Shorinji Kempo Training
• Shorinji Kempo’s techniques that can be broken down into 25 categories. For the most part, they are taught through partner training, with the students alternating roles as attacker and defender.
• The partner is not a competitor or opponent, and the object is not to defeat him. Instead, he is a partner in the learning experience, one who can help the student improve his technique.
• Students continually change partners during class, thus forcing themselves to adjust their shorinji kempo techniques to size, height, weight and reach differences.
• The esoteric Japanese martial art also teaches pressure-point techniques for self-defense and healing. Out of 708 points known to Oriental medicine, shorinji kempo makes use of 138 for combat. Learning to use them effectively requires much experimentation with a partner.
• Stance and foot positioning are crucial in shorinji kempo. The Zen term kyakkashoko means “to look at the area around your feet” or “to be aware of what your feet are doing.” If a student fails to observe that, his mind and body cannot function as one. If either one lags behind the other in a confrontation, critical mistakes will be made and techniques will lose effectiveness. The mind and body must remain calm, focused and aware.
• In the East, shorinji kempo students train in a gi adorned with the Buddhist manji symbol because they seek to follow the traditions of Shaolin Temple. The symbol has been used for millennia by different civilizations and actually predates Buddhism. It possesses profound meaning, and in Asia it can be found in temples, on maps and in works of art
• The manji represents the fluidity of the universe and the foundation of life.
• It also stands for the all-important theory of opposites: heaven and earth, day and night, positive and negative, male and female, fire and water, etc.
• Each component maintains its own distinct nature while finding harmonious relations with its opposite, and students learn to apply that principle in their interpretation of the art.
• Unfortunately, Adolf Hitler latched onto the manji, turned it on its side and used it as the swastika. It eventually came to represent his Nazi party.
• As a result, Shorinji kempo students in the West wear the ken (fist) symbol on their gi.
Shorinji Kempo: Art, Not Sport
• Shorinji kempo is not a sport. Sports have rules, but in self-defense, there are no rules. A practitioner does whatever is necessary to fend off the attacker. To temper that potential lethality, students are taught that under no circumstances should they attack first, as Buddhism holds it is always wrong to strike the first blow.
• In lieu of the sporting ideal of striving to defeat others or set world records, shorinji kempo emphasizes the importance of overcoming oneself by unifying the mind and body. It is not designed for fighting against others, but as it teaches the practitioner to improve himself physically, mentally and spiritually and thus become a positive person who is useful to society, he can assuredly take care of himself on the street.
• Because of this philosophy, the art does not award rank based on a comparison with others or a win-loss tally from a tournament circuit. Instead, it is based on the individual student’s improvement. Rank is not used for the purpose of setting up a hierarchy in class, but to provide a series of goals and markers for training. In addition to undergoing a physical test, practitioners must take a written exam that includes crafting an essay on technique, philosophy, history, their motives for studying the art and their current state of mind with respect to it.