View Full Version : Manji

19th August 2000, 03:18
I am curious about other kenshi's feelings about the Manji, the official logo of Shorinji Kempo. For those outside of Japan, the manji is a backwards version of the Hitler's swastika symbol. One of the principles of Shorinji is the unity of strength and love and the manji symbolizes this union. The symbol is used on official Shorinji Kempo merchandise from Hombu, books, bags, t-shirts, dojo patches and in the dojo itself.

In the US, the manji was very uncommon and I didn't think it was a big issue, however, in Japan it is ubiquitous and is very closely tied to Shorinji.

Personally, I believe that the images associated with this image, the horrors and pain it brings up, and given Japan's history in WWII, I would like to see the manji gradually phased out of Shorinji Kempo.

Living in Japan, I have experienced the friendliness and warmth of the Japanese people. I have also experienced firsthand xenophobia among some Japanese people with a distrust for foreigners(gaijin - translated as outside people). I attribute this to the homogeneity of Japanese society. I believe that the first step to overcoming the fear and mistrust of the world outside of Japan is to become aware of history and our place in it. We also should be aware of the signs and symbols we use, and the transformation of those symbols. If Shorinji wants its message heard around the world, I believe it is necessary for the WSKO to adapt and become open to change and become more culturally sensitive.

I am anxious to hear what others think about this topic.

Christian Curtis
19th August 2000, 08:18
Hello, Dax. Gassho.

When I came to my first Shorinji Kempo class, I noticed the scroll at the front of the dojo. At first glance I thought it was like a swastika and then saw that it was backwards. I also noticed that there were all white guys except for one asian. I thought to myself that there has to be an explination to all this. Later on, I learned a little about what the manji is and what it means. Page 62 and 63 of the English Fukudoku-hon textbook explains this.

I believe that this is a good example of one of the eight paths, the right vision. The right vision is to avoid pre-judging anything and to seek to see things for what they are. To me, the manji denounces everything that Hitler, the Nazi's, and the swastika stood for. It is a symbol of love and not hate. The way I feel about it is that I am proud of it and would love to see it spread worldwide. I don't think that this would happen in our lifetime, but I do believe that it is possible as long as we keep moving forward.

I am curious to know what you think about all this. Thank you for bringing it up.


Robert Liljeblad
21st August 2000, 07:03

This link may give some more info about the manji and may ad something to the discussion.



Robert Persson

George Hyde
22nd August 2000, 16:57
I'm afraid I have to disagree.

The manji is a profoundly powerful symbol, and for good reason. Yes, it has negative modern day connotations but if anything this only serves to strengthen its meaning, importance, and above all, its current day validity.

If you conduct even a little research you'll find that the swastika has been used by just about every civilisation to express no end of positive meanings. So much so that it becomes almost generic. It may seem ironic, but if it weren't for the Nazis, the manji would be just another bland expression of universal goodness.

To suggest that we gradually phase out the manji detaches us even further from its relevance to our practice. I honestly can't think of a single symbol that possesses such universality and simultaneously expresses everything that is important about what we do, everything that makes what we do valuable and so very different from all too many organisations that claim to express similar goals.

Personally, I can see the manji and its profound meaning in every aspect of Shorinji Kempo, in Ken Zen Ichinyo, Goju Ittai, Fusatsu Katsujin, Shushu Koju, Kumite Shutai, Riki Ai Funi, in randori, hokei, embu and seiho. Did I miss anything? If so, look for it and you will find it there too. Seeing it this way helps me to understand each of those subjects more fully. Searching each of these subjects for evidence of the manji brings unexpected, surprising clarification and continuously opens new ground for exploration.

Sadly, there is already talk from Hombu to change the symbol. This is motivated by corporate identity rather than the specific meaning of the manji. Because it's not so readily accepted in the west, the manji was replaced by the rose. However, Hombu feels that this might suggest that there are different 'forms' of Shorinji Kempo and a more universal symbol is required. It's a shame that those kenshi in Japan will have to remove it from their dogi, where it has most personal significance and if this is as far as it goes, well so be it. But any suggestion that the manji should be 'phased out' is an extreme example of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

23rd August 2000, 14:01
Hello and Gassho Mr. Hyde,

I want to thank you for replying and comment on your post. I love your website - great graphics, and very informative. I am working on a site for my dojo in Japan, but it is taking longer than I expected.

Your post was very interesting. One question I have, and would like you to expand on, is how the modern day negative connotations of the Manji serve to "strengthen its meaning, importance, and above all, its current day validity?" I don't see the connection there. I would think that the opposite would be the case - the modern day connotations would serve to lessen its current day validity.

It seems that the symbol is very important to you - in my training in the US, the Manji was not used, instead the kanji for ken (Œ?) is used, as it is in Britain (judging from the use of it on your website). In my experience, the symbol is as important as you make it, and it seems that the philosophy behind the symbol is more important than the symbol itself, and I don't believe that the philosophy would suffer if the symbol was phased out. I liken it to the Christian symbol of the cross. Some Christians have put the symbol ahead of the philosophy. Although the symbol of the cross is important in Christianity, I do not believe that it is as important as the teachings itself.

In South Carolina, there has recently been a fierce debate over the confederate flag. Many people believe that the flag represents slavery and a southern heritage replete with racism. Personally, the flag doesn't bother me, however, I don't mind that the flag has been banned because of its negative and hurtful connotations. I found the website posted by Mr. Persson very informative, and it was interesting that most of the text on the site was about the symbol of the swastika and the negative connotations - connotations of aggression and violence. I am happy to hear that Hombu is searching for a new symbol, a symbol that is more world-wide and a symbol that does not alienate so many people.

Sorry for the long windedness.


George Hyde
23rd August 2000, 15:51
Hi Dax,

Thanks for the complements on the web site.

With regard to your question, the modern day negative connotations of the symbol make the manji and what it stands for, something that cannot be ignored or taken lightly. As the antithesis of the manji's true meaning, the swastika forces everyone, both familiar with its origins and otherwise to consider that meaning. As an example, I have a manji framed on the wall of my house (interior of course, I'm not that fanatical). When visitors see the image (and make the obvious association) they often feel compelled to question why it is there. I of course, am obliged to explain. What follows varies from mild interest to outright argument, but always ends in greater understanding and never alienation. They gain greater understanding of me, what I do, and why. Even, and perhaps especially, for my German, Jewish flat-mate. People never stop me and ask what the 'ken' symbol on my dogi means.

