Bak Sil Lum

The Northern Shaolin system of self defense has its roots deeply woven into the fabric of time. In Chinese history, records of a wrestling style can be traced back to 2697 BC. When iron was first developed in around 1000 BC, archery, horsemanship, swordsmanship and Shuai-Chiao (a type of wrestling) were required for all military personnel.

The first Shaolin temple was built in 495 AD, in the northern province of Honan. It was built at the base of Song Mountain near a forest of young trees (Shaolin translates into young forest). The monks followed a simple life of farming, literature, philosophy and meditation. Their personal view on life was that of nonviolence, tolerance, honor and humility. In 527 AD, an Indian Buddhist (Ta Mo) traveled east into China, preaching the ways of Buddhism. Upon reaching temple in Honan, he found the monks weak and without physical ability. There pious lifestyle was that of constant seated meditation. There lack of activity left them weak and vulnerable. They also would fall asleep during meditation or would not be able to defend themselves if attacked. Ta Mo then spent the next 9 years developing a series of exercises designed to strengthen the monks physically and mentally. They were called “Muscle Change Classics”, “Marrow Washing Course” and “The 18 Hand Movements of the Enlightened One”. During this time, Ta Mo meditated for long periods. They say his constant gaze bore a hole in the cave wall where he faced.

During the Tang dynasty (618-906 AD), civil war broke out. The peace and tranquility shared by the Shaolin monks was over. Fearing an attack by any of the warring factions, the monks took Ta Mo’s exercises and blended them with local self defense techniques, creating what was known as the Lo Han style. A stone tablet still visible at the temple shows 13 monks aided the Emperor Tai Tsung in 620A.D. From that point on, the monks at Shaolin dedicated themselves to their fighting arts. Continuously upgrading and developing their system of self defense, the monks added the techniques of Chin Na (joint locks), Shuai-Chiao (wrestling/throwing) and Chi Kung (internal energy). The Shaolin monks were quickly recognized for their superior skill. It was said a Shaolin monk was worth a 1,000 soldiers.

In 960 AD, Emperor Tai Tsu created several kung fu styles including Chang Chuan (Long Fist). Emperor Tai Tsu was also a skilled disciple of the Shaolin Temple. The Emperors Long Fist style had very long movements, circular arm motions and many leg attacks. Since the people of the north were tall, the long movements appealed to their size and type of body. Long fist became a popular kung fu system among the people. Even the monks at Shaolin noticed the quality of this self defense style. They decided to add the techniques of the Long Fist style to their repertoire.

Turmoil followed the next several hundred years. The Mongolians had taken control over China. The Chinese people hated the Mongolian rule. Underground societies of rebels were springing up everywhere. During this period, traveling rebels would hide at the temple. To repay the monks for refuge, the rebels taught the monks all of their secret fighting techniques. Many great heroes sought refuge at the Shaolin temple, exchanging ideas and increasing the monks knowledge in the fighting arts.

There was another style that had affected the Northern Shaolin system in the 1300’s called Tan Tui or Springing Legs. This system was developed by Muslims (Israeli/Islamic) who immigrated into China from the east. Many “Tan Fighters” emerged from this style including: Northern Shaolin Great Grand Master Ku Yu Chong’s father Ku Li Chi. Consuming vast amounts of fighting techniques, the Northern Shaolin style had become the premiere fighting art. In 1674, 128 monks went to the aid of the Ching Emperor against foreign invaders. Although they were victorious, when the Emperor asked if they join the Ching army, the monks declined. This enraged the Emperor and he had the temple destroyed. Most of the surviving monks fled to countryside and practiced in hiding or led rebel groups to help over throw the Ching government.

