Sho-rin-ji translates as "young forest temple" and denotes the system's birthplace, which is
currently known as the Honan Province in China. It was here that the system began as a single
art known as Chu'an Fa, which means “way of the fist”. Tora-ken (or "tiger fist") gives insight
into the aggressive nature of the system, and symbolizes the systems philosophy of attacking first
with overwhelming force when fighting cannot be avoided. Tora-ShinDen Ryu was adopted to
mean “Tiger Godly Spirit. Ryu (or "formalized martial tradition") denotes the system as a sect of
The Shorinji Toraken Ryu and Shorinji Torashinden Ryu systems of fighting arts traces their
origin to the former kingdom of Wei in Northern China, currently known as Honan (Henan)
Province. Core development was through association with monks of the Sau-Lin Szu (Young or
small Forest Temple). It began as an individual style of ancient Chinese Chu'an Fa (Fist Way).
The temple built on Hao-Shan Mountain (Shangshon, Song-Sham) in the Sung Mountains is the
temple of origin of the father art or Chu'an Fa. It is located on a mountain approximately 40
miles from the city of Lo-Yang, Imperial capital of the historical kingdom of Wei. This main
temple appears to meet the criteria for the temple of origin. There were over 1000 temples in the
general area. Many temples were reportedly burned during the Buddhist persecution in the 800's
1700's A.D., and then rebuilt. The temple, isolated from the mainstream of life at the time of the
Mongolian invasion of China from the North, provided a place for peaceful monks, for whom the
temple was built, to spend most of their lives in meditation. At this time Buddhism was the more
dominate religion, in the northern Wei kingdom. The temple possibly could have been Taoist
originally or a blend of the two religions, with one being dominant at the time. Taoism and
Confucianism preceded Buddhism in China, lost favor, and then eventually Taoism regained its
pre-eminent status. Buddhism used thoughts from both Taoism and Confucianism to gain foot
hold in china.
Buddhism had been expanding to China slowly for several hundred years. In about 500 A.D.,
Bhodhidharma (Tamo) arrived in China. Chinese boxing existed in some form before Tamo. It
was said that Tamo introduced exercises to strengthen the monks. Whether or not these
"exercises" included fighting skills, is unknown. There was, in any case, a more organized
system of fighting recognized around this period of time. The fighting system in this center of
Buddhism became known as the Respectful Fist Method due to the Buddhist teachings. The
Mongols were either in control of Northern China or were in the process of fighting for control
for several hundred years. During the period of Mongolian invasion and control, the Yuan period
from approximately 1279 to 1368, it is believed that a number of warlords went to this temple to
hide from and form a resistance effect against the Mongols. This style was based on the five arts
of the original five warlords. This art, organized by the warlords from their collective experience
evolved into and became classified by the names of the five animals of Chinese temple boxing,
from which all other boxing forms are thought to be devised from or influenced by. The major
core of the fighting system was the five animal styles including the Dragon: using swift power
and leaping, the Tiger: using the arms and hips in total body movement, the Leopard: leaping
nimbly and moving on the ground with agility, the Snake: becoming fluid in body movement and
striking with power and fluidity, and the Crane: moving arms and legs in gracefully executed
Soji Yang, a warlord, was founder of this discipline. We believe this to be in 1377 A.D. The long
staff, fist, and foot techniques were the basis of his personal system of fighting. The monks were
peaceful. Their belief was of tolerance and therefore offered no resistance to the warlords. In
return, the warriors coexisted peacefully with the monks. The warlords, after organizing a school
of fighting arts, taught their methods to young men who also wished to resist the Mongols. The
monks exerted their influence on the warriors through their teachings and manner of dress.
The Taoist and Buddhist monks traveled across China spreading their doctrine. As they traveled
their hands were held in a prayful manner. The warrior monks began to travel with the peaceful
monks for two reasons; one, to protect the more passive monks, and two, to use their avocation
in society as a cover to spread their knowledge to force the hated Mongols out of China. When
some of the monks began to fight with great ability, rumors began to spread that all of these
monks were fierce warriors.
