Shiatsu Massage


Shiatsu is a non-invasive therapy that may help reduce stress and contribute to overall well being. It can  be  both preventative and remedial in its effects.

Shiatsu can be used in the treatment of a wide range of internal, musculoskeletal, and emotional conditions. It is thought to reduce muscle stiffness, stimulate the skin, aid digestion, and influence the nervous system. Shiatsu is used to treat a wide range of chronic conditions, such as headaches, PMS, digestive disorders, fatigue, insomnia, fibromyalgia, stress, anxiety, and muskuloskeletal pain, including low back, neck, and joint pain.

The effect may be stimulating and invigorating or calming and sedative, depending on the aim of the session.

Shiatsu evolved from anma, a Japanese massage modality developed in 1320 by Akashi Kan Ichi.

Anma was popularised in the seventeenth century by Acupuncturist Sugiyama Waichi, and around the same time the first books on the subject, including Fujibayashi Ryohaku’s Anma Tebiki (“Manual of Anma”), appeared. The Fujibayashi school carried anma into the modern age. Prior to the emergence of shiatsu in Japan, masseurs were often nomadic, earning their keep by mobile massage like many masseurs of today.

Since Sugiyama’s time, massage in Japan had been strongly associated with the blind and while working in China I had regular massages from the Blind Anma specialists of Cheng Du.  Sugiyama, blind himself, established a number of medical schools for the blind which taught this practice. During the Tokugawa period, edicts were passed which made the practice of anma solely the preserve of the blind – sighted people were prohibited from practicing the art. As a result, the “blind anma” has become a popular  in Japanese culture to the point that the Government give preferred placement to Blind people at the colleges that train them. A large proportion of the Japanese blind community continuing to work in the profession and I was lucky enough to learn from an Australian Master but also have many sessions critiqued by a Blind Practitioner from Japan.

Abdominal palpation “Hara Diagnosis” is very much a part of this Japanese diagnostic system, much the way the Eastern Traditions also use pulse diagnosis and it is considered to have been developed by Shinsai Ota in the 17th century.

During the Occupation of Japan by the Allies after World War II, traditional medicine practices were banned (along with other aspects of traditional Japanese culture) by General MacArthur. The ban prevented a large proportion of Japan’s blind community from earning a living. Many Japanese protested for this ban to be rescinded. Additionally, writer and advocate for blind rights Helen Keller, on being made aware of the prohibition, interceded with the United States government; at her urging, the ban was rescinded.

Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905-2000) founded his shiatsu college in the 1940s and his legacy was the state recognition of Shiatsu as an independent method of treatment in Japan. He is often credited with inventing modern shiatsu. However, the term shiatsu was already in use in 1919, when a book called “Shiatsu Ho” (“finger pressure method”) was published by Tamai Tempaku. Also prior to Namakoshi’s system, in 1925 the Shiatsu Therapists Association began, with the purpose of distancing shiatsu from Anma massage.

Namikoshi’s school however taught shiatsu within a framework of western medical science. A student and teacher of Namakoshi’s school, Shizuto Masunaga, brought shiatsu back to traditional eastern medicine and philosophic framework. Masunaga grew up in a family of shiatsu practitioners, with his mother having studied with Tamai Tempaku. He founded Zen Shiatsu and the Iokai Shiatsu Center school. Another student of Namakoshi, Hiroshi Nozaki founded the Hiron Shiatsu a holistic technique of shiatsu that uses intuitive techniques and spiritual approach to healing which identifies ways how to take responsibility for a healthy and happy life in your own hands. It is practiced mainly in Switzerland, France and Italy where its founder opened several schools.

It is the Masunaga school that Stephen’s linage is from, having studied a Diploma of Zen Shiatsu over three years in Sydney as his undergraduate training. He has applied his skills since 1991 in Bodywork and Remedial & Sports Massage with his Formal Chinese & Japanese Acupuncture training and his education as a Buddhist Chaplain to offer his very special blend of Shiatsu.

What happens in a Shiatsu Session?

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