In the late 1600’s– early 1700’s Northern Shaolin had become a set style. Bak Sil Lum or Northern Shaolin was one of the 4 systems taught at the original Hunan Temple. There were 4 so called courts. Each court taught a different style. The 4 different courts were: Bak Sil Lum (Northern Shaolin), Ying Jow (Eagle Claw), My Jung Law Horn (Lost Track of Buddha’s Disciples) and Tang Lang (Praying Mantis). The Northern Shaolin style had its own characteristics which included; simultaneous hand and foot attacks, circular evasive footwork, circular arm motions for deflecting and many leg attacks. All facets of self defense were incorporated into their system. Long and short range fighting, joint locking and pressure point attacks, wrestling and ground fighting all mixed with breathing exercises and internal energy training. What you are practicing today can be traced back to this period. Our lineage of teachers reaches back to this era: Shaolin monk Zhao Yuan to Gan Feng Chi. Records show that Gan Feng Chi gave a demonstration of his Northern Shaolin style to the Emperor at the Imperial court. Northern Shaolin then went from Gan Feng Chi to Wan Bang Cai to Yan De Gong to Yim Kai Wun.

In the early 1900’s, Yim Kai Wun taught the system to Ku Yu Chong. Ku Yu Chong was a great martial artist and Chi Kung expert. His Staff skills were known throughout 9 different provinces. Ku Yu Chong was 1 of the 5 Tigers that traveled to southern China to spread their knowledge.

One of his students was Yim Shang Mo who taught the Northern Shaolin system to Kwok Chan and others in Hong Kong. Master Kwok Chan no longer teaches and lives today in Toronto Ontario Canada.

The Northern Shaolin can be recognized today by what are called the 10 forms or 10 core forms. It also has one of the largest arrays of weapon forms available. With the start of the new millennium there are many students of Shaolin, continuing the legacy. Now because of technology, people from all over the world can learn traditional Shaolin Kung Fu.


Shaolin Monk Zhao Yuan
Gen Feng Chi
Wan Bang Cai
Yan De Gong
Yim Kai Wan
Ku Yu Chong
Yim Shang Mo



A Showcase Division at the 10th Annual Tiger Claw Elite Championships
May 19-20 2018 – San Jose, California
This special showcase division is exclusively for practitioners of the Ku Yu-Cheung lineage of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. More details to come.



The Kata of Shorinjiryu – Nijushiho no Sai

Source: SHORINJIRYU SHINBUN Volume 16, Issue 15

The Kata of Shorinjiryu – Nijushiho no Sai

by Des Paroz, Shihan, Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo

Few people hare probably heard of the kata called “Nijushiho no Sai”, but most senior Shorinjiryu practitioners practice it. Most people only know the kata as “Sai Kata”, “Sai no Kata”, or more recently, “Kudaka no Sai”. From the outset, I would like to state that this article is perhaps a little less academic than previous ones in the Kata of Shorinjiryu series, with fewer references, for the simple reason that there is little published information on the form and its history. However, it is an important form in our system, and is my hope that through this article, the origins of another part of our style can be explored, and perhaps we will return to using the original name for the form.

For as long as l have been practicing Shorinjiryu, this form, in all its variations, has been one of the most interesting to watch a skilled proponent performing. It is long and flowing and contains quite a variety of techniques, including a range of strikes, thrusts, trapping moves, sweeps, evasive movements, throws and even kicking techniques.

ln his 1976 book, Scientific Karate do, Hanshi Masayuki Hisataka demonstrates this form, along with the Bo Kata and a Sai Bo no Kumite. No reference is given to the origins of either kata, but there is some generic information about the development of the use of weapons in Karatedo, along with a short discussion on the value and practice. ln this book, Hanshi Masayuki Hisataka gives a brief explanation of the sai as being a “three-pronged end of a harpoon”, separated from the shaft and hidden behind the forearms; they were used to block a sword attack, breaking its blade with a rapid twist of the wrist; they could also be thrown at an opponent”. I would like to discuss this more a little later as I believe that an important aspect of the application of a sai is overlooked.

ln his 1994 book, Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, Hanshi Masayuki Hisataka further explains that the sai is important in the Shorinjiryu system as it is a primary short-range weapon, with the bo (6-foot staff) being emphasized for long range applications, and the jo (4-foot staff) or sword being used at medium ranges. In Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo, Hanshi Hisataka also discussed primary research that he and I conducted that indicated that Sanda “Ufuchiku” Kanagusuku (1841 -1926) was the likely primary teacher of weapons methods to the founder of Shorinjiryu Kenkoakn Karate, Shinan Kori Hisataka (1907- 1988).

