Shiatsu (or Shiatzu)
A Japanese term from the root words shi (fingers) and atsu
(pressure). Shiatsu is an applied system of massage which, like
acupuncture, seeks to release and facilitate the flow of vital life
energy, known as Qi (chi in Chinese, ki in Japanese), within the
body. Shiatsu incorporates a number of massage techniques,
such as pressing, sweeping, rotating, and patting. More than
techniques, however, shiatsu has been described as a dance of
two, a touch communication between practitioner and client,
grounded in the traditional Chinese medicine concept of balance.
In the 10th century, a contingent of Japanese monks reportedly
traveled to China to study Buddhism. While there, they
observed the tenets of traditional Chinese medicine. They
learned of the Qi (analogous to kundalini in Hindu tradition),
the balancing life concepts of yin and yang, plus the bodys energy
pathways called meridians. They also gleaned the connections
between the meridians, the five basic elements (earth,
metal, water, fire, and wood) and corresponding organs of the
body. The monks combined this acquired knowledge with the
ancient medicinal practices of Japanese massage, which over
time has become known as Shiatsu.
Shiatsu was introduced to the United States by individuals
such as Wataruu Ohashi, founder of Ohashiatsu. Ohashi was a
protégé of Japanese psychologist and Zen student Shizuto Masunaga.
Instrumental in the repeal of governmental restrictions
on massage, Masunaga reincorporated psychological and
spiritual dimensions to shiatsu. Another instrumental pioneer
of shiatsu was Tokujiro Namikoshi. Working as a masseur, he
developed a chart comparable to the acupuncture chart, showing
where the appropriate pressure could be applied to relieve
pain in specific parts of the body, as well as affect underlying
In the United States a variation on shiatsu, jin shin jyutsu, has
been developed by Jiro Murai. Also closely related are the Chinese
system of do-in and reflexology.
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Chung, Hazel. Shiatsu Therapeutic Art of Japan. http
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Namikoshi, Tokujiro. Shiatsu. Tokyo Japan Publications,
Ohashi, Wataru. Do It Yourself Shiatsu. New York ASI Publishing,
Tappan, Frances M. Healing Massage Techniques A Study of
Eastern and Western Methods. Reston, Va. Reston Publishing
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Shiatsu Japanese Massage. httpwww.rianvisser.nlshiatsu
e_index.htm. March 31, 2000.