Not long after World War 2, during a time when Japan remained in a battered state, a Japanese martial artist named Doshin So embarked on his own journey to do what he could to build the country’s morale back up. With this desire in hand, So ventured off to establish an organizational system that would provide his people a means to uplift their physical and mental well-being.

How Shorinji Kempo Began

Shorinji Kempo shaolin

Doshin So’s connection to martial arts goes as far back to his youth where, at the age of 17, he moved to China. Spending over a decade serving as a Japanese government special military intelligence agent, So came face to face with various Chinese organizations that had exposed him to the world of martial arts.

Among some of his trainers, So was largely influenced under a Shaolin master, who he later was permitted to succeed as the 21st master of the Northern Shorinji Giwamonken School. It is believed that So used his training during this time as the foundation for what he later coined ‘ Shorinji Kempo ’ or the ‘ Shaolin Temple Fist Method. ’

By the time he returned to Japan, the plague of hopelessness and mass depression had consumed the lives of his people. The demoralized state of his country from the aftermath of World War 2 placed So on a path to educate the young. However, upon initially going out and attempting to aid his people through Buddhist philosophies, he soon realized the ineffectiveness of his words alone.

For that reason, he began to apply the training he had received in China under the Shaolin masters and eventually stablished a dojo where he began to teach Shorinji Kempo to lure people into staying, listening, and ultimately learning.

Shorinji Kempo and Shaolin Fist

Shorinji Kempo shaolin

As evident from its translated meaning, Shorinji Kempo has never strayed far from the fact that at heart, it is the way of the Shaolin fist. This branch of martial arts has always attempted to instill the ancient traditions of the Shaolin monks by ensuring practitioners train both mind and soul, ultimately seeing them both as one, rather than as two separate things.

Centered around the teachings of Buddha, Shorinji Kempo focuses heavily on physical and spiritual development. To effectively do so, Zen meditation is a requisite of the curriculum, as it supplements the physical techniques and in whole, helps heighten the sense of self through the act of strengthening and loving yourself.

Shorinji Kempo Training

Shorinji Kempo shaolin

While Shorinji Kempo consists of many sets of techniques, the teachings primarily focus on demonstrating what is known as embu. In this, there are roughly six sections, with each consisting of goho (hard techniques involving strikes, chops, kicks, etc.) and juho (soft techniques involving throws, pins, dodges, etc). Training in goho and juho offers practitioners to control an attacker, regardless of size or strength. In this way, Shorinji Kempo serves to be rather practical for people of all ages, genders, and sizes.

Shorinji Kempo also teaches users about pressure points and seiho (Zen acutherapy). Not only is this information helpful in neutralizing enemies during self-defense, it also provides students a way to promote their health and prevent illnesses.

Working with another partner, the training involved usually requires the student to take on the role of both attacker and defender, switching back to back to get a feel of both sides. Unlike some other forms of martial arts, Shorinji Kempo’s sparring does not involve a competitive aspect in winning and/or losing.

Shorinji Kempo shaolin

In fact, rather than attempting to defeat the opposition, this one-on-one dynamic is more to help each other improve effectively and collaboratively. Like a dance, the students constantly alternate partners to adapt and adjust their techniques to the differing sizes, weights, and styles.

Over time, Shorinji Kempo has come to be known more as a religion by his pupils, rather than a competitive sport or traditional martial art. Upon Doshin So’s death, this campaign he had started to educate and inform the young has continued, with his daughter inheriting his will.

The year 2017 will have marked the 70th anniversary celebration of his establishment and with every passing year, this esoteric hybrid martial art continues to aim at strengthening the lives of those that wish to better establish their mind and soul.

World Shorinji Kempo Organization
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