Interview: Yahiro Yuji sensei, founder of Meiso Shiatsu

Interview: Yahiro Yuji sensei, founder of Meiso Shiatsu

Of the Japanese pioneers who introduced Shiatsu to Europe, Yuji Yahiro sensei is one of the most famous names who have influenced the entire Italian peninsula. His career reveals an unconventional personality drawn, from his young age, to develop a deep spirituality. It is thanks to this quest for spirituality that he has established bonds with giants such as Taisen Deshimaru, Masanobu Fukuoka, Shizuto Masunaga or Masahiro Oki. He has agreed to reveal himself to us in this superb interview in which he talks about his life, his Shiatsu and his endless quest to become “a true human being”.


Ivan Bel: Hello Sensei and thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Before we start, I would like to know how you are and whether your family is in good health.

Yuji Yahiro: Looking at me, what do you think?… If you are alive, it means that you are doing fine.

I usually start my interview with questions about people’s lives, but I can’t help asking you something that puzzles me right now. How is it that in your Shiatsu school you also have a Taiko school? That’s amazing!

Now our group is registered under the name “Okido Mikkyo Yoga Book University”.

In our place of study, we have 4 sections: Okido Yoga, Meiso Shiatsu, Naturopathy and the art of Munedaiko (the universal sound of the Japanese drum).

The Munedaiko group, whose founding members are my three sons, established its association on their own. It is recognized by the Japanese Embassy as a representative of traditional cultural art. Before joining forces and co-operating, each of my children traced their own path of research.

Yahiro sensei happy in his large family. (c) Yuji Yahiro

Let’s come to you. Where were you born? What kind of family did you grow up in? I know that your family heritage is quite important. Can you tell us about it?

Abe Dozan, Yahiro sensei’s maternal grandfather was a monk (c) Yuji Yahiro

My family name is Yahiro. This surname is already mentioned in the oldest Japanese writings, from the 8th century. Back in those days, in Tokyo, 12 centuries ago, the Palace where the government gathered was called the Yahiro Palace. So probably our ancestors were part of the government apparatus. Then the family moved to Osaka, 600 km away from Tokyo, probably sent there, with the position of foreign minister. At the time I was born, Nara was still the capital for the foreign relations and Tokyo was the capital of Japan.

After that, they became samurai. In 1868 the Samurai era ended, but in the rural areas the tradition remained for a long time. Today the code has disappeared, it is nearly gone! My grandfather was half-samurai, half-farmer. Around the castle there were cultivated lands and he oversaw the peasants/workers and when it was required, he would go to the castle. He was a martial arts teacher, and my father also was a martial arts teacher. He was a policeman and during the war he taught Ju Jitsu and bayonet (Ndr: jūkendō (銃剣道). At the end of the war, because my father was an officer, it was very difficult for him to obtain a job. He passed away at the age of 48. His dream was to travel the world. In fact, I have fulfilled my father’s dream.

Sensei, can you tell us about your mother?

My grandmother’s father was a sake producer from northern Japan. She should have inherited the factory because she was the first daughter and had no brother. On her way to the temple, which was acting as a school at the time, she fell in love with an orphaned monk. My mother was born from this union. My grandmother left her father’s house. They did not marry. My grandmother became a nun herself and lived alone in an abandoned temple for many years, but she did die in my father’s house. My grandfather, from my mother’s side, also became a famous monk in Japan.

Yahiro sensei’s mother at two very different times. She has always supported him in his choices to seek peace, spirituality and the study of Shiatsu (c) Yuji Yahiro

What is your date of birth Maestro?

I’m starting to get a bit tired with this question!

There is the physical age, the age registered at the town hall (civil age) and the spiritual age. We have different types of age. If you want to know my civilian age, I was born in 1951, on July 4.

Your spiritual age?

I don’t know, that’s the point! I always said 21, as soon as I started to grow up spiritually. When my first daughter reached 21, I added 1 year, so 22 years old as to be at least one year older than her. At 40, I stopped the birthdays, at 50, I reopened the birthdays and was grateful for the life’s gift. Thinking I was sixty, I went to the jungle in India to do a 33-day fast. When I came back, I realized that I had mistaken my age, I thought I was sixty but in fact I was still 58… Anyway, when I came back, my children told me that I was looking younger.

This morning I measured my weight according to my age: I was 60!

So according to the civil registry, my age is 70, my physical age measured against my weight is 60 and spiritually I have no clue!

On a more serious note, my greatest interest is to become a spiritual adult before I die, to become a true human being.

What kind of child or teenager were you? It is said that you were a bit of a troublemaker, is that true?

Schoolboy Yuji Yahiro (second from right), a somewhat unruly child (c) Yuji Yahiro

In the post-war kindergarten, there were many children, so my father had a hard time finding a place for me. At the beginning of kindergarten, I was already fighting with everyone and after a few days, I no longer attended. Similarly, in the early days of elementary school, I often clashed with other kids.

But deep inside themselves, those who remember me say that I was kind.

When I was about 9 years old, following an incident which ended up with a lot of blood loss, my character changed considerably, and I became more peaceful.

At the age of 13, you were already practicing Shiatsu and Prana therapy, and you knew that it was possible to help people where Western medicine failed to do so. Can you elaborate on that?

When I was ten years old, my father passed away before my eyes. This was certainly a turning point in triggering something more in me. At the age of twelve, at the end of elementary school, I was appointed as a school representative for 1800 students. Already at that time I felt that school studies were not of any use, that it was not fulfilling me, so I looked for other texts in libraries or bookstores and finally also communicated with a monk living in a shrine. One day, my sister had a headache that would not get away, even with medication. My mother took her to the monk in the temple, and after the monk treated her, the pain was gone. After a while, she suffered from abdominal pain. I recalled that the monk had placed his fingers on her forehead, so I thought I would do the same thing by putting my hands on her abdomen. My sister told me that she felt a kind of electric flow. After that, the stomach pains were gone. That was my first experience with healing. My mother was proud of my natural ability, she was herself practicing natural medicine as an amateur, so she took me to the neighbouring houses, to the hospital, to offer my services to people who had aches. My teachers were the people who had troubles.

The spiritual quest is so strong that at the age of 15 you decided to walk across Japan, what was your motivation?

I made this trip because I was seeking peace in the world.

But to have peace in the world, is just simply walking enough?

Everyone must be at peace. You must begin with yourself. I have been to many peace conventions, but I have seldom seen any peace in the hearts of the people who have attended.

Young Yahiro with his grandmother (c) Yuji Yahiro

Since you were living in the south, I assume you went north? How long did it take you? As a young teenager, wasn’t it too strenuous to do it alone? What happened?

At that time, many people were already starting to go to college, so my school principal called up my mom and me to discuss. He suggested that I finish school and then carry on the trip later. I said, “Tomorrow my life is not guaranteed, what I want to do now is best if I do it now”. My mother encouraged me in my choice by telling me: “My son is now an adult; I respect his choice”.

On the day of departure, my grandmother and mother bowed to me in greeting. My trip through Japan lasted about a year. I travelled all over Japan.

You went through many wildernesses, forests, how did you sleep, eat?

When there was no food, I didn’t eat, it just meant that there was more time to walk, if you can drink water, life doesn’t die easily. Occasionally someone would also offer me food, a lunch, not too often though. Very often I would sleep in the street, sometimes I was invited into houses, other times I slept in hostels.

One day I was walking, and it was pitch black, I fell asleep and the next morning as I woke up, I noticed that I was in a cemetery. If I had known that I would never have fallen asleep!!!

What happened after this journey?

It was a good experience, lived amid so many adventures, with the support of so many strangers and with so much criticism and reproach from adults. My journey also drew the interest of many university students who would have loved to have had the same experience and who invited me to share how I lived this journey. It was tiring but it helped me a lot. I became more self-confidence.

Yahiro sensei (right) with martial arts master Minoru Mochizuki [1] at left (c) Yuji Yahiro

You have been in a Shinto monastery where you have been initiated to various disciplines. What were they?

When I was a child, my family used to go to a shrine founded by Kukai [2], a famous Japanese monk, in the 1700s. So I followed a monk. Basically, the life of this monk was a great inspiration for me. Since my father’s death, a deep interest in the meaning of life had arisen in me.

They didn’t instruct me or teach me any skills; you could say I stole them. The Mikkyo world could be seen as “unteachable”. Those who really want to learn do so without being taught. It is much more challenging, but it is said that “if you feel one thing you will understand it 100 times more”. I was not taught but I learned and at the end the monk gave me a diploma that certifies my skills in moxibustion and alternative medicine, I was 17 years old.

So, for Shiatsu you have not studied classically by going to Tokyo to the Namikoshi or Masunaga school, is that right?

I did not attend any school. I never joined as a student, I had relationships with these people but not as a student.

Clearly this was not enough for you as you left Japan and travelled the world, starting with Australia and then Southeast Asia. Can you talk to me about this period of your life? Did you leave right after your journey?

Not right away, but soon after, because it was not allowed for Japanese transportation to reach freely the rest of the world. In Australia, there was also a kind of apartheid, and it was not easy entering.

When I left Japan with my passport, I could only travel to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. [3]

Why were you interested in moving to Australia?

After my father’s death, I studied various simulations and thought that if there would be a third world war, Australia would be spared.

Can you tell us what you have done there, where you have lived?

When I left Japan, I only had 87 dollars in my pocket. When I went to change money at the bank, the teller asked me, “Are these few coins an addition to a previous deposit?” I replied, “No, this is all I have.” He asked me again, “What is the expected duration of your trip?” My answer, “Minimum one year, if it is possible forever.” I wasn’t so worried about the lack of food, because thanks to my previous experience, I knew that people don’t die so easily. The cashier looked at me with bright eyes and stood up to shake my hand and compliment me. I can’t tell you everything that happened here, but one day I will.

I travelled all over Australia. I first went to Melbourne and then Sydney. In Melbourne, I worked for a Honda branch that sold spare parts. Then I went to work in a Japanese restaurant, I was washing dishes, then I also worked as a waiter and finally as a cook, and cleaning… I was working 20 hours a day, then I had a job in a famous and very luxurious hotel.

In Australia, you started to do Shiatsu, did it work out well?

Yes, I practiced in a clinic behind the hotel where I was employed. We put an ad in the newspaper but as nobody knew the name of Shiatsu, we named it “Nervous Points Massage”…. 15 hours of daily Shiatsu !!!

This reminds me of other masters who came like Kawada in Belgium, Ohashi in America, countries where nobody knew Shiastu and therefore it was necessary to promote it.

Yes, indeed it was like that.

I remember meeting Sasaki San in India in 1971 or 1972. He was in India on a mission about agriculture. I healed him and then he returned to Japan, he attended the Namikoshi school and then  Masunaga school before moving to Europe.

Meeting with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, whose personality made a strong impression on the young Yahiro (c) Yuji Yahiro

Did you start training people when you were in Australia?

No, I just worked, I didn’t give any training.

I had many jobs and eventually I started an import-export company. For a short period of time, I lived a comfortable life, but then I decided to leave everything to my colleagues. However, these colleagues continued to pay me dividends for next15 years in the hope that I would return one day. When I first entered Australia, it was the apartheid period and only 500 Japanese would be allowed in each year [4]. When I started this business, I was just over 20 and many were surprised at my young age.  However, after a short time, I left the comfortable life and moved away.

I wanted to go to South America, I paid for the ticket, but I got conned in Australia, the ticket never arrived. So, I changed my mind and went to Thailand. I opened an import/export company of various products, silk, leather goods….. I stayed in Thailand for almost 3 years.

Do you take advantage of your stay in Thailand to get closer to Thai medicine?

Before going to Australia, I had already been to Thailand and had taught there to 50 Thai massage therapists interested in Shiatsu. I also met an old Japanese man who was also teaching Japanese Amma massage to Thai people. At that time, the classical and serious Thai massage that is now practiced in temples was not well developed. Massage was primarily aimed at tourists for erotic purposes. It was at that time that the Thai people began to take an interest in meaningful massage.

How did you come to Italy?

I first went to Singapore and then via London, I arrived in Europe. And from there to Italy. As I was traveling, I had no intention of settling there.

Yahiro sensei in 1974, the year he arrived in Italy. (c) Yuji Yahiro

What was the purpose of these trips?

To travel, to discover, with no goal other than to explore.

Finally, you arrived in Italy in 1973. How and why did you choose to settle in this European country rather than another?

I had found a job as a therapist in a private clinic in Switzerland, but I had to wait 3 months before starting. In the meantime, I had decided to go on a trip to India with my brother as he was looking to return to Japan. However, there was an incident with our car which delayed our return to Switzerland. I would have had to wait even longer to work in this clinic so in the meantime I decided to go down to Italy. And by chance in Milan, I met Sensei Deshimaru.

Master Taisen Deshimaru was already a world famous and renowned Zen master. How did you meet him in Italy?

Deshimaru was in Milan for only seven days and I met him on the seventh day. You could say that he was a gift of God. He was holding a week of Zen Seshin at the Judo Busen Center of Maestro Barioli. Many great Italian Judo masters were born here. On this occasion I gave a massage to Master Deshimaru as an assessment. After he received it, he confirmed my abilities and introduced me to Master Barioli [5]. Thanks to Master Deshimaru I started to practice Shiatsu at the Milan’s Bu Sen.

In February 1974 you start to accept patients and in 1975 you begin to do “on demand” teaching at the Bu Sen Centre in Milan.

Bu Sen Centre means ” Specialisation school in martial arts “. Before I was accepted, I had to pass an examination with all the martial arts masters who were at the centre. After everyone confirmed that they were willing to accept me, a judoka had an accident during a practice session. His elbow joint had come out quite seriously. Maestro Barioli said, “Normally I am able to fix a number of incidents, but this seems too serious. Can you fix it with Shiatsu?” I succeeded in fixing it and that’s how Shiatsu started in Italy.

Yahiro sensei performing Shiatsu (c) Yuji Yahiro.

What do you remember about Taisen Deshimaru Roshi?

Many things! There was a great mutual respect, many fond memories… I don’t know which one to start with.

Did you go to La Gendronnière’s Temple, founded by Deshimaru?

Yes of course, he invited me. With him I trained in Zen practice, and he also assisted in my Shiatsu classes. I also had been granted my Zen monk name by Master Deshimaru: Reizen Taijin.

Was Master Deshimaru interested in Shiatsu and manual therapies?

At the end of his life, I was in Spain, working as a teacher for Shiatsu and acupuncture at the Tao Academy in Barcelona and in Madrid. At that same time, I got a telegram from the monk Guareschi, considered the representative of Zen in Italy, I flew to Paris and devoted myself entirely to him for a week. I gave him healing in his centre in Paris, did Moxa, acupuncture and Shiatsu and prepared all his meals. As a token of its appreciation, Deshimaru gave me a book with this dedication. “I had been treated by the best acupuncturist in France, but you, Yahiro, were the only one who could remove my symptoms. Thank you so much for the amazing technique of Oriental Medicine.” While in France, in inside the book I also found a letter written by Master Masunaga to Master Deshimaru on the occasion of the first international Shiatsu meeting held in France a year earlier. In this letter he had written: “In this international meeting, there is no presence of Yahiro who is in Italy. He is still young but smart, please support this boy. Interestingly, I had already met Deshimaru-San and it was thanks to him that I was able to stay in Italy. In the very last week of his life, Master Deshimaru offered to make myself known throughout the world and to use his estate at La Gendronnière to write a book.

So, you have been practicing moxibustion, acupuncture and even nutrition. As far as nutrition is concerned, were you influenced by the macrobiotics of Georges Oshawa [6] and his thoughts on the “Unique Principle”?

I was not introduced to macrobiotics. I was already involved in nutrition. Thanks to the success of Shiatsu treatments, many people came for a cure. At one stage, many of them had similar symptoms. I asked them what they were doing to get better. They replied that they were into macrobiotics. At that time, I didn’t know about macrobiotics, so when I learned that the founder was Japanese, I tried to understand why, despite this philosophy, so many people were still ill. So it was because of those circumstances that I started to study this philosophy and put it into actual practice to understand its effects on myself. As a result, I understood that many of those who followed it only took the most comfortable part of it, that is, they did not had a deeper understanding of it.