Although Hanshi Masayuki Hisataka credits Ufuchiku Kanagusuku with being predominately the source of bo-jutsu instruction, I believe, that it is as more likely, he was the source for both sai and jo techniques and forms, with the bo techniques, more than likely, coming from the Hisataka family lineage. The reason for my belief is that Kanagusuku, a senior ranking police officer (the name “Ufuchiku” is a police force rank roughly equivalent to Commissioner) and the last chief body guard to the last Okinawan king (Sells, 2000), was credited with popularizing the practice of his favourite weapon, the sai (Bishop, 1989), as well as the jo.

Evidently his curriculum also incorporated other weapons such as the bo, but the sai and to a lesser evident the jo, are the weapons Kanagusuku was known for. One of his nicknames was “Saijutsu nu Kani Usumei”, Okinawan for Sai-techniques Kanagusuku (Hokama, 2005)

Shinan Kori Hisataka (c. 1963) spoke of the sai being a weapon of Chinese origin used to defend against a longer weapon called the “seiryuto” or blue dragon sword. It took me a while to find out what type of weapon a “seiryuto” is until I found a reference to that being an alterative name in Japanese to the “bisento”, or Kwan-do, a broad bladed sword on the end of a staff.

ln Okinawa, the sai was never a weapon used by commoners. Being made of metal, a scarce commodity in Okinawa, the sai was reserved for the peichin class of families who were largely responsible for civil law enforcement ln other words, the sai was the Okinawan police officers weapon of choice (Murakami, 2000), and roughly the equivalent to a truncheon.  Used by the police, the sai was commonly carried in threes, not pairs. Our Shorinjiryu sai kata (Nijushiho no Sai) is supposed to be performed carrying a third sai tucked awry in the rear of the obi (Hisataka, 1976), although many branches of Shorinjiryu use only a pair of sai (Hiltz, 2006). Now that we know a little about the sai as weapon, lets see what we can uncover about our sai kata. As mentioned, the sai kata las traditionally just been called “Sai Kata” (Hisataka, 1976 and Hiltz, 2006) or “Sai no Kata” (refer to Hanshi Watanabe’s DVDs). If we review Shinan Kori Hisataka’s c.1963 book, we can see that he refers to the kata as “Sai no Kata (Nijushiho no Sai)”. If you then look at the kata, you can clearly see that the empty-handed form of Nijushiho no Kata is reflected in the techniques and sequences of the “Sai no kata”. It is my belief that it is likely that Shinan Kori Hisataka blended the sai-jutsu he had learned (from Ufuchiku Kanagusuku and others) and combined these with the Nijushiho template.

More recently, the name “Kudaka no Sai” has been used, particularly by the Kenkokan school. The name was chosen by Hanshi Masayuki Hisataka when a yudansha student asked him why there was no formal name for the sai kata, and then suggested it would be a good opportunity to commemorate the founder of the style. It was after this conversation that Shinan’s book was referenced to find the original name.

So, there we have it, one kata, several versions and almost as many names. I personally prefer the use of the original name, “Nijushiho no Sai”, out of respect for the legacy the founder left us, and in particular, the clue to its origins.


Hiltz, P. (2006).

Shorinjiryu Karate -do: Kata – Kumite – Discussion.

Baltimore: Gateway Press.


Hisataka, K. (c. I 963).

Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karate: History and Theory of the Art.

Tokyo: Kenkokan.


Hisataka, M. (1976).

Scientific Karatedo.

Tokyo: Japan publications.


Hisataka, M. (1994).

Essential Shorinjiryu Karatedo.

Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle.


Hokama, T. and C. Swift (trans.) (2005).

100 Masters of Okinawan Karate.

Uehara Nishihara:

Okinawa Gojuryu Kenshi-kai Karatedo Kobudo Association & Karate Museum


Murakami, K. (2000).

Saijutsu: Traditional Okinawan Weapon Art

Boston: Charles E. Tuttle


Sells, J. (2000).

Unante: The Secrets of Karate {2nd Ed.).

Hollywood: Panchita S. Hawley.

Days in the Month

Remember this rhyme?

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November,
all the rest have thirty-one.
Excepting February alone
Which has but twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine in each Leap Year.


Use your Knuckles!

