June 04, 2016

38th Annual Cornell Shorinji Kempo Camp (2016)

On Friday May 27th, two members of Toronto Branch and two members of North York Branch ventured to Camp Barton near Trumansburg NY to participate in the 38th Annual Shorinji Kempo Cornell Camp.

Tucked away in the Finger Lakes of northern New York State, Camp Barton provides a beautiful setting to study the philosophy and techniques of Shorinji Kempo taught by Sakuyama-sensei (Ibaragi Takahagi Doin, Japan), former staff member at Hombu and direct student of our Founder – Kaiso So Doshin-sensei.

This year the emphasis was on a return to basics in order to explore how our inner body moves from the moment we become aware that a technique is about to begin (slight shift of weight to balls of your feet), through the transfer of energy as the technique is executed and a quick return to stasis at the completion.  Each technique should be performed with full attention to the moment without anticipating what’s next.

During a talk, Sakuyama-sensei shared stories about his experiences interviewing with Kaiso as he applied to become a monk and to live at headquarters.  After careful consideration Kaiso welcomed him to headquarters where Sakuyama-sensei quickly found that during the off-season most of the time is spent cleaning and repairing the facilities.  It wasn’t until the summer months that he fully appreciated his decision as the great masters journeyed from all across Japan to headquarters in order to participate in events.  He was thrilled to be able to continuously watch and learn from so many great teachers.  He continued to describe how his master, Nakano-sensei (Kaiso had stopped teaching techniques at this point), instructed him to restudy the basics.  Surprisingly it only took three years of near constant practice for him to realize the benefits of Nakano-sensei’s lesson about the importance of returning to the basics.

We were also fortunate that Miyata-sensei, the original founder of New York City Branch, was also in attendance.  He would often appear at just the right moment while we were trying to figure out the subtleties of a technique in order to guide us in the correct way.

Ontario delegation with Sakuyama-sensei
On the second day of practice, the warm-up session was led by two Kenshi that took us through a study of aspects of body movement and breathing with a special emphasis on opening the hip flexors to allow for improved hip movement in order to make our techniques more effective. 

Victor in action
Sakuyama-sensei continued his emphasis on the study of Kihon carefully checking each of us individually to ensure a strong foundation.
Sakuyama-sensei correcting hip movement
Another focus area of this year's camp was a conversation about evolution of Shorinji Kempo. After demonstrating one technique (kote nage), Sakuyama sensei spend considerable amount of time asking branch masters on their approaches to different complications during execution of the throw (for example, an extended arm of an opponent). The goal was not to change the form to a different technique, but to share the approaches on what can be done to successfully complete the form. After that, in on of the stories, Sakuyama-sensei told us that Shorinji Kempo Head Quarters very much values the differences in how different masters evolve the basic techniques. We learned that Hombu has an "R&D" department, that has a mandate to collect the insights of how techniques develop in different parts of the country and that of the world, and makes the decisions on what the basic forms and variations of techniques are. Sakuyama-sensei emphasized that even though there are "golden standards" of how the forms should be performed, each Kenshi still needs to "have duologue with the body" and perform the techniques in the way that works for him or her, e.g. knee lift heights during the basic kicks to ankle, knee or thigh area.

Cornell Camp is set in a spectaucular natural location

We wish the thank Sakuyama-sensei for coming all the way from Japan to teach us and the Camp organizers for their selfless efforts in facilitating another fantastic training opportunity.

We hope to see everyone again next year!


Kevin Legault & Victor Bondarev
Toronto Branch