo Federation
2009 Sekai-taikai (global convention) canceled at Indonesia but held as opened taikai

(source: w:ja:少林寺拳法, in Japanese)

Training system

Mental trainings (3 methods): Kiryoku/kisei/kiai

Body trainings
Goho (hard techniques, 8 methods and 3 traditions): Tsuki/uchi/kiri/keri/kari/fumi/tai/bo Dokko/nyoi/kongo

Juho (soft techniques, 10 methods): Gyaku/nage/katame/shime/tori/ouatsu/nukite/nukimi/shuho/baku

Seiho(correcting methods of body): Seikei/seimyaku/seikotsu/kappo

Knowledge: In/yo/kyojitu/tempo/chii/chijutsu/boryaku

(source: Shorinji Kempo Kyohan)

Kamae (stances)
Byakuren (白蓮) 8 stances
ichiji-gamae, taiki-gamae, gyaku-taki-gamae, aiki-gamae, fukko-gamae, midare-gamae, byakuren-chudan-gamae or commonly called kaisoku-chudan-gamae, hasso-gamae

Giwa (義和) 9 stances
gassho-gamae, kesshu-gamae, chudan-gamae, gedan-gamae, gyaku-gedan-gamae, manji-gamae, yoko-muso-gamae, tate-muso-gamae nio-gamae

Fujin-ho (body positions)
sei-tai-gamae (both facing with Byakuren-chudan-gamae), tai-gamae (when one with left-front stance, the other takes left-front stance), hiraki-gamae (when one with left-front stance, the other takes right-front stance)

Umpo-ho (footwork):
tai-sabaki (body movement)
ukemi (passive devense):
mae-ukemi, ushiro-ukemi, oten-yori-okiagari, dai-sharin

(source: Shorinji Kempo Kyohan)


Embu is a combination of hokei (organized patters of goho and juho techniques) which has 6 sections. Embu is performed in the court, in the gym, at Taikai or other ceremonial occasions. In these hokei patterns one kenshi takes the part of attacker (kōsha 攻者) and one acts as defender (shusha 守者), they then change roles and repeat the technique. After the set form technique the kenshi perform ren-han-ko (連反攻: series of offence after defense) which is a free form counter attack which continues until the original attacker successfully blocks and counters. The juho techniques such as throwing are followed by katame (fixing or pinning techniques) or kime (finishing techniques with various hand strikes or kicks to nerve points).

Embu start with gassho-rei and are performed usually in kumiembu (performed by kenshis in pair), tandoku embu (performed by single kenshi) and dantai embu (performed by 6 or 8 kenshi in a group). The Embu of Shorinji Kempo is famous because of its speed, smoothness and the harmony of power and beauty.

Embu is rated out of 5 (sometimes 3 at preliminary selection) judges having 60 points each for the 6 sections and 40 points each for other comprehensiveness. A possible total of 300 points is the maximum, eliminating the highest and the lowest scores when 5 judges are judging. Kumi-embu and dantai-embu are performed within a time limit of between one and a half to two minutes.

Earlier in the Shorinji Kempo history, there was no regulation in performing embu. In this regard, embu was very powerful and practical since it was performed occasionally adhoc and ad-libed.

The most famous pair in the history of embu was Masuomi Nakano and Toshio Misaki whose embu was said to have impressed Doshin So.

(source: w:ja:少林寺拳法, in Japanese)


Earlier in the Shorinji Kempo’s history, Unyo-ho was called randori which was like a fighting competition. After many accidents during randori with no headgear, the organization researched and improved protecters including headgear, body protector (胴) and faul cup. A system of limiting each kenshi to one role of defense or offense was also introduced for the safety of kenshi.

Rating will be done not only by attacking points but also from the view point of defense techniques and counterattacks. Also the manner of kenshi is very important and to be considered when scoring.

(source: w:ja:少林寺拳法, in Japanese and Shoriji Kempo Kyohan)


Shorinji Kempo Group
Kongo-zen Sohonzan Shorinji
Shorinji Kempo Foundation Federation
Zenrin Gakuen College
World Shorinji Kempo Organization (WSKO)


Shorinji Kempo is practiced at 2,900 doin (道院) and branches in 33 countries world wide. Due to the current group president Yuuki So the daughter of Doshin So, Shorinji Kempo is very popular among women and a lot of female kenshi are joining the organization. Shorinji Kempo is practiced at doin (dojo with small altar) private gym, public gym, conference room, athletic fields, parks, etc.

Doin is opened for the public and there are also club activities in each enterprises, public sectors, schools, local sports organizations etc. and they are called branches or shibu (支部).

