Embu 演武 can be translated as “perform fight”, the first character 演 means “perform/present” and the second 武 is the same “bu” as in budō 武道.

Embu is a very important part of Shorinji Kempo practice, because it puts the techniques in a context and one performs several techniques in longer combinations/series. Within Shorinji Kempo one can also compete in embu.

Embu Competition

When competing in embu, one combines techniques to series or sequences together with a partner. The role as attacker and defender changes during the embu and the time limit is from 1,5 to 2 minutes. An embu shall contain six different series of techniques, or kōsei as it is called in Japanese. One competes on ordinary floor in a square of 7 by 7 meters and one can choose among all the techniques that is part of one’s curriculum for one’s next exam.

In competition the performance of the embu is judged by five judges, in smaller competitions one can have three judges. Each judge evalute the technical quality of each kōsei, and each kōsei can give a maximum of ten points. One also judge the over all impression in four different categories, where ten is the maximum point for each part. Accordingly each judge can give a maximum of 100 points, when one have five judges the score from the judge who gave the highes and lowest score are taken out. Maximum total score is 300 points.


The evaluation of an embu is done in two main categories; gijutsudo (technical quality) and hyōgendo (overall impression). Each kōsei are judged in concern of gijutsudo, which means that the judges look at the technical performance of each kōsei and they can give up to 10 points per sequence.

The second category is hyōgendo, or “overall impression”. In this category the judges evaluate the over all impression of the performance. Hyōgendo is in its turn divided in four parts that the judge look at. These are;

  • kōsei, rizumu, setsudo (structure, rytm/flow, standard)
  • tai gamae, tachi kata, utsukushisa (body position, stance, attractiveness)
  • kihaku, kiai, sae (energy, kiai, skill)
  • chōsoku, mekubari, zanshin (breathing, eye-contact, awareness)

Categories in Competition

In embu competition one compete in pairs (kumi embu), or a group of three people, and divide the participants in different categories depending on their rank. There is also dantai embu, or group embu, in which case you are 6-12 people in each team. Sometimes one can also have a class for single form, tandoku embu.

The highest category usually is 4th dan and above, but in the West it sometimes isn’t enough participants in the higher categories and in that case one combines them. In Japan were it is a lot more kenshi it is also common to have parent-child category, husband-wife category, category for senior participants etc.

In Sweden we have a National embu taikai each year and in every fourth year there is the World Taikai.

Important Training Method

Even if one doesn’t compete, embu is a very important, and according to many very fun, part of Shorinji Kempo practice. In order to learn distance and timing it is necessary to practice together with a partner acting as an opponent, but in order to develop one’s techniques it is important to combine techniques to longer series, in order to practice the technique in a content with different moves. To make an embu good it is required that each attack is done with full speed and power, hence making the techniques more realistic. Of course one first start out slowly and increasing the speed and power gradually.

Many teachers also explain embu as a form of moving meditation. If one have practiced one’s embu so that one can do it without thinking of what technique is next one starts to get closer to that stage.