You say that people tend to get into macrobiotics superficially, taking only the most comfortable part, what is the deepness of macrobiotics?

All the rest, so many aspects are missing. Most people only study the easy, comfortable side of macrobiotics. I have noticed a partial study; people do not want to get bored. You have to study more, with no fixations.

Another personality with whom you had a close relationship was Shizuto Masunaga sensei. How did you meet him? Most Shiatsu teachers like to say that they were his students, but you were already trained in Shiatsu. So, what was your relationship? Was it a relationship of master and apprentice, or was it more like two researchers exchanging ideas and information with each other? How did the correspondence with Masunaga begin?

I did a lot of work in Milan and the serious cases were constantly rising, so I was looking for the best teachers in various fields to ask for guidance. So, I managed to find Master Masunaga. We exchanged hundreds of communications by writing. We talked more about philosophy than technique. In my opinion, since Masunaga had a degree in psychology, he was more of a philosopher than a therapist. Masunaga replied to me with extensive letters on all subjects in a very thorough way. I have learned from him the behaviour of seriousness, honesty and sincerity. They were not personal correspondence; they were study arguments, and he would post my letters on the bulletin board of his school for everyone to read.

It would be interesting to publish these letters!

Unfortunately, I had stored the letters in a small house that was flooded. I did not check the exact state of their conservation. Now they are stored in the attic and are at your disposal should you want to publish them one day.

As your success increases, you start to have more and more students. However, you decided to leave Milan for the Italian countryside. There you founded the Reishi Kai. What is the meaning of this word?

During my stay in Milan, a thought came to me. On one hand, as my days were packed with patients, I thought that if I had continued like this, I could have achieved worldwide fame, but on the other hand, I had doubts about carrying on with my life in this way. Life is so precious, I thought, isn’t there another way to make it more meaningful?

My purpose is to seek the truth and to become a true Human Being. At the end of this period, I was even invited by a chief surgeon of one of the biggest hospitals in Milan, Dr. Bisiani and his fellow surgeon Dr. Mocchi to work in their hospital. Truth is I was getting prepared to shut down everything and head to the desert or the jungle and stay there forever.

However, God is merciful and at the last moment, I met my current wife, we got married and went to live in her countryside house. I founded the REISHIKAI Association which means “Universal Soul Support”. In doing so, I convinced myself that I had found an environment where I could focus on research without going into the jungle. So, by eating natural plants, practicing meditation and zazen, I was prepared to give up therapeutic approach, but people who had problems kept on coming and I accepted those who came even without money, but this later became a big problem for me; in reality this way of living would not allow me self-isolation.

From left to right, Masters Maurizio Fabbri, Yahiro Yuji, Onoda Shigeru, Sasaki Kazunori, during the international Shiatsu meetings in Castelbrando, north of Treviso (c) Yuji Yahiro

There is also a place of worship in your centre. What is it?

It cannot be called really a “place”. In this world, there are two kinds of education: one is the door of teaching, the other is the door of teaching the “unteachable”. In traditional education, questions and answers are already pre-defined. In the education of “unteaching”, the question is there, but each one must find the answer with his own sweat, as in Yoga and authentic Zen.

The purpose of “non-teaching” education is salvation. Salvation is to be reached through God, and the instrument is prayer and inspiration. For this purpose, a pure heart is essential. Prayer does not mean asking what God can do for you but asking what you can do for yourself. The best example is that of Jesus on the cross who prayed: “Lord forgive them for they know not what they do”.

Today, the place of God in the world of education has been overtaken by science with the artificial intelligence.

Karma, the core of the Personal Being, is made up of memories (DNA), heredity, habits. Nowadays, the field of modern chemistry and physics is significantly more advanced. Thus, we witness that artificial intelligence is beginning to manipulate our consciousness while Chemical based science plays with DNA.  To believe in God is replaced by believing in artificial intelligence. But this is not all negative for those who maybe hardly think or feel for themselves as it can be seen as a crutch. In any case, seen from the Human evolution perspective, growth is not guaranteed.

Yahiro sensei praying (c) Yuji Yahiro

In 1981, you met another figure who would be important for you: Masahiro Oki sensei, a great yoga teacher. As I do not know this man at all, except that he founded his own Okido yoga school and wrote a book on Zen therapy in yoga, would you mind telling me who he was?

In 1981, there was a peace conference in Switzerland. From Japan they invited M° Oki and M° Fukuoka, a world-famous master in natural farming. I was invited to the conference in Switzerland as a translator of M° Fukuoka and thanks to that I met M° Oki. It was my first encounter with these two great characters, and it resonated within me. The one who impressed me the most was M° Oki, it was the very first time in my life that I saw a genuine expression of a human being. So, I decided to follow his “non-teaching”. As of now, before forgetting him, I am writing down all the details of my encounter with him. If you are at all interested, I can send you the script. At this point I am only relating a few moments. He has been sucking the pus of lepers to show his love and then he was also infected. As an advisor, he also met with both Japan’s Emperor and the Prime Minister, but he prohibited making any publicity around those events as not to use them in a mundane way. He did not want to be regarded as a holy professional, but he intended to be a genuine man. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize but refused it.

On the left, Yahiro sensei, then Master Barioli and in the centre Master Oki (c) Yuji Yahiro

Okido Yoga-San personify the Mikkyo way. In true Mikkyo, there is no heritage. It will end with each generation. Similarly, my commitment will end with me.

M° Oki had his last moment of life here, and I was always standing close to him. He left me a few last words before he passed away:

❖ “I want to pass on all my knowledge to you, but I simply can’t.”

❖ “The truth is, I didn’t really understand anything. This is what I really understood.”

❖ “To create, even small, a group of genuine people.”

❖ “No one will ever understand me.”

After M° Oki passed away, there was a meeting here at the Dojo where the members of the Japan’s headquarter asked me to accept the suggestion that this place become the headquarter of Europe. At the same time, even those who have been cooperating in Italy without any form of organization offered me to make this place also the headquarters of Italy. I rejected both proposals. The reason for my refusal was that I did not want to enter the mundane way of the association, but I gave some advice. For Italy, to create a Federation based in Milan – but without my involvement- to create a school based in Venice and a Publishing House based in Rome. All of this was done to avoid creating factions, but despite my wishes, factions ended up being formed eventually. Feeling the pressure linked to the burden of my responsibility, I decided at that time to depart for the desert, to fast and meditate. After two weeks of fasting only drinking water, I started a week of fasting without water. I collapsed in the middle of the desert and put my life at risk. I was saved by a Bedouin who was walking by. My belief was that if I came back alive from it, it would be a sign that for the rest of my life, I would have a mission to fulfil.

Master Oki and Yahiro sensei (c) Yuji Yahiro

In 2000, I started a campaign to correct the worldliness in the Okido group itself. I failed to do so. Thinking that I was a dreamer, many left, and those who stayed felts again in their shortcomings

In 1982 you published your first book entitled “Keiraku Shiatsu”. Why this title? Why not call it Meiso Shiatsu after the name of your style?

Keiraku Shiatsu was not really a book. At each gathering I was making copies of the written material as a starting point for beginners, so a publisher, to save me the cost of photocopying, offered me to make a printing of it. In fact, I was still doing research and the desire to print a real study text had not yet matured in me. But what I write under the name of Meiso Shiatsu can be considered as the sacred core of my research. I write it to express my gratitude for the feedback Shiatsu gave me in my quest for the truth. I have been writing this for 10 years. It will be a very thorough and in-depth book. In short, a treatise. The draft is ready, and we are finalizing it with the support of the Head of the Meiso Shiatsu Academy, who even if he is not a publishing professional, perfectly understands the content. It will go soon into printing.

This is great news, but can you tell us a bit more about Meiso Shiatsu, from a practical point of view, how have you developed it, what have you put into it?

When those who had learned Shiatsu with me started to spread it, one of these organizations got the idea for their name from me: Shiatsu Do. Later, their business shifted too much towards organizing, so I came up with the name of my group: Meiso Shiatsu.

Basically, Meiso Shiatsu is like an invisible teaching, like the Mikkyo way.  It means the key is to feel first and only after you start to look for rationality. It is about setting a principle into action: awareness, breathing, action. It is not a method, but rather a principle that can be used in all areas.

In Zen it is said that there are 3 principles/secrets: the Body, the Mouth, the Awareness.

In any studies there are three deepened processes: Jutsu, Ho, Do

  • The first is JUTSU, the technique. The one who goes deeper into the study of the technique, in Japanese is called “tatsujin”.
  •  The second is HO, the law of nature. The one who goes deeper is called “meijin”.
  • The third way is Do, the daily life for the search of truth (“seijin”).

Meditation is necessary to reach this level.

With regard to any subject of study, if one is interested in discovering the truth, one must practice Meiso.

With Master Oki, his wife and his three sons. Yahiro sensei is on the right (c) Yuji Yahiro

In Meiso Shiatsu, do you make use of the oriental diagnosis? Is there a Kata?

Of course, and in fact those who know how to do a diagnosis are very efficient and experienced!

This Kata exists and the Kenkyo [7] is the basis of the teaching, it is very useful. It is “Jutsu”. You can always improve the technique, but you can’t improve your understanding and your consciousness if you don’t develop the knowledge of “Ho”, the laws of nature.

the Kata is one part of the practical aspect of the physical training, but without listening to the laws of nature, it becomes only mechanical. You can always deepen the technique, but without the comprehension of the laws of nature, you cannot realize the truth.

For example, yoga is very developed in the world, but it is the Kenkyo aspect which is known and not the genuine yoga which follows the Mikkyo way.

Kenkyo’s purpose is about salvation. Man suffers both physically and mentally and seeks salvation through prayer, now through science.

Mikkyo’s aim is to achieve satori, that is, to understand the truth. I am the seeker. With Shiatsu I seek healing from the disease, from the sicknesses. But I must go beyond the illness, to discover the truth, not just to remove the pain. Very often, when I heal, I am satisfied, but I have not learned anything. I must learn from the illness what life is all about. So many people when they get sick, pay to get healed in order to get relief from their symptoms but they don’t take the opportunity to reconsider their way of living, they carry on with their lives selfishly. I looked after a lady with intestinal cancer who was staying at the Dojo with her husband and their four daughters. I therefore accepted them until she recovered with no payment asked. After the recovery was also confirmed medically, they would have loved to extend their stay, but had no interest in the learning process. They were looking at me fanatically as if I was a holy man, so I could not accept them anymore and sent them away. Then, instead of showing gratitude, they slandered me.

I walked away from the therapy world. People value life too little, there is too much materialism. I wanted Shiatsu to be more well-respected and to be a way to worship life more.

In Switzerland during the International Peace Meeting, with Master Fukuoka in the centre, in 1981 (c) Yuji Yahiro

Wouldn’t it be the role of the therapist to raise people’s awareness?

Often the therapist himself is not very aware!

So, what do you suggest as for the therapist to develop his awareness?

With patience! By educating himself/herself in self-awareness.

I have met with thousands of people, but no one is really aware of Shiatsu as a philosophy. Many people are interested in the practical aspects of Shiatsu, but very few are eager to explore the spirituality of the inner side which it can allows.

The Mikkyo community research to learn. The Kenkyo community studies to teach. I do not teach, I study to learn. Studying to learn and then giving is not bad. But it is very difficult. Teaching takes a lot of energy and then there is not enough time to go deeper.

Anyway, we make videos of our katas that work very well. Even when made by amateurs it works!

I did not find any information about you after 1988. We are in 2022, so what have you been doing for the past 34 years?

During all these years, I was a volunteer in various countries such as Morocco, Kosovo, Pakistan and as well in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Cambodia, India. Several times I was invited by the Kiev Astronautical University in Ukraine.

In India, I had several meetings with the spiritual leaders of Jainism and the dean of the Jain university. I was invited several times by the president of one of the most popular publishing houses in India, Rajastan Patrika, for a peace conference. I met the former Prime Minister of India three times. Some of the “Life Stories” I sent to you were published in this newspaper all over India. Their chairman would have loved to have made me known all over India, but I also declined this offer. Two years ago, he wanted to publish my picture after 49 days of fasting, I also declined.

Yahiro sensei in India with guru Acharya Tulsi [8], one of the leaders of Jainism, in 1995 (c) Yuji Yahiro

Since you are a specialist of the Shinto religion, I would like to take this opportunity to ask you a philosophical question. In the Shinto religion we say “Ichi Rei Shi Kon”, translated “one spirit, four souls”. Can you explain the meaning of this sentence quoted by O Sensei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido?

There is no exact translation of this sentence outside of its Japanese meaning: “Ichi Rei Shi Kon”. One soul, four characters. We could say that the first is happiness, the second is courage, the third is perceptiveness, the fourth is peace. Master Onisaburo Deguchi [9] was the spiritual master of Master Ueshiba. I met the grandson of Master Deguchi, one of the most famous monks in Japan. When he heard that my wife and I got married without a religious ceremony, he suggested that we celebrate our wedding 10 years later according to the Shinto ritual. On this special occasion, he made me wear the robe of his grandfather, Master Deguchi, as an exception.

Yahiro sensei at the Shinto wedding ceremony with his wife Lorena, in 1991
(c) Yuji Yahiro

Thank you very much for your explanations. Master Yahiro, do you have a message for Shiatsu practitioners? (Yahiro Sensei then took a long moment of reflection in which one could feel that he was searching for the right words to best convey what he wanted to share).

I would like to talk about the encounter and conversation with Life and the universal blissfulness.

When I was 10 years old, I had a dream full of colours. In this dream, I learned that my father had died. I wandered around the world in search of the herbal medicine of Immortality. Finally, I reached a majestic mountain range, like the Himalayas. This imposing mountain was black in colour, without snow. At the top of this divine mountain, there was a white flower, pure and brilliant, but it was a close call as to grab it. I look at the world beneath me: only a deep chasm. So, I am convinced that my father is dead and I descend from the mountain weeping. After this dream experience, I devoted my life to the quest for this white flower and made it here. One of these flowers is the Shiatsu universe. This bright white flower is the symbol of life.

Having a dialogue with this life is the prayer. To be united with Life (God) is an ongoing meditation and a universal joy. This is how I understand it now. The Life entity which manifests itself as a person is made through the body, the heart, the soul, the social life and as well the environment of our planet and the universe. The planet’s environment and human society have always undergone enormous changes, both through natural disasters and unnatural events such as man-made wars. Modern education is based on scientific research, especially physics and chemistry have become extremely developed and widespread. We are witnessing a major conceptual and knowledge shift in our understanding of the environment and life, which is dominated by the digital technology control.

According to a modern physical science theory, when neutrinos are released into the atmosphere, they are split into neutrino-electron (matter) and anti-neutrino-electron (antimatter), which then collides and disappears. But actually, some of them remains. This is, according to scientists, a hypothesis for the existence of matter and antimatter. The size of these neutrinos, if one compares the atom with the planet Earth, is that of a pinhole. Prana particles are even smaller than neutrinos and are invisibly present in great quantities in the whole universe.

The meaning of karma is memory, legacy and habit. When life manifests itself through a person, it reflects his or her influence and at the same time it resonates with the environment and society and thus manifests the individual character. The technology of Artificial Intelligence and genetic engineering has now penetrated the human territory of Karma, the fundamental essence of Man, its memory and legacy. According to Meiso Shiatsu, the world of awareness can be divided into 32 stages. This generates hatred and conflict, but it also generates the natural body, i.e. health, and the genuine heart, i.e. happiness. Thus, the world of peace and freedom is also created in the end. But this condition is not automatically generated at it only happens with education.

The key lies in the three principles of Meiso Shiatsu. The path to true health, true happiness, true freedom and true peace.

The importance of Ki work (c) Yuji Yahiro

There are two types of teachings:

  1. Education by teaching, which was created for the humankind living a social life
  2. Non-teaching education, which is learning Satori, created to uncover the truth.

The ordinary society does not make the truth visible. The truth must be thought scientifically, philosophically and religiously. To achieve this, scientific research must be comprehensive and not partial, philosophy must be practical and not just an observation, and religion must not be an ideology but be lived through a way of life that advocates “one person, one religion. The three principles of Shiatsu are the same as those of non-teaching education. I have great admiration and respect for the doctor who discovered these three principles.

