Gōjū ittai

Gōjū ittai 剛柔一体 is the fifth characteristic of Shorinji Kempo.

Shorinji Kempo is an art of self-defence for the purpose of protecting one’s body from an opponent with the intent to harm. Using this art to react to the conditions of the moment, one gains control over one’s opponent’s motions.

The techniques respond to all manner of situations, and to make a general classification one may split them into “hard” and “soft” methods. Gōhō (hard methods) center around punches, strikes and kicks while jūhō (soft methods) center around escapes, joint locks, pressuring and chokes.

In Shorinji Kempo, gōhō and jūhō are used depending on the situation. If someone were to grab you by the front of the shirt, it wouldn’t do to suddenly use gōhō and strike the person. Likewise, if an opponent came at you with a string of punches, jūhō alone would not be an adequate defence. This provision of both gōhō and jūhō, one or the other to be used depending on the situation, is explained in Shorinji Kempo as one of its special characteristics, known as “gōjū ittai” (hard and soft united).

A short time after Kaiso had founded Shorinji Kempo, men known as dōjō busters used to come around to the training hall. Kaiso used various methods to deal with these men depending on each one’s specific way of attacking.

One day, a man who had built up the hardness of his flesh and bones came calling. The man, while he was boasting on and on about the hardness of his body, asked Kaiso: “How many tiles can you break?” Kaiso replied: “In Shorinji Kempo, we emphasize protecting ourselves and avoiding the blows over hardening our bodies.” As the man didn’t agree with him, Kaiso asked him: “If we couldn’t agree, and I tried to pull you out the front door by the hand, what would you do?” As he said this, he grabbed one of the man’s hands in his two hands and started to pull. The man tried to pull his hand away for a while, but suddenly he started to punch with his free hand. In that instant, Kaiso used the technique, katate kannuki nage, to attack the wrist and threw the man sprawling. When the man got up again, Kaiso let the man grab his hand. When the man tried to pull him by hand, Kaiso used maki gote to lock up the man’s wrist joint and flip him. Then, while holding him down, Kaiso made a kicking motion and said: “If I wanted to make you lose consciousnessall I would have to do is kick you with this foot. The reason I don’t strain myself to harden my body is that I don’t find it to be necessary.” The man left, apparently convinced.

Kaiso used to say, “strategy is a thing that changes“, to explain Shorinji Kempo’s characteristic distinction of hard and soft responses depending on the attacker’s approach. Moreover he did not restrict the thinking behind “hard and soft united” to the realm of physical techniques saying: “The essence of Shorinji Kempo is something that can be used in daily life.” He explained the connection between Shorinji Kempo’s technical approach and its basic approach to daily life saying: “It’s doing a good job of grasping that chance that comes and goes in a flash, or responding to the variations. And you don’t lose focus. I think that’s the best.

This is gōjū ittai.