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Who's Who in
Shorinji Kempo

Doshin So


Shorinji Kempo (少林寺拳法, Shōrinji Kenpō?)�note that the World Shorinji Kempo Organization prefers the Romanization kempo to kenpo�is a martial art form of Kempo that was founded by Doshin So (宗道臣, 1911-1980) in 1947, who incorporated Japanese Zen Buddhism into the fighting style. This form of Kempo can be both a religion and a fighting form at the same time much like Shaolin kung fu, on which it is based (少林寺 is the Shaolin Monastery). However, since about 2005, a stronger distinction is made between the religious aspect of the martial art and the technical side of the martial art. For example, branches within Japan can be a doin, whereas branches outside of Japan can only be formally recognized as a dojo.

Looked at from a Japanese martial arts perspective, it could be described as a combination of karate, judo, and aikijujutsu built on a Kung Fu framework, except that this art generally has no killing moves because of its respect for life. It is a form of Kempo that tries to get its practitioners to move through life doing minimal damage whenever possible.

The Buddhist influences of Shorinji Kempo emphasize cooperation and is almost exempt of the bias that competition brings - turning martial arts into sports. Instructors are forbidden from making profit from their tutelage and there are no ladder-based competitions. Shorinji Kempo competition relies on paired demonstrations called embu where the accuracy, the rhythm, and the realism are noted and compared (with something like "technical" and "artistic" marks, as in gymnastics or ice skating).

Shorinji Kempo has grown into a popular art form in many countries outside of Japan.

The practitioner of Shorinji Kempo is known as a Kenshi (拳士).

The three main aims of Shorinji Kempo are:

  • Healthy Body - Improved physical fitness and health
  • Healthy Mind - Spiritual development
  • Self-Defense

Shorinji Kempo teaches a wide variety of techniques, ranging from goho (hard techniques) such as kicks and punches, juho (soft techniques) such as grappling and throwing, to seiho (correcting methods) acupressure techniques for revival of unconscious persons. These three types of techniques are further divided into kogi (offensive techniques), bogi (defensive techniques), shuho (defence methods, mainly against soft techniques), tai gamae (body position), sokui ho (foot position), umpo ho (footwork), and tai sabaki (body movement).

Techniques are seldom practiced in isolated form. Often a technique is put into a context, or pattern, also known as hokei. The hokei is typically a defense paired with an attack.

Hokei is practiced either in isolated form, or during randori (free fighting, a more literal translation being "to bring Chaos under order", which is philosophically rather different from simply fighting for its own sake).

The relationship between technique, hokei and randori is similar to that of the relationship between words, sentences and essays. A word forms the basis of the sentence, just like the technique forms the basis of hokei. The sentence forms the basis of the essay, just like hokei forms the basis of randori. In order to master the art of writing good essays, one must first have a good vocabulary (words), and how you put them together to form sentences that conveys meaning. Similarly, in order to master the art of randori, one must know how to perform techniques, and how to put them together into hokei.

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