Make a fist.
If the month is on a knuckle, it has 31 days. Otherwise is has 30 or less days.
Starting with the 1st knuckle as January,
The space between knuckles as February,
2nd Knuckle is March… etc.
Once you get to the fourth knuckle, July, start over at the first knuckle for August.


Book – Zen Combat

Jay Gluck may just have been the first Westerner to write about ninjutsu, with a chapter on the emergence of modern shinobi schools in Japan in his 1962 book, ” Zen Combat”.

It predates the first articles by Arthur Adams in Black Belt, and the publication of You Only Live Twice. It isn’t a cover feature during the boom, isn’t a lead piece designed to sell copies of anything, so it has a raw honesty.

Maybe too raw — Gluck didn’t debunk ninja history, but he surely had no use for the 1960s Japanese ninja boom nor any of the modern practitioners of what he called “dirty weapon” martial arts.

This is an essential read and a little-known chapter of ninjutsu’s exposure in the West.

About Shorinjiryu


Spiritual development of individuality in mind and body is the motto of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo and expresses its philosophy.

In modern karatedo, where violence is tightly controlled, techniques should still to be executed as if it were a matter of life or death. The body is thus taught to react with all of its power at once under the complete control of the mind. In order to reach this stage of complete harmonious discipline of mind and body, techniques must be practiced thousands of times under all kinds of circumstances. The body will then have gained an automatism, which will free the mind of the task of controlling the execution of the technique.

The road to this state of complete harmony with the universe is certainly a long one, but in this quest for the absolute, practitioners can build a strong and healthy body; they can learn to know and control themselves through the physical and mental exertion required by Karatedo training; by confronting their will against others in kumite and shiai they will develop fortitude, humility and respect for their fellow man; they will not be afraid to stand for what is right. All these qualities will make them a better person and they will be able to transpose them into all aspects of their everyday life, helping them to fulfill their commitments to themselves and to society.

The founder of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karate, Kaiso Masayoshi Kori Hisataka (Seiki Kudaka in Okinawan) wanted to prove the effectiveness of his Karate. Before World War Two, he travelled throughout Asia and Europe and often fought in matches against other martial artists to test his skill and effectiveness. Legend has it that he never lost a match. Kaiso Hisataka was unusual for an Okinawan/Japanese as he was almost six feet tall, where most Okinawan/Japanese of that era were usually only about five feet tall (if even that). It would have been amazing to see him in action during his prime.

Through the teachings of Kaiso Hisataka, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo utilized and incorporated into its style of karate many other martial art forms such as, throws, locks and chokes of Judo, the grappling of Jiu jitsu, and kobudo/weapons training since it’s creation in 1945. This along with the specially designed protective gear which allows the use of full contact striking techniques, offers the student the most realistic simulation of life and death situations.

Kaiso Hisataka knew the importance of all levels of fighting. I think that it is a great thing that Gracie Jiu-jitsu showed the modern world the effectiveness of it’s style and strategy. However, over time, Kaiso Hisataka’s students moved away from the grappling aspects to concentrate more on striking aspect like the conventional Japanese Karate styles. In hindsight, this wanting to blend in, was the psychology of the Japanese mindset. Free thinkers would have worked to develop both simutaneously.

Shorinjiryu has also always included weapons training as part of the regular curriculum. It was very strange to hear the criticisms of our style years ago, saying that … “Karate is ONLY empty hand. Weapons do not belong in Karate and that it should be something separate”. Funny enough , today of course, there is hardly a karate school that doesn’t teach weapons and almost every Karate tournament has a weapons competition.

Through the teachings of Kaiso Hisataka and his son, Hanshi Hisataka, Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo utilizes and incorporates into its style of karate many other art forms such as judo, jujitsu, kobudo and grappling. This along with the specially designed protective gear which allows the use of full contact techniques, offers the student the most realistic simulation of life and death situations.

Spiritual development of the individuality of mind and body is the motto of Kenkokan Karatedo and expresses its philosophy.

I think that it is a great thing that Gracie Jiu-jitsu showed the world the effectiveness of it’s style and strategy.

Shorinjiryu has always included the throws, locks and chokes of Judo since it’s creation in 1945.