The British Shorinji Kempo Federation has split from the WSKO following an announcement on the 3 March 2010 by the WSKO that it was dissolving the BSKF.[2][3]

Qualifications and dan (bukai and hokai)

There are 2 qualifications from 1st dan (1st grade black belt) in order to qualify the steps of body and spiritual training.

Examples of dan and corresponding hokai
1st dan (sho-dan) -> Jun-kenshi
2nd dan (ni-dan) -> Sho-kenshi
3rd dan (san-dan) -> Chu-kenshi
4th dan (yon-dan) -> Sei-kenshi
5th dan (go-dan) -> Dai-kenshi

After having 1st, 2nd and 3rd dan (bukai qualifications), kenshi practicing at doin will automatically have Jun-kenshi, Sho-kenshi and Chu-kenshi (hokai qualifications) Those kenshi practicing at branches will have these corresponding hokai after joining the training at Shorinji Kempo headquarters in Tadotsu town in Kagawa prefecture in Japan.

From 1st dan through 3rd dan, the examinations are held in each prefectural Shorinji Kempo organization basis. However, the special examination will be held only at its headquarters for the qualifications of 4th dan and above. Generally, kenshi with 4th dan (yon-dan) and above is a teacher but kenshi with 5th dan (go-dan) and above is officially called sensei (先生: teacher). Kenshi who obtained 4th dan automatically obtain Sei-kenshi as well.

Please note that WSKO’s qualifications and conditions are a little different from its Japanese domestic ones.

Arm emblem category colors:

    • ■Red: for doin kenshi
    • ■Blue: for shibu kenshi
    • ■Green: for Zenrin Gakuen College students
    • ■Purple: for WSKO kenshi

Arm emblem title colors: Gold: for master of doin” or “shibu, Silver: for master of doin or shibu with 5th dan or lower, Red: assistant teacher with 3rd dan or above

Also, there is a sokai qualification in Konzo-zen Sohonzan Shorinji the religious entity. Kenshi with 2nd dan and Sho-kenshi will study the Kongo-zen’s philosophy and submit application form and thesis.

Shorinji Kempo Headquarters (honbu)

Headquartered in Tadotsu town, Kagawa prefecture (in Shikoku island) in Japan

Hondo (main dojo/hall)
Kodo (lecture hall)
Rensei-dojo (former 1st dojo)
Shokudo (dining room)
Daigan-toh (memorial tower)
Zenrin Gakuen (collegehouse)

The bones and ashes of Doshin So are buried behind Kodo.

Zenrin Gakuen College

Established as an academy following the principles of Shorinji Kempo. The main collegehouse is located at Honbu. The monthly seminar is held in each region for those who cannot attend daily class at Honbu.

From manji (卍: left-facing swastika) to so-en (double circle)

Manji has been used for the mark of Shorinji Kempo as it is used in the Buddhism for many centuries. As both manji mean love (left-facing) and power (right-facing) which symbolize Kongo-zen teaching.

However, the propagation of World Shorinji Kempo Organization (WSKO), it became a big barrier to use. In this regard, WSKO had been using the letter 拳 (ken) in the center of tate-manji (manji guarded by shields) on the emblem or using nagare-manji which meant rounded manji.

In 2005, Shorinji Kempo Group has employed the new mark as a new symbol of world wide Shorinji Kempo organizations to make them unified.

The new mark is called so-en (double circle) and it is said that this is the extreme shape of a pair of manji. The so-en mark is managed and its rights are reserved by SHORINJI KEMPO UNITY.

The so-en mark should be put on:
dogi (Shorinji Kempo wear. tops and bottoms), (lady kenshi can also wear white-bsed T-shirt for their inner wear under dogi), obi (belts: white, yellow, green, black) and hoi (black gown)

(source: web site of Shorinji Kempo Group)

Theme songs

“Song of Shorinji Kempo” (Hachiro Kasuga)
“Deep Within Each Man” (Phil Perry)
“Hitori Hitori no Kokoro ni Fukaku” (Kengo Kurozumi, Shigeru Matsuzaki)

(source: w:ja:少林寺拳法 in Japanese)


“少林寺拳法: Shorinji Kempo” (leading actor: Sonny Chiba) 1975, Toei Movie, Japan
“少林寺: Shaolin Temple” (leading actor: Jet Lee) 1982, Hong Kong and mainland China

(source: w:ja:少林寺拳法 in Japanese)

See also


  1. ^ “Shorinji Kempo”. Black Belt. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  2. ^ BSKF page linking to announcement
  3. ^ BSKF announcement

“Shorinji Kempo philosophy and techniques” by Doshin So, Published by Japan Publications, Inc. Tokyo Japan.

External links

National Federations



(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shorinji_Kempo)








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