Martial Arts Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students and teachers of all martial arts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My question relates to the origins of Shorinji Kempo and its related arts. I'd like to gain a better understanding of where it came from.

Part A: What styles did Doshin So train in while in China?

Part B: What Japanese styles did Doshin So train?

Part C: Is Shorinji Kempo a five animal style?

share|improve this question
You have three different questions thus you should ask three questions instead of one. Also, can you tell us why the wikipedia page and associated source do not help? – Sardathrion Dec 13 '13 at 13:22
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Shorinji Kempo (少林寺拳法) literally translates to Shaolin Temple martial arts; however, contrary to what English wikipedia page suggests, it has nothing to do with Shaolin Kunfu (少林功夫).

The fact that So Doshin (宗道臣), born Nakano Michio (中野理男), fabricated the origin of Shorinji Kempo is a public secret. There has been various sources pointing out inconsistencies of Nakano's writings. It is likely true that Nakano did go to Manchuria and China during the Pacific War. The book 'Hiden Shorinji Kempo' (秘伝少林寺拳法) describes how he met Chen Lian (陳良) and Wen Taizong (文太宗), but his first wife has apparently testified that they were neighboring grocers. The style he claimed to have learned is Yihe quan (义和拳).

Also in the book, Nakano claims that in 1936 he has gone to Shaolin Temple with Wen was given masterhood of Yihe quan in front of Abbot Shi Henglin (释恒林). Even though Nakano's martial art is not Shaolin style, that still sounds interesting if it were true. The problem is that the famous Abbot Henglin had died in 1923.

Here's a likely historical account. In 1948, Nakano joined Hakkoryu (八光流) a style of Jujutsu. He started his own school in 1949 named Nihon Hokuha Kempo Kai. A novel was published in 1950 mentioning Shaolin style martial arts where he could have learned about it.

In 1951, Nakano started Sohonzan Shorinji, Religious Corp (宗教法人総本山少林寺). In 1963, Nakano publishes 'Hiden Shorinji Kempo' claiming to be the only heir of Shaolin quan sifu in Japan, and soon afterwards the number of students increases dramatically.

In 1973 Shorinji Kempo sues Fudozen Shorinji Kempo (不動禅少林寺拳法) in Osaka based on 'Unfair Competition Prevention Act' (trademark infringement). The case, known as 昭和48年(ワ)1491号, was rejected by Supreme Court, and ended up exposing Nakano and Shorinji Kempo as a fraud. One of the inconsistencies pointed out was Neijia quan ("internal" quan) like Yihe quan would not have lineage along "external" quan Shaolin quan. When Nakano took the witness stand, it was pointed out that the passage that describes Shaolin Temple in 'Hiden Shorinji Kempo' book was a ripoff from another book 嵩山旅行記 (Song Shan Travels) by Masuda Kisaburo (増田亀三郎). On the stands, he was not able to produce any credible description of the place or a person who might remember him.

After Nakano's death in 1980, his daughter So Yuki (宗由貴) takes over as the president. In 1993, Shorinji Kempo settles with Fudozen Shorinji Kempo by paying them 70 million yen (~USD 678k) in exchange for forcing Fudozen to rename to Shorinjiryu Kempo (少林寺流拳法). Afterwards, Shorinji Kempo has stopped claiming to have any Chinese martial arts origin. So Yuki even appeared in a tv show Trivia No Izumi (トリビアの泉) admitting that Shorinji Kempo was invented in Kagawa (香川県) in Japan, not China, and that there's no relationship whatsoever to Shaolin Temple (Japanese transcript).

share|improve this answer

^Everything sourced is credible from what Eugene says, except the part where Yuuki So claims that there is no relationship to the Shaolin Temple(they and Shorinji Kempo have meets regularly, which really contradicts this statement), and furthermore, whereas Eugene states they did not win this case, my friend actually says he has the relevant court documents that say they did win the case, although at the same time, there were some disagreements and exceptions, and at the end of it, yes Shorinji Kempo donated money to the Fudozen group to settle the case.

In fact, from the looks of it, it seems there's a bigger dispute regarding if styles in China today made it, or if a lot of them were fabricated to please the audience. That part is in So Doshin's book from what I read, and as for my general opinions regarding that matter, I'm just taking it for what it is, a point of interest. I don't know whether to say whether some wushu are fake or not.

I thought the story that it was created in Japan, and not China, is also consistent with what So Doshin claims. After all, there was no context for him to create it in China, but the context that we are taught in Shorinji Kempo is largely based on the situation of post-war Japan, that is, human beings act nice, but when hard reality strikes, they stop doing that altogether and turn horrible.

In fact So Doshin's first class was actually just philosophy, but combining it with what amalgamation of martial arts he learned made the whole thing more attractive.

One could argue that it's all fabricated, or made from money, but I'd be hard pressed to say that, given that Shorinji Kempo is a non-profit organization...

share|improve this answer
Your comments are appreciated but answer no part of my question. I refer you to the original question which is divided into parts A, B, and C. Instead, you are posting a comment on another answer in extremely long form. I invite you to edit this answer and change it to reply directly to my question. – The Wudang Kid Jul 30 '15 at 12:29

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.