Club profile: Shorinji Kempo

Stephen Trotter

shorinji kempo“Shorinji Kempo? Is that the one with the sticks?” Well, no. But sometimes we train with sticks. Shorinji Kempo is often confused with Kendo, which also exists at the University of Glasgow, but they are very dissimilar. Shorinji Kempo, as with many other martial arts, was developed in Japan, but unlike many martial arts, does not claim to be ancient: it was developed post-WWII. Although it incorporates elements of Shaolin Kung-Fu, as the founder of Shorinji Kempo trained at a Shaolin Temple for a while, it bears little resemblance to its mother martial art. Developed as a response to the chaos and despair present in Japanese society post-WWII, the founder of Shorinji Kempo developed it to help people build a strong mind, body, and spirit. More than just a system of self-defence (and it most certainly is a system of self-defence), it contains a philosophy of strengthening the individual and developing the person in aid of building a better society.

The Glasgow University Shorinji Kempo Club has been around since the 1970s, and we’re still a highly respected club within the British Shorinji Kempo Federation (which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year). The club has always provided high-quality training, and continues to do so today. Our head coach has over 20 years of experience (he himself picked it up at Glasgow University), and he is aided and abetted by several black belts in teaching the techniques and philosophies of Shorinji Kempo to the members of the club. In addition to a head coach who has trained longer than some freshers have been alive, one of our coaches is a police officer, and relies on what Shorinji Kempo has taught her on a daily basis.

Shorinji Kempo incorporates both “hard” and “soft” techniques into a holistic system of self-defence, although you wouldn’t think some of our “soft” techniques are very soft when they’re applied. “Hard” techniques (or Goho, as we refer to them) consist of a small number of punches, kicks, and blocks, albeit applied creatively resulting in a wide array of techniques for use in most self-defence situations. As if that wasn’t enough, we offer two for the price of one. We also have a whole host of techniques under the “soft” category (known as Juho); releases and wrist-locks, and some very uncom – I mean interesting – pins. Although there are two categories, there is a very blurred line between the application of one or the other.

As far as competition goes, there aren’t that many. There is an annual national tournament, the Taikai, where one can enter into several categories: Randori (free sparring), Kata (stylised single form), Sotai Kata (stylised pair form Kata), and Embu (paired choreographed display of techniques). If you don’t like all the attention centred on you, there’s even a group Embu, where a large group (or club) perform Kata together. There is also an annual summer camp, where we get together with all the other clubs for a couple of days to be trained by the most senior instructors in the UK. We also have a University Training Seminar, this year was hosted by the Glasgow club, which is very similar to the summer camp. Considering the martial art is quite small, you quickly get to know members from other clubs.

As with all other clubs and societies at the University, we’re a social one as well. We grab a pint (of whatever floats your boat) after our training sessions and seminars, and we have the occasional “bad martial-arts” film night or game night. And because we’re a quite small club, you’ll get to know everyone. Our training sessions are intense, but it makes relaxing at the pub afterwards feel well earned.

If you fancy coming along to a training session, we train twice a week (Monday 8.30-10.30pm and Wednesday 9.00-10.30pm). We’re happy to take on new members at any point in the year.


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