There were many secret societies at this time. The warrior monks, many who were members of a
secret society developed the hand salute, hand over fist, as a variation of the praying hands of the
peaceful monks. This continued to be the "greeting or salute" used today by this system. In 1644 the Manchu, (Qing) Ching Dynasty, wrested control of Northern China for the last time, using
trickery coupled with military strength. Soji Yang's system was taught in China preceding and
during this period by masters whose names and times are unknown. The style is believed to be
related to the Pau Ch'uan and Long Tong Pei schools of those times. The ancient development of
the art encompasses the Chinese Hand styles of Tang Su and Kong Su. The system was taken
from China to Korea. Here, the Chinese Hand styles were combined with the native art of "Tye
Kwan" known for its jumping and kicking. This led to the formation of a somewhat strong
system of self defense.
While the Chinese-Japanese (Sino-Nippon) war was being fought, Korea was used as a
battleground for both the Japanese and Chinese. At this time, the Japanese yielding forms of Aiki
Jutsu and power striking techniques of Okinawa Te were introduced to the Koreans, and
assimilated into the art. As a result of combining and blending systems, this particular system,
Shaolin Ji Tetsu Ken Ryu (Young Forest Temple Iron Fist System), gained techniques likened to
the Korean art of Hapkido.
The system at this time in history is found in Yong Dong Po, Korea. This is located in South
Eastern Korea, a part of Korea nearest Japan, the former Silla Kingdom of Korea. The Silla
Kingdom (100 to 900 A. D.), by this time had been defeated and absorbed into the Koryo
Dynasty (900 to 1400), which was absorbed later into the Yi Kingdom unifying Korea. The style
was last found in Korea under the leadership of Soji Kooh C. Kim. In 1954 Soji Kooh C. Kim
sought medical treatment in Japan, an option, at the time, not available in post war Korea. In
Japan the system became known as Kooh Ha Shaolin Ji Tetsu Ken Ryu, one individual style of
the ancient Chinese Ch'uan Fa (fist way) arts formed in ancient China. This then became the
FATHER style of Kamishin Ryu.
The Japanese in 1922 established federations to provide registered diplomas of instruction. All
fighting arts were divided into categories according to fighting methods such as Kara-Te,
primarily strikes with hands and feet; Ju-jutsu, primarily throwing techniques; Kobudo, weapons
techniques; and Kempo Jutsu, Sogo Budo or combined martial way). While in Japan, the system
was arranged by fighting method in order to conform to Japanese customs. The style was defined
by its laws (called Kami-Shin or Godly / Devine Heart) in format and referenced as "empty hand
way", "fist way" (kenpo or kempo), and "aiki jutsu (jitsu)" It is a Sogo Budo or combined
Even though the Japanese identified the art as empty hand (Kara Te), only arts of Okinawan
origin are called "Karate". The Soji refused to combine his art with the existing Japanese Martial Arts. He instructed the style in a "closed dojo", retaining the aiki jutsu, fist, and foot forms. The
name, now Shorinji Tetsu Kempo, reflected the fact that it was a composite system. This allowed
acceptance by the All Japan Karate Way Federation and the All Japan Ancient fighting Way
When Master Kooh C. Kim knew he was dying, he summoned Albert C. Church, Jr., his former
student of Shorinji Tetsuken Ryu (Shorinji Tetsu Kempo), to Japan. In Mishima Shi, Shizuoka-
ken, Japan, Soji Kooh C. Kim (called Wang in Japanese) reunited with Albert Curtis Church, Jr.
an American Serviceman with an extensive martial arts background. The reunion, in 1967, of
Master Kooh C. Kim and student Albert C. Church set the stage for the American connection to
an ancient oriental martial art.
Soke Kooh C. Kim, in a surprise move, presented Master Church with the scroll of successor
ship, representing nearly 600 years of succession. The reason being simply that Master Church
was the only student continuing to instruct, (as he had been doing for sixteen years), in the
manner by which Soji Kooh had personally instructed him when in Yong Dong Po, Korea. As a
boy, Soke Church had studied Daito Ryu Aiki-jujutsu under Sagaru Yokohto, a student of
Sokaku Takeda. Master Church remained in Japan for two years, working as a civil servant for
the USA Army, while studying Hakko Ryu Jujitsu under founder Ryuno Okuyama. He also
studied Soke Siyogo Kuniba's personal style of Iadio, Judo, and Jujitsu, along with Motobu Ha
Shito Ryu under Soke Kuniba and Teruo Hayashi.
