What is Shorinji Kempo

IMG_1662 s If one is taken in by just outer appearances, Shorinji Kempo indeed is a martial art.   In fact, many students may believe that the reason for practicing Shorinji Kempo is to learn self-defense or a method of hand-to-hand combat to produce tough fighters.  While it is true that Shorinji Kempo is an outstanding martial art and the ideal art of self- defense, the purpose of practicing Shorinji Kempo is not just to become strong and win fights.
    Shorinji Kempo is a way of life (Shumon-no-Gyo).  By studying both its technical and philosophical aspects, one firmly creates a self on whom one can rely.  In addition, this training develops self-confidence, courage, compassion and a strong sense of right and wrong.
    As one may gather from the image spread by some martial arts, practitioners may simply aim to increase their brute strength and to win in tournaments.  Although they may parrot spiritual discipline, this type of practice based solely on winning and physical prowess, does not cultivate mutual respect or cooperation – the primary goals of spiritual discipline.  While this attitude might succeed in developing a certain cruel fighting spirit, it will not cultivate thoughtfulness for others. 

2924 When physical contests are emphasized over all other considerations, the winner’s satisfaction and any attitude of superiority displayed will give rise to a sense of inferiority, resentment and defeat in others. In the end, even the winner’s fleeting sense of greatness and satisfaction will vanish because, in time, he or she too, will be defeated.

 There are neither tournaments nor contests in Shorinji Kempo. Consequently, there are no matches to determine winners and losers. As a result, Shorinji Kempo is spared the savage atmosphere of animosity and ruthless competition found in many martial arts. Kenshi (members of Shorinji Kempo) from any school are welcomed at any Shorinji Kempo branch as colleagues and the dojo is filled with cooperation where everyone — old and young, men and women — can study without discrimination of any kind. This is because Shorinji Kempo is not merely an abstract philosophy, which just preaches spiritual development but rather is what is referred to in Japanese as a “Shumon-no-Gyo” — a way of life, which aims at true self-development and perfection.

 This concept of “Shumon-no-Gyo” refers to a way of life in which one contributes to peace and happiness in society by dispelling illusion from the mind, by comprehending the universal truth, and by developing a self upon which one can rely.

 By practicing Shorinji Kempo as a way of life, one is able to acquire the three benefits of improved health, self-defense and spiritual development.  Through these three benefits, the practitioner gains a strong body, indomitable courage and a well-rounded personality.  However, these benefits should not be seen as an end to themselves.  They are tools to be actively and properly used for the elimination of evil, the preservation of peace, and the contribution to things useful to society.  Only in doing this can Shorinji Kempo really be considered a martial art and a way of life.  Martial arts and spiritual disciplines have their significance when used not only for self development and the pursuit of self perfection, but when they are also used to contribute to the happiness of others.

3335 The techniques of Shorinji Kempo are extremely effective. They must never be used for personal profit or selfish desires. Shorinji Kempo must be used as a method to vanquish evil and bring about justice. Only as a last resort, are kenshi allowed to utilize the physical skills of Shorinji Kempo and even then, he or she is absolutely prohibited from throwing the first punch. It is a fundamental principal that kenshi use Shorinji Kempo only in a defensive sense and only after being attacked.

 Shorinji Kempo was not founded simply to develop strong people or people skilled in martial techniques. The real purpose is for practitioners to gain sound bodies, courage, and well-balanced personalities through their practice of Shorinji Kempo. Thus, they are able to lead their lives happily in peace and free from anxiety. Furthermore, Shorinji Kempo strives to develop true leaders, leaders with a sense of justice, insight, courage and enthusiasm – leaders who will build a peaceful society.

 In summary, Shorinji Kempo is not simply a martial art or a sport. It is a spiritual discipline for the development of the mind and body. It is a way of life with the three benefits of improved health, spiritual development and self-defense. Shorinji Kempo is a way for developing people and through developing individuals, developing our communities and society.

“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.”

Kaiso Doshin So, founder of Shorinji Kempo.