Nippon Kempo

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Nippon Kempo
Blackwhite patch.png
Also known asNipponkempo, Nihon Kempo, Nikken, Nichiken
FocusStriking, Throwing, Ground Fighting
Country of originJapan Japan
CreatorMuneomi Sawayama
Famous practitionersYuichiro Nagashima, Jiro Watanabe, Kenichi Ogawa, Kenoh
ParenthoodJudo, Pre-Kodokan Jujutsu, Okinawan martial arts, Shito-Ryu Karate, Goju-Ryu Karate
Descendant artsModern Taiho-jutsu, Jieitaikakutōjutsu (Self-Defense Forces Fighting)

Nippon Kempo (日本拳法) is a Japanese martial art, practised wearing protective gear (face, body, crotch, etc.) and gloves and allows full use of stand-up striking, throwing, and ground fighting.[1][2]

It was founded and created by Muneomi Sawayama in 1932.[1][3][2] Sawayama was a judoka who had studied under Kenwa Mabuni, a karateka who would establish the Shito-Ryu school of Karate.[4] There are multiple schools and groups based on the Nippon Kempo Association launched by Sawayama, and each has its own rules.



Origins of Nippon Kempo and its conception by Muneomi Sawayama (real name Katsu Sawayama) were not thoroughly specified in Sawayama's research and/or writings. However, various external sources exists that specify Sawayama's development of Nippon Kempo.

Sawayama was originally interested in "atemi" techniques, and when he was a student at Kansai University in the early Showa period, he researched old-style jujutsu (before Kanō Jigorō's founding of Kodokan Judo), but was not impressed by the results.[5]

Therefore, Sawayama invited Kenwa Mabuni (founder of Shito-ryu) and his friend Chojun Miyagi (founder of Goju-ryu), who had moved from Okinawa to Osaka and started teaching karate (currently karate), to Kansai University at Karate Study Group established on June 15, 1930.[6]

Later, when Sawayama's apprentice Ryonosuke Mori asked Yasuhiro Konishi, who had a close relationship with both Mabuni and Miyagi, about various martial arts masters, Konishi had replied that Sawayama had studied under Mabuni but had nothing to do with Miyagi.[7]

Unlike with Mabuni, who had moved to Osaka, Sawayama did not have much time to study under Cho Miyagi, who still lived in Okinawa and only visited Kansai temporarily. However, in "Overview of Karate Do" written by Chojun Miyagi in 1934, the name "Katsu Sawayama" is specified as a "person involved in karate instruction" who is active outside Okinawa Prefecture.[8]

Although he began to learn karate, most of the lessons were Kata, and Sawayama, who was interested in free discussions, gradually lost interest in karate. Therefore, Sawayama began kumite lessons in the precincts of Tarumi Shrine in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, where he could freely meet with his fellow students. The Tarumi Shrine would serve as birthplace of Nippon Kempo.

Then, in 1932, after graduating from the Faculty of Law at Kansai University, in the fall of the same year, he officially launched a martial art that was different from Karate, which he called "Dainippon Kempo."

However, at that time, Mabuni also called himself an organization with a similar name, "dai nipponkenpō Kansai sora shujutsu kenkyūkai," before renaming it to Shito-ryu.[9] How much this is a coincidence or intentional is unclear. In Chojun Miyagi's "Overview of Karate-do", Sawayama is still described as teacher of Karate leader and practising with Karate Gi. Then, in 1934, Sawayama began practising with armour/protective gear currently associated with Nippon Kempo.[10]

Sawayama held the Nippon Kempo Association based in his alma mater, the Kansai University in Suita City, and from the beginning the art started to spread among university athletic associations. Ryonosuke Mori, a disciple who was entrusted with advancing the art to the Kanto region, was temporarily expelled immediately after moving to Tokyo around 1958.

After being established, Mori's Nippon Kempo Association started dissemination activities in the Kanto area. After that, the association was split and a federation was born. In the Kanto area, the first Nippon Kempo club at a university in eastern Japan was founded in the Rissho University and has gradually expanded since then.[11]

Spread and influence in Japan[edit]

Since Sawayama studied with students of Kansai University when Nippon Kempo was founded, he was considered a "strong man with academic skill to match". After that, Kokushikan University and Meiji University began to push out practitioners towards the Kansai region, and practitioners who left a significant track record in high schools were often pushed towards universities in the Kanto region. Other powerful entities include Chuo University, Ryukoku University, Osaka University of Commerce, Waseda University, Kwansei Gakuin University, and Ritsumeikan University. In addition, the Doshisha University, which does not accept male practitioners,[citation needed] is also doing well at the aforementioned universities.

