There are three systems of Shorinji Kempo techniques:
- Goho describes hard techniques, such as punches, strikes, hammers, blocks and deflections.
- Juho describes soft techniques, such as releases, throws, pins and joint reversals.
- Seiho, the branch of healing techniques, which comprises balancing meridians, correcting bone position and resuscitation; in practice you will encounter this as massage of various regions of the body.
Although we categorise Goho and Juho separately for convenience, both are needed in practical application of self defence. There are more than 600 techniques in Shorinji Kempo, and 138 vital points are used. In addition to these standard techniques, there are other movements necessary to practice effective Shorinji Kempo. For example, Umpo ho describes footwork, a vastly important factor in effective self-defence and application of techniques. Ukemi describes rolls and recoveries, and is essential in recovering from techniques as well as having practical uses in instances such as falling off a bike or tripping up extravagantly. Tai Sabaki refers to the general movement of the body, including dodging amongst other things. A key characteristic of Shorinji Kempo is the emphasis that techniques are both effective and beautiful.
Goho is the family of predominantly hard techniques: strikes, kicks, hammers, deflections and blocks. Goho techniques apply when the attacker is not in contact (ie. an attack from distance). A common way to defend is to perform some sort of block followed by a counter attack (a hard movement like a punch or a kick) to an appropriate pressure point. Blocks are typically soft so as to allow usage of Juho in combination (see below). Distance is maintained between the attacker and defender such that the latter can control the attacker's options. For instance, if the defender moves slightly closer towards the attacker, it will generally encourage the latter to attack with a kick. By being able to predict the likely attack, it is then possible to counter with an effective technique aimed at a vital point.
Juho is the family of soft techniques (compare: judo ): joint reverses, pins, throws, locks and releases. These techniques typically apply when the attacker and defender are in contact, such as may result from a grab by the attacker, a pre-emptive grab by the defender, or when the attacker's strike has been parried and contact is kept with the blocking arm. Juho techniques rely on a consideration of balance, and use of pressure points to maximise the effect of a strike. Using simple physical principles e.g. linear and rotational momentum, use of limbs as levers along with manipulation of the attacker's balance allow effective Juho to be carried out.
Seiho is the branch of healing techniques. In Shorinji Kempo an acupressure approach is used, focusing on the 14 meridians of the body. Often in the dojo, seiho practice will involve massage of a particular area of the body: the hands/wrists, arms, legs, lower back, upper back, or neck. The purpose here is to prevent injury, either by preparing the body for the movements of training or by relieving any stresses caused by training. Seiho can be extended into a more practical method, for example in relieving head aches, back discomfort or hand tension through computer usage.
There are other applications of seiho, however. More advanced methods involve the balancing of meridians and realignment of bones, although these are rarely encountered. More urgently, seiho can be used in the rare occasions of a training accidents e.g. if someone is winded or knocked out, Seiho can be used to help them recover their breath or senses. Seiho as a technique in comparison to goho and juho is important because it reminds us to train compassionately as Shorinji Kempo is not designed for self defence and not as a tool to hurt people.