The most common example of embu involves a pair of training partners. Together they will arrange a selection of hokei techniques from the full range of their training experience into a fluid sequence exchanging rolls of attack and defence. The fact that the sequences are predetermined and choreographed does not in any sense mean that the creation and performance of embu is an easy task. Preparation of embu makes significant demands on the participants and is often the result of years of dedicated practice evolving over time as the technical standard of the partners improves. During the performance, attacks are fully committed and the defensive responses are executed - within the realms of safe practice - with equal commitment.

An embu presentation will typically last between 90 seconds and 2 minutes. It will involve around six combative exchanges each utilising around 4 hokei techniques interspersed with brief transitional pauses. Throughout the performance, practitioners are required to demonstrate a high degree of technical accuracy, awareness, commitment and spirit.

To achieve a high standard the partners must hone their abilities to co-operate, whilst continually refining their technique. Such practice develops heightened senses of co-ordination, balance and concentration and forms strong bonds of trust and friendship.

The existence of Embu competitions may seem somewhat of a contradiction of Shorinji kempo ideals. However, since it is in the nature of embu that excellence is only gained through co-operative practice it is this ability, and not the ability to overwhelm and defeat one's training partner that is assessed. It is entirely possible for practitioners to hone this skill without competitive comparison, but the opportunity to have one's abilities in this regard scrutinised under the expert judgement of senior instructors is invaluable.

Whilst it may be the most dynamic and visually impressive aspect of Shorinji kempo, embu is not designed for entertainment. Embu is the epitome of Shorinji kempo practice and the embodiment of Kongo Zen ideals. It is invaluable as an aid to technical progress and excellent meditative practice.

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February 2018