I don't think the confederate flag debate equates very well with the manji/swastika. Though my knowledge of American history is nothing to shout about, as I understand it, the confederate flag is a representation of a socio-political cause. The flag by its nature is to be rallied behind and in doing so; those that rally support the cause. Whilst the Nazi Swastika and the Confederate flag served similar purposes in this respect, the confederate flag has no alternative meaning, other than to represent the states that fought for that political cause. Any insult taken from the manji, particularly since it is only similar to the Nazi Swastika, owes more to misunderstanding of the symbol itself, rather than the person or organisation that exhibits it. Any effort on behalf of the viewer to insist that there is no difference between the manji and the swastika will result in a necessary examination of their common origins, which in my experience, always leads to greater understanding.

Obviously there will always be those for whom even the slightest reminder is painful, as well as those who simply refuse to consider any possible alternative meaning. I'm not suggesting that we should hang the manji from every lamppost or insist that we all start wearing it on our dogi. I firmly believe that presenting the manji in public with the absence of explanation would indeed be inconsiderate and damaging to all concerned. However for me, and for my students, the manji is the very fabric with which Shorinji Kempo is sewn.

With regard to your equation with the Christian cross, I agree, the teaching is far more important than the symbol. But symbolism is nonetheless important for its own sake. Like the Christian cross, the manji encapsulates the teachings. It enables us to sum up all that we understand in "one word" and additionally serves as an obvious and ever present reminder of those teachings. More importantly, it enables us to sum up all that we stand for. If the manji is phased out, if Shorinji Kempo as an organisation detaches itself from the symbol, the manji will become little more than a teaching aid. Where would Christianity be if the cross were similarly relegated?

Sorry for the rant-like nature of this and the previous.

23rd August 2000, 23:37
A bit of different look on this...

Kenshi's in different regions have different symbols on their patches, even though they are all practicing the same Shorinji Kempo.

Japan and Indonesia uses the Manji. The Shorinji Kempo Busen Academy students in Japan have the Manji surrounded by the "leaf" (tate [?‚ shield] manji), a variation even within Japan. North America and Australia/Oceania reagion uses the Ken symbol with the "leaves". Europe uses a very similar design to North America/Australia/Oceania but the patch fabric and shape is different. etc etc.

At a personal level, I don't think the Manji will ever be phased out... rather, I wouldn't want it to go away.

A bit of my thoughts on this...Gassho

[Edited by hsuntzu on 08-24-2000 at 12:16 AM]

25th August 2000, 00:22
Gassho Dax and Everyone Else:

I am comming into this conversation late but I want to make the following points:

1) Several weeks ago, the NY Times did an extensive story about this symbol and at one point in American history, the Manji was known and popular. A photo of Jackie Kennedy was shown wearing an American Indian outfit that was decorated with one big Manji symbol - yeah, I know it sounds wierd but go figure.

2) Within this same article, it was mentioned that there is a group (don't recall the name) seeking to restore the glory of this symbol. Allow me to paraphrase a quote that I found profound:

"Hitler took a great symbol like the Manji and perverted it. We cannot allow him to do this because it means he has won."

... or something like that.

3) My girlfriend, as well as some of my close friends are Jewish. It is out their honor why I would refuse to wear it. I would rather change arts if I was told to wear it.

My Final Opinion...

While I agree with the quote I mention, I would say that this current generation is not ready to reject the Nazi perversion of the Manji. I have cable TV and it amazes me how many WWII documentaries there are on everyday on the History and Discovery Channel. WWII was a nasty affair but when you look at the recent exploits going on in Bosnia and Kosovo, I do not think its going to be forgotten. It might be in this case that the Manji would be sacrafised to become a symbol of hatred in order to remind us of peace.


25th August 2000, 03:00
Although I am not a kempo practitioner, I always thought this symbol was associated with Buddhism in Japan. It is quite old and apparently appears in many different cultures. Recently, some Pokeman cards were sold here in the U.S. with the symbol and received a lot of negative press. I think the neo-Nazi movement and the Aryan Nation have created a lot of controversy by reviving the swastika as their symbol. It's a shame that a Buddhist icon which survived so many thousands of years can be destroyed by a few misguided cretins in the space of a few years. Unfortunately, it would take too much effort to reeducate the public about the positive aspects of this symbol and overcome the negative images that surround it now. It's probably a good thing the association is considering adopting another symbol.

Jun Omi
25th August 2000, 17:50

This is my first time to join this forum (Hi!). I am impressed to see that some kenshis have deep thoughts about this issue. However, I guess that most of you don't know what is going on in the Shorinji Kempo society in Japan. Today let me make a few quotes from the magazine, "Gekkan (Monthly) Shorinji." I hope my quotes will help you to look at this issue from another point of view.
Mr.Shingo Hayashi, a kenshi and a writer (who was writing essays on the magazine almost every other month), mentioned this issue some time ago (I don't remember when it was...). He pointed out that manji is not our logo but the symbol of the whole Buddism, so any Buddist party can use manji as their symbol, even including the cult group, Aumu. Imagine when they start their own martial arts with manji on thier cloth. This is not appreciated to see in any case but we cannot stop them since manji is not our logo but the common symbol in Buddism.
In addition, as some of you pointed out, manji can be easily misunderstood as Nazi's. Mr.Hayashi himself practiced in London and felt the difficulty to keep manji on his dogi in the most of European countries. Since we are going to have a taikai in Paris next year, I believe it is reasonable to adopt another symbol since many kenshis, expectedly more than a few hundreds at least, are coming from Japan with manji on their dogi. I believe that we should explain our thoughts and tradition to non-Japanese more but I also believe we don't need to be misunderstood that easily. Please note that we are not abolishing manji from Buddism but that we are going to have another unique symbol as our own for Shorinji Kempo society.
Secondly, as my friend, Yoshi, pointed out, there are many patches in our society (If you have a chance to look at the 50th anniversary book, you can enjoy the diversity among patches with various colors!). Since the president, Ms.Yuki So, seems to have been working to make Shorinji-Kempo universal so that all kenshis from various countries can recognize each other easily, I think adopting only one patch, either choosing from current ones or making something new, makes sense.
I hope I made myself understood in English. Hope to talk to you soon.


