What sets this style apart from other martial arts? It’s a Japanese martial art with Chinese influence. It was founded in 1947 by a man called Doshin So, a Japanese martial arts practitioner who lived in China’s Manchuria district as the war there hit. When he was repatriated to Japan he set up shorinji kempo as a fusion of Japanese styles with what he’d learned in China. If you’re familiar with any martial arts, it looks very much like a fusion of karate and aikido. We do punching and kicking with a number of grabs and takedowns and pins.
Can you describe a session for us? We start slowly and go straight into technique. Then we go into pair work, and technique which is split into Goho, which is punching and kicking, then Juho which is grappling, takedowns, locks and pins. Part of the technical curriculum includes pressure points. Normally we don’t focus on that until you get to sixth Dan, you learn it little by little as you go through the grades. We call that seiho and, as you progress, we focus on massage and pressure-point elements.
Is there a central philosophy to the style? It’s improvement of the self, to improve your own skills and abilities – the central idea is half for yourself, half for others. You come into the dojo, you practice the art and through that you become stronger, your posture improves, you can concentrate better and you apply that to your daily life – so conflict in the office, staying cool under pressure. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a defence or combat situation, it just means daily life. In the dojo we’re practising punches, kickes and locks, but the goal is to improve yourself as a person and, through that, better society.
Your dojo is non-profit right? Doshin So’s idea was that people shouldn’t go out and make money on this. When you make money on something, motives often change. You’ve got to have a full-time job and do this part time. You take what you learn in the dojo back to your workplace and apply it.
We hear there’s a real Buddhist undercurrent to the style. In Japan, shorinji kempo also has a religious organisation called Kongo Zen, which encourages study of the teachings of Bodhi Dharma, who came from India, went to China and taught philosophy at the Shaolin temple there. It’s about going back to the original teachings, not the modern interpretations and developments of the various schools of Buddhism that have come later. It’s very much self-help philosophy, very simple, very practical – half for yourself, half for others. Although people who practise become aware of it, it’s not on the formal curriculum at the Dubai dojo. We have some oaths that we recite but we’re not doing any of the religious teaching here.
Shorinji kempo classes take place at The Pharoah’s Club, Wafi, on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays at 8.15pm. Dhs450 per month with access to all three weekly sessions. For more info, call 050 211 2339, and for background on the style go to www.shorinjikempo.or.jp