The three principles of Shiatsu are:

  1. The perpendicular pressure is the pressure of the breath.

Many have misunderstood Shiatsu to be finger pressure, but if this was the case, not only would the fingers be harmed but also the body. Instead, the correct pressure is the pressure of the breath applied by the hand. The key is that the Shiatsushi has a longer breathing than the patient. Those who have been practicing at a higher level through apnea mature the Ki and can obtain a greater impact. When you are well trained, you can also do remote therapy. When the pressure is at a perpendicular angle you can aim it at the centre of your target.

  • Constant pressure is called Tanden pressure (abdominal and lumbar force)

Consistent pressure results from the strength of the abdomen and lower back. The pressure of the hand or fingers, if it is not inferior to the strength of the tanden, does not reach the inner target. One of the characteristics of Shiatsu is the stimulation of the para-sympathetic nervous system. This is performed through the strength of the tanden.

  • Focus (“supporting pressure” according to Masunaga’s method) is the pressure of Prayer (dialogue with Life) and Meditation (union with Life).

This is the pressure of the human heart. With a conscience having a heart which can honour other people, able to forgive others and express gratitude. A heart capable of highlighting the worth. What to do to express it? This is the power of prayer. Finally, with this dialogue, the union with life is called meditation. It is the pressure of the ode to life, that is, the pressure of universal joy. We are all children of the universe, that is, children of God. Be grateful to life, try to think of how it is better to live so that life itself can be pleased. Ask yourself, “Life, through that pure heart, in what kind of expression throughout the body does it desire me to do?”

There are many approaches to health, but basically there are three types of healing:

  1. Enforced healing
  2. Natural healing
  3. Healing without any interference

Enforced healing means that one has no interest in changing one’s habits, in correcting one’s body or in adjusting one’s way of thinking or living. You only want to change what is wrong. Natural healing means correcting the physical balance, adjusting the balance of the state of mind. Healing without any intervention implies finding the purpose of life and trying to live in a way that makes life itself happy. From there, if necessary, you can also step in. I wish you could put into practice a correct way of studying Shiatsu.

Amid this world chaos, live a life that is worthwhile.

Back to India. Making a life of value. (c) Yuji Yahiro

A huge thank you Master for this wonderful message and thank you very much for taking all this time to share your message with us.


Author: Ivan Bel with the precious help of Nathalie Durand

Translator: François-Rémy Monnier


Notes:

  • [1] Minoru Mochizuki (望月 稔; 1907-2003) was one of the greatest martial arts masters of his time. A direct student of the founder of Judo (Jigoro Kano) and the founder of Aikido (Morihei Ueshiba ). During his career, he was 10th dan in aikido, 9th dan in jujutsu, 8th dan in iaido, judo and kobudo and finally 5th dan in kendo, karate and jo-jutsu. To learn more about him, read “The Story of the Japanese Pioneers of the 1950s″ (french only).
  • [2] The monk Kūkai (空海; 774 – 835), better known as Kōbō-Daishi (弘法大師), is the founding saint of the Shingon school of Buddhism; he is also a prominent figure in Japanese history: his universal spirit strongly influenced Japanese culture and civilization. He was not only a great religious man, but also an eminent man of letters, a philosopher, poet and calligrapher.
  • [3] After the war Japan was under strict occupation by the United States. Among the various measures related to the occupation was the restriction of foreign travel for all Japanese.
  • [4] In 1901, one of the first acts of Australia as a nation was to introduce the so-called White Australia policy to exclude non-Europeans from the country. As part of this policy, Melanesian slaves and their families were forced to be resettled, breaking age-old family and trade ties between Aboriginal Australians and Indonesia. It was not until 1965 that Australians began to react against this policy, which extended to all non-whites.
  • [5] Cesare Barioli (1935 – 2012) was an Italian Judo master and pioneer of the 1950s. Passionate about Judo, he found the writings of Jigoro Kano and translated them into Italian.
  • [6] To learn more about Georges Oshawa, founder of macrobiotics, read the article , read “The story of the Japanese pioneers of the 1950s″ (french only).
  • [7] Kenkyo (謙虚) means “humility” or “being humble”.
  • [8] Acharya Tulsi (1914 – 1997) was recognized as Ganadhipati, i.e., the Superior of all Indian monk-ascenders in our era, a title never conferred until now. He worked hard to make sure that everyone had the scriptures of Jainism at heart and applied its values.
  • [9] Onisaburō Deguchi (出口 王仁三郎; 1871-1948) was a Japanese religious man considered the second spiritual leader of the Ōmoto movement. He was a prominent spiritual figure in pre-war Japan.

Yahiro Sensei’s books (in Italian)

  • Keiraku Shiatsu: Red edizioni, 1982
  • Meiso Shiatsu. Terapia e educazione per la salute e l’evoluzione umana: Cometa, 1994
  • Okido – per apprezzare il valore della vita: Edizioni Mediterranee, 2012
Interview of Mike Mandl: from permaculture to Shiatsu

Interview of Mike Mandl: from permaculture to Shiatsu

Mike Mandl is one of the most important personalities in the European Shiatsu world. He has been teaching and practicing Shiatsu for many years in Vienna, Austria, and is also the president of the biggest event in the world for our profession, the European Shiatsu Congress. In this interview, he tells us about his career and especially his vision of Shiatsu. And for him, there is no separation between the different approaches of our discipline, between the Yin side and the Yang side of the practice. A fascinating interview that puts things in their place.


Ivan Bel: Dear Mike Mandl, thank you for accepting this interview. Let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from? When were you born?

Mike Mandl: Oh, this is the very beginning, ha ha ha!

Yes, I want to know everything about your Shiatsu journey.

I’m now living in Vienna, Austria. I was born in 1969. You want to know about my Shiatsu journey, ok. It all started when I was very young, before I was 18 years old. I was very inspired by Masanobu Fukuokas’s writings. He was one of the fathers of permaculture. Right after finishing school, I went to the countryside, in a farming community and started permaculture. It went pretty well. But if you read Masanobu’s books, he talks also about this “one touch man”, a Dutch man who studied with him and started a permaculture farm in the Netherlands. His name was Tomas Nelissen. As we were a small post-hippy community, we received a lot of visitors. One day a visitor was doing some strange kind of massage. I asked him: “what are you doing?” and he replied “Oh, I’m studying Shiatsu with this touch guy, Tomas Nelissen.” A light went on in my head: Shiatsu, I need to learn this.

Masanobu Fukuoka, one of the founding fathers of permaculture is the author of the famous “One Straw Revolution

It was a very quick decision. I quit the farm soon after this meeting, moved to Vienna and the first thing I did there was to go to Tomas Nelissen’s school and I asked, “Can I attend your class?”. I just went straight from the train station to Tomas’s school, with nothing more than a backpack on my back. I can remember this situation very well, because the second thing I asked for was “Do you have a place to sleep”? And third question was “Where can I work because I need money”? And that’s it! I started like this 30 years ago. It was not a mental decision. When I heard the guest talking about Shiatsu and Tomasa Nelissen, an inner voice told me “You have to do this.” I’d never received Shiatsu before that, it was all of sudden. It was a kind of a calling.

When did you start to work with Shiatsu?

Well, during my third year of study I started to work with Tomas as an assistant. And when I finished, I started to teach in the same school, even if I was quite young. We stuck together for 25 years, and I loved it, because in my mind I was in that traditional way, to learn with a master. You follow him until you can master his techniques and only after that you can start to develop your own approach. Finally, I took over the school from Tomas. The school opened in 1989, I started in 1992 and I’m still there.

Tomas Nelissen

You didn’t tell me a lot about your origins. Were you born in Vienna?

No at all, I come from upper Austria, from Steyr, famous for trucks and weapons. It’s one of the ten biggest towns of Austria, but in fact it has just 50.000 inhabitants. It’s close to the mountains. My grandfather used to have a hut in the mountains. I’m a countryside boy.

My grandparents and parents where all doctors, so we had a strong medical tradition in the family, and basically it was up to me to maintain this tradition. There was a lot of pressure on me to study medicine. But because of this pressure I chose not to do it, of course. But this is to explain to you that I grew up in a medical environment and culture. I was very influenced, especially from the father of my father who was one of the most famous surgeons of the country. You know, surgeons are like gods in medicine, but I was telling myself that in fact they are at the end of the line in the medical world. You ask them to do surgery when the situation is already very serious, when everything else failed, except if you have an injury. I thought it would be much better not to get ill, to stay healthy and prevent illness. So maybe because I saw my grandfather at the end of the medical line, I wanted to be at the very beginning. It was my way to close a kind of circle and finally I chose an oriental technique that can help people to stay in good condition. So, for me, we are doing the same, but completely at the opposite. He was clearly a big influence on me.

Do you think that this medical culture of yours influenced the way you do Shiatsu?

It used to have an impact on my will to develop a clinic, to communicate with the health sector, to enter the hospitals in Vienna, so yes it had an influence. I think I wanted to prove that Shiatsu can clearly be part of the medical system, but after 40 I changed and I’m less obsessed with that, even if we have been working for many years in many hospitals now.

Mike Mandl, neck treatment

What do you think about the way Shiatsu is done today? Some insist on doing a serious oriental diagnosis when others recommend to just let feeling guide the hands with no need to diagnose anything.

This is a big problem in Shiatsu. Why? For me basically people who talk like that do not understand Yin and Yang. And if you don’t understand Yin and Yang, well sorry, that means you don’t really understand Shiatsu. Because you’ve got a Yin approach and Yang approach of Shiatsu. The Yang one is based on diagnosis with a large knowledge of symptoms, a clear structure of treatment. You have to do this and that in order to have a specific effect on the body/mind of the person. And then you have the Yin aspect of Shiatsu, which has more to do with intuition, feeling and doing nothing at all but letting the Qi emerge and move by itself. You have both aspects in Shiatsu. I think that the persons who say that you have to do this way, or the other way are separating Yin and Yang. And in both cases, you will miss the other part. Everybody who says you have to do a diagnosis and a structured treatment is wrong, and everybody who says you have to let the flow of the Qi act alone is wrong too, because you trust only Yin, or you trust only Yang.

For me, you have to choose between Yin and Yang following the day, the patient, the circumstances and even inside your treatment you have to change regularly your approach. I give you an example: if you’re working with children at hospital, it’s better to have a Yin approach. But if you work on an athlete with shoulder trouble, it’s better to have a Yang approach. So, for me this debate is a common misunderstanding of Shiatsu. A good Shiatsu practitioner should be able to know both approaches of Shiatsu and to choose at any moment which tools to use at the right moment. That’s why it takes a long time to study Shiatsu properly.

Very interesting answer, thank you.

May I add something to this. I know you are a martial artist and that you are also very curious, writing a lot about Shiatsu and I thank you for that, so you do understand the amount of time you need before being good at something. You do Karate, right? So, imagine that a Karate student opens his own dojo after three years. Everybody will laugh at him and eventually someone will kick him badly because he is just a yellow or orange belt after all. And that’s why no one in Karate dares to do so. But in Shiatsu world no. That kind of situation happens!

The Hara Shiatsu school team, with Mike Mandl in the middle and Tomas Nelissen dressed in dark.

For me I start with permaculture and the sense of interconnection between nature and human’s life. Then Shiatsu, then I was deeply in TCM, now I’m more connected with Taoism because it has such a deep and long tradition. You’re a person between heaven and earth and as you know there are three levels of medicine. Medicine for the Earth means you’re treating symptoms. Then there’s the medicine for Humankind, which means supporting a stronger constitution and a better flow of Qi. And finally, the medicine for Heaven, which is more emotional and spiritual work. And a good practitioner should know what to choose for each person at each session. Some are too much focused on one of these three aspects, like on Heaven medicine with personal development, emotional balance, but how can you do that with a strong backpain? The first thing is to take care of the pain, so you need to know how to treat the symptoms. You cannot expect to help on a spiritual level if someone has a lot of pain. And after that you work with the constitution, because if you want to develop yourself, you need a lot of energy. After that you can work with the spiritual level.

I completely agree with you. But tell me, except Tomas Nelissen, were you influenced by other teachers?

I’ve met mostly all the teachers that where on the Shiatsu scene in the last 30 years. I call that “master hopping”, meaning that you go and see one master, then another one and so on. It was nice for the inspiration, but I preferred to go deeper into the style I had received. In fact, I didn’t want to mix anything with what I know as long as I didn’t master it. My personal take on this is that people are creating their own style way to early. Even someone like Masunaga. I attend many of Masunaga’s workshops and met many of the Zen Shiatsu’s teachers, but from my point of view, the extensions of the meridians are not really accurate. I’m pretty sure he felt something interesting, but he made a theory out of it and then it was too late. I’ll give you an example. The extension of the Stomach meridian is on the outside of the arm and goes up to the ring finger and it is explained that the Stomach gives the order to feed us, and the arm is activated to do so. But there is a problem here. We see everywhere that when a meridian is activated it activates the muscular chain which goes along with it. If this meridian extension was activated, then the arm would move away from our mouth, not in direction of our mouth. In short, it is not convincing. That’s why I do think he found something, but he made a theory way too soon. You know when you explain a new system, well you can make a family business with that, no? It may sound rude like that, I’m sorry. But now people are pulling theories out of their hat after only 10 years of work, it is not serious.

In Chengdu, China, with the students of Professor Hu.

But to come back to your question, yes, I had a great teacher in Chinese medicine. I travelled to China, and I met an old lady in Chengdu, Professor Hu. She is 80 years old now. When I met her first in 2017, she was around 75. This means that she had almost 60 years of experience of Chinese medicine in a hospital, in China. That means that you see between 50 and 70 patients per day, every day of her life. And during the weekends she used to go to a free clinic in the countryside to cure the poor people. That means more than a million consultations. This is what I call an experienced person. If we compare that to our Shiatsu goals, we are nowhere. She is also a Taoist master. So even at the clinic or hospital, with her needles, she had a very spiritual approach. She always uses the Ghost points, the psychic points, but she doesn’t make a big face of it. She made so many diagnostics that with just a glance she immediately knows someone from feet to soul. She is one of the top doctors in China, but in fact she never cares about it. She just does her treatments day after day. As you can imagine, she inspires me very much and that’s why I’m much more in Taoism now because I think it’s very important to have a background for your inner development.

If we talk about Shiatsu its cultural roots are more in Shintoism. It’s great to be able to do treatments, but if you want to really deepen your understanding of what you do, at one point you need to get involved in those spiritual practices that support the technique.

What do you think of European Shiatsu today?

I’m surprised by the many workshops we can see that mix something with Shiatsu. Yoga and Shiatsu. Nutrition and Shiatsu. Osteopathy and Shiatsu. Language and Shiatsu. Why always something and Shiatsu. If we seriously study Shiatsu you can find all this already included, even osteopathy or bone settings that you can find at a high level of practice. For me that means that people don’t find all the answers in Shiatsu, so they go looking elsewhere. It’s a pity! Just do Shiatsu and study it at least 20 years and then you’ll find all what you need in it. Don’t do Shiatsu and something else, this technic is rich enough.

Since the European Shiatsu Congress (ESC) in Vienna, in 2017, you’ve been promoted as its president. Year after year, this event had become a big thing. Can you tell me more?

Well at the beginning this Congress was held in Switzerland, in the mountains, in Kiental. At that time, it was more like a retreat you know. So, we decided to move it to a big city, and it was Vienna, where there is an important Shiatsu community. And if you make it big, you can have an impact on the Shiatsu world, but also on the media and the public. If you go to a city, you can make the city alive with Shiatsu. And that’s what we did! We had around 600 people, which was quite intense to manage but it had a huge impact for us. It was really good.

This ESC project is a kind of open source you know, so the question was who is going to be next? The next one was in Amsterdam in 2020, and the 7th ESC in 2023 will be back in Kiental. After that we hope it will be in Paris.