Mäki-Kuutti Vesa
17th September 2000, 20:21

I would like to add some notes from the point of wiev of a small Northern Europe country, Finland. We use here the KEN sign, and used before the svastica. In the history of Finland the same sign as Manji was the sign of the first Finnish airforce plane, given to Finland 1920's by Swedish Greve von Rosen, who knew it to be the sign of power and love. It was used by Finnish airforce untill it was forbidden in the Paris peace threaty 1946.

The sing with KEN in the middle of breastsign goes better to us in Finland because it is not mixed with any other ideology of religion or has no historical burden.

There is however one problem. The mark of KEN does not tell
anything to us western people, it has no visual symbolic value.

Sensei Arai told us this month in Sweden that there will be WSKO orders of new manji in good time before Paris Taikai.


Johan Frendin
18th September 2000, 14:29
Hello !
My name is Johan Frendin and I have been following the discussions regarding the Manji with great interest. Lots of things has been said about the meaning of symbol and it´s obvious that the symbol has a different meaning according to where in the world you are. In Japan it´s a symbol of buddism, in Europe a symbol of nazism, in scandinavian history a symbol of the vikings, in India a symbol of good luck and a symbol of jainism, in other cultures the four arms of the Manji meant the four seasons, and it´s been found that even the christian tradition in sweden has a cross with manji on it . The manji has obviously a very old history and the meaning shifting from culture to culture.
When Kaiso started Shorinji Kempo and Kongo zen it was made to attract japanese people and he had (what I know) no intention to spread it to the western world. The Kongo zen symbols are of course mainly of japanese and asian history.
Shorinji Kempo has during the last 25 years moving further out in the global world, and during my time in Shorinji Kempo (17 years) , several sadly missunderstandings has been made by people outside of Shorinji Kempo due to these cultural differenses. We has been accused of being a secret sect and the parents of some kenshi has has reacted clearly againsed the use of the manji in books etc. This is precisely what we not want, because we want to be a part of the local community and beeing accepted by the local community as a serious and a good organisation and martial art. Of course we can adapt everything that japanese and asian culture can offer but can we then be accepted in our local community?
Kaiso´s main idea was to spread his thinking of “half for your own happiness, and half for others happiness” in to our local community and to atract young people and change there hearts. If we going to make this we must make Shorinji Kempo accepted by their schoolteachers, parents and all adult people that are a vital part of local community. I think that symbols like the manji are taking us further away from reaching this goal simply because it´s upset people.
Best regards

Johan Frendin
Göteborg Branch Sweden

the Khazar Kid
24th September 2000, 21:33
Well, I'm Jewish, and I'm not a Shorinji Kempoka, but I personally don't find the Manji offensive. It is a symbol of Peace and Love in all religions, even in Judaism. Here is a link (which you may or may not like) http://www.manwoman.net/

Peace and Love,

Jesse Peters

28th September 2000, 12:22
Reservations about the manji given the associations of the swastika are entirely understandable. There do indeed seem to be moves afoot to make the 'ken' the universally recognised symbol of Shorinji Kempo, again for understandable reasons.

Speaking personally however I regard the manji as a more meaningful symbol of what Shorinji Kempo is about, and if it were not for the likelihood of provoking fights, I would be happy to wear it on my dogi ('No, you don't understand, it's symbolises the unity of all things and the relationship of the individual to that totality' - smack.'It's not a swstika'. smack.'No really'.smack). It is a useful mneomic device reminding us of Kempo's philosophical underpinnings. It would be nice to think we could play some part in reclaiming the manji for the West.

Back in the real world, unfortunately we have to concede the weight of its existing historical associations may well be insupportable. Kempo was one of the martial arts featured in a BBC series called the 'way of the warrior', essentially (mis)represented as a paramilitary Japanese cult; the visual impression created by shaven headed Honbu students running around in black jumpsuits with the manji on them (when not pummelling each other in dogi) was -ahem - striking, and the manji does lend itself to this kind of misinterpretation.

28th September 2000, 13:02
Its also used on Japanese maps to denote a temple.

1st October 2000, 00:35
"There is however one problem. The mark of KEN does not tell
anything to us western people, it has no visual symbolic value.

Sensei Arai told us this month in Sweden that there will be WSKO orders of new manji in good time before Paris Taikai."

One thing I have not seen mentioned is the fact that the Swastika (to give it the Sanskrit name) does not have to be the Nazi look-alike with right angles and straight lines.

There are many variations on the theme, some of which do not even look like the swastika unless you are looking for it.

Perhaps one of those variants would be a good compromise.


9th October 2000, 01:52
This is slightly out of topic but here I go...

Last year, I traveled to Oaxaca, which is a region in Southern Mexico. We hired a guide who took us to the ancient pre-Columbian city of Mitla (sp). Our guide, Alberto, showed us this wall which had very intricate design patterns. He showed us one pattern that was very recognizable as the Manji. I do not recall what the significance of this symbol meant to these people (I was not a kenshi then). Alberto then went on to talk about the various anthropological theories on how pre-Columbian societies may have been in contact with Asia and Africa long before the arrival of the Spanish. I do remember him telling me that there was an aboriginie people in this part of Mexico with almost Asian features.

I have a photo of this and will post it as soon as I clean out my closet. Its interesting stuff.

Gary Dolce
18th October 2000, 18:14
This has been a great thread and I am really impressed with the thoughtfulness of the responses. I have struggled with my own feelings about the use of the manji ever since I started practicing Shorinji Kempo in the early '80's. I understand the positive connotations the manji has in Japan and appreciate and sympathize with the desire on the part of many to try to take the symbol back from those who have perverted it.

On the other hand, the practical part of me is convinced that the swastika is so well-known and deeply ingrained in the Western world as a symbol of ultimate evil that it is beyond our ability to rehabilitate. And I am not sure that it is really even necessary to do this. Bad symbols can have value too if they serve to remind us of what has happened in the past.

