Tradition tells that it was Bodhidharma (the progenitor of Zen) who brought fighting techniques (Indian kempo, tenjiku nara no kaku, or ekkin gyo) to China 1500 years ago, after he left India to transmit the proper teachings of the historical Buddha and ended his travels at the Songshan Shaolin Temple in what is now Henan Province. Later, these techniques gave birth to various martial arts which spread across the lands of China.
In 1928, Kaiso traveled to China with a strong sense of purpose, and there he learned esoteric techniques from various masters he met through his unusual line of work.
In August 1945 Japan was defeated in war, and amidst the post-war turmoil, Kaiso witnessed the naked depths of action human beings could commit. This profound experience made him resolve to revive his country by nurturing its people, and in the summer of 1946 he returned home to post-defeat Japan.
In October 1947, at his home in Tadotsu, Kagawa Prefecture, Kaiso ordered and organized the techniques that he had learned while in China, adding his own creative touch, and ― naming the system Shorinji Kempo ― began to teach. The following year, he simultaneously established the Nippon Hoppa Shorinji Kempo Kai and the Komanji Kyodan, and in December ― 1951 he established Kongo Zen Sohonzan Shorinji. In 1956 he established the Nihon Shorinji Bugei Senmon Gakko (Shorinji Budo Academy of Japan), and in 1957 the Zen Nihon Shorinji Kempo Remmei (All Japan Shorinji Kempo Federation). Then, in 1963 he incorporated the organization as Shadan Hojin Nihon Shorinji Kempo Remmei (Shorinji Kempo Federation of Japan), specifically applying his efforts to the training of young people.
By 1980, Kaiso had spent 33 years since the founding of Shorinji Kempo nurturing a large number of young people to strength of body and mind through this tough ken zen ichinyo approach to training. However, on 12th May 1980, heart problems overcame him and he passed away.
Currently, with Shike Doshin So Ⅱ, Yuuki So, carrying on Kaiso’s mission, Shorinji Kempo continues to move forward.
Kaiso noticed that in all the martial arts he had practiced, there were three fundamental kinds of motion ― circular, straight, and arc motion ― and that based on the use and combination of these there were 10 methods; the soft methods of takedown, throw, twist, pressure, choke, and bend; and the hard methods of punch, strike, kick, and chop. Then he analyzed and organized these by principles of physics and physiology. Kaiso aimed to establish a method to train body and mind simultaneously that would serve as self defense, physical exercise, physical education, and furthermore help perfect one’s character. Accordingly, he took the monastic training discipline portrayed on the byaku-eden wall at the Shaolin Temple and recomposed it into a form that fit contemporary conditions, then worked in the valuable experience of actual fighting that he had gained during the war, added his own original elements, and founded Shorinji Kempo.
The name of Shorinji Kempo arises from the fact that Kaiso’s master, Tai Zong Wen, a former Shaolin Temple. passed on the lineage of the Giwamon Ken to Kaiso at the Shaolin Temple. Kaiso also wished to perpetuate the name of Shorinji and its associations with Zen’s founding master, Bodhidharma, and to commemorate the re-establishment of the practice of martial techniques as a gyo.
Since ancient times in both China and Japan, martial arts that spring from the Songshan Shaolin Temple in Henan Prefecture China have been called Shaolin martial arts (shorin bujutsu), and among these the weaponless styles were called Shaolin Fist (shorin ken) or Shaolin Fist Arts (shorin kenjutsu).
Shorinji Kempo, on the other hand, is a new martial way from postwar Japan. It was founded by Kaiso based on techniques that he learned as a youth, rearranged for modern conditions and augmented with his own original elements.