Shiatsu, a Short History

Often confused with the Japanese fluffy pooch Shih Tzu, Shiatsu is actually a Japanese word meaning finger pressure. It's foundations are from China and uses the same principles as acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine to diagnose. Stone needles where found in Chinese graves dating back to 8000 BC and though it is usually assumed that Shiatsu is derived from acupuncture, it's likely that it could even predate the prickly magic of needle therapy. As touch is an instinctive form of comfort and healing it's a fair assumption to make that these points where rubbed and palpated long before needles came into the picture. It's hard to prove either way, but what is clear is the principle of enhancing health and well being by stimulating specific points on the body has been applied in the East since ancient times.

Once Chinese medicine became the principle approach to treating health, the Japanese evolved a type of pressure massage specific to the abdomen and refined the art of this touch to the most detailed of forms. Practitioners would spend up to 12 years training how to diagnose and treat ill health through palpating the abdomen. To this day, Shiatsu uses these techniques to form the basis of diagnoses and treatment.

It followed a journey that fluctuated between the chosen treatment of the court, and a chosen offering in the bathhouses, loosing it's credibility through adoption as only a relaxing massage rather than a remedial one until 1925 when a Shiatsu Therapists Association was set up and Tokujiro Namikoshi founded the Clinic of Pressure Therapy. The clinic encompassed a western scientific approach to Shiatsu and remains the dominant approach taught and practiced in Japan. Repressed for a period during the American occupation it wasn't until the 1970's that Shiatsu got its next breath of life. Shizunto Masunaga who was a professor of Psychology in Tokyo encompassed his psychological approach with ancient traditional oriental texts and his knowledge of modern western physiology. This became known as Zen Shiatsu as is the most popular form of Shiatsu practiced in the West.

Since Masunaga's death in the early 80s his students and followers of his style have expanded and refined the field and Shiatsu remains an ever-growing therapy with varying directions, research and discoveries. The fundamental basis of Shiatsu diagnosis and treatment is that a person's body, mind, emotions and spirit are expressions of each other and can only be effectively treated by understanding a person's discomforts and pains from all of these perspectives. Mental, emotional or even spiritual dis-ease can be alleviated through the physical touch of Shiatsu.