Per Chris Crudelli, various Japanese Police Departments utilize Nippon Kempo as part of their training, to improve the officers' unarmed fighting skills and self-confidence.[2]

Due to its high availability, the association's Kenpo was incorporated into the training of the Self-Defense Forces, with Ryonosuke Mori participated in the crafting of the Self-Defense Forces' fighting manual, alongside masters of Kempo, Judo, and Tomiki-ryu Aikido. In addition, Mori is also a lecturer at the Japanese National Police Academy and has had a great influence on development of police arrest techniques. There are Nippon Kempo clubs at universities all over the Japan, and is one activities of that can serve as basis for graduation.

Shunji Matsunaga won the All Japan Kenpo Individual Championship nine times in a row from 1962 to 1970, and then won in 1975, holding the record for consecutive wins and the highest number of wins in history. In addition, Tetsuo Zako has won a total of 49 times and has also provided guidance overseas, helping to spread Nippon Kempo overseas.

Nippon Kempo overseas[edit]

In 1960 Nippon Kempo was introduced to the United States by one of Sawayama's students, Goki Kinuya[12] when the latter came to California to study. He started the American Nippon Kenpo Federation.

The style was brought to Mexico in 1971 by the Shihan Tsunanori Sakakura Koike and the Shihan Toshinori Saito.[13][additional citation(s) needed]

In 1977 Nippon Kempo was introduced to England by Luther De Gale after he spent a year in Japan.[3] Nippon Kempo was also introduced to Ukraine, and many many other European countries.[14]

Nippon Kempo: history of its origins in Italy[edit]

It all began in 1969 when two Judo Masters met, Master Armando Santambrogio and the Japanese Master Hota. In addition to Judo they had practiced Ju-jitsu and Nippon Kempo respectively. The fighting style taught by the two masters was improperly called Nippon Kempo and it was a good fighting method, but it was totally lacking kata and use of armor, which are essential in the original Nippon Kempo. Despite this was a hybrid version of it, we can say this was the beginning of Nippon Kempo in Italy. In 1978 Master Santambrogio went to Japan to get in contact with the Nippon Kempo Kyokai federation directed by its founder Grand Master Ryonosuke Mori, who was also a student of the founder of Nippon Kempo, Grand Master Sawayama Masuro Muneomi. After making contacts, in October of the same year the Japanese federation officially sent the young Master Toshio Koike to Italy. He was an excellent fighter with an elegant style. The practice of Nippon Kempo in Italy began in its original version with Master Koike. We can state Master Santambrogio was the undisputed promoter of Nippon Kempo in Italy and France, while, after the return of Master Koike to Japan, technical teaching continued with Master Giovanni Guccione and Master Daniele Sinigaglia, former instructors of Nippon Kempo before the original style was introduced. The two masters devoted themselves to training coaches, instructors, and masters for many years. In 1980 Master Giovanni Guccione went to Japan to be examined by the Grand Master Ryonosuke Mori, while Master Daniele Sinigallia went there the following year. In 1981 Master Giovanni Guccione founded the first Nippon Kempo association in Italy called: A.N.K.I. (Nippon Kempo Italy Association) "Sei Shin Kan". In 1986 Master Armando Santambrogio founded A.I.N.K. (Italian Nippon Kempo Association).

Nippon Kempo in France[edit]

It was during a demonstration organized on May 20, 1984 by the Judo Club of Saint-Dié that Armand Santambrogio introduced the Nippon Kempō in France. Ali Zoubiri (A judo coach) became interested in this martial art and opened a Nippon Kempō school within the Saint-Dié Judo club. For several years, he practiced Japanese kempō with his students, in France and abroad, in various competitions and courses. Currently, the most experienced French kempōka have now opened their own Nippon kempō in clubs.[citation needed]

New teachers became interested in this discipline and created other sections in the Vosges, and this is how Nippon Kempō continued to develop in the great East of France and then in other regions of the territory.[citation needed]

On March 26, 2016, the Nippon Kempo Club of Nancy presented the very first French demonstration of Nippon Kempo at the Festival des Arts Martiaux de Karate-Bushido (Karate-Bushido Martial Arts festival) in the arenas of Bercy, Paris.[15][16][17]

In September 2018 Ali Zoubiri was awarded 7th Dan in Nippon Kempo by the All Japan Federation of Nippon Kempo, which makes Ali Zoubiri the highest ranking Nippon Kempo practitioner outside Japan.[18][19]

Style Overview[edit]

Demonstration of Nippon Kempo in France.

Nippon Kempo was one of the first modern martial arts to establish the form of free fighting and being practised in protective gear. A Nippon Kempo match is not referred to as Kumite, but "bōgu renshū" (防具練習, eng. Armor Practice, used by Kenpo-kai.) Sora ran is used for semi-contact bouts and sō ran is used for shadowboxing type of practice.

