"Shiatsu" is a Japanese word meaning "finger pressure" and is based on the circulation of energy theory, or ‘Chi,’ in the body. ”The massage uses light to deep pressure on a series of points along the meridians designed to open the flow of energy and encourage healing and balance.“
The Japanese had been practicing their own style of Anma massage (similar to Tui Na) since the Edo Period (1602-1868). Although Shiatsu traces its origins back to this earlier time, it acquired its unique characteristics only in the last century. It was during this time that Japan was more open to Western ideas than China, and there were two historical events in particular that shaped the development of Shiatsu.
Around 1900, the government established licensing laws for practicing Anma. In part, this was a response to the increasing influence of scientifically based Western medicine, which the government hoped to encourage by these laws. There may also have been a desire to control Anma practitioners who had strayed into providing questionable forms of relaxation rather than therapeutic massage. In response to the new licensing laws, legitimate Anma practitioners began to call their work Shiatsu (which means "finger pressure") and to emphasize the therapeutic benefits.
There are three main styles or theoretical schools, each identified with an individual who provided the original distinctive style:
Namikoshi (Nippon style), Masunaga (Zen Shiatsu), and Serizawa (Acupressure Shiatsu).
Shiatsu practitioners perform Shiatsu by pressing with their thumbs, fingers, and palms on Shiatsu points throughout the body to enhance the body's natural healing ability and prevent the progression of a disease. Shiatsu points are called "Tsubo" in Japanese. Their location and the effect of Shiatsu on them is based on an understanding of modern Anatomy and Physiology. These points are effective in treating all body systems including the Integumentary, Muscular, Nervous, Circulatory, Skeletal, Endocrine, and Digestive systems. They are applicable only to Shiatsu Therapy and are not related to ancient "Chinese Meridians" for Acupuncture, Moxibustion or Anma therapy.
The Japanese expression "Shindan soku Chiryo", means "Diagnosis and Therapy Combined" and is the essence of Shiatsu. The thumbs, fingers, and palms of trained and experienced Shiatsu practitioners are sensitive enough to detect, on contact, irregularities in the skin, muscles or body temperature. Relating to "the Cutaneo-visceral Reflexes", in the course of practical experience, Shiatsu practitioners are able to locate abnormalities and ascertain their degree, as well as determining the condition of the organs. When detecting abnormalities, Shiatsu practitioners apply Shiatsu as a treatment at the same time. The amount of pressure and its tempo are gauged to apply the correct and appropriate pressure for each patient - sometimes strong or soft - quick or slow. Lacking the sensitivity of the hand, knuckles, elbows, knees, and feet are not used for application of pressure during treatments by Shiatsu practitioners.
In 1955, Shiatsu Therapy was first authorized by the Ministry of Health in Japan. At that time the Ministry mistakenly assumed that Shiatsu and Western massage were partially Anma, a type of Acupressure massage from ancient China. In 1964, The Ministry of Health in Japan realized that Japanese Shiatsu and Western massage didn't belong to Traditional Chinese Medicine and amended the law so that Anma from China, Shiatsu from Japan and Massage from the West were all realized as different and unique therapies. Finally, Shiatsu Therapy obtained legal acknowledgement as a unique therapy.
Today, in Japan, the Ministry of Health authorizes Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Anma, Massage and Shiatsu as "Alternative Therapies" which it regulates under the license system. This licensing system has promoted a misunderstanding that Shiatsu belongs to traditional Chinese Medicine. This is because the Japanese Ministry of Health considers Japanese Shiatsu, Western Massage, and Anma, (all hands on therapies) to be in one category, As such, they all come under one license.
Shiatsu is effective as a therapy for specific conditions such as back or shoulder aches, arthritis, digestive, respiratory or immune deficiencies, shiatsu can also be used to maintain good health. Recipients report Shiatsu had helped them with headaches, premenstrual discomforts, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, whiplash, and other injuries.
Shiatsu can be very helpful for postural and musculoskeletal problems and stress-related conditions.
It can also help if you suffer from a 'sub-clinical' state of ill health. This means your symptoms haven't progressed to the point where standard medical treatment is called for, but you would like to address them before they develop further.
Lisa was fortunate enough to have as one of her teachers at Shonan College the famous Acupressure Shiatsu Sensei Katsusuke Serizawa.
Katsusuke Serizawa studied physical therapy and Oriental Medicine in addition to Shiatsu. For many years Sensei Serizawa studied and documented the physical existence of the pressure points (Tsubo points) using electrometric measuring instruments. He published many research studies and in 1961 was awarded a Doctor of Medicine degree from Tokyo University. Serizawa's research expanded the therapeutic and scientific foundation of Oriental Bodywork. He founded an approach to Oriental bodywork called Tsubo Therapy which Lisa also studied and practices.
Oriental medicine -– particularly Tsubo therapy — can put the entire physical organism in good working condition and can be used for both chronic symptoms and for psychologically caused sickness. It is because of this that it offers hope for further, more complete agreement with the medical science of the west.