I think the congress is a very important tool for the Shiatsu community. If you do Shiatsu, you mostly do it alone. So, you become kind of a nerd. Every now and then it’s very healthy to connect with the Shiatsu world, to enjoy the feeling of we instead of me. I think the congress should also ask big questions. Big questions create big answers. The title of our congress was “Shiatsu and Therapy”. It’s funny that Masunaga himself called Shiatsu the king of medicine, because of its holistic approach. But we move away from medicine to a nice method for self-cultivation, which is not bad, but misses one important aspect. As the organiser, you have a lot of work to do. We had over 70 volunteers, had to rent big and expensive venues. Yes. But on the other hand, you can set the tone of the topic and bring in your ideas. I was on the stage for the main evening with 38,5° fever 😉 It was exhausting. But it was worth it.

At the Shiatsu Conference 2017 in Vienna, with Wilfried Rappenecker

You are also involved in a big project to bring Shiatsu to caregivers in hospitals. How did this start?

In fact, I was in contract with Diego Sanchez in Uruguay, because I knew he was working a lot with the hospital staff. He treated people at the ICU, and I thought it was a good idea. During the lockdown in Austria, Shiatsu practitioners we not allowed to practice, and I thought that this was stupid, we should work too. From this crisis emerged a big polarization in the society. There was this “trust science” and if you don’t believe in it, you’re a kind of esoteric conspiracy theorist. So, it was black or white. And many aspects of alternative medicine got a negative perception. Shiatsu too, which is very sad. So, I said: “we have to do something and show the people that we are able to do a good job”. As you know, this pandemic has an impact on the body but also on the emotions and on the psychology. Shiatsu is a very good tool to help people, especially the ICU staff who are struggling every day with Covid clients. In the news we are always talking about the number of beds still available. But it’s not only about the beds you have, but also about the staff you have. Lot of them quit their job because it was too much. So, we started to treat those people, nurses, doctors, emergency staff and it is a very good thing for them as for us. It’s a meeting point between western and oriental medicine. Shiatsu shows that it can be supportive to the collective effort to fight the pandemic and specially to support the hospital teams.

The nice surprise is that it was very uncomplicated to do. The first hospital we asked, they were so happy that we could started nearly immediately. They asked us “what do you need?” and just after “please come, come”! And it was like a bushfire. The next clinic asked us, then another one in Vienna, then in the whole country. And now I’ve got more demands than our Shiatsu community can provide for. In the countryside we don’t have enough practitioners to help those clinics. But at least it shows that we can work together, and the feedback is more than excellent. I’ll give you the example of one nurse who worked too much and was suffering from a lumbago. She wanted to stop working. We helped her so well that she finally never quit and now is able to do all the shifts asked at the hospital in order to help the people. So, it’s a great success.

Acupuncture training in China

I guess you’ve heard this experience has been held in different countries like Hungary where it’s a big success too. Let’s hope that more Shiatsu organisations will do the same in other countries. Could we come back to your own practice of Shiatsu? From your point of view, does spirituality help your daily practice?

What is spirituality? There are a lot of definitions for spirituality. For me, spirituality means that you work with your spirit. And I really mean work. I like the traditional approach. Eastern arts can be a way, but you have to walk that way. You have to invest. You have to do if you want to achieve the state of non-doing. We tend to absorb the romantic part of the eastern arts but avoid the commitment and effort they need to truly unfold. For our busy modern society, it just sounds nice, that all you have to do is to surrender. That there is no path. That you don’t have to do anything. In fact, this is bullshit. Sorry for that. But to conquer oneself is the trickiest and most difficult mission you can choose in your life. Therefore, you need to go all in. You can’t do spirituality a little.

In Shiatsu, you have to be there for other people. You serve them. You help them. On the long term, this is only possible if you refine your spirit and see the suffering in other beings, even if the suffering means, that they are only attached to their ego and sleeping.

To conclude this interview, what message would you like to give to practitioners?

Have courage. Try to master what you are doing.

Thank you very much Mike for the time you spent with me, and I hope we will meet again very soon at the next European Congress in 2023. See you there.

Thanks to you and see you soon.


Author Ivan Bel

Corrector: Abigail Maneché

Interview Bernardo Corvi – the immense heart of Shiatsu

Interview Bernardo Corvi – the immense heart of Shiatsu

We are privileged to have in the Shiatsu world some truly fascinating people. One of them is Bernardo Corvi whom we will introduce during the course of this interview. Shiatsu practitioner, teacher, expert writer on the subject and finally an entrepreneur. Not only is he a tireless traveller, a hard worker, but most importantly, he has especially put his Shiatsu knowledge at the service of the disadvantaged. Let us consider the following for a second: prisoners, prostitutes, crooks, Buddhist monks and priests… he takes care of everyone without making any distinction. For him, every human being deserves to be helped.


Ivan Bel: Hello Bernardo Corvi. I am extremely pleased to hold this interview because you are truly an amazing person. As an entrepreneur, you have developed the “Tatamiportable.com” brand, but that is not what interests me today. I would like to talk about the many things you have done and the social dimension that animates you through Shiatsu. Could you start by telling me who you are, where you come from and how Shiatsu became part of your life?

Bernardo Corvi: Hello Ivan, thank you for the opportunity you have given me. My name is Bernardo Corvi, I live in Italy, in a small rural village called Lesignano de’ Bagni, in the Parma province. It was in the beginning of the 80’s that I was introduced to Shiatsu, I would say by chance. Until the early 90’s I used my own pressure technique which I practised only sporadically, as a self-taught person. In the middle of the 90’s I improved my training within one of Europe’s most representative Shiatsu schools: the Accademia Italiana Shiatsu Do. I immediately felt the enormous psychological, social and human potential that this art offered as an opportunity. It fascinated me from the very first moments of practice. The Shiatsu practice opened me to new opportunities and possibilities for intense and profound human relationships.

Historically speaking, I know that Italy was the first European country where Shiatsu started. Do you know the first Italian who introduced it? Did you meet him personally?

The first person who introduced Shiatsu in Italy was Rodolfo Palombini[i], who was the first European to bring this technique outside of Japan. In 1964, as he was following the Italian teams at the Tokyo Olympics, he attended the Nippon Shiatsu College in Namikoshi. In 1981 he founded the Italian School of Shiatsu in Rome, which is now run by his son Fulvio[ii].

The reference figures for Shiatsu in Italy are Master Yuji Yahiro, who since February 1974 started to practice and promoted the study of Shiatsu at the “Bu sen” Centre in Milan. It was in this centre in 1975 that one of the fundamental figures of Shiatsu in Italy also started his studies: Mario Vatrini[iii]. A true researcher, he had brilliant ideas, making valuable inputs and offering revolutionary contributions to the practice of Shiatsu in Italy.

Shiatsu practice in San Cristobal de las Casas – Chiapas, Mexico

I met Yahiro-san and attended a seminar facilitated by him and took part in a seminar in 2004 where Rudy Palombini’s son, Fulvio and Mario Vatrini were present among others.

As of today, Shiatsu is quite common in Italy and its level is known to be one of Europe’s best. What is the situation of Italian Shiatsu now? Are you recognized as a public interest by the State?

In Italy, Shiatsu is an open activity. The Shiatsu professional is not required to have any diploma nor enrolment in specific registers, colleges or associations. There are no constraints that can prevent access to the profession and anyone can practice this activity. Unless he/she decides to make the practice of Shiatsu his/her professional activity, he/she will have to comply with the regulations concerning tax obligations, contributions, respect of privacy, etc. Those obligations are not mandatory for those who intend to practice the discipline as a hobby, area of personal interest, and voluntary work without receiving any compensation.

In Italy, April 2013, a law has been promulgated which embodies the reference legislation for “professions not organised in affiliations or colleges”, or even “associative professions”, and provides the possibility of setting up private associations for professions without an official register. The law is enacted in accordance with the principles of the European Union on fair competition and free trade.

The three most important professional associations of Shiatsu in Italy are: APOS, COS, FISIEO, which require certain conditions to be recognised by the MISE (Ministry of Economic Development). As described above, although membership inside an association is not compulsory for the profession, they represent the face of the Shiatsu profession towards the State. Thus, providing accountability for the quality of the training as well as the necessary clarity to make the client feel confident when receiving a Shiatsu.

Let’s come back to you. Shiatsu was such a revelation for you that you decided very early on to offer it beyond the Italian borders, giving courses in Mexico, Cuba and at the University of Brasilia. Please tell me about this. How did it happen?

As I got into practice, I found that the quality of my life increased in parallel. I felt and still feel satisfied and excited every time I place my hands and practice Shiatsu with people. Each contact is a new, intense and intimate experience that often transcends states of consciousness.

Through voluntary practices I discovered that Shiatsu could enter all those places where doors would most probably not open, especially areas of severe social distress. While being in charge of the school, I was also managing the training that took place in my region and I had the opportunity to organize, also thanks to my students, various volunteering experiences. Those were practices in psychiatric structures and jails, but also for instance, providing ‘fieldwork” Shiatsu to the victims of the earthquake in Emilia-Romagna in 2020, while people were relocated in temporary tent shelters.

Bernardo posing in front of the Cuban flag

However, it was a specific event that brought me to Brazil.  I was quite involved in the projects of a former association, Shiatsu Do volontariato, which in turn, was supporting missions in Brazil through the “FLY” initiative (Felipe de Lyon). The “FLY” was managed by Donna Vittoria Garofalo, who passed away a few years ago, and who Mario Vatrini met while he was travelling to undergo his studies of the trance conditions in Umbanda [iv]. The project aimed to provide school education and a daily hot meal to children in a town located a few hours’ drive from Brasilia: Palanaltina de Goyas. At that time, I was working on my first book, a book of poetry, inspired by the inner movement born from my practice. A tragic event, the death in dramatic conditions of Valentina, aged 18, daughter of my closest collaborator and colleague, led me to ask myself how to carry on the great work of this girl and her mother, who decided to be organ donors to save the lives of others. I found a publisher who was receptive to the cause and we printed copies of the book, donating all the profits to the project in Brazil. This opened the doors to my own enriched journey there, taking advantage of a Shiatsu training initiated by a Brazilian instructor from our school, where I acted both as a supervisor and as a “senior” instructor and which led us to hold some sessions with students from the Faculty of Physiotherapy of the University of Brasilia.

Group photo after the practical seminar with the physiotherapy students of the Faculdade de Educação of the University of Brasilia

All my subsequent books, which addressed different aspects of my practice, followed the mission dedicated to Valentina and, again, all profits were always donated to support various volunteer projects in Italy and abroad. Supervising the training of some of these projects took me to San Cristobal de las Casa, Chiapas, and La Habana, Cuba. I speak about our experience, written by myself and a colleague living in Cuba, in another book (see list of books at the end of this article).

This is incredible! What a story! Another important initiative of yours was to open the first Shiatsu course in the world in a residential facility for mentally ill people who have committed crimes. This is impressive! One might be afraid of such people, but apparently you were not. How did you proceed with the management of the place while looking as well after these people? What were the results?

The project of carrying out a Shiatsu course at the REMS (Residence for the Execution of Security Measures) of Casale di Mezzani (Parma) was born from the willingness of the ARS (Regional Health Agency)[v] of Parma to include the practice of Shiatsu in its educational programmes for the guests of the institution. The effectiveness of this program had already been tested during more than fifteen years of treatments recognised by the Directorate of Mental Health and Pathological Addictions. The organisation in the Casale di Mezzani facility, which began in September 2015 (the year this facility opened), and was also renewed for the following years, effectively provided treatment for all the patients. No exclusions!

Practices at “The House of Tibet” in Votigno di Canossa (Reggio Emilia – Italy), a cultural centre born under the direct blessing of H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama

The law 81 of 2014 created a health-care institution in Italy that has not been matched in the rest of the world. The journey began more than 40 years ago, with the famous Law 180 of 1978 which ruled the closing of psychiatric hospitals. With this law, an era ended, that of the penal treatment of the insane. According to the Italian Constitution, anyone who has been judged incapable of understanding and willing at the time of committing an act that constitutes a crime cannot be prosecuted. Until the law came into force, psychiatric patients who committed crimes were incarcerated in facilities called “Judicial Psychiatric Hospitals” which were in fact criminal asylums. These are places where, paradoxically, those who have committed a crime caused by their pathology find themselves serving a heavier sentence than those who have committed the same crime without pathology. The REMS are not judicial structures but health structures in which people are taken care of by the competent magistrate and meet specific requirements. The main mission of these facilities, which are community psychiatry, is based on the principle of “recovery” and the main project is the implementation of an individualised therapeutic project aimed at rediscovering and enhancing the unique capacities of each individual. The main aim of the structure, in addition to guaranteeing the security of care for those who need it (as stipulated in the constitution), is their reintegration into society, helping to break the social danger resulting from the committed act.

The course, as one could assume, was an experimental course open to the operators and guests of the facility and led to exceptional results, which I will report in my next book: “A special state of being, psychological, social and human aspects of Shiatsu practice in the social field”, both for the receivers and the givers involved in the project but also for the manager of the facility. A futuristic journey that deeply touched our motivations, fears and anxieties and gave intense emotions in return, overcoming barriers and biases by making us discover the person rather than his crime.

Was it this experience that led you to give treatments in the prison environment, in the “La Pulce” jail in the Emilia-Romagna region?

No, in fact it is the opposite, it is thanks to the experiences of volunteering both in prison – first in the Beccaria prison for minors in Milan and then in the Reggio Emilia one – and my work in Shiatsu treatments carried out for many years in the psychiatric field, that I had the skills to get involved in such a great project as REMS; to carry out the treatments before and after the course. The projects in prisons were born thanks to the competence of one of my colleagues in Milan with regard to teenagers’ supervision and to the willingness of one of my students, employed in the municipality of Reggio Emilia, who expressed his intention to bring our treatments to prison. At that moment I accepted and thanks to the collaboration between us, I with my skills, he with his knowledge, and thanks to the Councillor’s interest in the social policies of the municipality, we drew up a project with the prison warden. The great human aspect of these experiences will also be reflected in my next book.

Bernardo Corvi presenting one of his books “You are not alone…”.

One could say that your experiences are all moving in the direction of the opening of the Heart. And then in May 2012 the terrible earthquake in Mirandola, still in Emilia Romagna, occurred. I remember that people died, many injured and above all many buildings destroyed. What did you do when you heard about this situation?

Once again, it is the collaboration that allows us to think of such great support projects. The role of trainer is a mission that offers broad horizons both for the students – giving them the opportunity to have very intense experiences which can be seen as in a certain way deeply spiritual – and for the growth path of the teacher himself. It is very rewarding to make yourself available to help the students accomplish their dreams if you know that you have the skills to achieve them together. This is the mission of the teacher, to identify what resides in the souls of his fellow travelling companions, to check its consistency and feasibility and to give birth to the Heart led experiences, as you rightly pointed out. A discipline thus becomes a life experience. Organising our presence in the improvised tent camp in Mirandola was tiring work that involved moral and spiritual motivations as well as physical stamina. We provided support to people who had lost everything but found themselves, if only for a few moments, in a bubble of peace and serenity. We practised in tents provided by the civil defence, thanks to the sponsorship of the municipality of Mirandola, where, even with air-conditioning, the temperatures rarely fell below 50 degrees. More than 70 practitioners from all over Italy, from all schools, were involved. The project led to the writing of the book “The Angels of Shiatsu” (see end of article), now out of print.

Shiatsu in Ciccio, a 90 year old person in Italy.

I can imagine that living under the constraints of an emergency situation must have been both a difficult time humanly speaking, but at the same time an amazing adventure seeing what Shiatsu can do for people in distress. From a professional point of view, what were your takeaways from this new experience? Has it changed your Shiatsu?

You are right, practising Shiatsu in a context of suffering, whether it is populations or individuals in difficulty, makes us understand the true importance of the discipline which is thus transformed into an art. Without any doubt, Shiatsu is a technique which, by using pressure brought via the palm of the hands, the thumbs, the forearms and the elbows brings benefit to the muscular tensions and to the discomforts of all kinds, stimulating the innate vital force of each person. But since years in Italy we are starting to think about a non-therapeutic Shiatsu, that we could call a “Shiatsu of Values”. Shiatsu’s effectiveness emerges precisely from the intimate relationship established between the two people involved in a treatment, allowing for a better condition according to each person’s own potential, time and methods.

