The shakujo is also somewhat unique in that it is one of only three weapons practiced in Shorinji Kempo. Alongside the nyoi (如意, sceptre, baton) and dokko (独鈷, single-pronged vajra, palm-stick), likely chosen by Doshin So due to their deep Buddhist symbolism and connection to the Shaolin temple monks, their techniques have been all but lost due to years of de-emphasis from the core syllabus. We are fortunate in the UK that Mizuno Sensei made a special study of shakujo and nyoi techniques, in part directly from the famous shakujo master Ueda Sensei (more on him later), to ensure he was able to pass them on to a new generation of students. It is something of which I in turn have attempted to make a detailed study (although I still have a long way to go myself!).
In this article, I'd like to delve a bit into the rich history and meaning of the shakujo, as well as talk about its application within the Shorinji Kempo system. Because while it doesn't necessarily add any practical value, I think understanding where something comes from enriches our practice. And of course it's also important to retain our connection to the past whenever looking forward.
My (1st place!) shakujo embu from the BSKF 2017 national taikai.
While I was having a clear-out this weekend, I found a single sheet of paper tucked amongst some leaflets and other papers from my first trip to Japan (and one and only visit to Shorinji Kempo headquarters), for a world taikai back in 2005.
It was an extract from a talk given by the founder of Shorinji Kempo, Doshin So, back in the 70s. I'm not totally sure home I came into possession, but re-reading it, I was struck by how relevant the words were to the current political climate. Against a renewed backdrop of isolationism, it’s a pertinent reminder that changing the world starts with the individual; that we must build up not just strength and resolve, but also consideration for others, in order to stand up to injustice.
Given I have no idea of its provenance, I can't comment on the copyright status of the text. So until someone tells me to take it down, the full text is replicated below. Enjoy.
Speech by the Founder at the Shorinji Kempo 30th Anniversary National Taikai (1977)
It truly gives me great pleasure that the Shorinji Kempo 30th Anniversary Taikai is being held here today on such a grand scale. After Japan having lost in World War II, I returned to Japan to start my life all over once again, together with many other Japanese people. I thought that we could work things out together by helping each other when I returned to Japan. However, Japan at that time was in a really terrible state. Some behaved like gangsters to other Japanese, or those from some of the victor nations committed many overbearing acts. Despite seeing such acts, nobody tried to help. Under such a situation I honestly felt regret about having to return to Japan.
Shorinji kempo (少林寺拳法; Shaolin-temple boxing) is a Japanese martial art that was founded in 1947 by Doshin So, a Japanese intelligence agent and martial artist. Through his travels in China before and during the second world war, Doshin So had the opportunity to study with many of the "lost" quan fa (kempo) schools that were driven into hiding following the boxer rebellion; schools steeped in history and with a deep connection to zen buddhism. He also experienced first hand many of the horrors of war, terrible acts committed by ordinary people and soldiers, and on his return to Japan after the war, found a nation defeated and in disarray.
These experiences together impressed on him the importance of an individual's strength of character in how they act and treat others. This motivated him to create a system that would teach both practical self defence and the ideals of mutual respect, responsibility and cooperation to the young people of his country, to help with healing and improving society. His art quickly spread, and today Shorinji kempo is practiced in over 40 countries around the world, and continues to promote self improvement and mutual cooperation through the practice of the martial art.
Shorinji kempo combines elements of the styles of jujustu that Doshin So learned from his grandfather, with many techniques and ideas learned from various quan fa masters during his time in China. Doshin So took these elements, and systematised them, incorporating ideas and changes from his own experience. In many ways, Shorinji kempo is one of the original mixed martial arts.
In choosing a name for his martial art, Doshin So picked one that reflected the spirit of the Chinese arts he had learned (epitomised by the Shorin-ji or Shaolin temple), and would stand out in contrast to the classic traditional Japanese arts such as karate, aikido and jujustu.
Ben is instructor at East London Shorinji Kempo. He has been practicing for 20 years and has reached the rank of 4th dan.
Shorinji kempo stances