The Origin of Shorinji Toraken ryu Kempo
The Shorinji Toraken ryu system of fighting arts traces its origin back to the kingdom of Wei in China. In more modern times, this area is identified as the Honam Providence of northern China. Actual development was through association with the monks of the Sau-Lin Szu (Young Forest Temple) better known as the Soong Shau Sau-Lin Szu.
Sau-Lin Szu Shan-Soong (temple) was then and is today in north China on the mountain of Hao-shan, about 40 miles from the city of Lo-Yang, the capital of the kingdom of Wei. The temple was isolated from the mainstream of life at the time when Manchu tribes of Mongolia invaded and over ran most of China. Until that time Sau-Lin was a place where peaceful Taoist monks spent most of their lives performing meditation. It is believed that a number of warlords went to this temple to hide from the Manchu armies and to form a resistance effort. One of these warlords was Soji Yang, the founder of our discipline. Soji Yang was one of the five elders. Yang lived about 1,300 years before Christ. His system of fighting was based on the long staff and fist/foot techniques.
As the monks of the temple were peaceful, they offered no resistance to the warlords, in turn, the warriors caused no harm to the monks. The warlords organized a school of fighting arts based on the knowledge they had gathered throughout their lives. They taught their methods of fighting to young men who also wished to resist the Manchu rulers. The warriors also began to take up the teachings of the monks and their manner of dress.
These Taoist monks traveled from one temple to another across China, both their hands held together in a prayerful way. Soon the warrior monks began to travel with the peaceful monks their hands disguised as being prayerful by covering right fist with an open hand. The warrior monks went in part to protect the peaceful monks from attack by outlaws and other foes, and as a cover so they might go to other temples and cities to spread their knowledge also that the hated Manchus might be forced out of China.
Buddhism spread from India to China and with it came a Buddhist monk named Bhodhidharma (about 500 A.D.) to spread the new religion. He brought Buddhism to the Sau-Lin Szu Shang Soong (temple). He was also thought to have taught certain fighting arts from India. From this time on Sau-Lin Szu became one of the many center of both Taoist and Buddhist religions and the fighting system of Sau-Lin became known as the respectful fist method due to its relationship with the teachings of Bhodhidharma.
Often traveling groups of monks would be attacked by bandits or Manchu soldiers. When some of the monks began to fight with great ability rumors began to spread that all of these monks were fierce warriors.
At first the source of these warrior monks was unknown, but as they grew in number and spread their doctrine of resistance across China the Manchu rulers sent their forces to seek out the temples. At first the Manchus feared that they would anger their own gods by attacking foreign temples or anger the gods of these temples. Despite this fear, they attacked and destroyed many temples of China. However, the Shan Soong temple in the Honam providence was not destroyed: it remains to this day.
The Toraken Do Arts were first called Sau-Lin Szu Chin-Chen Chaun-fa (Young Forest Temple Respectful Fist-Method). This style was based on the five arts of the original warlords which later became classified by the names of five animals of Chinese temple boxing from which all other boxing forms are thought to be devised.
The five animal forms are the Dragon - using swift power and leaping: the Tiger - using the arms and hips in total body movement: the Leopard - leaping nimbly and moving on the ground with agility; the Snake - becoming fluid in body movement and striking with power and fluidity; and the Crane - moving arms and legs in gracefully executed sweeping movements.
The style remained in China until around 1600 A.D. During the period of the Tang dynasty when many people fled China, the Soji of the system took the art of Chin-Chen with him to the Sila kingdom of Korea settling in the area called Yong Dong Po.
In the Korean language the style became known as So-Rim Sa Churl Kwan Do. The style remained in Korea for many years adding to its techniques the native laws of Harrang-Do, thus becoming a style with two different systems of fighting techniques. In the middle 1800s the armies of Japan began to form an empire and occupied Korea bringing with them the arts of Jujutsu and Okinawa-Ta which were used to enrich each other's techniques.
The style moved to Japan in 1956 when the Soji, Kim C. Whang, sought medical treatment which was not available in recently war-torn Korea. In the Japanese language the system was called Shorin-Ji Tetsu-Ken Ryu. Here the style added even more to its techniques.
While the system was in Japan its techniques were divided by category to conform with Japanese customs. The Japanese have had established federations which control martial arts and provide registered diplomas of instruction since 1922. These federations divide all fighting arts into categories according to fighting methods such as Kara-Te, primarily striking hands and feet; Ju-Jutsu, primarily throwing techniques; and Kobudo, weapon techniques and Kempo Jutsu.
In order to have the system accepted the by all Japan Karate Way Federation and the All Japan Ancient Fighting Way Federation, a new system was formed under the customs of Japan which was called Kamishin Ryu or Kanshin Ryu (Divine-Heart Style) which is divided into Kamishin Ryu Karate Do, Kamishin Ryu Ju-Jutsu, Kamishin Ryu Kobudo and Kamishin Ryu Kempo.
In 1967 Kim C. Koh (Japanese for Kim C. Whang) called for Albert C. Church, Jr. - one of his students from the Korean War period - to study with him again so that he might become the heir to the style. When the old Soke died in 1969, Albert C. Church, Jr., became to Soke of Chin-Chen or Shorinji Tetsuken Ryu in 1969.
The style we study Shorinji Toraken ryu Kempo-Karate came into being in 1980 after Soke Church died. Dr. James Ronald Cherry, Soke Church's personal student, found it necessary due to conflicts with Soke Church's widow and a fracturing of Church's organization after his death, to form the American Kempo-Karate Association rather than continue in Soke Church's organization which included the Nippon Kobudo Rengo-Kai and the American Hapkido Karate Federation.
Dr. Cherry was chief examiner and chief instructor for both of these groups from 1975 to 1980.