The Japanese word « shiatsu » means literally « pressure with the fingers » (shi : fingers and atsu : to press). The name appeared in 1939 in a book by Tempeki Tamae (Shiatsu Hô). But the technique gained a lot of popularity thanks to Tokujiro Namikoshi. The Japanese Ministry of Health decided there was a difference with massage in 1964. The Japanese make therefore a clear distinction between massage and shiatsu (and lots of other techniques).
In the West nobody has to this day really sought to define shiatsu and it is generally called a massage. This is not shocking disturbing, it depends on what you consider, and we should avoid stiff categories.
Looking at the roots, before he adopted the name ‘Shiatsu’, Mr Namikoshi described his method as ‘Appaku Hô’, which means pressure method. Mr Serizawa, who conducted detailed research on methods using pressure points, says that eastern methods, like Anma or Shiatsu, use tsubo (pressure points) along a meridian system and cannot be considered as massage.
Using tsubo and meridians, Shiatsu is related to Eastern philosophy and medicine, which also implies an understanding and a vision of mankind and universe based on concepts like Yin and Yang, the 5 movements, the 5 spirits, the 12 meridians, the 8 curious vessels, the creating cycle, the overcoming cycle, KI energy, unity of body and mind… This is a holistic vision of men and women, seen as a microcosm and a reflection of macrocosm.
This vision has been developed in very ancient books, like « The Yellow Emperor », the Nan Jing, the Yi Jing… Those books are still the fundaments of shiatsu today.
Looking at a shiatsu session, you might think of massage at some time, but also of kinesitherapy, osteopathy, gymnastics (e.g. stretching, Qi Gong… The difference is that we work on energy through tsubos and meridians. And therefore, besides pressing, we use techniques we borrowed from numerous disciplines, also from the West. Shiatsu is by nature a syncretism, it integrates several evolutions without losing its spirit. On the contrary a massotherapist might use shiatsu points to enrich his techniques.
No stiff categories, as we said, but anyway, it would be better to have a special category for shiatsu, like in Japan.
When you come to Shinmon, what kind of shiatsu do you receive? I had the great opportunity to study with Yuichi Kawada Sensei, a Japanese Master who has settled in Brussels and founded the Yoseido Shiatsu School. Master Kawada comes from a family of shiatsu practicioners for generations. He received teaching from his father who was a famous practicioner. He graduated from the Nippon Shiatsu School and holds the official Certificate of the Japanese State.
I completed this training with other insights and techniques from different masters. This is the spirit of shiatsu.
Which ones, you can discover here.