After review of the Shaolin Ji Tetsu Ken Ryu scroll of succession by Soke Kuniba, Church's
personal system, (Kanda Ha) Kamishin Ryu, was sponsored for recognition in Japan. It is
recognized as an art of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese origin. The Japanese authorities (The
Nippon Karate Do Seishin Kai Committee Shihan), based on review of the succession papers by
Soke Kuniba and his sponsorship of Master Church, would charter the art if two conditions were
met. The first required Master Kuniba to provide Master Church with secondary accreditation as
Soke of Shaolin Ji Tetsu Ken Ryu Karate Do, under the sponsorship of the Nippon Seishinkan
Kokusei Sogo Budo Renmei, using the new title of Nippon Kobudo Kamishin Ryu (Japanese
Ancient Martial Ways Devine Heart Style). A special certificate was presented to Master Church
confirming him as Soke of Nippon Kamishin Ryu at the grade of Hachidan. (Master Kooh had
presented Church his last formal grade in Shaolin Ji Tetsu Ken Ryu of Kudan or 9th Dan). The
second condition was the cross grading of Master Church to Godan and Shihan in the Motobu Ha
Shitoh Ryu Nippon Kobudo Karate Seishin Kai. The certification was given by Teuro Hayashi,
Hachidan and President of the Seishin Kai. In May, 1969, Master Church returned to the United
States to begin the development of the art of Kamishin Ryu, continue propagating the art of
Shorinji Tetsuken Ryu, and teach Motobu Ha Shito Ryu.
In 1970 Master Church organized the Nippon Kobudo Rengokai USA, with the approval of
Master Siyogo Kuniba, his Japanese sponsor. Then in 1971 Kamishin Ryu, the SON art of
Shaolin Ji Tetsu Ken Ryu was used by all Nippon Kobudo Rengokai USA schools in America
and Japan to confer kyu and dan grades. This was to avoid confusion and add uniformity in
grading students of the arts encompassed by the association headed by Master Church. The
system, called Kamishin Ryu ("Godly Heart" or "Devine Heart" style), was a composite of
Church's various studies. In Japan, Kamishin Ryu was divided into Kamishin Ryu Karate Do,
Kamishin Ryu Ju-Jutsu, Kamishin Ryu Kobudo, and Kamishin Ryu Kempo. His system included
the Nippon Kobudo Rengo-Kai, the American Hapkido Karate Federation, and (according to one
source), a composite form of the original art reflecting the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese
components now known in Japan as Shorinji Tetsu Kempo.
Dr. James Ronald Cherry was chief instructor and examiner for Soke Church in all aspects of
Soke Church's arts from 1975 to 1980. In 1980 Soke Church unfortunately passed away. After
the death of Soke Church, Dr. Cherry, due to personal conflicts, formed the American Kempo-
Karate Association and founded the system known as Shorinji Toraken Do Sogoken Do Kempo
Jutsu. This is a composite art, steeped in the rich history of the oriental arts passed down through
generations, as previously noted. It also includes knowledge gained by Dr. Cherry in his studies
of other arts and systems.
In Charleston, Cherry met Professor Albert C. Church, Jr., Grand Master of a comprehensive
martial arts system inherited from an oriental, Kim C. Whang (Kooh C. Kim). Cherry soon
became Professor Church's personal student. In 1975, he became the Chief Examiner for the
Nippon Kobudo Rengo-Kai (NKR) and the American Hapkido Karate Federation (AHKF).
During this time in Charleston, Dr. Cherry met and began training B. Chris Couch, who would
later become a senior student of Dr. Cherry’s and open the first school of the original Hapkido
(AHKF) and (NKR) systems. During this time period, Professor Church became ill, thereby
limiting his teaching to private instruction for just a few people. Dr. Cherry was delegated
authority as Chief Instructor and Examiner, as well as acting Technical Advisor for all NKR and
AHKF dojos in the field during Church's period of illness. During his time with Professor
Church, Dr. Cherry taught all facets of the system Church inherited from Master Whang.
Professor Church apparently recovered from his years of illness and began to teach again. To the
dismay of all concerned, Professor Church died the 23rd of June, 1980.