I don't know what the ultimate solution is. I have never really liked or understood the use of "ken" as a symbol for Shorinji Kempo. Given the literal translation ("fist"), it reminds me too much of that obnoxious fist graphic that you see used by some other martial arts. I don't know what meaning this has to Shorinji Kempo other than that it one of the characters in the name.

Perhaps Dirk's solution - one of the various stylized, non-linear, non-angular versions of the manji is best. I look forward to seeing what Hombu has in mind. But nothing will make everyone happy. Maybe it is best if we don't become too attached to any symbol - what really matters is what we do, not what symbol is used to represent us.

[Edited by Gary Dolce on 10-18-2000 at 01:38 PM]

John McCollum
19th October 2000, 14:15

This is indeed a thorny subject - however it seems that Hombu is resolved to phase out the Manji. One thing that struck me at the BSKF 25th anniversary Taikai (a fairly public event) was that there was no manji at the front of the dojo - just the Ken symbol.

One experience I have had is promoting SK to university freshers at the start of the year, and answering questions etc. Most of the British material we have doesn't feature the manji prominently, but the Japanese 50th anniversary video has kenshi wearing manji, etc. It has prompted quite a few questions along the lines of "Why are they wearing swastikas?". The swastika is so entrenched in western culture as a symbol of hatred that it's hard to disregard that.

Personally I have no problems with the use of the Ken symbol for representing Shorinji Kempo - it was my understanding that it is encompassed by a lotus flower anwyay, symbolising the unity of strength and love (correct me if I'm wrong on this point!).

John McCollum

George Hyde
19th October 2000, 17:23
Hi All,

If you've followed this thread from the beginning you'll already be aware of my general opinion so I'll try to avoid repetition here and instead try to illuminate further…

What we're all talking about here is symbolism; it's methods and interpretation. Here's a few definitions thereof…

"A symbolic meaning or representation."

Largely necessitated by illiteracy, symbolism has proven to be a direct and effective means of primary communication throughout history. In fact, the manji probably represents man's first and most effective expression of the universality of existence by non-spoken means.

"The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships."

A symbol serves equal purpose for those that associate themselves with it and those that view it. For those of us that associate ourselves with it, the manji serves as a succinct and ever present reminder of the teachings of kongo zen and our responsibility to adhere to them. The manji encapsulates the essence of those teachings and its consistency and prominence in our everyday practice emphasises their importance. Many martial disciplines have a 'philosophy' however, this is more often than not an extracurricular element of practice. It's kind of hard to avoid the teaching when it's hanging on the wall - even more so when it's sewn to your chest.

For the passive viewer, it serves as a direct and succinct introduction to what kongo zen and Shorinji Kempo is all about. Misinterpretation due to previous experience of the symbol is only to be expected. However, if we are not able to clarify the true meaning and its relevance to our practice, then how can we expect to do justice to the teachings?

"Revelation or suggestion of intangible conditions or truths by artistic invention."

I'm particularly glad I found this one since I would have struggled to achieve such clarity. In reality, despite the obvious and eminently practical social element of kongo zen, it is nevertheless a zen discipline with all its counterintuitive interpretations. With the help of the manji, my own understanding of ken zen ichinyo has evolved far beyond the basic attention to body/mind development. Coupled with the manji and what it evokes, ken zen ichinyo blossoms into an expression of the ultimate unity of thought and action, devoid of indecision, fear, hesitation and doubt. I doubt very much that I would even be considering these possibilities on the exclusive representation of the ken symbol with or without a lotus blossom. Assuming I managed it anyway, I know that without the manji, my ability to convey that understanding to my students would be seriously hindered.

My personal experience is such that any misunderstanding about the manji is no more difficult to deal with than any other misunderstanding about anything else we do. "You don't use mats… surely that's really dangerous! Embu?… surely that's nothing more than dancing! What, no competitions?… surely that's the only way to test whether what you practice actually works!" I could go on, but believe me, the manji is a doddle compared to the other stuff I have to explain. Should we start using mats, ditch the embu and have open tournaments?

Now I know most of you will be saying, "Wait a minute… no one is suggesting that we take the manji out of the dojo, let alone the teachings." Well, you're probably correct. However, my disappointment at suggestions that the manji is in anyway damaging to our purpose stems from the general feeling of, "..well it's a bit of a sensitive subject, best not talk about it" attitude expressed in some of the previous contributions to this thread. Deal with it! I've witnessed senior kenshi in the past, in answer to concerns expressed by junior kenshi, virtually denying that the manji even exists, "Oh that's just a Japanese thing", and its embarrassing.

IMHO, Hombu's decision to distance itself from the symbol CAN NOT be achieved without some element of distancing itself from the teachings. At least in perception if not in fact. At the very least it will have the effect of diluting its significance in our everyday practice. Any PR professional will confirm that. Given the significance of what the symbol means to our practice, changing it is a major step. In my opinion it's a step in the wrong direction. Once it is gone, having to explain why it was there in the first place and why we decided to get rid of it will be a far more difficult task and ultimately give rise to mistrust of our aims and objectives.

Of course, all of this is academic until we see what hombu comes up with. I doubt, but nevertheless hope that it will manage to capture the essence of kongo zen as effortlessly as the manji.


Gary Dolce
19th October 2000, 17:44

I agree that the manji in its basic form is too similar to the swastika to be a useful emblem in Europe or North America. I know that I reacted pretty strongly to it when I first saw it soon after starting Shorinji Kempo. I hold out some hope that one of the more stylized versions of it could be used (we continue to use the calligraphy version of it on the scroll in front of class and no one seems to react to that), but I can see problems with that approach also. And I don't have a major problem with Hombu's desire to phase it out.

As for the Ken emblem - many of the Japanese Kenshi I have talked to have had a negative reaction to the use of Ken to represent Shorinji Kempo. If it was intended to represent the concept of Riki Ai Fu Ni, why not use one or more of those characters? If moving away from the manji is objectionable to Japanese Kenshi, I personally don't see a real problem with using different emblems in Japan and the rest of the world (although it may be a bit of a problem next spring in Paris).

