What is Shorinji Kempo?


With over 1.5 million members practicing in more than 3,000 dojos in 33 countries, Shorinji Kempo is more than just a martial art.

Shorinji Kempo was founded in 1947 by Japan's Doshin So. Unlike most martial arts, it was not simply developed as a method of self-defense or for winning contests. Instead, Doshin So wanted to develop Shorinji Kempo as a way to better society by creating self-reliant individuals with a strong sense of justice and compassion. This can best be seen by one of Doshin So's memorable quotes:

"Live Half for Yourself and Half for Others"
- Doshin So

Hombu WSKO Headquarters

Since its foundation, Shorinji Kempo has developed as a form of education rather than just martial combat. The essence of Shorinji Kempo practice is the development of a healthy mind, healthy body and ability in self defense. Shorinji Kempo places no emphasis on winning (although it is vital in a self-defense situation "not to lose").

Instead, it concentrates on mutual respect and understanding between training companions so that both parties enjoy the benefits of training and progress on the basis of mutual development. It is in this respect that Shorinji Kempo is unlike any other martial art or sport.


Gyo Gakka

Shorinji Kempo was founded by Doshin So in 1947 in the Japanese town of Tadotsu. His inspiration for creating Shorinji Kempo was based on his personal experiences of Japan's defeat at the end of World War II.

Doshin So (also referred to as Kaiso, which means founder) had lived for many years in what was then called Manchuria (now the Northeast Region of China). During this time he had studied various Chinese martial arts. He was also very well versed in many Japanese martial arts. It was during the Soviet invasion of Manchuria where he witnessed fully the wretechedness and sorrow of a defeated people. Kaiso concluded that the course of the world's events was not dependent on ideology, religion or nationalism, but on the quality of the individual person and particular actions, especially at difficult or critical moments. In one of his most famous expressions, he proclaimed:

"The person! The person! Everything depends on the quality of the person!"

This conclusion strongly influenced the shaping of Shorinji Kempo and its philosophical base.

maki gote

Returning to the devastation of postwar Japan, Kaiso found the youth of his homeland discouraged, and with little, if any, sense of purpose. His great concern for their moral welfare and the future of his country caused him to devote his life to training young people, with "courage, strength, mercy and a sense of justice," principles that in the fullness of time would find international acceptance.

Kaiso reformed and revised the martial art techniques that he had studied in China, and added to them his philosophical insights to create Shorinji Kempo. As both a training place and sanctorium he established the Shorinji Kempo Hombu (headquarters) dojo on the Island of Shikoku, Kagawa Prefecture, in the town of Tadotsu. The original 12 square meter dojo behind his house in Tadotsu has grown over the years into a very substantial training facility, to which students from all over the world come to train.

Gassho Rei

On May 12 1980 Kaiso died of heart disease. Since then, his daughter, Yuki So, has continued his work as the head of the Shorinji Kempo movement. Currently the world federation Kaiso formed is called the World Shorinji Kempo Organization - a federation of all Shorinji Kempo dojos globally, including Africa, North and South America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. There is an International Taikai held every four years where all gather, and the U.S. and Canada hold a Taikai tournament every two years.