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Interview with Reverend Toshio Kuramoto
of the Hollywood Shorinji Kempo Dojo
Interviewer: Richard Killion - Dragon Times #16

The Rev. Kuramoto is a former student of the founder of Shorinji Kempo, Doshin So, and currently the chief instructor of the Hollywood, California, Shorinji Kempo dojo.

Richard Killion: When did you start Shorinji Kempo?

Toshio Kuramoto: In 1968 at the Kongo Zen Sohonzan Shorinji, in Koshigaya Doin, Saitama-Ken, Japan.

Richard Killion: How long have you been a Zen Acu-Therapist ?

Toshio Kuramoto: 30 years. I learned through the Shorinji Kempo dojo in Saitama Prefecture.

Richard Killion: What inspired you to join Shorinji Kempo?

Toshio Kuramoto: When I learned of Shorinji Kempo, I wanted to challenge my life through martial arts.

Richard Killion: What inspired you to join the Los Angeles Shorinji Kempo dojo.

Toshio Kuramoto: I first heard of Yamamori Sensei while I was in Japan; Doshin So read many of Yamamori Sensei's letters to us during seminars at the Honbu (headquarters) dojo. I came to the USA in March 1972. I was travelling all over looking for a dojo where I could continue my training. Yamamori sensei's personality and technique attracted me to the LA dojo. The only Shorinji Kempo at the time that I felt I liked was at the LA dojo. I stayed there for about one and a half years.

Then I went back to Japan to help with my father's business where I almost died. A truck I was driving was involved in an accident and I was trapped between the steering column and the body of the cab. My chest was crushed, I broke sixteen ribs, ruptured my spleen, and almost bled to death as a result. Unconscious and close to death I remember walking amongst the clouds and meeting my mother who had died several years before.

Following extensive surgery to repair the damage to my body I woke up on the operating table. My miraculous survival was followed by a period of difficult, protracted, and very painful healing. During this trying time I bolstered my spirits by thinking always of the teachings of our founder (Doshin So). For example, the need to remain strong, to be patient, to look forward to better times. The concepts that I had learned in the dojo kept me going.

I didn't forget about my training even though I couldn't move. In my mind I was always practicing. In extreme pain, and able to move only my mouth and eyes, my waking hours were filled with "mind training" while my dreams were always of Shorinji Kempo.

When I finally recovered I decided to return to the Los Angeles dojo and Yamamori sensei.

Richard Killion: Is there anything in Yamamori Sensei's teachings that has made an impression on your life?

Toshio Kuramoto: I like the way that Yamamori sensei deals with life by the means of the Shorinji Kempo philosophy.

Yamamori sensei is very faithful to Doshin So's teachings, and follows exactly what the Master taught him. Because I have great faith in, and loyalty to Doshin So, his teachings, and his methods I knew that Yamamori sensei was the person with whom I could continue to practice the real Shorinji Kempo.

Yamamori sensei's body movement is dynamic, full of energy and impressive. His energy comes from the heart of Shorinji Kempo. There is nothing fake or superficial about him. When I saw Yamamori sensei's technique, I fell in love with Shorinji Kempo for the second time. I realized that Yamamori sensei had inherited the heart of Doshin So's original method, the technical core of our school.

Richard Killion: What was your impression of Doshin So?

Toshio Kuramoto: I met the Founder, Master Doshin So in 1971 when I went to Honbu to take private lessons from him for 2 weeks. My first impression of him was of a great person who cared deeply for other people. His Hohwa (lectures) during the practice sessions were very impressive. As I listened I could feel myself changing. As if I had been struck by lightening and was burning inside. In that moment I decided to devote myself and my life to Shorinji Kempo.

Meeting him in person and hearing his lectures really changed me and my attitude towards life. His words impressed me greatly. Kancho (the founder, Doshin So), as I call him, instilled in me the discipline, energy, courage, patience, and a caring attitude that I had been seeking. I found all this in Shorinji Kempo and have been inspired by the Founder ever since.