If I remember correctly, the shape that surrounds "Ken" pre-dates the use of the Ken emblem. It used to surround the manji on munasho worn by Hombu staff. When I asked about it at the time, the explanation I got was that it symbolized a shield that surrounded and protected the manji. This is very different from the idea that it is a lotus flower that balances "ken". Can anyone else shed light on this? Did I get a bad explantion the first time around?

By the way, this "flower" or "shield" symbol seems to have cross-cultural implications, too. Here in the US it is used as part of the emblem for volunteer fire fighters, but I don't know the derivation. I suspect it doesn't represent a lotus flower in this context. :)

All of this reminds me a bit of the problems corporations have when they are naming products or renaming themselves. In some language, somewhere, the proposed name always comes up as meaning pig excrement or some slur regarding ones parentage.

In any event, whatever symbol Hombu chooses, they clearly need to communicate an explantion that we all can understand and appreciate - no small task.

19th October 2000, 20:44
Originally posted by Gary Dolce

I agree that the manji in its basic form is too similar to the swastika to be a useful emblem in Europe or North America.

A small nit-pick, but Manji is the local Japanese term for the (presumably) older Sanskrit name of Swastika. I prefer to call it by the latter name.

I tend strongly to the same view that George holds, that the Swastika perfectly symbolises our philosophy and training. I definately do not want to see it dropped, and most definately do not want to wear a fist.

I also find it strange that Honbu only now gets around to being 'culturally sensitive' at the point where direct experience of the Nazis is dying out, and knowledge of the true nature of the Swastika is becoming more widely known than ever.

In my 21yrs of practice/teaching I have never had any problem explaining the Swastika to any students. In fact, most already knew its origins. Some old churches in England have the AngloSaxon Fylfot (European Swastika) as window decoration.

As you point out, it's a corporate logo type of problem, but I suspect that once again, the Japanese are going to be at their most annoying when trying to be sensitive. I hope I'm wrong, but I expect that whatever they come up with will not please most of the people most of the time. Least of all me.

Maybe when Honbu deigns to let us know, I'll post an apology for my pessimistic attitude. Watch this space.


Steve Williams
19th October 2000, 22:07
Ok I have a few opinions about the Manji.

Personally I have no problem with it and would proudly wear it on my Gi.
But I have seen and heard first hand the lack of knowledge/ confusion and downright hatred that the symbol instills in people (some of these are very wise, open-minded and/ or educated people).
As I said I have no problem with it and will gladly explain it to anybody who wants to know, and have had to on numerous occasions.

I do however feel that, at present, the negative feelings outweigh the positive connertations.

To answer 2 previous statements:
George.........Hombu is not trying to distance itself from the image, it is just looking for a more acceptable world-wide face to use. (bear in mind that you cannot be present to explain the image to everybody who may see it).

Dirk..........I dont think Hombu are suddenly getting "culturally sensitive", bear in mind a couple of things: When Doshin So was originally looking for a symbol it was 1947 and the nazi (evil?) view of the manji, although widely known in Europe, was not very common at all in Japan. Also the international branch of Shorinji Kempo (WSKO) was only relatively recently (last 10 years?) becoming as large and strong as it is now (a lot of which is due to the work of Sensei Aosaka and Sensei Mizuno). Before that time it was mainly Japan based (also a large Asian....Indonisia/ Malaysia.....following)with very few clubs in Europe.

:smilejapa Just my humble opinions :wave:

Phong Nguyen-Le
22nd October 2000, 03:21

22nd October 2000, 04:08
Just a note,

I just spent a great deal of time going through the web pages designed and maintained by Mr. Hyde at http://www.bskf.org. It is a great site and I think Mr. Hyde has done a great job on it as well as on the newsletter - very informative. However, I didn't see the manji anywhere. You make a great case for the significance of the swastika and your love for it, but I think that actions speak louder than words and the absence of a picture or any reference to Shorinji's official logo, the swastika, speaks volumes.


By the way, there is a great symbols site with various adaptations of the swastika and their definitions. Somebody from this forum mailed me info about this site, but I forgot who it was, so no credit where credit is due. Here is the page: http://www.symbols.com/encyclopedia/15/index.html. I am heading up to the zen koku tai kai in 2 weeks, maybe I can carefully corner one of the Hombu sensei's and ask about the plans for a new logo.

22nd October 2000, 11:28
Originally posted by Phong Nguyen-Le
Hi there,

Just digging through some Shorinji Kempo archives and I found this version of the manji that used to represent the philosophy of Kongo-Zen... I think the meaning is all there, but at the same time, it isn't easily confused with the other one. Wonder why they stopped using it?

How insensitive of you to post what appears to be a version of the Celtic Cross. Clearly it will offend Irish Catholics as well as the many extreme Right (NeoNazi) groups throughout the world that now use it in preference to the Swastika.


22nd October 2000, 11:36
Originally posted by dax
Just a note,

...I didn't see the manji anywhere. You make a great case for the significance of the swastika and your love for it, but I think that actions speak louder than words...

Since you are feeling deprived try my site:


Steve Williams
22nd October 2000, 19:34
Hey Dax, what an informative site, I have definately bookmarked it :toast:

Particular interest was :
15:1 · The swastika is a very old ideogram. The first such signs preserved to our days were found in the Euphrates-Tigris valley, and in some areas of the Indus valley. They seem to be more than 3,000 years old. Yet it was not until around the year 1000 B.C. that the swastika became a commonly used sign, first maybe in ancient Troy in the north west of today's Turkey.
The Sumerians seem to have used the swastika, but neither their successors the Babylonians and Assyrians, nor the Egyptians seem to have used it. Most other ancient cultures in Eurasia, however, did use it. Count Goblet d'Alviella (see the bibliography), who at the end of the last century conducted research in the distribution and migration of sacred symbols, put forth the theory that certain symbols were mutually exclusive, i.e. they could not appear in the same country or cultural sphere. This seems to have been the case with for instance the signs and as symbols for Jerusalem in Europe during the Middle Ages. According to this theory the swastika and the round disc with horizontally spread-out wings, , the circle with the four-pointed star, , and the four-armed cross in a circle, , are all symbols for the sun, the highest god, and the supreme power and lifeforce. On the other hand both and were common in Greece in the antiquity. If d'Alviella's theory is correct, this means that none of these signs was the symbol of a dominating power or god. There probably was no all-dominating god worshipped there.
The swastika was used well before the birth of Christ in China, India, Japan, and Southern Europe. Whether it was also used that early in the Americas, however, is not known. There are no swastika-like signs on the oldest rock carvings there. Neither did the Mayans, the Incas, and the Aztecs use it. However, many of the Indian tribes in the southern parts of North America seem to have begun using the sign after the arrival of the first Spanish colonists. The swastika is mostly associated with Buddha in India, China, and Japan. In early Chinese symbolism was known as wan, and was a general superlative. In Japan it may have been a sign for the magnificent number 10,000.
In India according to d'Alviella, the word swastika is composed by the Sanskrit su = good, and asti = to be, with the suffix ka. The arms of the Indian swastika were angled in a clockwise direction (from the center).
The sign was common among the Hittites (in what is now Turkey), and in Greece from around 700 B.C., where it was freely used in decorations on ceramic pots, vases, coins, and buildings in the antiquity.
In the rest of Europe swastikas and swastika-like structures were used by the Celts. They did, however, not appear in the Nordic countries until well after the birth of Christ, and then they do not seem to have been common. They can be seen on. few runic stones (from around 1000 A.D.), often combined with another cross structure, as in .
After the birth of Christ, maybe related to the disappearance of the Celtic culture from the European continent, seems to have lost its popularity in most of Europe, with the exception of the Nordic countries. Maybe it became known as a sign representing Buddha and therefore was considered anti-Christian. This disappearance might also have been due to its widespread use in ancient Greece, a pagan society.
Although not commonly used in Europe during the Middle Ages, it was wellknown and had many different names: Hakenkreuz in Germanic princedoms, fylfot in England, crux gammata in Latin countries, and tetraskelion or gammadion in Greece.
The swastika's spectrum of meaning is centered around power, energy, and migration. It is closely associated with and , thus with tribal migrations.
The sign was used in the nineteenth and twentieth century cartography to indicate electric power plants. It was part of the logotype used by the Swedish manufacturer of electrical machinery, ASEA, now the multinational ABB, until Hitler monopolized as a national symbol. In the section "The ideographic Struggle in Europe during the 1930s" in Part III you can read more about the way the swastika was introduced and used in Germany.
The swastika is still a common sign in Finland. The victory of the "Whites" during the civil war of 1918 was the victory of the farm-owners, the middle class, and the squires over the communist workers and crofters, the "Reds". can be seen on the Finnish Cross of Freedom, an order decoration created by the winning side in 1918; as a sign for Finnish women's voluntary defense; and on army unit standards. It was also the sign for the Finnish air force from 1918 up to the 1950s.
There is some confusion as to whether the clockwise (from the centre) angled swastika, , or the countercockwise angled variation, , is the sign with the most positive meaning. Both types have appeared in many different contexts, except when the sign is used as an official or national symbol, in which case is always preferred. The instances of use of are by far more numerous than those of .
Url is http://www.symbols.com/encyclopedia/15/151.html

George Hyde
23rd October 2000, 12:50
Originally posted by dax
I just spent a great deal of time going through the web pages designed and maintained by Mr. Hyde at http://www.bskf.org. It is a great site and I think Mr. Hyde has done a great job on it as well as on the newsletter - very informative.


You make a great case for the significance of the swastika[/QUOTE]

I'm glad you agree.

but I think that actions speak louder than words and the absence of a picture or any reference to Shorinji's official logo, the swastika, speaks volumes.[/QUOTE]

Volumes? Please elaborate.

The fact that the BSKF have seen fit to place the maintenance of their internet presence in my hands does not automatically make it a forum for my personal opinions. Whilst I may have strong feelings about this and many other subjects, it would be wholly inappropriate of me to use that platform to make those opinions known to others. Having said that, bskf.org is a relatively new resource and a great deal of basic work remains to be done. You'll no doubt be relieved to hear that an extensive and UNBIASED appraisal of the manji, it's origins and interpretations will be included. Beef aplenty.

And to Steve...

George.........Hombu is not trying to distance itself from the image, it is just looking for a more acceptable world-wide face to use. [/QUOTE]

I think their primary motivation is to 'unify' the public face of Shorinji Kempo internationally. To avoid the misconception that there are 'different' forms of Shorinji Kempo (identified by different symbols - not a problem IMHO). In doing so, should they decide that the western perception of the swastika precludes its use, they will by default, be distancing themselves from it - regardless of motivation.

The manji itself is a 'symbol', its use makes it an 'insignia' - "a distinguishing sign". Whatever hombu chooses to use it will 'distinguish' what Shorinji Kempo is. If it does not incorporate the manji, then the distinction will likely be something other than that espoused by the manji.

(bear in mind that you cannot be present to explain the image to everybody who may see it).[/QUOTE]

As you'll see from my earlier posts, I fully appreciate this.


24th October 2000, 02:32
After enjoying this great discussion from the sidelines I can't help but jump in and add my two cents worth.

Having practiced Shoringi Kempo mainly in Japan over my "Shoringi career" I have grown accustomed to the manji as not only a profound symbol for Shoringi Kempo and Kongo Zen, but also as a ubiquitous symbol of Buddhism within Japanese society. Since my first exposure to the manji (about ten years ago) at my first dojo, I have gone from feelings ranging from surprise/revulsion to total acceptence of the symbol within in cultural and historical context in Japan. When I see a manji now here in Japan, it strikes me little differently than seeing a Christian cross would at home in Canada.

Unfortunately, for most people around the world, the manji is equated with the swastika, and as such represents hate; from the holocaust through to present day neo-nazis. The negative connotations are pervasive, especially in western cultures, and, as others have said above, the symbol will not likely redeem itself anytime in the near future. Some people around the world have been fortunate enough to gain insight into the manji's true meaning through practicing Shoringi Jempo, studying Asian culture or living in Asia. However well we kenshi may know the manji's true meaning, and hold its symbolism as central to Kongo Zen, we must never forget how it makes others feel. In my humble opinion "Living half for yourself, and half for others" entails thinking first about how our actions impact others. If my wearing a manji makes others uncomfortable, makes others think of hate, the holocaust etc., then I view it as working contrary to the propogation of Kongo Zen.