The founder of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo, Kaiso Masayoshi Kori Hisataka (Seiki Kudaka in Okinawan) knew the importance of all levels of fighting.

However, over time, under the leadership of his son, the style moved away from the grappling aspects to concentrate more on striking,  like the other conventional Japanese Karate styles.

In hindsight, this wanting to blend in, was the psychology of the Japanese mindset. Free thinkers would have worked to develop both simultaneously.

April 2014 is of special significance as it celebrates the Fiftieth Anniversary of the opening of the 1964-65 World’s Fair which was held in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, New York.

The World’s Fair of 1964-1965 was not an official fair sanctioned by the International Exhibitions Bureau (B.I.E.), an organization governing worldwide fair scheduling and participation rules. In spite of the fact that it was not sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions, several countries had pavilions at the New York World’s Fair.

1964 Japanese pavilion House of Japan

The Japanese government requested that a karate demonstration be presented at their pavilion, House of Japan, constructed for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. They selected Hanshi Masayuki Kukan Hisataka, the son of Masayoshi Kori Hisataka (Seiki Kudaka in Okinawan), the founder of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karate.

Shihan Masayuki Histaka along with Sensei Hisanobu Yamazaki and Sensei Nadyuki Okabe and their U.S. Shorinjiryu students participated in the demonstration and Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karate was introduced to the United States and the participating countries at the New York World’s Fair.

* * * * *

The Quest for the Perfect Judo Flooring

The Quest for the Perfect Judo Flooring

by Paul Nogaki

If any of us has done Judo for any amount of time we have probably done Judo on a myriad of different types of surfaces. I have done Judo on sawdust covered with canvas, to horsehair mats, to wrestling mats to the latest vinyl covered tatamis made specifically for Judo. Our Judo club decided to re-do our floors after we noticed the foam under our tatami was starting to break down and our surface was becoming uneven and falls were starting to hurt more and more especially to us adults

In our quest for the “perfect” Judo floor, I started to do some research. I had the “let’s do it right” attitude with budget constraints being a major concern. I ended up talking to two structural engineers, a kinesiology specialist, mat manufacturers, gymnastic floor manufacturers, gymnastic coaches and many Judoka on this subject. I must give special credit to James Carmer from Denver Judo who was extremely helpful as he was also doing research on this subject and was great help in the area of suppliers. We both came up with the same conclusion as to the ideal flooring system and surface for Judo. Great minds must think alike.

A mat or surface system will only compress a certain percentage of the material itself depending on its density if laid on a hard rigid surface such as a concrete floor. This often leads to injuries as the mat themselves can not absorb and dissipate the energy from a fall adequately. In Judo it is necessary to have a sub floor system that will deflect and absorb the impact of a 200 pound plus person falling from sometimes above the head heights such as when being thrown from a standing Kata-guruma (shoulder wheel throw). Simply laying foam under the mats as we have found was better than nothing but negated some of benefits of the tatami itself. The tatami itself sinks too much under weight slowing the playing surface down and worse yet; the corners of the mat would sink too much in relation to the mat next to it causing broken toes. Manufacturers of the tatami mats will tell you they are not designed to take the impact of a Judo throw on a concrete floor. Therefore a “sprung” floor is necessary so that the mats are not taking 100 percent of the impact and a fast, firm surface is still retained. As James Carmer mentions on his Denver Judo website, “This will mean longer careers in both our competition and recreational workout lives.”

I don’t think anyone will disagree that the tatami mats manufactured by Bridgestone, Swain, Gee, Zebra, etc. are the best surface for Judo. They are used in Olympic and International venues and are a great surface. I am not too familiar with the puzzle lock, air foam type mats but I have heard and seen favorable reviews for some of those systems also.

The sub flooring system which I will refer to as the floor system from this point on was our biggest challenge. The only truly sprung floors I have done Judo on are a hardwood floor mounted on progressive rate springs in Japan and the sprung floors using tires. Our first floor was a tire floor. The progressive rate spring floor was wonderful but ridiculously expensive. The cost estimate to do a floor this way is over $40 per square foot. The springs have a different compression and rebound rate which is very important. One thing I have found is that for a floor to dissipate the impact of a Judo fall efficiently, the compression rate of the floor must be much faster than the rebound rate. If the rebound rate is the same as the compression rate, then the floor system and the mats on top of the surface will only absorb a percentage of the impact as opposed to a floor with a slower rebound rate. Equal spring rate floors are great for basketball, gymnastics and volleyball but not Judo. This is the major inherit flaw with metal coil springs or tires. Using tires as springs poses other problems such as inconsistent spring rates causing hard or soft spots, soft corners, and the general feeling of being too bouncy. Tire floors would be okay if you were using all brand new tires of the same size and make, but how practical is that?

