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Shorinji Kempo


Shorinji Kempo was adapted from Chinese Kempo and is widely practiced in Japan. Shorinji Kempo combines religion, meditation and martial arts. It teaches a variety of techniques with striking and kicking as well as some Aikido style throws, locks and holds. Some Shorinji Kempo schools also teach a variety of healing methods.

Shorinji Kempo is a martial art form of Kempo that was invented by Doshin So (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 (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


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 to 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.


Shorinji Kempo is a martial art that treats a person as a human being. Thus, it is necessary to re-affirm that the goal in practicing this technical method is that it be a means to improving oneself as a human being.

Members of Shorinji Kempo study the fundamentals of mutual human recognition and respect through technical practice. The Shorinji Kempo dojo is a place bearing important responsibilities, especially in the process of character formation for youth kenshi.

Now, I will explain about the technical methods of Shorinji Kempo.

Shorinji Kempo technical methods can be separated broadly into Goho (hard method) and Juho (soft method).

Goho are technical methods for receiving an opponent’s strike, kick, or similar attack with a deflection, and overcoming the opponent with strikes, kicks or other such counter-attacks.

Juho are techniques for when an opponent grabs the arms or clothing, and in which one releases oneself, or takes a joint reverse or throws the opponent.

Goho and Juho can be distinguished in this fashion, but as the degree of training increases, Goho and Juho progress toward becoming a single body of techniques.

The reason for this is that in order to subdue an opponent based on response to that person’s movements and the particular situation, one is required to master the hard and soft methods, adapt them, and come to use them effectively.

You do not compare which of the two is a more effective method. Yet I often hear comments from members about the necessity of sharpening their Juho skills in many situations. One sensible reason for this is that Juho is difficult to express in words and photographs.

Members put forth their efforts unsparingly to acquire these techniques with their difficult reputation. Making these effort is also enjoyable. Fellow members gather, and the scene of people teaching and being taught unfolds in every dojo all over the world.

Shorinji Kempo techniques are techniques of barehanded self defense. Thus, if people fail to engage in them seriously, injuries will result. In the dojo, seriousness about practice is required.

Studying amidst a serious practice has its pleasures, and one finds a fellowship that comes with teaching each other. This is the greatest reason that draws many of our members to Shorinji Kempo.

Shorinji Kempo techniques have two characteristics.
Techniques built around punches and kicks as defensive counterattacks are called “goho” (hard method), and for defensive counter attacks against grabs, for example to the wrist or clothing, escapes and attacks to the joint leading to take downs or throws are called “juho” (soft method).


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