The 6 Characteristics of Shorinji Kempo
Shorinji Kempo was established by Doshin So as a physical and mental discipline, a gyo, whose main purpose was to build character. As such, Shorinji Kempo has never been about trying to be the toughest fighter, or learning showy techniques to impress girls. Instead, it is focused on helping each student find within themselves the wisdom, the courage and the ability to become better individuals and worthwhile members of society.
The entire martial arts is based on 6 main principles, or what we call the 6 characteristics. These 6 principles basically sum up how the art should be practiced and hopefully, the kind of attitudes which each kenshi would develop as a result of practicing Shorinji Kempo:
- Unity of Body & Mind (ken zen ichinyo)
Ken means body, while zen means mind and spirit. It is a simple fact that the mind and the body are two halves of a whole; one cannot be emphasized over the other. It is therefore important to keep a balance between the physical training and the spiritual training. In Shorinji Kempo, mental and spiritual development of a kenshi is as important as the purely physical training of learning the techniques.
- Strength & Love In Harmony (riki ai funi)
No one can live only with love and compassion; to live fully, you need strength and intellect as well. If you or your loved ones are attacked, you need strength to protect yourself; but if you are strong and use your strength without compassion, then that is only violence, Each kenshi must learn to develop both their strength and their compassion, in order to be a strong and worthwhile individual.
- Defense is Primary, Offense is Subordinate (shushu koju)
Given the philosophical basis of Shorinji Kempo, a kenshi is expected to never attack first, but to only defend against violence. The techniques are such that they begin with defending against the attack and only then counter attacking. This philosophy also has a practical basis, as Shorinji Kempo emphasizes teaching the kenshi to assume a strongly defensible position which will allow a kenshi to seize the advantage and immediately counter attack once the opponent has made the first move.
- Not to Kill But to Awaken (fusatsu katsujin)
Shorinji Kempo techniques are effective in causing intense pain, in order to subdue an offender and remove their will to fight. Having said that, Shorinji Kempo is not meant for killing or injuring people and the techniques are deliberately designed to be non-lethal. There are no killing moves in Shorinji Kempo. Instead, the techniques are effective because they focus on attacking pressure points on the human body and taking advantage of the human body's natural mechanics and movements.
- Hard & Soft Make One Whole (go ju ittai)
Shorinji Kempo teaches both hard and soft techniques because in the fluid environment of a fight, a kenshi may be required to use both hard and soft techniques to successfully subdue an opponent. Each class of techniques is considered equal and intertwined, to make one whole body of techniques. Also, on a more technical level, many of the techniques, whether goho or juho, are based on the same technical foundations, so that a soft technique might be executed using the same movement as a hard technique, and vice versa.
- Paired Practice is Primary (kumite shutai)
Given Shorinji Kempo's strong focus on cooperation and learning to get along with others, it's no surprise that training in pairs is the main method of learning. This form of paired practice is also practical, as it teaches subtle things a kenshi would not learn by practicing alone, such as distancing and body position, or things that only arise in a fluid situation with a partner, such as timing. Learning to pay attention to another kenshi, to help them learn and to learn from them yourself, is also important in for developing the character.