Goho – The Hard Way

Kicks are among the many attacks which are learned and practiced in Shorinji Kempo.

This family of techniques comprises strikes – punches, kicks, cuts etc using hands and feet – and the blocks to counter them. Similar to the soft techniques the strength of an attacker is avoided by dodges and deflections rather than by meeting force with force.


In general there are five things that you need to make a good strike.

Aim: Targeting vital points on your opponent’s body means that goho techniques work on any body type – even if you are smaller than your partner. An example would be hitting the solar plexus, which causes your opponent to struggle to breathe for a few minutes. Like all Shorinji Kempo techniques this is not permanently damaging.

Speed: The ideal is to hit your opponent before they know to defend themselves. You need to be fast enough to get there before they can react (but slow enough to get it right!). You also need to be fast at spotting opportunities – a weakness in their stance or attention will allow you to attack effectively.

Angle: All vital points have an ideal angle to attack from.  For example, the solar plexus must be attacked upwards, otherwise the ribs get in the way. All of our punches and kicks are practiced with this in mind. Never learn a new target without also learning what angle to attack it from.

Distance: If you’re too far away, you won’t hit your target.  If you’re too close, you won’t build up enough power. Practice allows you to learn instinctively how long your arms and legs are – and to recognise how long your partner’s limbs are! Remember that if you can reach them, they could very well be able to reach you too.

Kyojitsu: Attack your partner’s “emptiness” with your “fullness”. If they are not paying attention, or have poor stance, opportunity exists. If you are paying attention, you can seize this opportunity. This is closely linked to the need for speed – it’s not enough to just spot the opportunity, you must move fast to take advantage.


When defending, it is important to remember to move. If your opponent is aiming at your head, move your head! If they are aiming at your stomach, move your stomach. Most of the effectiveness of our blocks comes from not being in the place where the attack is focused.

However, you should also think about where you move to – if you just run away then you can’t counter-attack, and they have no reason to stop hitting you! Sideways is usually a good bet.

Putting it together

When we practice things for the first time, we use short set movements like the one in this video. The defender knows what is coming and can practice the defence without worrying about surprises.

Notice how the defender moves her head a long way, and uses her arm to cover it just in case. Her feet don’t move as much, which means she’s in great range for a counter-kick.

After you get more familiar with the movements, you can use them in randori, or sparring. In this scenario you don’t know what attack will come, or when – so you learn how to recognise the intention of your opponent and react in real time.