After numerous phone calls, emails and in person conversations and then more research; I came to the conclusion that a special polyethylene closed cell foam used in gymnastic flooring and specialized packaging had all the characteristics I was looking for. After numerous calculations were made, I had decided that 2.2 pounds per cubic foot density foam laid out in a pattern of 33 blocks per 4’ x 8’ sheet of ½ inch plywood was the way to go. The foam had the fast compression and slower rebound rate I was looking for. James Carmer gave me a great source for the foam. Of course the gymnastic flooring people didn’t want to reveal their source and offered to sell us the foam at a 5 time mark up. The foam blocks were glued to the sheets of plywood. Another layer of ½” plywood was placed on top with non over-lapping joints between the sheets. The top layer was screwed down to the bottom layer in essence creating a one piece quiet, rigid, non-creaking floor. We tried using Velcro to attach the layers of plywood to each other but we didn’t like the movement or creaking when we did.

Velcro was glued to the bottom of the border tatami mats and stapled to the plywood sheets. The mats are tight and do not move.


We are extremely pleased with the outcome. Even we old “geezers” are happy to take falls on our new floor. I am extremely grateful to all the advice I received from the numerous sources.


We’re gluing the 4”x4”x3” foam blocks to the sheets of ½” plywood. Notice the template on the left that was used for marking placement of the blocks. The girls were very helpful in getting the blocks into place.


Here is the plywood with the blocks being laid down with another layer of plywood on top of the first. The two layers are screwed together.


Here’s Dave the “screwman” with his power screw driver.


The sprung floor is completed. Now the tatami mats have to be put into place.


The border tatamis are velcroed onto the plywood. After two hard workouts the mats have not moved. We all love the new floor. Falling is now a dream.

(See for more information about this mat system.)

Mr. Nogaki’s research and instructions very helpful. Basically, the sub flooring is meant for the high falls associated to Judo (or Aikido), and uses a very simple method: foam blocks under two layers of 1/2 inch plywood. In the article, Mr. Nogaki explains the rationale and science behind this approach, and I would not attempt to paraphrase. However, there are some details that need clarifying, and these are details one needs if there is an intention to build a similar sub floor.

Shopping List:

1. 4″x4″x3″ Trocellen Polyethylene foam blocks 2.2 lb density per cubic foot. (purchased direct from manufacturer at less than $1 per block: Tim Lang works for Wisconsin Foam Products, and has extensive experience providing services to Judo Clubs.

2. 1/2 plywood (you need one layer to apply the foam blocks, and the second layer to tie it all together-remember to overlap the joints). – You can either apply 27 or 33 foam blocks to each 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood. The general pattern is 3 blocks across 4′, spaced evenly, with subsequent rows offset. The pattern for 27 & 33 block configurations was provided by Wisconsin Foam Products, and a template with measurements will be included in the next post.

3. Wood screws (Outdoor deck screws are great).

4. Spray adhesive (not damaging to polyethylene – there are several options for application and strength of bond).

5. Tatami mats (I bought new Zebra 1.5 inch Judo mats, however, there are several other brands that are very good as well. I chose Zebra because the mats are German made, and are excellent quality).

Optional Items:

a. Sub floor adhesive (Stronger bond, prevents the screws from popping, and reduces/eliminates squeaking).

b. Under padding on top of the sub floor to reduce movement, and to protect the bottom of the tatami from the wood screws.

c. Mr. Nogaki used Velcro to keep tatami mats attached to the sub floor. I was not too keen on applying a permanent adhesive to my tatami’s, and so I plan to use 2″x6″x8′ to create a frame around the sub floor. The frame will be attached to the interior garage wall, and prevent the floor from shifting.