Shiatsu (Kanji: 指圧 Hiragana: しあつ) in Japanese means "finger pressure". It is based on the concepts of "qi", "Meridian Lines" and the system of "five phases" (five-element theory) in in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Within this traditional medicine, a practitioner determines what he or believes is wrong with a person by abdominal palpitation and by pulse diagnosis. Unlike acupuncture and acupressure not only individual points are stimulated on the body, but the whole body is often stimulated, along the connecting "meridians", using finger and palm pressure, stretches, and other massage techniques. In addition, shiatsu also includes a variety of mobilization movements.
Shiatsu was derived from anma, which in turn is thought to have been developed from Tui Na, whose techniques arrived in Japan during the Nara period (710–793 CE). Tokujiro Namikoshi (1905-2000) founded his shiatsu college in the 1940s, and is often credited with inventing modern shiatsu.
Shiatsu (Kanji: 指圧 Hiragana: しあつ) in Japanese means "finger pressure". It is based on the concepts of qi, Meridian Lines and the system of "five phases" (five-element theory) in in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Within this traditional medicine, a practitioner determines what he or believes is wrong with a person by abdominal ("hara") palpitation (ampuku), developed by Shinsai Ota in the seventeenth century, and by pulse diagnosis. Unlike acupuncture and acupressure not only individual points are stimulated on the body. The whole body is often stimulated, along the connecting meridians, using finger and palm pressure, stretches, and other massage techniques. In addition, Shiatsu also includes a variety of mobilization movements.
Shiatsu is usually practiced on a mat or a special futon on the floor.
Shiatsu was derived from anma, which in turn is thought to have been developed from Tui Na. Tui Na techniques arrived in Japan during the Nara period (710–793 CE), along with other techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and were practiced in government-sponsored hospitals. Anma as a unique system was founded 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 in mobile massage capacities, and paying commissions to their referrers.
Since Sugiyama's time, massage in Japan had been strongly associated with the blind. 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 trope in Japanese culture. This has continued into the modern era, with a large proportion of the Japanese blind community continuing to work in the profession.
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 entreated 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 is often credited with inventing modern shiatsu. His legacy was the state recognition of Shiatsu as an independent method of treatment in Japan. However, the term shiatsu was already in use in 1919, when a book called "Shiatsu Ho" ("finger pressure method") was published, and in 1925 the Shiatsu Therapists Association began, with the purpose of distancing shiatsu from Anma massage.
Namikoshi's school taught shiatsu within a framework of western medical science. A student and teacher of this school, Shizuto Masunaga, brough shiatsu back to traditional eastern medicine and philosophic framework. He founded Zen Shiatsu and the Iokai Shiatsu Center school.
Official Japanese government definition
Shiatsu in Japan is regulated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, their official definition states "Shiatsu therapy is a form of manipulation administered by the thumbs, fingers and palms, without the use of any instrument, mechanical or otherwise, to apply pressure to the human skin, to correct internal malfunctioning, promote and maintain health and treat specific diseases".
According to Cancer Research UK, "There is no scientific evidence to prove that shiatsu can cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer. Also, a lack of high quality research so far means there is currently no scientific evidence to support the use of shiatsu for controlling cancer symptoms. This doesn't mean that shiatsu doesn't work in controlling symptoms or side effects, simply that it has not yet been tested properly."
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