Following the unfortunate death of Professor Church, Dr. Cherry formed the American Kempo-
Karate Association to enable him to continue to improve and pass on the knowledge he was
given by his many instructors. Chris Couch continued his training under Dr. Cherry during this
Tim Rogers began training under Soke Couch as a personal student in 1987, and also began
training with senior Instructors Irwin Carmichael and Skip Sullivan at the Kempo Karate
Academy. Mr. Rogers was trained in Kempo and Kobudo.
The following is a timeline history of the Shorinji Torashinden Ryu system:
* Yang, 1st Soji of System (personal system fist/foot/staff) Sau Lin Szu Chin Chen
* 1377 - Pa Ming Ch'uan (eight ram's head)
* Shaolin Szu Tang Su Dao "Pa Ming Ch'uan" (in association with the 5 animals styles of Tiger,
Leopard, Crane, Snake, Dragon found in the Shaolin Szu)
* Head - 1679 - Yon Ho Chin in Honan (Henan) Province, China. System - now referred to as
Sau Lin Szu Chen Chuan Fa
* Head - 1751 - Lee Ho Chin in Chekaing Province, China. System - same name as above.
* Head - 1814 - Lee Chi Kooh moved system from China to Ingei, Korea. System - now referred
to as So Rim Sa Churl Kwan Do (Tang Soo Dua).
* Head - 1881 -Kin Chi Kooh from Yong Dong Po, Korea to Japan. System - Kooh Ha Shorinji
Tetsuken Ryu of Shorinji Tetsu Kempo
* 1967 - Albert C. Church, Jr. System - Kamishin Ryu, Shorinji Tetsuken Ryu (Shorinji Tetsu
Kempo), (Nippon Kobudo Rengo Kai)
*1973 – B. Chris Couch opens the first school in the Charlotte area associated with AHKF and
NKR on Oak Dr.
* 1981 - Dr. James Ronald Cherry. System - Shorinji Torakendo Sogo Kendo Kempo Jutsu,
American Kempo-Karate Association.
*1985 – B. Chris Couch System – With senior students Irwin Carmichael and W. Skip Sullivan,
started the Kempo Karate Academy.
*1985 – Ray Ferrell continued studying under Soke Cherry.
*1987 – Tim Rogers begins training in the Kempo Karate Academy as a personal student of
Soke Chris Couch and also trained under Irwin Carmichael and W. Skip Sullivan
*199(?) – Soke Couch Split from Irwin Carmichael and started the Kanshinryu Kempo (Divine
heart) system and the Lake Norman Martial Arts school.
* Tim Rogers was promoted to 6 th Dan under both Soke Irwin Carmichael and Soke Chris
*2000 – Ray Ferrell is named Soke of the American Kempo Karate Association and all sub-
*2000 – Tim Rogers started the Ichiban Defense Systems of which
Shorinji Torashinden Ryu Bujutsu is the mother art.
Note: The referenced texts generally agree on dates, other facts, etc., but, there are differences,
including the fact that inheritance years and birth years for each head family do not necessarily
correspond. As more information about the system is learned and validated, the history of the
system will be updated. To appreciate the rich and entangled history of the orient, and how it
relates to this art and others, one should read and study individually.
Sources of information:
Soke Ray Ferrell and Dr. Ron Cherry through verbal dialogue/teaching.
A panorama of 5000 years: Korean History: Nahm, Andrew C., PhD; Hollym International Corp.
Atlas of the World: Fullard, Harold, MSc; Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc.
Chery, Dr. James Ronald, Soke
Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts: Draeger, Donn F. and Smith, Robert W.; Kodansha
China, A Macro History: Huang, Ray; M. E. Sharpe, Inc.
China, A New History: Fairbank, John King; Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
China Yesterday and Today: Coye, Molly Joel and Livingston, Jon; Bantam
Dictionary of the Martial Arts: Frederic, Louis; Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.
Korea, A Handbook of: Korean Overseas Information Service, Ministry of Culture and
Information; Sambawa Printing Co., Ltd.
McKay, John, deceased, verbal history greatly appreciated
Rise and Splendor of the Chinese Empire: Grousset, Rene'; University of California Press
Spirit of Shaolin: Carradine, David; Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.