Doshin So (Kaiso)


On the 9th of August 1945, Kaiso (our founder) was in Eastern Manchuria, in the Chinese village of Anyang when the Russian army broke their treaty with Japan and crossed the border into Manchuria. Under the occupation of the Russian Army he tasted the misery and suffering of defeat in a foreign land, where the interests of nations came before the claims of ideology, religion and morals. For nations had fought nations, and victory went to the people whose country was best able to organize them to kill and defeat other people. It was a world in which might made right. Amidst this bitter reality, Kaiso found a lesson which shaped the principles of Shorinji Kempo. He realized that it was neither ideology, nor religious differences nor national policies which determine the course of events, but rather, the character and the way of thinking of the people involved. Giving his thoughts words, he said, “the person, the person! Everything depends on the quality of the person. If the course of human events depends entirely upon the actions of people then in order to establish the peace that we all long for, the only way is to develop as many people as possible with mercy, courage, and a sense of justice.”

Upon Kaiso’s return to Japan, he found that in justice and violence prevailed as if morality, law and order had never existed. Most of the country’s youth had forgotten or given up their dreams and hopes for the future, and were trying to hide themselves in a world of pleasures and instant gratificatin. It was a world in which people had forgotten to consider or help eachother, a world in which the future held threats but no promises for the young

Kaiso determined to do what he could to rebuild the foundations of his country to teach its youth what the future could hold, and to re-establish the credibility of the Japanese in the eyes of the world. In his own words : “For the restoration of my country, I will devote the remaining half of my life to training young people with courage, strength, mercy and a sense of justice.”
In the town of Tadotsu he founded a dojo based on the philosophy taught by Budda..

But lecturing and abstract theory were not enough to change people’s minds. Kaiso answered this challenge by teaching the techniques derived from Arahan no Ken, which he had practiced and mastered during his youth in China. These techniques which Kaiso brought back from China are the starting point of Shorinji Kempo, and they require discipline and ability to work with others. From these beginnings physical and spiritual fulfillment can grow. and work with others.. From these beginnings physical and spiritual fulfillment can grow, and through them are built the foundations of a peaceful society.

Kaiso, not only instructed people in the skills of Kempo, but he used the opportunities of practice and his role as a teacher to teach away of self-development based on Budda’s framework of development through self-inquiry. Thus he made away for people to learn to establish mutual trust and cooperation to found the core of a peaceful and prosperous society where there had been war, starvation, and the law of the strong.

The art which Kaiso studied in China was known as the Ken (fist) of Kita Shorin Giwamon, and was originally a martial art and training method in the teachings of Budda.. It was not designed for the goal so fighting or defeating others but as a method of learning self-control, physical and mental balance,. and mutual growth through practice.
Shorinji Kempo re-establishes this tradition and holds that the three principal benefits to Kenshi of practicing are : their ability in self-defense, spiritual development, and improved health.

Kaiso taught Arahan no Ken to the young people who gathered at his dojo, and through it, he gave them the necessary experiences to meet the challenges of their lives without giving upon their values or dream. .He realized that through Arahan no Ken’s mental and physical training, young people could gain self-confidence and courage as well as healthy and strong bodies. He created an educational method through practice of Ken Zen Ichinyo and attention to the balance of Riki ai Funi Shorinji Kempo in its training method. Taking the name Kongo Shin from the Zen name for the Nioson (Deva Kings who originated the art of Arahan no Ken in ancient in India), he named the teaching Kongo Zen.

This is how Shorinji Kempo began in Japan. Today the techniques and philosophy are practiced by young people in many countries,and they are working together to develop Shorinji Kempo around the world. (copied from Caltech Shorinji Kempo Club)




Young Kaiso (Doshin So)

Doshin So is the founder of Shorinji Kempo. Born in 1911 in a small mountain village high above the city of Okayama, Japan, he traveled to China at age 17 and lived there for more than a decade and a half as a special agent for the Japanese government.

His work brought him into contact with several Chinese secret societies, and he learned the Chinese martial arts from instructors who had gone into hiding because of the Boxer Rebellion.
After training extensively in Beijing with a Shaolin master named Wen Laoshi, Doshin So was permitted to succeed him as the 21st master of the Northern Shorinji Giwamonken School.

He started with various Kung fu techniques he had learned in China, then added moves of his own and melded it all together. He named his creation “Shorinji Kempo,” which translates as “Shaolin Temple fist method.”

Doshin So returned to Japan in 1946 only to find his nation in a post-World War II state suffering from moral decay and dismal self-esteem. Because of his concern for his country and desire to end its mass depression, he began lecturing young people. When he failed to get his message across, he realized that words alone were not enough to modify minds. So he opened a dojo and began the task of rebuilding the character, morale and backbone of the Japanese people by using his Shorinji Kempo techniques as the bait to attract new students and as a vehicle to teach his message of Zen philosophy.

In December 1951, Doshin So founded the Kongo Zen Sohonzan temple in Tadotsu with Shorinji Kempo as its main teaching; thus he was able to teach the art despite the Allies’ prohibition on martial arts training. Two years later, he created the Japan Shorinji Kempo Federation, and in 1974 he set up the World Shorinji Kempo Organization. In the 33 years that followed the founding of the art, he dedicated his life to developing young men and women into strong adults through his philosophical and physical teachings.
He wrote a bestseller titled “Shorinji Kempo: Philosophy and Techniques”, and in 1975 it was abridged and reprinted in the United States as “What Is Shorinji Kempo?”


Doshin So is instructing Sony Chiba

In 1976, a movie was made about the life of Doshin So. It featured martial arts film star Sonny Chiba performing Shorinji Kempo techniques and playing the role of the founder. The film primarily dealt with Doshin So’s return to Japan after the war, the opening of his dojo and his rebuilding of his people.
Unfortunately, when it was dubbed into English and released on video in the United States, it was sensationally retitled Killing Machine, thus misrepresenting virtually everything the founder stood for.


original Shorinji Kempo dojo

Original Shorinji Kempo dojo

In April 1980, Doshin So traveled to Shaolin Temple, where the Chinese priests welcomed him with a festive ceremony.
A stone monument dedicated to him still stands in the courtyard of the temple. He returned to Japan, and on May 12, 1980 he died of heart disease.






Yuki So

His daughter, Yuki So, then 22, decided to continue her father’s vision and serve as president of the World Shorinji Kempo Organization. Today, the system she oversees is used by police and military agencies in Japan and is recognized not only as a martial art and a religion, but also an entity that is committed to the betterment of society. (text from Back Belt, the World’s Leading Martial arts Source)