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What is Shiatsu





This term designates a manual technique which consists of natural pressures carried out on the body with the fingers or the palm of your hand without the use of other instruments that stand between the operator and those who receive treatment.

Shiatsu acts on the energy flow of  human being by strengthening and supporting the body's natural ability to self-healing and  rebalancing.



Oriental tradition describes the world in terms of energy.


All things are considered to be manifestations of a vital universal force, called 'Ki' by the Japanese, ''Chi", or 'Qi', in China. Ki is the primary substance and motive force of life. It is most often described as "energy", but Ki is also synonymous with breath in the Japanese and Chinese languages.

In Oriental medicine, harmony of Ki within the human body is conceived as being essential to health.

The philosophy underlying Shiatsu is that Ki flows throughout the body in a series of channels called meridians. For many different reasons Ki can stop flowing freely and this then produces a symptom.


 Shiatsu pressure, constant in the amount of weight, static and performed slowly allows to act not only on the physical body but also on the mind of the recipient, by contacting his energy deeper level and thus all aspects of his reality.

Another feature of the manipulation Shiatsu is to be performed without muscular effort, using only the weight of the body of those who operate and always perpendicular to the zone or to the point that is being treated.

Shiatsu is a deeply relaxing experience and regular Shiatsu sessions help to prevent the build up of stress in our daily lives.


Treatable Conditions


Common conditions which have been helped by Shiatsu include:


  • relieves tension

  • wellbeing

  • helps aid sleep

  • helps relaxation


Your Shiatsu practitioner will consider your state of health, the symptoms you are experiencing and, depending on your constitution and general energy levels, will use a variety of techniques to improve your energy flow. These may include gentle holding, pressing with palms, thumbs, fingers, elbows, knees and feet on the meridians and, when appropriate, more dynamic rotations and stretches.

As the quality of Ki changes, the symptoms associated with a lack of flow will gradually improve. Shiatsu is a therapy that works on the individual as a complete being - not just the physical body but also on an emotional and/or mental level.

Guidelines for receiving Shiatsu


Please bring or wear loose, warm, comfortable clothing, preferably cotton, e.g. sweatshirt, tracksuit trousers and cotton socks.

Do not eat heavily in the two hours prior to treatment.

Do not drink alcohol before or after treatment.

After treatment drink plenty of water to smooth the flow of changes through the system.

If at all possible avoid strenuous or stressful activities after your session.



What to expect in a Shiatsu treatment


  • Each session lasts approximately one hour.

  • The first session may be slightly longer since your practitioner may ask for details of your current state of health, any medical conditions, history, and lifestyle. The practitioner may take written notes.

  • You remain fully clothed at all times.

  • The session usually takes place on a padded mat or futon at floor level, although it is possible to receive Shiatsu seated or on a treatment couch.

  • Your practitioner will treat your whole body by using finger or palm pressure or sometimes, if needed, using knees, elbows and feet.

  • Shiatsu can involve rotation and stretches of joints and limbs.

  • Following Shiatsu, due to the body’s natural healing process, there can be a feeling of increased vitality and you may feel invigorated yet relaxed. To experience the full benefits you may wish to rest for an hour or two after having received Shiatsu.

Shiatsu: origins, evolution and birth


1911 From this date in Japan arises the idea of ​​isolating the act pressure, until then present only as a component in sporadic treatments Anma (chinese treatment  Anmo imported from Japan), giving it a self-healing.


To this form of intervention based on the pressure with the hands on the body was given the name of Shiatsu we know today.


1919  was published the first book on Shiatsu, entitled "Shiatsu-ho", by Tamai Tempaku, expert in Anpuku, Anma and Do-in, whose influence was decisive in the formation of two important personalities like Tokujiro  Namikoshi and Shizuto Masunaga, who will spread Shiatsu worldwide.


 1955 Shiatsu was officially recognized by Health Minister  as a particular manipulative treatment based on pressure but however was  framed in the world of massage techniques called Anma.


 1964 new legislation called with the name of Shiatsu, a form of autonomous treatment  completely  distinct both from Anma and western massage practiced in Japan.


Tokujiro Namikoshi was the first to write an essential teaching organization  to Shiatsu .

We must all be grateful to Tokujiro Namikoshi for his work as a scholar and researcher and for spreading Shiatsu in Japan from the thirties until his death.

Thanks to him Shiatsu was officially recognized by the japanese government. For this reason we consider him the "father" of Shiatsu.

We must not forget, however, the historic "founding father" of Shiatsu, Tamai Tempaku ,  a Chinese energy medicine expert, who first realized that some Amna techniques constituted  a new, independent and sophisticated method of manual treatment and who first contributed to his disclosure since 1911, when Namikoshi was just a baby .



 Master Shizuto Masunaga, initially assistant of Namikoshi helped Shiatsu to express its identity based on the energetic vision of the receiver as a person and not just as a physical body, which show a symptom.


Leaving to others the task of deepening and explain in detail the work of Masunaga, the following points of his teaching, in my opinion, are not to be forgotten.


1) The confirmation and deepening, in the treatment strategies,  of Traditional Chinese Medicine thought as a fundamental foundation of Shiatsu.


2) The development of a systematic method that uses  Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians in order to obtain precise information on  energy and health person conditions.

Masunaga discovers that the acupuncture meridians have extensions in other areas of the body , calls just today "Masunaga meridians extensions".

This leads us to consider that the same function is represented reflexively on a larger body surface area .


3) The identification on the abdomen and on the back of special areas that allow to make an assessment of the energy status of the organs and its specific treatment.

4) The introduction of pressure tecnique  with two separate hands.

This tecnique significantly improves the relationship that is established between the operator and the receiving in their communication at multiple levels and the effectiveness of the treatment itself.

If Namikoshi treatment pressure is established through the contact exerted on the body with one hand or both hands together, the Masunaga variant  adds also the possibility of having a permanent contact with one hand (called mother hand or fixed hand ) in a given area, while the other (called daughter hand or mobile hand ) establishes a new contact with the pressure that stimulates another area or the path of a meridian.


In a Shiatsu treatment with two separete  hands is greater  the importance  of the operator sensitivity  during the execution of the pressure,

which turns out to be more and more the result of a careful introspective and deep listening to the reactions of the recipient.

The treatment in two separate hands determines a high quality of contact and relationship with the recipient, who receives a treatment that leads him to have a special feeling of unity in his body and of this one with  mind and spirit.



Douglas Gattini  Copyright 1999




Tokujiro Namikoshi

Shizuto Masunaga

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