He used to say that Shorinji Kempo is not a Budo, it is more than that. Breaking ceramic roof tiles with the fists to demonstrate one's physical strength means nothing. Real strength comes from within. What is important is to learn how to use one's strength wisely and for the benefit of society. Shorinji Kempo does not teach you to fight, or to break hard objects. It shows you how not to defeat yourself. In Shorinji Kempo it is not considered necessary to become a strong man physically, it is very important however not to be a failure as a person. By practicing Shorinji Kempo, I can teach you how to become a truly strong person physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Shorinji Kempo will show you how to be a role model to those around you. A leader of youth, the community, and, ultimately, the world. In order to be a respected leader, you must learn to lead yourself; love yourself, as well as others; love your parents, your teachers, and your country. Do not be a slave to your skills and strength. Polish your personality, learn everything about yourself before you speak of yourself as a Shorinji Kempo practitioner.

Richard Killion: What are the aspects of a dojo that is called "traditional" ?

Toshio Kuramoto: Shorinji Kempo is not a sport and does not function as one. Its concept comes from Mahayana Buddhism, which is the origin of the Buddhist philosophy. Many of our techniques come from the teachings of Buddha. Kancho used to call Shorinji Kempo the teaching guidelines Buddha taught to his disciples. Shorinji Kempo practitioners must understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. If you just want to become strong, go somewhere other than a Shorinji Kempo dojo. Shorinji Kempo expects you to achieve much more than that from training.

Richard Killion: What exactly?

Toshio Kuramoto: Shorinji Kempo expects more of you not just a mastery of technique; Shorinji Kempo expects you to master things like love, compassion, patience, respect, and loyalty through your practice.

Love yourself first, love and give compassion to others (your training partner), and learn from others. Respect your seniors, your parents, teachers, elder brothers and sisters, older kenshi and the country where you live.

Shorinji Kempo should not be taught for the purpose of fighting or to harm others but to polish your own skills in order to become a better person. Learn about yourself first; listen to yourself. Learn to respect yourself, and others. Become a person who is worthy of the respect of others. Shorinji Kempo believes in working with your training partner (as in enbu) in a spirit of mutual aid and development. With things like sotai practice, you show consideration for others from which will spring spiritual partnership. All these facets of training should be practiced every day.

Richard Killion: What would you tell someone that is interested in starting to learn Shorinji Kempo?

Toshio Kuramoto: Everybody can practice: young and old, men and women.

Richard Killion: How do you feel about carrying on the traditional style of training of Yamamori sensei and Doshin So?

Toshio Kuramoto: I value greatly the originality of Shorinji Kempo. I want to go back to the starting point where the Founder wanted the younger people to start their training. Everybody can practice, for everyone there is a beginning to life, just like a baby starts to crawl, then to stand, then to walk. I want to show beginners how to train correctly. After all, every beginner is a potential master of Shorinji Kempo.

I want to teach students how enjoyable it is to overcome difficulty one step at a time. To reach a final goal you must overcome each small step. These steps start from being a beginner through the different levels of black belt. This is how to progress to become a master of Shorinji Kempo.

I want students to experience how wonderful it feels to triumph over adversity. How achieving your goals will bring you self-confidence, courage, and happiness Another aspect I want to emphasize in my dojo is the importance of health maintenance through Seitai jutsu as we teach it in Shorinji Kempo. This is an aspect of training that is not given sufficient attention these days which is sad.

After 30 years of training, I want to pass all that I learned from Kancho to the next generation, I feel it is my responsibility before I leave this world. I feel it is my duty to pass on Doshin So's teachings to others. I want others to experience a love of Shorinji Kempo and be inspired by it as I was on October 3rd, 1968 at the age of twenty. Thirty years later I opened my dojo in Hollywood, California, and in a way my life began again with my new students as they put their feet on the path for the first time.

Richard Killion: Is there anything else you would like to comment on?

Toshio Kuramoto: Only that I am blessed with my own special family all of whom practice Shorinji Kempo. I met my wife while practicing, and my daughter, now nine years old, also trains. We are united as a family through Shorinji Kempo and its teachings.

Richard Killion: Reverend Kuramoto, thank you very much for this interview.

Rev. Kuramoto can be contacted at the Shorinji Kempo Hollywood Dojo, 3939 Middlebury St., Los Angeles, CA 90004 (626) 333-3025. Richard Killion, a long term Shorinji Kempo Kenshi, is a computer scientist specializing in robotics with NASA.