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Welcome to Neal's Shorinji Kempo Page

I have been practicing the Shorinji Kempo art of self-defense since 1987. This page will be the base page for some study materials I'm collecting, and also provides links to the home pages of various Shorinji Kempo dojos in North America and other related resources.

What is Shorinji Kempo?

Briefly, it is a japanese martial art and philosophical system. About 1-2 million people world-wide practice Shorinji Kempo, most of them in the far east. It was founded in 1947 by Doshin So, as a means for reaching out to people and helping them to improve themselves and their society.

As a martial art, Shorinji Kempo includes both hard techniques (like punches and blocks) and soft techniques (like escapes and throws). The emphasis throughout the body of technique is on safety and using an attacker's actions against them. Shorinji Kempo does not teach techniques that kill or maim - to do so would be contrary to the underlying philosophy. Instead, techniques are designed for self-defense with minimal damage to an attacker.

As a philosophy, Shorinji Kempo advocates individual responsibility and respect for others. Zen buddhaism is also part of the art's foundation.

Shorinji Kempo's History and Goals

In 1945, So Doshin was a young man serving for his country, Japan, in Manchuria. He was present for the invasion of Manchuria by the Russian Army in August of that year. A few days after the invasion, the World War II ended with the defeat of Japan. For the next year, So Doshin lived in Manchuria and witnessed the misery inflicted on the people of that region, and especially on the defeated Japanese, by the occupying forces. History books that depict that era sometimes depersonalize the war and its results, but So Doshin did not see things this way. The bitter reality of defeat and human suffering brought him the understanding that people were responsible for the war, and that only by improving the quality of the people could other tragedies like it be prevented.

In 1947, So Doshin returned to Japan, a country under occupation. He observed that his country, in the despair that followed utter defeat, was bereft of compassion and spirit. Certainly this did not fit the memories he had of a homeland he had left behind before going off to war, and So Doshin was determined to help. He believed that by helping those around him, especially youth, improve themselves and their society, that he could help rebuild his country.

Had So Doshin merely set up a soapbox and preached, then we would probably never have heard anything about him. Instead, he founded a school based on self-defense techniques he had mastered in China, and codified the teachings of the school to emphasize personal discipline and mutual improvement. This is consonant with a basic principles of Buddhaism: development through self-knowlege and knowlege of others. So Doshin believed that by teaching people and helping them to establish mutual trust and cooperation, that he could form a basis for a peaceful and responsible society.

In 1947, So Doshin founded Shorinji Kempo. At first, he taught a handful of students in a tiny room behind his house. Over the years, his students began teaching others, spreading across Japan and into other countries around the world.

So Doshin, who we call Kaiso (The Founder), died in 1980. His vision of teaching people to improve each other through mutual support and respect has been carried on by his students around the world.

Some of the principles that Shorinji Kempo students are taught, we express with three statements. The real versions are in Japanese, of course, but here are the Official Translation and an unofficial translation.

The picture below shows So Doshin, the founder, sometime in the 1970s. (I retouched the background a little and added the border.)


My Kempo Background and Current Status

I began practicing with the AT&T Bell Labs Shorinji Kempo club in 1987. The teacher at the Bell Labs branch was Dr. Bob Tkach.After practicing with Bob and the fine kenshi there for almost a year, I moved to Columbia, MD, and began practicing with the George Washington branch in Washington DC. The teacher at that time was Dr. Nick Frigo, but he immediately left for the west coast, leaving the club under the direction of Tanya Ringland. Later, the George Washington branch was led by Ian Burns and later by Tom Nishiyama. Later, the descendant of the George Washington branch practices at the Inter-American Development Bank, under the direction of Olivier Fraisse with assistance from instructor Allen Liff.  Nowadays, the George Washington branch is inactive and all the action in D.C. is at the World Bank.

For a couple of years I was teaching Shorinji Kempo in Baltimore, with some support from Allen Liff, and had work-out once a week at the Harborview Health Club on the Inner Harbor. Unfortunately, due to lack of students, that activity was shut down.

My present rank is 3rd dan. I took my ni-dan test from Sensei Ken Ohashi back in 1994, and my san-dan from Shimada-sensei at the 2001 Taikai in Paris.

Shorinji Kempo in Washington DC

There were two Shorinji Kempo branches in Washington, but they are merged right now.

The World Bank Branch
The long-established World Bank Shorinji Kempo club is back to practicing at the World Bank's 'I' building, at 18th and I St. The branch master is Allen Liff.
The George Washington Branch
The nomadic George Washington University Shorinji Kempo club was practicing at the Inter-American Development Bank on New York Ave. Unfortunately, that practice venue is no longer available to us. So, the only Kempo left in Washington is at the World Bank.

Other Shorinji Kempo branches in the eastern USA include the Delmarva branch on the Maryland peninsula, the Boston branch, the Miami branch recently re-opened, and the New York City branch.

Shorinji Kempo in Baltimore

I used to teach a small Shorinji Kempo class in downtown Baltimore. We met on Wednesday evenings.  Unfortunately, this activity closed down due to lack of students.


Links to Shorinji Kempo Resources

Here are links to some Kempo resources on the WWW. All of these pages are maintained by volunteers except for the main page in Japan.

This Shorinji Kempo site owned by Neal Ziring.
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This page written by Neal Ziring, last modified 7/9/11.

The name "Shorinji Kempo" and the linked rings symbol are registered trademarks of Shorinji Kempo Unity and the World Shorinji Kempo Organization. Their use is limited to authorized parties.