However, this could certainly answer the fact that Shiatsu is an ever evolving discipline. The life improvement generated by this practice, influenced as well by the stimuli following gentle pressure on the body, is deeply linked to the fact that both people are actors, in a constant flow of mutual reciprocity, leading to a relationship allowing the expression of the best part of each individual, a genuine relationship. The path is then open to allow the emergence of a deep, intimate, transformation leading to a higher state of consciousness. Shiatsu, then, is defined undoubtedly, as an encounter, an instant “out of time” allowing the arising of a spontaneous and subtle conversation, with its own unique code away from traditional verbal code.  A language which is thoughtful, respectful and, above all, a language of listening. A language that is attentive, polite and, above all, listening. Sometimes, a way of expressing oneself that, free from rudeness and superficiality, is able to reach deep layers of consciousness.

I have always agreed with my friend Francisco Contino, project manager in Cuba[vi], when he defines that “Shiatsu is not a massage, but a message”. The way of doing Shiatsu evolves pressure after pressure, experience after experience, and relationship after relationship. If there is a Shiatsu for well-being, there is also a Shiatsu for alleviation. Well-being is within the reach of many, but relief, on the other hand, might be a very difficult state to reach for others, who have always been engaged in a difficult path of discomfort which can be physical, social, human. So here is a Shiatsu that listens, not seeks, that adapts, not imposes change, which perceives the meaning of its own touch.

Through your life as a Shiatsu practitioner, we can see how much the social and humanitarian dimension lives in you, and I must say that I find this magnificent. Today you give specific seminars on “Shiatsu in a context of severe social distress”. Can you briefly tell me about it?

It may sound strange, but the seminars I give outside of the training field are not about teaching new techniques, where many colleagues are much more competent than I am, but rather about personal development through the practice of Shiatsu. I bring you the comment of a practitioner from Rome, which seems to me the most representative. He said: “I have attended many seminars with many very good teachers, but this seminar is the only one which brought me back to myself”.

There is no particular method of practising Shiatsu in a context of severe social distress which is not what we already do every day. In my seminars I do not propose any new or even “miraculous” strategies. The main thing is to bring us back to ourselves. That is to say, a path of awareness that allows us to use the technique we already possess to discover ourselves, together with the other, united by a desire to share emotions, states of mind, suffering, but also moments of relief. A process of rediscovering what we already know how to do, but with greater attention to recognising the softness in our hands that allows us to welcome and communicate with each other. A process that always reminds us not to impose but to listen. Not to desire, but to fly with the other, recognising them as a complementary part of us. Therefore, an inner growth is necessary that allows us to perceive, in every moment of the relationship, that the most important moment of a Shiatsu treatment is the one you are experiencing right now. Pay attention to the breathing, to the release of muscular tensions, to the feel of the weight that rests on the body of the other person and penetrates through deeply. Perceiving the depth of the body tissues, of the muscle bands, but also the depth of the feelings and of interrelationship.

Everything is also done through the proposal of meditations and, depending on the context, the recital of mantras.

Shiatsu lesson at the headquarters of the “Integracion Armonica” group in Havana

At what point in your life did you decide that, in addition to Shiatsu, you would also make tatami mats and turn them into a business?

For more than fifteen years I have been making these transportable tatamis[vii]. vii] I produce them one by one, in a small workshop I have near my house. I started because I noticed the need for students and professional operators to have a work environment that could be easily carried, light, comfortable and with a soft cover which is gentle for the knees. I tested many materials until I found the ones I am currently using that are of the highest fabric. Thanks to the fact that I used to train every day on these tatamis, I was able to design specific features, and test the qualities necessary to have a premium product. For more than fifteen years I have been producing at least 250 of them per year and I ship them not only all over Italy but also to most European countries. My tatamis are also present in Cuba, Mexico, Martinique, Brazil and other parts of the world. Being a shoemaker by trade, I knew how to sew with a machine and I still have several sewing machines. I am grateful knowing the fact that, through the use of my tatami mats, I have been a key player in the spread of Shiatsu around the globe. To know I was allowing thousands of people to practice in the most comfortable way gives me a very rewarding feeling.

When I launched the MSH platform, you were one of the first people who spontaneously contacted me to donate equipment to all practitioners who volunteer for humanitarian work. Thank you very much for this generosity. I would like to conclude this interview with a message from you, directly addressed to the French/English speaking Shiatsu community.

It is me who thanks you. When I saw the work you were doing for MSH, I felt implicated and I know that I can help people who put their heart into what they do to make their practice easier, more comfortable. It may sound strange, but when I feel that I can help people to do their work better, I feel happy. I felt how tiring it is to practice Shiatsu in extreme conditions and in this way I feel that a small part of me will be involved in the treatments you give in the course of your projects.

Bernardo writing

I would like to conclude with a few sentences from my next book:

“In my life I have practised with Buddhist monks, priests and seculars. I have treated men who have killed other fellow men, crooks, thieves, prostitutes. I have treated enlightened people, but also normal, everyday people. Yet… every time I had to lay my hands on each one, I never perceived any difference in their vital energy, in their deeper spirit, that “being”.  It is what impregnates the ancestral soul of people and makes them, in all cases, embodied of the same identical essence present in each living being.

Every person’s heart beats, every person has blood and Qi – a fundamental concept in Chinese culture- within its body. Every person has feelings. Everyone, without exception, feels love for someone.

Humankind craves love as it faces its own path to enlightenment, to overcome hate. Noble and simple feelings that are often expressed in kind-hearted actions. “My religion is only one: kindness”, taught H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. Acts full of intention and care, which generate recognition, and gratitude.

Gratitude is an act of love.

Thank you very much for your testimony, it is a privilege to meet someone like you.

The pleasure is mine.


Author: Ivan Bel

Translation: François-Rémy Monnier


Roberto Corvi’s Books

  • Altri amici, un piccolo diario di esperienze Shiatsu in psichiatria e in prigione ; (éd. Académie italienne Shiatsu Do),
  • Gli angeli dello Shiatsu ; éd. DB communication, 2013
  • Incontrare il Tao a La Havana e altrove ; éd. DB communication
  • Non sei solo… La pratica dello Shiatsu in ambito sociale ; éd. Mowie & Web

Notes:

  • [i] Rodolfo Palombini (Rudy 1930 – 1994) introduced Shiatsu in Italy. Founder of the Italian School of Shiatsu – S.I.S. (1979), expert in massage therapy, he obtained in 1964 the first European diploma of Shiatsu-therapist at the Nippon Shiatsu School (today Japan Shiatsu College) then directed by Master Tokujiro Namikoshi. R. Palombini deepened his studies on Namikoshi Shiatsu by introducing it in rehabilitation therapy and sports traumatology. The experience gained over the years, the years of notes, tests and research led to the natural evolution of Namikoshi Shiatsu into the Palombini method, a careful codification of a system adapted to the needs of the Western world.
  • [ii] In 1994, Rudy’s son, Fulvio Palombini (born 1955), rheumatologist and professor of physiotherapy at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, took over the school. Fulvio Palombini, faithful to his training as a doctor, in the respect of his professional activity, body motor rehabilitation, works so that the scientific world turns its gaze towards Namikoshi’s Shiatsu, in order to evaluate its effectiveness through experimentation.
  • [iii] Mario Vatrini died in 2007. There is only one book in circulation, written in 1998, named “Strategie di Shiatsu”. Bernardo tells me: “I have a version published by “Curcu and Genovese” editor in 2004. In the short caption on the back cover it simply says: “Mario Vatrini, a direct student of Masters Yahiro and Masunaga, has been practising Shiatsu since 1975 and graduated from the Iokai style in Tokyo in 1977. He has a Shiatsu school “Majinai”. He is known for his competence.
  • [iv] In 1992-93 Mario Vatrini spent a few months in Brazil to personally experience the trance conditions of Umbanda, a syncretic cult born from the contact between traditional African religions and Christianity, close to the Cadomblé originating from Rio de Janeiro. This stay led him to get to know and deepen the relationship of friendship and collaboration with Donna Vittoria Garofalo, daughter of Italian immigrants and founder of the Fly (Felipe de Lyon) project based in Planaltina de Goyas, which aimed to provide education and a hot meal to the local children.
  • [v] In Italian ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale)
  • [vi] To learn more about this mission in Cuba, read this article in Italian. About Francisco Contino, here is what Bernardo Corvi says about him: “I wrote the book “Encountering the Tao…” with Francisco. In his presentation of the book, he says: “FRANCISCO CONTINO. When, for some reason, he had to write his curriculum vitae, Francisco realised that throughout his life he was late on taking  important decisions; the classic person who only understands what he is really interested in after having wasted years doing what he is not really interested in. You could say that he suffered from a chronic time-lag. This can be said of his university studies, his work as an employee and then as a teacher, and so on with all the other important stages of his life. A trait that was repeated for his two greatest loves, Shiatsu Do and especially his daughter Annabella. The upside was that dating smarter and younger people made him feel younger than his age: the downside was that he suffered from a sense of discomfort at being so late to catch on. One day, obviously late and obviously in Cuba, he came across the 4 laws of SAI BABA spirituality, especially the third one: WHATEVER IS THE MOMENT IS THE RIGHT MOMENT. So now, when he has to fill in his curriculum vitae, he just writes: Francisco knew how to make all the important decisions in his life at the right time.
  • [vii] To see the products sold, go to https://www.tatamiportable.com
The sense of timing in Shiatsu

The sense of timing in Shiatsu

Whether we are learning, feeling, studying or practicing Shiatsu, the notion of time is an indispensable factor that we cannot compress. This is true for all of the “Paths” (Do), whether they are therapeutic, artistic or martial. Asian philosophy teaches us that techniques are not mere simple repetitions of gestures, but a path that leads from oneself to the other and back to oneself. This is how we move from technique to art and from art to spirituality. And for this, time is very important!


Time to learn

Students are always thirsty for knowledge and discovery. Everything new is beautiful, as the saying goes. Having been there myself, one can easily understand the exhilarating feeling of learning something new as soon as one meets a new teacher, or when one follows a new course. In Shiatsu this feeling is particularly strong, because it is not only intellectual our brain, but also physical, our bodies. The theories and the choice of their applications, the manual pressures and the articular mobilizations, all combined with working with another person, produces a physical-intellectual pleasure which is truly rewarding. We can fall into the trap of always wanting more, more often, more quickly but it would be a mistake to follow our desires. We need to appreciate, to learn, how to slow down, how to take our time.

In a regular course, in a school, the teacher’s role is crucial in terms of time management. He or she has to be the guarantor of the learning rhythm and sometimes to slow down the students, teaching them deeper, subtler or finer diagnostic techniques and more complex physical and feeling exercises. This requires time, much listening and much repetition. Why is this the case? Because most of the time in Shiatsu, the lesson is given by the body. Not by the mind. The sensations must be regularly repeated to become a habitual. Then little by little they infuse the muscles, the cells, until one day the brain can put order and words to what the body has experienced.

As a beginner, it seems that you can do all this very quickly. What teacher hasn’t had a student who was more gifted than the others, capable of rapid progress. In fact, we sometimes receive requests to read more books, to follow two years in one, in short to speed up the process. It would be a disservice to accept the request, as it would saturate the brain and body with too much information. Even if it is frustrating in for some people, one must follow step by step the Way of Shiatsu which will bring what is needed at the right time. If we accelerate the learning process and we get a student who thinks he knows everything about everything without having integrated enough sensations. In the end, this results in a practitioner with little experience at the beginning who will have to face either discouragement or panic in front of the complexity of the cases, or an ego too full of certainties.

If you look here and there on the internet you can find “complete and professional” Shiatsu courses in a few weekends or even in two years. The general tendency to provide courses over a period of 3 years or +/- 500 hours is already a bit short, so less than that seems to be an aberration. Ask a practitioner with 20 years’ experience if he/she feels that he/she understands or masters everything he/she does? Far from it. So, to believe that you can speed up the learning process without paying the consequences later on is a fundamental mistake.

In our fast-paced society, where you can just pay to have anything delivered to you and thus get anything and everything without effort, you would think that the same would be true of Asian arts. But if traditionally an apprentice stayed with his master for a minimum of ten years, there was a good reason. The time to deepen the learning and understand the subtleties of a way of thinking that is not ours, to feel the fluctuations of energy and body tissues takes years and years. The only good way to learn is always to choose the long path, with patience and humility. Not easy…

Time for practice

After studying comes the time for practice. At least in our western system of study. The Namikoshi Shiatsu School in Tokyo, for example, requires both at the same time, with 2500 hours of lessons and practice. If we compare with the most advanced European country in terms of number of hours of study, which is Switzerland with 850 hours, there is still a difference of 1650 hours. We understand the gulf that separates us from Japanese students. But hey! Let’s imagine that we are already competent after our studies and that we begin Shiatsu as our only professional activity. I can tell you that everything is still to be learnt.

Everything is still to be learnt because every case that comes to you is a new challenge. Of course, after several years, recurrent disorders and imbalances will be found, but this is far from being a general rule. It is not without reason that teachers repeat to us that the only real masters are our patients. Because each case is unique and teaches us something, even when we think we have mastered a basic subject like back pain. You have to spend at least 10 years repeating gestures, setting intentions, and working on your thoughts about oriental diagnosis and treatment before you feel even slightly confident. Confidence that is regularly called into question by new cases that we do not understand or because we discover an unknown depth in an imbalance. For example: you may be well trained in the treatment of back pain, you have been doing it since you started and it becomes a kind of routine… until the day a more complex case with intestinal problems, emotional stress and a protruding vertebral disc comes along. Your routine no longer holds. You have to search and study again.

The Japanese have an expression for the time of practice: tanren, or the forge. They are able to work 6 days a week, 8 to 10 hours a day, 11 and a half months a year. The total time off in this country is on average 18 days. Now imagine doing Shiatsu at this pace. It strengthens, forces you to look for ways to improve, to save energy, to find mental strength and to strengthen your body to do it. This is the forging. “A thousand times you will put your work back on the job” they are used to saying. Here, we are well beyond a thousand times.

By the way, let’s do a little calculation to understand what this represents: 365 days per year – 18 holidays – 52 Sundays = 295 working days. At a rate of 295 x 8 hours per day = 2360 hours per year. Even if the practitioner does not fill up all the time, this is still a great experience per year. Who in the West can manage even 1000 hours of sessions per year? Not many Westerners can say that. The experience can therefore be calculated and we can better understand the notion of forging the body, the mind and the know-how.

In neuroscience, there are studies that say that you become an expert in anything once you exceed 10,000 hours of work on a given subject. If the Beatles were so good, apart from their musical genius, it’s because before they were famous, they had played in Hamburg (Germany) for a long time in bars, every day or rather every night. They had accumulated an impressive amount of experience, around 10, 000 hours. Now, do your own calculations to see if you have exceeded the 10,000 hours of practice. Depending on your pace, this represents a minimum of 10 years of practice for intensive workers and up to 15-20 years for others. This does not mean that you have to exhaust yourself in Shiatsu, but simply that you have to take into account the reality of the practice time, before you can consider yourself to be “good”.

Time to teach

We sometimes hear of students that want to teach and although this is very commendable, they still have to go through this time of being “forged”, as we have just seen, before they can imagine teaching. In teaching circles (national educational systems) it is often said that a teacher must always know 10 times more than what he or she teaches. This is only possible for people who are constantly learning throughout their lives and accumulate a lot of experience in their practice. Otherwise, there is a great risk of not knowing how to answer and of lacking depth in the answers. In Shiatsu this can be seen or felt at first contact. In the end, people who teach too early, do themselves and their students a disservice. These students lack knowledge and sufficient experience of Shiatsu treatments in the body. This is also the worst publicity that a teacher can give himself/herself, because if a reputation can take years to build up, it only takes a very short time for it to be demolished.

Teaching is an art in itself, which has nothing to do with the technical mastery of Shiatsu. You can be very good at what you do and be completely useless at passing on your understanding. During our school years we may have all met this kind of teacher, the one that we loved to hate. So, you also need to be trained in pedagogy, group management, public speaking, class dynamics, the rhythm of exchanges between theory and practice, teaching ethics and deontology, not to mention some useful management notions for the school’s finances. And this has nothing to do with Shiatsu, which will be “only” the content of the course. Of course, one can learn to teach on the job, but that means having poorly trained students in the first years. This is a choice.