What are the options then?

In Kaiso's book "What is Shoringi Kempo?", published in 1972, Kaiso states of the cursive manji shown above in this thread: "The symbol of a circle encompasing two flowing lines is the visual representation of Kongo Zen" and that "(this) symbol is inseperably linked with he true meaning of Shoringi Kempo".

According to Kaiso the cursive manji should be our symbol. Why is it then it was changed to the "ken" symbol? Anyone who might know about the history, and or reasoning behind the change from the cursive manji to "ken", please write in and share your knowledge.

Have a great day,

Mike Johnson
Inuyama Kita Shibu

24th October 2000, 02:48
Originally posted by migjohns

Unfortunately, for most people around the world, the manji is equated with the swastika, and as such represents hate;

I think this is patently untrue.
It is only true for Europeans and N Americans.
For most of the rest of Humanity (the other 90+%)it is either a neutral or positive symbol.

However, as you mention the alternative, the cursive Swastika, I have to agree that I would find it an acceptable alternative.

Now, on a related topic, is there any indication that Honbu is going to modify/ban the Manji Scroll we hang in the Dojo? That being the only visible Swastika most Kenshi in the West actually see.


24th October 2000, 05:04
You are correct. I should have said "for most people in the WESTERN world the manji is associated with the swastika, and as such represents hate". My mistake.

Mike Johnson
Inuyama Kita Shibu

25th October 2000, 04:42
Originally posted by George Hyde
I'm glad you agree.

I never stated I agreed with your views, only that they were eloquently argued.

Volumes? Please elaborate.

The fact that the BSKF have seen fit to place the maintenance of their internet presence in my hands does not automatically make it a forum for my personal opinions. Whilst I may have strong feelings about this and many other subjects, it would be wholly inappropriate of me to use that platform to make those opinions known to others. Having said that, bskf.org is a relatively new resource and a great deal of basic work remains to be done. You'll no doubt be relieved to hear that an extensive and UNBIASED appraisal of the manji, it's origins and interpretations will be included. Beef aplenty.

I simply thought that the title of "Webmaster" implies some type of creative influence over the final product, and that your decision to leave the swastika out of the website was curious and a little incongruent, however I appreciate the position you are in. There are many other Shorinji doin websites out there that use the manji or swastika and they are outside of Japan where the manji is not the official symbol. "Volumes" is a figure of speach. I am looking forward to reading your extensive and UNBIASED appraisal of the manji. Maybe the website that I mentioned in my last post can help you with some of the history.



5th November 2000, 21:09
Originally posted by migjohns
You are correct. I should have said "for most people in the WESTERN world the manji is associated with the swastika, and as such represents hate".

Here's a time when it represented something else in Europe, and will again, I hope.



12th October 2001, 02:56
Once again, better late than never.
The debate here has focussed on whether SK should ditch the manji, but no one has pointed out the blindingly obvious: The manji and the swastika are not the same symbol. They face in opposite directions. If you can tell b and d apart, why not the manji and the swastika. In fact, check out any Chinese character isctionary, such as Hadamitsky and Spahn, or Jack Halpern. The two characters are listed separately, and in H&S's case, they are even in different sections.
Personally, I agree with George Hyde: The manji is a potent symbol, not only of SK, but of Buddhism in general. We should be proud of it, and the more we explain it, the more people there will be who understand.
Tony Kehoe

Steve Williams
11th September 2003, 21:25
This was an important topic a little while ago......

Just ressurecting it for all our newbies.....

John McCollum
11th September 2003, 22:20
Originally posted by Kimpatsu
The manji is a potent symbol, not only of SK, but of Buddhism in general. We should be proud of it, and the more we explain it, the more people there will be who understand.

Tony, at risk of sounding elitist, I think you overestimate the intelligence of the general populace. Does anyone remember Kula Shaker?

For those old farts (no names) and those living in foreign climes, Kula Shaker were a 90s rock band with musical and supposed philosophical ties to India. They were the darlings of the British press for about six months until their lead singer, Crispian Mills, made comments about the positive image of the swastika worldwide, and how Hitler was shrewd to use the image. The press turned on them, and tore him apart in a frenzy. Words like "fascist", "nazi", "anti-semite" were chucked at him with great abandon. The real irony? Mills' grandmother was Jewish.

Obviously the press were looking to sell papers, and to knock down the idols they created, but the fact remains that if you mention Kula Shaker to people now, they will say "nazi" right back at you. :(

People really can be ignorant...a family member of mine (who is a school teacher) walked in while I was browsing the history of badges used by WSKO. Without asking any questions, she yelled "are you looking at nazi sites?!" It's sad that the image of the manji is so deeply, subconsciously ingrained as a symbol of absolute evil.

For more on the Kula Shaker story,click here (http://http://www.pub.umich.edu/daily/1997/may/05-14-97/arts/arts3.html). Admittedly, he could have picked his words a little more wisely!

Tripitaka of AA
11th September 2003, 22:26
Steve, do you remember the thread on the Member's Lounge a couple of months ago about Manji, that had a whole load of links to Manji in use in different situations before Hitler bought the copyright, such as Baden-Powell's Scout Thankyou badge, a Canadian Women's Hockey team and the entire Finnish Airforce. There were a load of images to look at, which really put a new perspective on it.

The starting point was a toy gift given with a Coca Cola merchandising tie-in in Hong Kong, where the toy was a robot from a Japanese cartoon show that had two Manji/swastikas on the front.

John McCollum
11th September 2003, 22:33
Here (http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?threadid=18852&highlight=swastika) is the thread.

At your service,

Tripitaka of AA
11th September 2003, 22:36
Arigato Gozaimashita :smilejapa

David Dunn
11th September 2003, 22:42
Originally posted by John McCollum
Here (http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?threadid=18852&highlight=swastika) is the thread.

At your service,

Thanks John. I remember that one :) My mum is a scouter, and she told me about the 'fylphot' (spelling?) long before I knew anything about Buddhism and Shorinji Kempo. I have to say, I associate Lord Baden-Powell with some of our worst excesses of colonialism. Some of his early writings would raise a few eyebrows these days.

