The oldest identifiable roots of Shiatsu are those found in ancient Chinese medicine in the healing art of Doin-Ankyo. The self-healing practices of Doin developed flexibility, sensory awareness and energetic ki strength in the practitioner. On the other hand, the training in the techniques of Ankyo such as massage, pressure point techniques and joint manipulation was utilized in healing others. Furthermore, patients then used Doin exercises to aid their recovery and maintain good health. Practitioners too benefited from performing Ankyo through the activation of their energetic body and working with the power of positive intention. Together this harmonious and complementary relationship forms the base upon which shiatsu developed.
In the recorded history of manual therapy an observable trend can be seen, whereby therapies experience a stage of flowering, growth and then decline. This can be seen with Anma, the traditional Japanese massage therapy and immediate predecessor of what we now call shiatsu. It was widely mentioned in scriptures from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220). At that time, when manual therapy was a highly regarded medical discipline, Anma was considered a very powerful healing technique. However, when therapeutic focus shifted away and toward providing relaxation and pleasure, ongoing research and development declined.
Chinese medicine is only one of many fields that have influenced Japanese culture. However, there were significant outcomes for medical practice with techniques being introduced, absorbed and refined into new methods such as Hara-tori and Fudu. These used hand pressure to palpate the abdomen or Hara in order to diagnose and treat the meridians.
Outside influences were to continue to shape the path of Shiatsu’s development, none more so than during the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Then western ideas about anatomy, physiology, pathology and practices such as psychotherapy were to have significant impacts and lead to rapid changes in the practice of medical treatment. Its rationales and processes came to be explained in a more logical and scientific manner. Emphasis was placed on technical and material terminology. Many schools shifted away from traditional teaching methods that considered the spiritual and holistic aspects of treatment. The shift to mass education saw teaching approaches that focused on the study of knowledge in written form, memorization of meridian charts, and techniques based on fixed sequences of points. In many cases, concepts such as ki and meridians came to be seen as belonging to a backward culture based on superstition and were discarded. Such a focus on technical and theoretical knowledge saw the traditional methods fall in the estimation of the public and eventually become secondary to Western medicine.
During the Taiso period (1912-1925), however, therapists again started working with and articulating the effectiveness of manual therapy that was centered on the correspondence between mind and body. In 1919, with the publication of Shiatsu Ho (The Shiatsu method) by Tempaku Temai, the term Shiatsu entered into widespread use. These new therapists practiced the pressure techniques of Anma, while combining their approach with other therapeutic practices including psychotherapy. In 1964, the success of their endeavors was acknowledged, when the Japanese government officially recognized Shiatsu as a unique therapeutic method.
When Tokujiro Namikoshi published his bestselling book, Do It Yourself – 3 Minute Shiatsu, it dramatically helped in raising the profile of Shiatsu in Japan. The Namikoshi technique integrated Anma, Swedish massage, Physiotherapy and Acupressure. Shiatsu’s popularity in the western world was boosted by the book’s translation into multiple languages and aided by Namikoshi’s treatment of famous westerners including Henry Kissinger, Marilyn Monroe and Mohammed Ali. He is best known for his saying: “The heart of Shiatsu is like the heart of a mother”.
Master Shizuto Masunaga was the founder of Zen Shiatsu and trained with Master Namikoshi. He came from a family of Shiatsu therapists and studied Shiatsu and Psychotherapy. In his clinical practice he started investigating the meridian system. His research sought a way to integrate the ancient Chinese approaches to working with ki and the meridians. In the Chinese Classics he found explanations for the response patterns he was experiencing clinically, but evolved them further when they could not fully explain what he was observing.
Thus he discovered that the twelve classical meridians circulated in all of the limbs and further developed a meridian diagnosis system based on palpating the abdomen or hara. His contributions to shiatsu practice also included a whole body basic form and the refined techniques of working with the forearms and knees. So helping avoid over reliance on the thumbs and hand pressure. The success of his research can be witnessed in the expansion of Zen Shiatsu around the world. It signified the reemergence of Shiatsu as a central pillar of Oriental medicine, reflecting the position that Doin-Ankyo once held in Ancient China.
Tzvika Calisar’s research focus was to now shift toward the aspect of Seiki. He continued researching independently and developed the Seiki Shiatsu method. It is based on the two complementary principles: the Yin – empathy and intention from the heart of the therapist and the Yang – the application of accurately angled and continuous pressure. By synchronizing the application of pressure with the heart’s intention, Seiki Shiatsu reignites and strengthens the patient’s internal healing power.
The Seiki flowing through the meridians is able to be stimulated through the network of pressure points (tsubo) that act as gateways to the energetic body. The therapist unifies and connects with the internal Seiki of the patient and synchronizes their intention and actions to its response. This calms the oppositional forces in the body and increases the strength and radiance of the flow of Seiki. Jaki’s dysfunctional, negative qualities begin to dissolve in the transformation to life energy.
Every particle in our bodies is absolutely essential to the integrity of our being (the wholeness). Similarly, the essence of our being exists in each and every particle. In attempting to follow this approach to the life processes, Tzvika Calisar discovered the Surrounding Meridian Circulation. The Seiki Meridian Charts he produced show a clear projection of the pathways that enable the deepening of effective treatment and study in manual therapy.