What is gassho rei, and what is it for?

Have you ever watched a martial arts film where two little old Japanese masters need to fight to prove which is the best?

They enter the mats, bow, and get into a fighting stance.

Then they stare at each other.

Suddenly, just as you think nothing is going to happen, one of them bows to the other and walks off, defeated.

You won’t ever see that happen in Shorinji Kempo.

For several reasons, but the one I want to talk about here is the bowing.  We don’t bow to each other.  Instead, we use gassho rei.

What is this gassho rei thing then?

Stand upright and look the other person in the eye.

Press your hands together in front of you, about head height.  The tops of your fingers should be level with your eyes, and your fingers spread slightly.

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Often, gassho rei is accompanied by words.  Before training, we say “onegaishimasu”, which is Japanese for “please” – as in, “please train with me”.

Afterwards, we say “arigato gozaimashita”, which is Japanese for “thank you very much”.

Don’t worry if you can’t figure out the pronunciation!  Come along and try it out a few times and you’ll soon get it right.

Ok, but what’s the point?

Bowing, especially in Japanese culture, is very rank-conscious.  That is to say, the deeper you bow, the more respect you are showing to the other person.  If a commoner met the emperor, the commoner would be grovelling on the floor while the emperor might, perhaps, nod his head a little.

Gassho rei is a gesture of mutual respect.

Everyone in the dojo is equal.  We all learn from each other – yes, even the sensei can learn from the newest beginner!  They may be learning different things (how to teach better rather than how to punch better, for example), but the opportunity for learning is still there.

That sounds pretty cool

If you want to learn a martial art where respect is given to all students regardless of rank, why not try Shorinji Kempo?

Beginners are always welcome, and your first session is free if you sign up to our mailing list so there’s nothing to lose!

A successful IKA seminar in the Spanish Sun

Members of Bristol Shorinji Kempo Dojo attended the International Kempo Association seminar in Beasain, Spain. On the Saturday morning there was a demonstration for some of the local people – we had around 200-300 people in the audience, and we were even on the TV!


The children’s class were impressive, both in size and in quality. It’s given us notions and we’re considering starting a children’s class in Bristol. Get in touch if you would be interested!

For the rest of the weekend, we trained hard. Some very good Kempo instruction was had by all, from the senior instructors of the IKA – Japanese, British, Spanish, and others.

Of course, training can only last so long, and there was plenty of time to enjoy chatting with people from all over the Kempo World, eat, drink, and enjoy the Spanish sun.


Shorinji Kempo Goes Ape

Cardiff Dojo invited us to join them on a social event recently. We went to Go Ape and swung around in the trees. It was all very safe, with all the harnesses and safety instructions. But still… you’re quite high up. Not one for people who have a fear of heights. For those of us not cursed with that affliction, though, it was fun.

Afterwards we went for a meal at a local pub, and caught up on all the gossip.

BSKF Summer Camp

The British Shorinji Kempo Federation Summer Camp this year took place in Staffordshire.

The benefits of staying in the middle of nowhere included more time to be sociable in the evenings (and mornings, and lunchtimes), beautiful countryside surroundings, and the ability to go for a run first thing in the morning.

Some people did not consider that last one to be a benefit!

Some excellent training was had by all, including shakujo (staff weapon) training outdoors, open handed technical training with Sensei Mizuno (8th Dan) and the other senior instructors, meditation, and philosophy.

The Welsh Experiment II

After the success of the 2014 Welsh Experiment, Cardiff dojo repeated the experience this year. In 2014 we took our shakujo (6 foot staff weapons) to the Welsh mountains and used the natural dojo to practice – both shakujo and meditation – in the glorious sunshine.


Alas, this year the weather did not cooperate, and instead of swinging our shakujo on a lovely sunny mountainside, we took part in such experiments as “who has the best waterproofs” and “how hard is it to hold on to a wet shakujo?”. We also took the wise decision to do the meditation portion of the event inside!

We did have a clear night though, which gave the opportunity for a little fun with glow sticks.

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It was a brilliant event, and we learnt a lot. I’d love to see it become less “experiment” and more established as part of the regular cycle of events which the BSKF run.

Cardiff Dojo Halloween Party

Bristol dojo joined Cardiff for their halloween party, and what a party it was. Death attended (with a shakujo made into a scythe), there was party food, fun games, and general hilarity.


We played “Kempo Limbo” – it’s like normal limbo, but when it gets too difficult, you start going over the stick instead. Who knew that all that practice of rolls would be so useful!


And “Kempo Piñata”, which is like normal piñata, except that you punch and kick it until it explodes.

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Kobe, Japan, was the destination for an exciting Kempo trip

Several of Bristol Shorinji Kempo dojo joined others from around the country (and from other countries) for a trip to Japan this October.

Our trip started with a look around Kobe and its beautiful surroundings.



Not to forget the wonderful hospitality and amazing Japanese cuisine!


We then had two days of intense training with senior Japanese Senseis. An opportunity not to be missed!

However, there was still some time for a little fun.


A cultural experience rounded off the official part of the trip.


Then it was on to the sightseeing! Over the course of around ten days, we covered a lot of ground. There were whirlpools at Naruto, Himeji castle, deer at Nara (oh, and a huge Buddha statue, too), Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, ninjas, and so much more!

So many things happened that it would be impossible to tell you them all. One of the entertainments was the sat nav in the car. The car hire company helpfully “set it to English” for us – which meant that it spoke the instructions in English. However, you still had to be able to read Japanese to program it!

We also had some fun going on little side trips, like the time we decided to come off the motorway and have lunch. Alas, because we were in the middle of nowhere, the restaurant staff didn’t speak English, and since most of our Japanese is limited to “please, thank you, punch, kick, one-two-three-four-five”, getting served was very entertaining!


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And that was all before we moved on to Okinawa, which is a tiny island paradise. There was a lot of interesting culture on Okinawa – the kingdom of the Ryukyu, which was a major world power in its day.

Also caves, the most amazing weather, food galore, and the largest aquarium you’ve ever seen.

Seriously, there were three or four fully grown sharks in there, and they did not look cramped.


The trip to Japan was a great success all around. I’m already saving up for the next one, whenever that might be!