Once again, there is no point in running, in rushing. You have to take your time, think things through, train and structure your courses before you start. Not to mention a lot of work on yourself beforehand. This is the only way to get students who will form the future generations of practitioners who will in turn represent your school, your name and the whole of Shiatsu to the public and the authorities. The problem is that there is little or no training for Shiatsu teachers. So, you have to take your time before you can declare yourself a teacher.

Time for a story

Twenty-five years ago, during one of my trips to China, I made friends with two bandits, real mafiosi, in the south of the country. As evening fell, we had a few drinks while all the people who came to greet them before going to work passed by: pickpockets, prostitutes, street vendors, street-side restaurant owners, card and mahjong swindlers, and so on. In talking to them, I discovered that they had both been kung fu practitioners for at least 30 years. I asked them for a friendly fight and soon found myself on a small path between two rice fields facing a small but strong man. It took him only 10 seconds to propel me 4 meters and to find my butt in the water of a rice field. I burst out laughing and nobody lost face, so the evening went on. They then gave me a very high level demonstration like those you can sometimes see in the big martial arts festivals in Europe and I congratulated them. Then I asked if they had ever thought of teaching and opening a class. Suddenly there was an icy silence and I saw their faces turn livid. One of them answered with a trembling voice: “But we are not trained enough. And if our master found out that we were teaching without finishing our training, I think he would be able to kill us with his own hands”. You could see the fear on their faces.

This anecdote allows us to understand the difference in perception of time and level between a good practitioner in the West and in the East. This is why the Shiatsu or martial arts federations argue that one needs at least 10 years of professional practice before being able to teach, because it is really a mini-minimum. It is not possible to be credible unless you have at least this experience. For my part, I would add that it takes at least 8 years of training within a school to begin to feel legitimate in one’s own practice and I encourage all my students to continue their journey in other schools. Finally, in discussions with many different Japanese and Western personalities for the interviews that you can find on this blog, all of them estimate that it takes 20 years of practice to become an expert, and 30 to 40 years to become a reputable teacher, of those who one day are called “master”. This gives us time to mature.

Good practice in the time of Shiatsu.

________________________________________

Author: Ivan Bel

Translator: Paul Banester

Interview with DoAnn T. Kaneko: master of Anma and Shiatsu

Interview with DoAnn T. Kaneko: master of Anma and Shiatsu

Among the great contemporary figures of Shiatsu, Tsuneo Kaneko sensei is one of the great promoters of Shiatsu and Anma, of which he is a graduate, and holds the title of Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Trained by the greatest masters, including Dr. Katsusuke Serizawa, he has been practicing and teaching these two techniques for 50 years in California (USA) and before that in Japan. His first teachers were his parents because these techniques are above all a family tradition. With the numerous exchanges we had, I was able to discover a person of great philosophical and spiritual depth, aspects that I asked him to develop in this interview. This interview is therefore not only a life story, but a true sharing of a life dedicated to care of his fellow humans being.


Ivan Bel: Hello sensei. First of all, I would like to thank you for accepting to do this interview. I hope that all is well with you and your family in California, during this Covid epidemic.To begin with, could you tell me a little about your background ? Where were you born? 

DoAnn T. Kaneko: I was born in the very modern metropolitan city of Tokyo. 

What kind of childhood did you have in Japan at that time?

I was born right after the second world war, in 1947. Many of us in Tokyo lost homes and lived in poverty. We were baby-boomers that had to face a hard journey through higher education, jobs, and marriage?! We had tough competition to be on the winning side. Japan had a miraculous recovery and succeeded in rebuilding their families and the economy because everyone tried so hard to be prosperous and happy. 

My father was very conservative and had severe discipline while my mother was sweet and gentle to us. I grew up in a home where other Anma apprentices lived with us.

Father Hideo Kaneko & mother Kimie Kaneko, both standing in the middle. Sitting in the middle, Master Koichian Inoue, their master. Showa era 14 (1939), 11th of December.

It seems that you are the second generation of a family of Anma practitioners. Does this mean that your parents were already doing this profession? 

 My father practiced both acupuncture and Anma massage and my mother practiced Anma massage. Both my parents had a limited education in their childhood because of the poverty in the countryside. They met as apprentices at their teacher’s home, working and living  together with other students. Their teacher took care of them and they later started a business that grew well.

After my parents married, Japan lost the war, and my father came home safely after the war. My parents worked hard and succeeded quickly in restarting the Anma and Acupuncture clinic they had lost during the war. It was an amazing achievement and they extended the business when my brother and I were in junior-high school. My parents gave me and my brother a loving and excellent education.

Tsuneo Kaneko (left) and his brother Sadao (right)

And yourself, at what age did you start to take an interest in manual therapy ? 

I never liked my parent’s profession because it was a very old, antiquated business and nothing modern. I liked the western culture, often watched TV and used to listen to popular music stations on the radio. These programs from the US gave me a happy feeling. I was very open, naive and americanized. 

My parents and I maybe expected that I would be more successful in another field. I eventually majored in economy and I gained a bachelor’s degree in it at Rikkio University, one of 6 major Ivy league universities. 

But during college at one point I needed some income to go on a trip during the summer vacation. I got a part-time job from my parents’ work when I was about 19 years old. They trained me on how to practice a one-hour Anma form treatment. All I needed to learn was mastering the sequence and how to make my clients feel better based on my instinct without knowing the advanced theoretical background, which was a very effective way to learn healing. I appreciate it now. It is called Taitoku (体得) in Japanese and means to stop questioning and to learn through experience, like just learning swimming without a textbook.

 What is the origin of the family Anma style you were practicing? 

My parents studied Anma through their master Koichian Inoue ( こういち庵) who taught Sugiyama-ryu Anma along with acupuncture practice. Waichi Sugiyama [1] was a very successful, famous blind acupuncturist who published books and opened a school. He invented a Japanese-style needle- guiding tube, which makes the insertion of the needle painless and easier. His Anma teachings were continued over 400 years but his particular style may have disintegrated now as there are no more schools teaching it today.

DoAnn Kaneko sensei interviewed on TV, Tokyo, 1978

My father did not teach me other styles but I remember he mentioned Yoshida-Ryu[2] and he said that it uses strong elbow techniques and that it is sometimes very painful. When we knead the body tissues hard, this action sometimes forms extra tissue called Momidako (もみだこ ). It is some extra tissue (fibre, fascia) due to over stimulation. This is one of the reasons why Anma was denounced by Shiatsu specialists because Anma applies lots of these kneading techniques, more than pressure techniques. I pay very careful attention when I teach and use these cross-fiber and rotating-fiber kneading techniques.

You decided to study at Toyo Acupuncture College (Toyo Shinkyu Senmon Gakko) [3] and SAMRA – University of Oriental Medicine[4] near Los Angeles. What subjects did you study?

First, I majored in a 3 year full time course at Toyo Shinkyu Senmon Gakko which included Anma massage, western massage, shiatsu, acupuncture and moxibustion. Their curriculum had more western medicine, anatomy, physiology, symptomatology, pathology, Western treatment, then Kanpo (Traditional Japanese Medicine) TCM,  techniques, and traditional meridian therapy. It is extremely important to understand the western point of view on sickness and health. We need to present ourselves to our patients and students as highly educated therapists in both western and eastern medicine. Additionally, I attended an internship with Dr. Nobuyasu Ishino, an obstetrician, to learn Japanese-style herbs. This is one of the best training methods  and helped me to prepare for and to pass the national examination and to receive my license in Japan. 

Kaneko sensei on the day of the SAMRA award ceremony, 1985.

Secondly, I took a course for my Ph.D. in oriental medicine and received my O.M.D (Oriental Medical Doctor) in Samra University of Health Sciences, in 1983-1984. I learned about auricular acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, therapeutic exercises, Chinese herbal principles and clinical applications for alcoholism and drug addiction, dermatology, gynecology, etc. My dissertation was about the “9 kinds of needles“ introduced in Zhen Jiu Da Cheng (Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion.) This application of 9 kinds of needles helped me to understand how important it is to take care of both the skin surface and the tissues below the skin in Anma Therapy.

Those schools are famous, especially Toyo Shinkyu Gakko. Its founder was Sorei Yanagiya, I believe ? Did you meet him?

Grand Master Sorei Yanagiya (柳谷 素霊 – 1906-1959) was the founder of Toyo Shinkyu Senmon Gakko but he was not alive when I enrolled. His wife was the chairman at the time and I met her. I was inspired to introduce Anma to the US as he had done in Europe. There is a famous story that he treated Pablo Picasso while on his trip to lecture about the science of acupuncture. I learnt his teachings through his successful disciples who were teaching in the school. One of them was Hashimoto Sensei, who privately taught me Ota’s Anpuku as Master Yanagiya sensei introduced it in his Anma textbook.

Grand Master Sorei Yanagiya (柳谷 素霊 – 1906-1959)

What are your memories of this period as a student? Was it difficult?

It was a fascinating period in Japan with my wife. I kept working for my parents, taking care of our newborn baby, Lisa, in addition to studying hard in school full- time. I did very well in every path and it was miraculous. I achieved a lot as I knew that I would return to the US to introduce Anma, Shiatsu, and other healing arts. I was also very interested in Western Science. It is extremely important for me to integrate eastern and western medicine and I wanted to be able to explain the classic terms of eastern medicine in the western terms. Three years was not enough but I wanted to absorb the most out of my stay in Japan. I was always hungry to learn more. I continued going to school in the US and gained my Ph.D Degree at Samra University as I mentioned before.

I returned to NY a few years later after I completed the 3 years course but I couldn’t use acupuncture there, so I went back to California in 1980 and there I could use all my techniques. Two years later I opened my school the Shiatsu massage school of California. 

The Anma and Shiatsu of your school are largely influenced by the great teacher Dr Katsusuke Serizawa [5]. How would you define his influence on these techniques? Did you meet Serizawa sensei?

I met Dr Serizawa in his office and shared my ambition to introduce Shiatsu and Anma to the western world. I was very deeply influenced by his scientific research about Anma massage, Shiatsu, acupuncture and moxibustion. His definition of Anma and Shiatsu was standardized through an official textbook. It was very important information to pass the national examination according to this officially authorized definition. He published the book,  “TSUBO” in English. He was very clear about the application of traditional Chinese medicine of Yin and Yang, Anma and Shiatsu, acupuncture and moxibustion.

Dr Katsusuke Serizawa (left) and Dr Tsuneo Kaneko (middle)

 Also, in this school, you had to learn Western massage. In your opinion, does it bring a plus compared to Anma and Shiatsu?

Again, I love to learn western medicine and western medical massage, like the lymphatic massage technique, that is different from ours. When I understood the difference I was empowered and felt strength in understanding, assessment and in healing. I found there was no conflict, as I value western medicine and feel it complemented eastern medicine.  

Finally, could you tell me who were your main teachers of acupuncture, Anma and Shiatsu? 

My parents were my first teachers. I appreciate what they taught me and am grateful that I could carry on the family tradition. Master Yanagiya Sorei wasn’t there anymore when I was studying his teachings but his disciples were there, teaching in his school.

Then there was Nobuyasu Ishino (the dean of Toyo Shinkyu Senmon Gakko), who was a gynecologist and obstetrician in his Koundo clinic in Tokyo. I internshipped with him and learned a very sensitive and delicate needling method, treating the skin on a surface level and I observed  his clinical herbal application. Other teachers were Sato Sensei who taught Shiatsu therapy based on Dr. Serizawa’s methods and Hashimoto sensei who shared Shinsai Ota’s anpuku techniques.

Historically, what are the main differences in the conception of Anma and Shiatsu? You say that Shiatsu is a modern science and Anma an ancient science. Can you elaborate?

The history of Shiatsu has not been correctly introduced in the western world and my mission is to educate the Shiatsu communities with respect and reveal the truth about Anma and Shiatsu based on Dr. Serizawa’s definition. His teachings were the only ones that were recognised and authorized as a standard, throughout the oriental medical educational programs, at the time when I was a student.

According to his definition and his scope of practice, Shiatsu was formed basically and partially based on the principle and practice of classical Anma therapy that was imported from China around 701 (the Japanese government established a medical system and set up a health department in the title of Doctor degree of Anma).

Shiatsu was practiced before the 20th century along with Anma therapy, Doin therapy (Daoyin in Chinese) and the Kappo method of Judo practice (the resuscitation and the reviving of Judokas who had accidentally fainted or been injured during judo practice). But after the middle of the Meiji period (1900), chiropractic, osteopathy and spondylotherapy were imported from the US to Japan and influenced traditional Anma-Doin therapy. They also produced various manual therapies including Shiatsu therapy.

 Dr. Serizawa did not mention the name of the founders in each style but it seems there were unknown founders of shiatsu before Tamai Tenpeki. But Dr. Serizawa acknowledged Master Namikoshi’s style with modern terms without either Anma and TCM elements. Master Namikoshi gained popularity because he introduced western medical ideas and applications in his shiatsu style. 

Before I became interested in my parent’s profession of Anma and acupuncture, I felt that it was so old and I did not realise its scientific effectiveness. Japanese folk people were interested in the latest western science and modernism and I was not an exception to this as we learned science in school. 

That’s how Namikoshi sensei answered the public’s unspoken demands by adding science in a new technique. People paid more attention and were attracted to modern Shiatsu instead of old Anma. Master Namikoshi sensei and his son Toru sensei made a wonderful contribution to make Shiatsu very popular in the world. They set up a short course that was additional to their 2 years regular license course for Japanese laymen. They also taught a two month program. I was told that some foreigners attended their school in Tokyo and that these students introduced Shiatsu into their own countries. Ohashi sensei was one of the most talented Shiatsu masters who took this course. 

Tsuneo Kaneko and Tokujiro Namikoshi during a lecture in Toronto, Canada. 1992.

Grand master Namikoshi’s son, Toru Namikoshi sensei, spent 7 years in the US, introducing Shiatsu to students at the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport (Iowa) according to the Handbook of Healing Sage Techniques. This is the exact example of how scientific Shiatsu has been introduced to the world without the notion of classic Anma massage therapy.  

Technically does this mean that there are some differences? For example, could you tell me what the differences are between Shiatsu pressure and Anma pressure?

I respect Dr. Serizawa’s teachings, in his many publications and I practice Anma through my long form of shiatsu and through my short form. According to Dr.Serizawa’s definition, Anma was developed along with acupuncture and moxibustion in China.  Anma therapy was mentioned in the Yellow Emperor’s classic book. Anma means press and sedate excess energy (to reduce inflammation, like acupuncture needles). Ma means to soothe and tonify (like Moxibustion which improves the circulation.) So, Anma was used to bring  balance by applying either pressing or soothing while prescribing proper vital points of each meridian, and 5 element points. Also when you press the pressure point, the indication of each pressure point should be realized. 

Shiatsu demonstration in Health fair by Santa Monica Chamber of the Commerce, 1990. 

The weight of pressure techniques in Anma is limited since it focuses on soothing, kneading, tapping, vibrating, shaking, snapping, joint mobilization, and stretching. While  according to Dr. Serizawa, Shiatsu has many sophisticated pressure techniques. Dr. Serizawa listed 7 Shiatsu pressure techniques.

  1. Ordinary pressure that is applied for 5-7 seconds
  2. Quick pressure, 2-3 seconds. I call it intermittent pressure 
  3. Pressure is also applied by increasing 2 step pressure. Also you can increase it using 3 step pressure. 
  4. Continual pressure with palms for a minute or so
  5. Suction technique with palms or 4 fingers to cup the skin
  6. Pressing with vibrating techniques
  7. Non-chiropractic forceful adjustment, but shallow thrusting technique (along the spine) 

Anma only uses a limited simple pressure technique but shiatsu has many. The manipulation technique of Shiatsu was based on Kappo of Judo ( Reviving and resuscitation technique among Judo practice) and the classic Doin method.

We Western shiatsushi have little knowledge of the history of Shiatsu, and even less of the history of Anma. The main reason for this is that many Japanese books have not yet been translated. I suppose that this history goes back long before the founder of Shiatsu, Tenpeki Tamai? 