As for the decision of victory or defeat in the game, the Kenpokai adopts a three-game match like Kendo. Kempo association adopts a point system.

Nippon Kempo places an equal emphasis on striking techniques using hands and feet, immobilization and controls, projections and take-downs. Nippon Kempo is a defensive art that does not restrict students in methodology.

From a technical point of view, Nippon Kempo is a martial art system based on techniques of striking and kicking, (atemi-waza), blocking (uke-waza), throwing (nage-waza), reverse joint locks (kansetsu-gyakutori-waza) and ground combat (ne-waza). It uses techniques derived from other arts including judo, jujutsu and karate.

Practitioners fight and practice these techniques with protective gear, as the art is full-contact and therefore men (helmet), do (breastplate), kurobu (gloves), and a mata ate (groin protector) are used. Grabbing a strike or locking a joint is allowed, as are knees and elbows to the body or to the face score points. As "headhunting", the practice of trying to score quickly with a punch to the head is common, practitioners aim to learn and develop head and body movements to avoid, deflect or counter many punching and kicking combinations.

Martial arts legacy[edit]

Since its inception, Nippon Kempo has a long history of direct striking and making full use of various other techniques, long before the mixed martial arts movement.

Style founder Sawayama regarded Nippon Kempo as an "zen hōi-tekina budō" (全方位的な武道, eng. omnidirectional martial art). It was one of the first Japanese martial arts to allow punches to the head.

Sawayama describes Nippon Kempo as "ancient Pankration" but "safer with [protective gear] and supplementary rules." Since the first UFC event in 1993, ground fighting and positioning have become important elements in modern combat sports. One of the reasons for Sayama to found Nippon Kempo was the lack of ground fighting and positioning in Judo. In Japan, Nippon Kempo is credited in helping dispel notions that Judo would be enough to repel submission grappling styles in vein of Pankration. It was also unique to other martial arts that it allowed striking techniques in ground fighting such as stepping kicks and knee kicks to the head from the 4-point position, allowing these sort of techniques be incorporated to competitions and to be systematized further.

Exchanges with other schools is also active. Since 2005, the professional mixed martial arts show "HEAT" has been held regularly at Nippon Kempo Dojo at Concentric Hall in Nagoya (Nippon Kempo All-Union Central Japan Branch).

Practitioners of Nippon Kempo have fought in the Hokutoki Tournaments hosted by Daido juku, which features a martial art similar to Nippon Kempo known today as Kudo (formerly Kakuto Karate). Yasushi Tsujii (Kenpokai), Takayuki Sato (Kenpokai), Katsushi Okazaki (Aoba Kenpokai), Toru Saito (Nippon Kempo Azusakai), Shinya Yamauchi (Aoba Kenyukai) and other Nippon Kempo players have participated, and have won top prizes and awards.

School and branch problem[edit]

Nippon Kempo is an extracurricular activity at 66 universities and 40 high schools in Japan, but none of its incarnations are practised in Middle-High School. In order to break through the current situation where the competition itself is not an official national polity event, the All Japan Kenpo Federation (certified by the Cabinet Office on October 13, 2009) has been established as a new competition organization that transcends the boundaries of schools and branches.

Regarding the problems of the school and sect for many years, the problems often developed into legal proceedings. In a trial in which the Nippon Kempo Association asked the All Japan Kenpo Federation to ban the use of the name "Nippon Kempo" in the Kenpo promotion activity project and the name of the All Japan Kenpo Federation as a corporate name, the Osaka District Court of the first instance (2009 (Wa) No. 2948, Unfair Competition Injunction Request Case) ruled that the plaintiff was totally defeated, and the second trial Osaka High Court (2010 (Ne) No. 2247, the appellant was the defendant The All Japan Kenpo Federation) also dismissed the appeal, saying that the original judgment was appropriate. In response to this, future-oriented efforts are being made toward the realization of the National Athletic Meet, Elementary, and Middle-High School Championships.

The proceedings of the plaintiff (Nippon Kempo All-United Nations) and the defendant (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation All-Japan Kenpo Federation) were triggered by the Supreme Court's decision, and the All-Japan Kenpo Federation (public interest incorporated foundation) actively applied for membership to the Nippon Kempo Association. Contrary to the activity, the (general) Nippon Kempo National Federation was limited to inquiries and consultations by agents.

At the request of a large number of members, the policy of "the mission of the national polity is over" was changed drastically, and as a manifestation of the policy of actively emphasizing dialogue with other organizations with an exclusive attitude, joining the Japan Sports Association in recent years Aiming to adopt the official national polity event, he has made a high-ranking statement on the website under the name of Chairman of the (general) Nippon Kempo All-Union Federation Konishi.