BTW Steve - good choices of threads to resurrect. Good to see that we haven't always been like a bunch of schoolkids.

11th September 2003, 23:25
Dear All


The manji is misunderstood, and deeply offensive, to the majority of non-Shorinji Kempo practitioners in the Western hemisphere.
All your well researched arguement, perfectly expressed on these pages, means little when compared with their exposure to modern history as expressed by our parents, and grand parents, who experienced it.

I know a man who won't tolerate rice in his houe, he terms the Japanese as cruel, the Turks as cowards and the Germans as good soldiers.
He's wrong, but he's entitled to his opinions, he earned them.

This arguement is; therefore; acaedemic in extrimis, unless you intend to institute a programme of junior school level, and upwards, re-education , throughout all of the Western hemisphere, in a sustained effort to eradicate the other viewpoint.

The Nazis instituted just such a programme, they called it the Deutsches Jungvolk (German Young People) until the age of 13 when they transferred to the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) until the age of 18. Girls, at the age of 10, joined the Jungmadelbund.

That ended in other schemes, at places called Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Chelmno, Sobibor, Belzek and Majdanek, which also eradicated the other viewpoint.

Accept that others have a right to a different view.

Get rid of the manji.
It's had it's day.


This is just my view.

And I know I'm in trouble you don't have to tell me.
I've reviewed this post 11 times before pressing the button.

12th September 2003, 00:05
Originally posted by Ade
He's wrong, but he's entitled to his opinions, he earned them.
At the risk of causing thread drift, this is utterly wrong. No one is entitled to an opinion; they are entitled to an informed opinion. What this man is advocating is merely bigotry. If all the Japanese (what, all 127 million of them?) are cruel, then I suppose all blacks are workshy, all Asians are shifty, and all Americans are brash and uncultured (Hmm. last one might be true... ;)).
Bottom line: bigotry is unacceptable no matter how glittery the wrapping in which it's packaged.

David Dunn
12th September 2003, 00:06
Originally posted by Ade
Get rid of the manji. It's had it's day.... This is just my view. And I know I'm in trouble you don't have to tell me.
I've reviewed this post 11 times before pressing the button.

You don't get trouble for posting your view round here. I can see both sides of this I have to say. I think one of the reasons that the Vajra/Ken symbol was adopted is that Mizuno and Aosaka Sensei had a bit of a torrid time in the 70s with it. Sensei is very conscious of it still, although a lot of his kenshi favour it. You might note that he insists visiting Japanese instructors don't wear it - I think you were nearby when Steve was sorting out a BSKF badge at summer camp. It clearly places a barrier in front of would-be kenshi. On the other hand the meaning of the symbol is manifold and apart from the last 50 years has a superb history of meaning. Manji signifies Dharma and Riki ai funi, and has done since ancient times. Nio san are the same. The latter are unproblematic, but how can you suddenly change the symbol of such a central facet of budo? Should we ask all Asians to desist its use? Why did the pan-German environmentalists choose it as their symbol? It was common in central Europe, and was possibly a populist move.

In an ideal world Europeans would know the true meaning of manji. I think at least Shorinji Kenshi should know its meaning, even if real politik dictates that we don't put it on our chests.

12th September 2003, 00:08
Originally posted by Kimpatsu
At the risk of causing thread drift, this is utterly wrong. No one is entitled to an opinion...

I double dare you to come and tell him Tony.

12th September 2003, 00:12
Originally posted by Ade
I double dare you to come and tell him Tony.
Why do you always have to resort to threats of physical violence rather than argue from a reasonable, logical position? Or do you think that he's right? The Japanese are (all 127 million of them!) cruel? The Turks cowards?
What does that make British soldiers fighting a last-gasp rearguard action for imperialism?

12th September 2003, 00:15
Originally posted by Ade
Get rid of the manji.
It's had it's day.
Apart from the fact that it'll never happen (it's far too potent a symbol in Asia), the manji is deeply historical symbol that encapsulates the entire ethos of Shorinji Kempo (rikiai funi, kenzen ichinyo, etc.) so we should use it more, not less, as a tool of education, to win back our symbol from the thieves who perverted it half a century ago.

12th September 2003, 00:20
Originally posted by David Dunn
...real politik dictates that we don't put it on our chests...

I agree.
But, much as it pains me to say this, it also shouldn't be at the front of the class.
And before you berate me for failing to educate the ignorant.
I have the manji tattooed on my left shoulder.
It means that much to me.
But it's unacceptable.
I had to try to explain, whilst on holiday in Greece two yeas ago, to a Norwegian child and his angry mother, why a British skin head had a backwards Swastika on his arm.
You try it, try telling them to dismiss the last 50 years as a blight on it's career.
I did.
Didn't work.
Which is why I'm going to have it changed, and add the Japanese symbols for Shorinji Kempo, to make it look more acceptable, and my story more believable.
And less offensive.

12th September 2003, 00:28
Originally posted by Kimpatsu
Why do you always have to resort to threats of physical violence rather than argue from a reasonable, logical position? Or do you think that he's right? The Japanese are (all 127 million of them!) cruel? The Turks cowards?
What does that make British soldiers fighting a last-gasp rearguard action for imperialism?

As a 78 year old man he's probably now incapable of physical violence Tony.
The reason that he thinks that the Japanese are cruel is because he fought at Kohima, and saw friends flayed alive strung up on a post by Japanese soldiers after surrendering.
He thinks the Turks are cowards because he fought them and found them to be so.
As I stated I think he's wrong, because my experiences are different to his.
But he's entitled to his opinion, by dint of his experiences.
As to your slight at British soldiers, that's beneath my contempt.

12th September 2003, 00:39
Originally posted by Ade
I have the manji tattooed on my left shoulder.
Is it the manji, Sensei? I thought it was "ken".

Steve Williams
12th September 2003, 08:52
Originally posted by Kimpatsu
Is it the manji, Sensei? I thought it was "ken".

Its the Manji, within the "rose" symbol......
Similar to that found on Isami Dogi, but in colour, as in the bskf symbol.

Personally, it looks good (but not necessarily on Ade's shoulder ;) ) and you have to look at it hard to see the "obvious" manji.