As is the case in many fields of Japanese culture, Shiatsu overshadowed Anma in popularity because of the inclusion of modern western medical concepts. Anma therapy at one point was the most authentic classical massage therapy from TCM. Unfortunately, those who did not learn or realize the importance of athletic Anma therapy spread more modern Shiatsu therapy alone instead, which was liked by Namikoshi Sensei. Now, Masunaga sensei introduced someTCM and Master Ohashi supported these masters from Japan. This is how major Shiatsu styles have been rooted in the USA. Anma did not have much chance of being introduced alongside  Shiatsu, due to the lack of interest and /or a lack of knowledge and publications in English. Tamai Sensei and  Namikoshi sensei’s Shiatsu styles have strong western modern anatomical and physiological backgrounds and put less value on authentic TCM.

Dr Kaneko, more and more famous. Extract of a magazine, in 1992.

It is important to note that in the 50’s and 60’s, there was a dispute between Anma and Shiatsu. Shiatsu had a more modern scientific vision and Classical Anma’s authentic value was being lost. Many Anma therapists did not value the kanpo (漢方) thus Anma lost its eastern medical value and became more commercial.

But Shiatsu therapists wanted to appeal to the therapeutic value of pressure techniques and application.

There was an interesting report that tapping techniques of Anma causes accelerated heart beats (sympathetic nervous system) and was not good for heart conditions.On the contrary, the pressure technique effectively regulates the parasympathetic nervous system and calms down the heart rhythm.

Interesting. If I’m right, you are one of the very first Shiatsu practitioners in the USA. Who were the other Japanese teachers who introduced Shiatsu to the North American public? 

TheTappan’s Handbook of Healing Massage Techniques book by Patricia J. Benjamin and Frances M. Tappan (4th Edition; pg 315) states that several systems of Asian bodywork therapy were introduced in the west in the 1970s by people like DoAnn T. Kaneko (Santa Monica),  Shizuto Masunaga (Tokyo), Shizuko Yamamoto (Boston), Toshiko Phipps (Teacher of School in Vermont, involved in RBTA), and Takashi Nakamura (kabuki spa, in San Francisco, Anma kata), after Tokujiro Namikoshi (Tokyo) and Toru Namikoshi (Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa 1950s-1960 ). On page 340, it mentioned that during the 1970s, a number of other practitioners brought their styles of shiatsu to the United States, including DoAnn Kaneko, who brought a form called Anma Shiatsu, Shizuto Masunaga, who developed Zen Shiatsu, Shizuko Yamamoto, who developed Barefoot Shiatsu and Wataru Ohashi who developed Ohashiatsu. In 1977 Takashi Nakamura Sensei first formally introduced traditional Anma at his school in San-Francisco, the Kabuki Shiatsu School of Massage.

Anpuku demonstration at the AOBTA gathering, San-Francisco, 2005.

Thank you for those clear details. So eventually you decided to create your own style and call it simply Shiatsu-Anma.  I imagine that it must not have been easy to establish this type of therapy in the beginning. 

Not at all. Not many Shiatsu therapists knew about Anma and it was the reality in the US. I accepted it, and yet I was excited to introduce Anma through my Long Form, a 60 minute Kata Form sequence with 3 postures and about 130 vital points in the major meridians. I also distinguish it from Shiatsu in my 30 minutes Short Form with only pressure, correcting-stretching exercises and a joint mobilization technique.

After how many years did you start teaching and then open your clinic, the Tao Healing Arts Center in Santa Monica?

It was about 1970 when my parents taught me the Anma kata. During my studying period in Tokyo from 1976 till 1979, I started teaching Anma & Shiatsu under the IDO (医道) Center (The way of healing) for foreigners in Tokyo. At the time most of them were English teachers. I returned to New York in 1979 and opened the Tao Healing Arts Center there. Then I moved to Santa Monica, California, and opened the non-profit organization Shiatsu Massage School of California along with the Tao Healing Arts Center in 1982.

Classroom shot with Kaneko sensei, at the CenterPoint Massage & Shiatsu Therapy School & Clinic in Minneapolis, 2018. With Cari Pelava (left) and Mark Duhamel (right).

I believe you are one of the founders of the US Shiatsu Federation. How did that happen? What role did you play and with whom?

Let me quote for you this extract from the American Oriental Bodywork Therapy Association Interim Bulletin, winter 1990

“The association was officially incorporated in 1990.

On the weekend of August 26 and 27, 1989, leaders of the major American associations and schools of Oriental Bodywork Therapies met in Kerhonset, New York and agreed to form the American Oriental Bodywork Therapy Association (AOBTA). The focus was aimed at bringing together American practitioners of many Oriental Bodywork Therapies and developing high educational standards on a national level. Group representatives agreed to join their Associations together in order to form a new, unified national organization able to represent and speak for all practitioners of Oriental Bodywork Therapies. At the time the major groups which agreed to unite were:

  • The American Shiatsu Association (ASA)
  • The Midwest Shiatsu Association (MSA)
  • The Shiatsu/Anma Practitioners’ Association (SPA)
  • The Jin Shin Do® Foundation”
Dr DoAnn T. Kaneko demonstrating Shiatsu, 1992

Nandi (Carl) Dubitsky, Director of Education, was one of 3 of my students who committed to learning more about Anma. He published his book on Anma before my book but shockingly  passed away before me and it was a big loss. When forming the AOBTA, I remember AOBTA President Steven Schenkman and Cindy Banker were meeting often. I had already founded the association SPA, mentioned previously, and we all brought our students and therapists to the first AOBTA conventions. The first of one was in New Orleans, the second one was in Arizona. But at the time I was running my school and clinic, in addition to my heavy clinical work, 6 days a week, 7-8 patients per day, so I couldn’t join their Board. Additionally I was in a Ph.D. and O.M.D program at Samra University for Oriental Medicine.

In your career, you have done a lot of services, especially to the city of Santa Monica, helping with everyone’s health. But you also did something a bit crazy: following Bob Wieland[6] in his crossing of the USA in a wheelchair. Tell us about this adventure!

One of my most talented graduates, Geary Whiting, was deeply involved in Bob’s campaign and I had an opportunity to assist him only towards the end of his cross country journey in his wheelchair. It was an amazing thing to witness. Bob sometimes used his arms only, no wheelchair. He carried his body through his arms and fists directly on the ground. We worked on his arms and hands with another graduate Lissa Hakim. It was an unforgettable experience.

Bob Wieland is an inspiration for all the disabled people. He did a lot of marathons. Here in New-York city, 1982. Then crossed the USA in 3 years, 8 months and 6 days in 1988.

Since your beginning you have given numerous lectures all over the world, seminars and trained hundreds of students. With your experience of almost 50 years, what is your view of the current Shiatsu in the USA?

I have great hope in AOBTA They kept up a high quality of Asian bodywork standards, and sustained their membership. The mainstream of Shiatsu and Anma has been guided by AOBTA as a result of more than 30 years of cooperating work by committed members for an extended time. I respect every major members who have a great dedication to regulate and promote Asian energetic medicine among the general public as well as educate other members. I have great hope in seeing the high quality and standard of Asian bodywork maintained through AOBTA when many varieties of Shiatsu have been created. In the early age of  AOBTA, Shiatsu and Anma had limited information. Now, history is being revealed and more therapists are following the concept of integrating these healing modalities like in Chinese medicine. For example, Qigong, Daoyin, and Liandan [7] have been practiced among Anma therapy in combination with Taoist medicine in China. These modalities are within the scope of Acupuncture practice. Now Shiatsu communities are like acupuncture communities in the USA. Asian ancient healing modalities are being revived and Asian body work like Shiatsu and Anma therapists includes these modalities.  It is a very exciting era in the Massage and bodywork industries.

All the previous AOBTA presidents were great. Debora Smith and Cindy Banker are amazing Shiatsu therapists who have resilient determination in Shiatsu education. I respect them and I admire their commitment through decades of volunteering work.

During all these years, you have not only taught, you have also studied and practiced a lot. In particular Qigong and Taoism. 

Healing is not the art of fixing the symptoms by such techniques as Anma, Shiatsu, and acupuncture. To learn the essence, one has to learn their culture and philosophy where you can often find spiritual elements. 

I feel very empowered, cleansed, loved, protected and supported by my disciplined and spiritual daily practices. It gives me unlimited life force. It is basically Buddhist medicine but complemented by Taoism and integrated with quantum medicine. I want to help other healers and share my 9 Mindsets to enhance their spiritual practices. Both medicines inspired me to realize the concept for the 7 Golden Gates. It is like modern jazz masters, modern ballet dancers and painters who often learned from the classics first. In Japanese we say Onko Shishin (温故知新). I was very fortunate to have this traditional Anma from my parents. Anma has a deep Taoist background and I added a spiritual Buddhist healing essence. I want to say that you don’t have to be Buddhist nor Taoist to practice Anma & Shiatsu.  

It was ironic that I came to the USA to experience American culture but came to realize the value of eastern and Japanese culture. I am reminded of a Japanese saying. Todai Moto Kurashi (灯台下暗し 暮らし) which means living under darkness or blindness in the foot of the lighthouse. I encountered wonderful spiritual healing programs during my time in New York, like Dr. Mishura ‘s teaching at Ananda Ashram, Eido Roshi’s Zen teaching, Michio Kushi’s Macrobiotic teaching,  Da Liu ‘s Tai Chi Ch’uan teaching, Ohashi sensei’s Shiatsu, and Japanese Urasenke Tea ceremony in the U.N. Building. And I value these spiritual backgrounds that give me the depth of the arts and I feel stronger faith. 

Baduanjin qigong demo at SAMRA university, PhD ceremony day, 1985

One of the things you are keen to do is to share with Western medicine what the true essence of healing is. You talk about embracing the Seven Golden Gates and engaging in Tenshoku. I am not familiar with these concepts. Would you be so kind as to explain them to me?

I believe the healing we experience is a part of the miracles that the universe manifests. So, we need to acknowledge, appreciate and embrace these miracles of the universe. It is the energy and power of the cosmic consciousness. In my healing paradigm, I share 7 precious healing miracles that the universe manifests. These truths of the universe are out there and simultaneously within our cosmic consciousness as well.

  • Power of the Universe 
  • Power of Wisdom 
  • Power of Compassion 
  • Power of Transformation / Change ( metabolism) 
  • Power of Consistency / Continuity( homeostasis ) 
  • Power of Balance
  • Power of Spirituality: Cosmic Consciousness 

I learned and recognized what Taoism and Buddhism taught me. First, the Power of the Tenshoku (天職 ) means “The work that was assigned by God or Heaven”. My parents passed on to me this divine healing profession and I am grateful to continue working for people who need help and educating the general public all about healing and happiness.

Integration is one of the most important concepts and my healing paradigm is the crystallization of Taoism, Buddhist medicine, ayurvedic medicine, and quantum healing. The true essence of healing happens when we succeed in integrating body, mind, and spirit. Sickness happens when we have a disintegrated body, mind and spirit.  

In recent years you have spoken a lot about the notion of unconditional happiness through what you call the nine states of mind. Can you explain what you mean please ? 

Our goal in the healing arts is to help and guide people to feel happy. But often this kind of happiness is relative to certain conditions. People say “If I have this and that, I will be happy“. It’s a mistake. I want to guide  people to realize unconditional happiness, even when they are sick they can still be happy and be able to smile at other people. I want to help them to awaken from fundamental darkness and live their life full of compassion, wisdom, and vital force, guiding others to happiness too. In Buddhism one can be enlightened at any second and in any place when one realizes the truth. I want to encourage people to foster wisdom, compassion and their vital force of Qi to realize unconditional happiness.  For this reason, I set up these 9 mindsets. Talking about enlightenment,  you serve your people and make them happy in Africa, you are enlightened. These are the 9 mindsets :     

  1. Appreciating mind  感謝祈り心  (kansha-shin) 
  2. Breathing mind (for oneness with the Universe), 呼吸心 (kokyushin)
  3. Caring Mind,  慈悲心 (jihi-shin)
  4. Peaceful Mind, 平常心 (heijyo-shin)
  5. Pure Mind, 清浄心(shoujyo-shin)
  6. Smiling & Shining Mind 微笑み光心 (hohoemi gokoro)
  7. Enduring Mind,忍耐心 (nintai-shin)
  8. Respecting Mind, 尊敬心 (sonkei kokoro)
  9. Unconditional Happiness Mind, 絶対幸福心 (zettai kofuku-shi )
Do Ann Kaneko sensei, 2019.

Wow, I can see now that I’m still not enlightened, but thank you (laughs). It is clear that your determination today is directed towards education for health, happiness and balance in life. For example, stress is a concern for everyone these days. How do you teach people to cope with stress?

Stress can be bad but it can be good too. It depends on how we interpret it. Because of stress, I have more opportunities to chant, pray, meditate and practice patience, hope and faith. Stress tests one to have a resilient faith. I can grow wiser and stronger with each new stress. If there is no stress, I could not achieve this level of my life force. 

We should understand that when pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. One should be enlightened by transforming the poison (stress) into medicine (healing).

I would like to finish with a final, broader question, also more philosophical: how to live one’s old age with grace? 

Graceful aging is possible through slowing, stopping and reversing the aging process in certain areas, tissues and organs, through daily disciplined training at a physical level. I have numerous healing modalities including chanting, breathing, qigong, Daoyin, Liandan, moxibustion, scrubbing with a dry cloth, medicinal foods, etc. But beyond the body, the mind plays an important role. What comes to mind is staying “young at heart.” More than that, keep your passion and pioneering spirit, an artistic and creative lifestyle that you experienced when you were in your adolescence. Also, you feel younger by serving and caring for other people, including helping children. This is easy to say but it is certain that unconditional happiness results in the ultimate quality of our life. It is not a matter of living longer but how we can live life fully. 

Thank you very much for your time and for being available. It is always a great pleasure to be able to exchange with a master like you. I hope to be able to exchange more often with you in the future.

Thank you very much for your patience. You have been very cooperative. I value your amazing Qi and humanity. I pray for your Ki and that it reaches many people who need help.

Thank you.


Notes:


Book:

  • “Shiatsu Anma Therapy DoAnn’s Short & Long Forms”, Tsuneo Kaneko, AuthorHouse, 2010
The Wind Points

The Wind Points

Amongst the different climatic factors that can attack the body, there is the Wind. Cold or hot, humid or dry, the wind  combines with other factors to aggress the body. Who has not experienced a cold, unpleasant spring or autumn wind that immediately tenses the back of the neck? This is a classic that we need to learn to treat. Fortunately, for us, there are many points that fight the wind.


Wind is the climatic energy of spring; it is associated with the Wood Element. Why repeat this obvious fact? Because it means that the organs associated with Wood energy are particularly affected by this type of aggression. Normally the body is well covered during this season and therefore the exposed points on the head and the neck are those that will suffer the most from the Wind. On the head there is the Gallbladder meridian. Let’s keep this in the back of our minds.

The Wind easily creates neck tensions which affects both the Bladder and Governing Vessel meridians. This tightness is also the cause of occipital headaches. Let’s again, add these two meridians to our list.

Observing nature, we see that the wind agitates the surface of water.  What can we say about the sea that churns and swells under the influence of the wind, making powerful waves? We see the Wind agitates by moving rapidly. These are two typical symptoms of a Wind attack. Within the meridian system, the Waterways, (Triple Warmer) will also be one of the affected meridians.

Once again, we have another meridian to include in our list.

We breathe all the time, so the first organ affected by the Wind is the Lung. The Wind always starts by attacking the Lung and the skin. The Lung is partnered by the Large Intestine, which can also be affected. So, let’s now include these two meridians in our list.

Finally, there are specific meridians which are very sensitive to all climatic changes or disturbances of any kind, these are, the Stomach and the Small Intestine.  The exposure of the stomach/abdominal region to a cold wind (short t-shirt, low- cut jeans), can rapidly cause diarrhea, this is because there is very little protection between our intestines and the outside world, this is one of their particularities.

Our short list allows us to understand which meridians suffer from the Wind and will consequently develop defense strategies for this particular climatic aggression. It is on these meridians that we will find the most important points to combat the pernicious effects of the Wind.