It is realistic to join the All Japan Kenpo Federation, a public interest incorporated foundation that has been certified by the Cabinet Office and has public interest and is guaranteed to have high social credibility because of its activities to organize the harsh environment where schools and sectarian groups are crowded as a competition group. While some have pointed out that there are, some still question the background and substance of the corporation.

In Nippon Kempo, vested interests were a major factor in keeping private sports organizations alive and hindering efforts toward public sports organizations, but on January 10, 2012, they played a part in the Nippon Kempo National Federation. In a statement on its website, the Nippon Kempo Federation has announced that it will join the Japan Sports Association and aim for a formal national polity event.

It can be said that the high school federation / university federation, which is an educational institution, and the dojo / self-defense force, which is a social education, have come to the time of molting as a public sports organization under the public interest incorporated foundation.

On February 28, 2012, at the 3rd Small Court of the Supreme Court, the general incorporated foundation "Nippon Kempo All-Union" (representative director Konishi ) specified non-profit activity corporation "Nippon Kempo Association" (representative director Konishi) dismissed the appeal of the [unfair competition injunction request case] that was suing the public interest incorporated foundation "All Nippon Kempo Federation" (representative director of the same, Fujio Kurehara).

With this, the plaintiff's general incorporated foundation "Nippon Kempo All United Nations" (representative director Konishi) and the specified non-profit corporation "Nippon Kempo Association" (representative director Konishi) were totally defeated, and the district court (plaintiff defeated). The high court (plaintiff's defeat) and the Supreme Court (dismissal) followed by a series of judicial struggles that were put to an end with a "formal decision on the judiciary". With the re-recognition of martial arts education, "judo," "kendo," "sumo," and "karate" have been incorporated into physical education classes as official events.

While the groups of "Aikido", "Shorinji Kempo", and "Jukendo" are also energetically working toward the formal event, "Nippon Kempo" still wants to be accepted by society as a martial arts education as soon as possible with the groups claiming the right of permission. Repeated internal struggles of the group. As mentioned earlier, the result was tentatively terminated by a judicial decision.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bennett, Alexander (2018). Japan The Ultimate Samurai Guide: An Insider Looks at the Japanese Martial Arts and Surviving in the Land of Bushido and Zen. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 9781462920075. Nihon Kempo (Japanese Fist) Nihon or Nippon Kempo (日本拳法) is similar to Karate and involves full or semi-contact matches using protective equipment. It was developed in 1932 by Sawayama Muneomi and has a wide range of strikes, kicks, blocks, takedowns and ground techniques.
  2. ^ a b c Chris Crudelli (2008). The Way of the Warrior. Dorling Kindersley Ltd. p. 206. ISBN 978-14-0533-750-2.
  3. ^ a b "History of Nippon Kenpo in Japan and UK".
  4. ^ 「実戦の"拳法"澤山宗海――日本拳法創始者――」、加来耕三『武闘伝』223頁参照。
  5. ^ Kozo Kaku "Budoden" Mainichi Newspaper, 1996, p.222 ISBN 4620105481
  6. ^ Kozo Kaku, Budoden, Mainichi Shimbun, 1996, p. 225. There is also a document that it was established in 1929 (Showa 4). See Ryonosuke Mori, "Pictures and Japanese Kenpo," Tokyo Bookstore, 1998, p. 48.
  7. ^ Ryonosuke Mori, "Pictures and Japanese Kenpo," Tokyo Bookstore, 1998, p. 48.
  8. ^ Shigeru Takamiya, Masahiro Nakamoto, and Katsuhiko Shinzato, "Okinawa Karate Kobudo Encyclopedia," Kashiwa Shobo, 2008, p. 732.
  9. ^ "Karate Studies" edited by Genwa Nakasone, Karate Kenkyusha, 1934, p. 68.
  10. ^ Kozo Kaku "Budoden" Mainichi Newspaper, 1996, p.231 ISBN 4620105481
  11. ^ Ryonosuke Mori, "Pictures and Japanese Kenpo," Tokyo Bookstore, 1998, p. 49.
  12. ^ "History of Nippon Kempo in the US".
  13. ^ "Nippon Kempo - FUNDADOR MX".
  14. ^ "FE.N.K.I (Federazione Nippon Kempo Italia)".
  15. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Festival des arts martiaux de Paris 2016 : Nippon Kempo 日本拳法". YouTube.
  16. ^ "Le Nippon Kempo au 31e Festival des Arts Martiaux !". 24 February 2016.
  17. ^ "Nippon Kempo - SHOBUKAI NANCY école d'arts martiaux".
  18. ^ "Sainte-Marguerite. Ali Zoubiri a reçu son 7e dan au Japon".
  19. ^ "一般財団法人 日本拳法全国連盟".

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