Wind is yang in nature, moving permanently, changing direction and creating agitation. The External Wind penetrates the body through its surface and settles in the space between the skin and the muscles. It disturbs the circulation of the Wei Qi and opposes the movements of the Lung Qi, disturbing its functions of descent and diffusion of the Organic Liquids. The Wind affects the Gallbladder and Liver meridians at the level of the head and neck and creates deviations of the face. An Internal Wind is born from an imbalance of the Liver or from the extreme heat during a fever.

The effects of the wind

Why should we treat the Wind? Because it is a very painful condition to experience. Pain quickly changes its location throughout the body. At one moment in the neck, then a few hours later in the shoulder to finally finish elsewhere. The wind moves, causing erratic pain.

Another painful aspect of the Wind is that it agitates the body: we observe shivering and shaking, hands that can no longer hold still. The Wind agitates the mind. In many countries or regions where the wind blows for days, people can be very tense and nervous, uptight and on edge, the crime rate has been seen to increase significantly!

You have to have experienced the “autan” or “mistral” winds in France to understand this phenomenon.

Wind stirs water, as we have noted but it also dries it up. Leave your washing outside on the line on a windy day and it will quickly dry. This can be the same within the body.

Wind stirs the Organic Liquids. This is not good because the body’s internal homeostasis depends on a moist environment

How does the Wind  attack the meridians and the organs?

By repeatedly attacking the skin which is linked to the Lung. It is an attack on our Wei Qi, the defensive Ki of the body. If this is not strong enough, then the doors, (our pores) are open to a deeper attack on both the energetic and physical body. This is how we change progressively from an external Wind to an internal Wind. The internal Wind will choose the Gallbladder as a favourite target and from there can end up in the Liver. This can cause serious problems.

External and internal symptoms are distinguished as follows:

  • External type:  Aversion to the cold or the wind, sneezing, coughing, runny nose. Fever, occipital stiffness. Irritation of the throat. Presence or absence of perspiration. Headaches with wind. Floating pulse on the surface.
  • Internal type : Aversion to the cold and or the wind but the causes are due to the aggression of the Liver. Extreme heat which generates Wind. Rising of Liver Yang which becomes Liver Wind. Emptying of the Blood of the Liver or of the Yin of the Liver which generates the Wind (Emptiness). Tics, nervous tremors. Intense dizzy sensations. Dizziness and numbness. Tongue with a tendency to move to the side when pulled. In severe cases: convulsions, unconsciousness, hemiplegia, deviation of the mouth. This is more common in the elderly.

In conclusion, the Wind creates agitation, disturbs the energy, the Blood, the psyche, the Yin. It is therefore essential to know the points that help to drive it out of the body.

Summary of Points

  • Lung: LU7, LU10, LU11
  • Large Intestine: LI1, LI3,LI4, LI5, LI11, LI15
  • Stomach: ST8, ST36, ST44
  • Heart : HT9
  • Small intestine: SI2,SI3, SI5, SI12, SI17
  • Urinary Bladder: UB2, UB7, UB10, UB11, UB12, UB13, UB17, UB40, UB58, UB66
  • Pericard : PC9
  • Triple Heater: TH1, TH3, TH5, TH6, TH10, TH17
  • Gallbladder: GB2, GB20, GB30, GB31, GB34, GB39
  • Governor Vessel: GV2, GV3, GV8, GV11, GV12, GV13, GV14, GV15, GV16, GV20, GV22, GV26

Description of the Points

LIEQUE (Interrupted Sequence) L7

Info: Conception Vessel Opening Point, Luo Point, Head Command Point.

Effects: Drive out External Wind from the head, regulate Lung Qi, calms, cough and asthma

Classic combinations:

Heat of the Lung and Stomach with cough and headache: LU7, LI4, ST8, ST36.

  •  Cold wind on the neck: LU7, LI4, UB10, UB11.
  •  Cold Wind invasion with a background of chronic sinusitis: LU7, LI4, LI20, ST2, ST3, ST40 in dispersion.
  •  Cold wind with nasal discharge: LU7, LI4, LI20, UB2.
  •  Cold like wind with acute cough, white sputum and predominance of chills: LU7, LI4, UB13, CV22 in dispersion.
  •  Wind Invasion : LU7 for colds, allergic rhinitis, sinusitis.
  •  Influenza: LU7, LI4, UB10, UB11, GV16 in dispersion.
  •  Cough due to External Cold Wind: LU7, LI4, UB11, UB13 in dispersion.
  •  Wind Dryness with acute dry cough, dry throat and nose, not necessarily signs of Heat: UB7, LI4 in dispersion, LU5, KD6 in toning.

YUJI (Fish Border) LU10

Infos : Ancient Shu Point Fire Creek.

Effect: Dispels the external attack of Cold Wind, disperses the Fire of the Throat and Lung

Classic combinations:

  •  Cold wind with cough and throat pain related to lung heat: LU10, UB13, LI4
  •  Wind Heat and Lung Heat: LU10, LU11.

SHAOSHANG (Lesser Metal) LU11

Info : Antique Shu Point Wooden Well, Demon Point.

Effect: Against Wind Heat and Lung Heat, Reanimation Point

Classic combination :

  • Hot wind like mumps, tonsillitis, eczema, sunstroke: LU11, LI4, LI18, SI17 in dispersion.

SHANGYANG (Metal Yang) LI1

Info : Ancient Shu point Metal well, Root point

Effect: Eliminates YangMing Wind Heat

Classic combinations:

  • In cases of flu with fever without sweating, sore throat: LI1, LI4, SI17, GV14 in dispersion.
  • Also chases the External Wind during conjunctivitis, arthritis of the hand and shoulder: LI1, LI4, UB62 in dispersion, UB2, GB1 in harmonization.

SANJIAN (Third interval) LI3

Infos : Point Rivière Shu Bois.

Effect: Eliminates Wind Heat in cases of acute eye inflammation.

Classic combination :

  • Chronic illness due to Cold Wind: SG3, UB62 in Harmonization or Moxa.

HEGU (Junction Valley) LI4

Info : Point Source, Point Commande visage, Point Abortif.

Effect: Releases the surface and drives out the external cold wind, removes pain, opens the orifices, awakens the brain, releases intestinal heat.

Classic combinations:

  • Cold wind headache with dizziness: LI4, GV14, GB20, Tai Yang.
  • Eliminates External Wind: LI4, LU7 in dispersion or LI4, KD7 to calm perspiration or LI4, LU7, TH5.
  • To calm the hyperactivity of the Liver Yang and the Internal Wind: LI4, LV3 in case of hypertension with dizziness, headaches, and aggressive driving. Add GV20, KD1 in case of severe and acute hypertension.
  • External wind with acute bronchitis: LI4, LU7, UB13, ST36 in dispersion.
  • Wind-Heat like allergic rhinitis: LI4, LI20.
  • Wind-Heat with dermatological disorders: LI4, LI11, GB20, GB31.
  • Cold wind with acute rhinitis, clear mucus, sneezing, predominance of chills: LI4, LI20, LU7, UB11, UB13 in dispersion, UB2 in harmonization.
  • Wind Heat with acute rhinitis, sore throat and eyes and itching, signs of Heat: LI4, LI20, LU7, TH5, LI11 in dispersion, UB2 in harmonization.

YANGXI (Yang Stream) LI5

Infos : Ancient Shu Point Fire River.

Effect: Eliminates a Wind Heat, facilitates the circulation

Classic combination :

  • Wrist arthritis: LI5, LU7.

QUCHI (Pool at the Bend) LI11

Info: Ancient Shu Point Sea Earth, Demon Point.

Effects: regulates the Stomach and the Large Intestine, releases the surface, makes the Blood circulate, softens the joints and drives out the Wind.

Classic combinations:

  • LI11 and ST36 take the wind out of your body.
  • Add GV14 and GB20 against the blockage of meridians by cold wind with pain.

JIANYU (Shoulder and Clavicle) LI15

Info : crossing point with the YangQiaoMai, with the Heart, the Bladder and the Luo of the Small Intestine

Effect : Chases the Wind away from the 4 limbs, treats the Bi (rheumatism) of the shoulder, improves the paralysis

Classic combination :

  • Obstruction and pain in the anterior aspect of the upper limb: LI15, LI11, LI4.

YINGXIANG (PReceiving Fragrance) LI20

Infos : Meeting point of the YangMing

Effect: Its main action is to clear the nose. Eliminates Wind and Heat.

Classic combinations:

  • In case of Wind-Heat: LI20, TH5, LI11 in dispersion.
  • In case of cold wind: LI20, UB10, UB13 in dispersion or Moxa.
  • Cold wind with chapped lips and facial pain: LI20, LI4, E4, GB20 in dispersion
  • Cold wind with neck and shoulder stiffness: LI20, LI4, LI18.

TOUWEI (Head’s Corner) ST8

Info : crossing point with the Stomach and the YangWeiMai

Effect: Drives away Wind and Cold, treats headache, calms dizziness, treats facial paralysis.

Classic combination :

  • Rising hot wind with migraine or headache: ST8, GB20, LU7, LI4.
  • Wind Heat Humidity with temporomandibular arthritis: ST8, ST6, ST7.

ZUSANLI (Leg Three Miles) ST36

Info: Ancient Shu Point Sea Earth, Command Point of the abdomen, Abortifacient Point, Lower Sea Point of the Stomach.

Effect: Dispels Wind of the 4 limbs and abdominal pain, harmonizes Blood and Qi, strengthens Spleen and Stomach, prevents infection…

Classic combinations:

  • Blockage of Qi by cold with pain in the epigastrium: ST36, CV6, CV12.
  • Wind Heat Moisture like knee arthritis: ST36, ST35.

NEITING (Inner Court) ST44

Infos : Ancient Shu Point Water Stream.

Effect: Treats Internal Wind with fever and fainting, cools YangMing Heat/Humidity (E/GI), calms pain.

Classic combinations:

  • Eliminates Wind Heat with sore throat, pharyngitis: SI1 and SI17.
  • Wind Heat with tonsillitis, sore throat, headache, nosebleed, conjunctivitis: SI1, UB2, UB67, TH3, GB1 in harmonization.
  • External Wind and Qi Stagnation in facial pain: SI1, SI18.
  • Wind Heat with temporomandibular arthritis: ST44, ST6, ST7, LI4 in dispersion.

SHAOCHONG (Lesser Surge) HT9

Info : Antique Shu Point Wood Well, Toning Point.

Effects: Eliminates Internal Wind with fever, delirium, seizure and fainting, soothes Shen, circulates Qi, eliminates heat.

QIANGU (Front Valley) SI2

Info: Ancient Shu Point Water Creek.

Effect: Eliminates Wind Heat in the GI, treats numbness of the little finger

Classic combinations:

  • Arthritis of the hand with heat and swelling: SI2, SI3, SI5 in dispersion, UB66, KD6 in toning.
  • Wind-Heat with ear infection: SI2, SI19.
  • Wind Heat with headache and neck stiffness: SI2, UB66.

HOUXI (Back Stream) SI3

Info: Governor’s Ship opening point, Wood River ancient Shu point, Tonification point.

Effect: Treats Wind, Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat, stimulates TaiYang (LI/UB), eliminates Xie (perverse) outward, treats upper back, treats epilepsy, pairs with UB62.

Classic combinations:

  • Invasion of Cold Wind with stiffness of neck, shoulders and back: SI3, SI12, UB10, UB62. Add UB2, UB10 if frontal headache.
  • Against fever, cold, flu: SI3, GV14.
  • Wind Heat with conjunctivitis, fever, arthritis of the hand, arm, nosebleed: SI3, SI17, GV14 in dispersion, KD6 in toning.

YANGGU (Yang Valley) SI5

Info : Ancient Shu point Fire River, Root point

Effects: disperses heat, suppresses wind, promotes circulation

Classic combination :

  • In case of Wind-Heat like mumps: SI5, SI17.

BINGFENG (Grasping the wind) SI12

Info: Treats paresthesia problems of the shoulder, arm, neck

Effects: Calms pain, facilitates circulation in the meridian

Classic combinations:

Shoulder paresthesia: LI7, SI11, SI12
Paresthesia of the arm: LI12, SI8, SI12, UB41
Paresthesia of the neck: SI12

TIANRONG (Heavenly Appearance) SI17

Info: Window of Heaven point, crossing point with the Gallbladder.

Effects: Eliminates Wind Heat, removes Tan, treats whistling ear.

Classic combinations:

  • Wind Heat as a sore throat or acute hoarseness with cold or flu, signs of Heat: SI2, SI17, LI4 in dispersion.
  • Wind-Heat with sore throat and acute tonsillitis: SI17, SI1.

ZANZHU (Gathering bamboo) UB2

Effects: treats eye problems, purifies heat, clears the nose, relieves headaches

Classic combinations:

  • In case of Cold Wind like nasal congestion: UB2, UB10, UB12.
  • During a Heat and Fire Wind of the Liver such as conjunctivitis: UB2, UB18.
  • In case of Cold Wind or Hot Wind like allergic rhinitis: UB2, UB67.
  • In Cold Wind and Empty Kidney Qi such as conjunctivitis: UB2, UB10, UB67.
  • Wind Heat with conjunctivitis: UB2, GB1 in Harmonization, GB43, TH3 in dispersion.

TONGTIAN (Reaching Upward) UB7

Effects: Eliminates perverse energies from the surface, treats nasal obstruction, drives out cold from the 4 limbs, improves paralysis.

Classic combinations:

  • Loss of diffusion function of the lung with nasal obstruction: UB7, GV23, GB20, LI4.
  • Excessive lacrimation, rhinitis, headache, facial paralysis, nosebleed, sinusitis: UB2 to harmonize, UB7, UB67, SI3 in dispersion.

TIANZHU ( Upper Pillar) UB10

Infos : Point Window of Heaven,

Effects: Dispels Cold Wind, relieves neck, treats loss of use of hands, eliminates occipital headaches.

Classic combinations:

  • In case of Cold Wind with neck and head pain, nasal congestion and loss of smell, cough, asthma, sore and swollen throat: UB10, UB2, SI12.
  • Cold wind as aches and pains in the neck and back: UB10, UB60.
  • Invasion of External Wind with sneezing, coughing, asthma, sore throat, aches in the shoulders, neck and back, cold: UB2 in tonification, UB10 in dispersion or Moxa, GV23, LU7, LI4, LI20 in dispersion.

DAZHU (Great Vertebra) UB11

Info : Bone Meeting Point, crossing point with the Small Intestine, Sea Point of the 12 meridians

Effects: Frees the surface, strengthens Bones, and drives out Wind.

Classic combinations:

  • Cold wind attack with rebel Qi rise, headache and dizziness: UB11, UB10, UB60, SI3.
  • In case of cold wind like a flu with aches and pains: UB11, UB12, UB13.
  • In case of Wind-Heat and Lung-Heat like pneumonia: UB11, UB13.
  • When Cold Wind and Empty Lung and Kidney Qi such as a recurring cold and slow healing: UB10, UB11, UB13, UB23.

FENGMEN (Wind Gate) UB12

Info: Gate point, crossing point with the Governor’s ship.

Effect: Eliminates the invasion of External Wind for nose and throat problems, clears the surface

FEISHU (Lung Transporter) UB13

Infos : Shu point of the back of the Lung

Effects: Chases the Wind, treats emptiness or fullness of the Lung, reduces cough and asthma.

Classic combinations:

  • Cold wind-related cough: UB13, LU7, LGI4.
  • Sneezing, throat irritation, pain in the upper back: V12, V13, in dispersion or Moxa, LU7, LI14, CV22 in dispersion.
  • In case of hot wind during a cold or flu with sore throat and dry cough: UB13, LU10, LI4, SI17 in dispersion.
  • During a Dry Wind with dry cough, dry nose, throat and mouth: UB13, LU7, LI14 in dispersion, LU5, LU9, KD6 in tonification.

GESHU (Diaphragm Transporter) UB17

Info : Blood Meeting Point.

Effects: In case of Wind Heat and Blood Heat, opens the chest, regulates Blood and Qi

Classic combination :

  • Urticaria and generalized itching : UB17, UB40, UB67.

WEIZHONG (Middle of the Crease) UB40

Info: Ancient Shu Point Sea Earth, Command Point of the back, Lower Sea Point Bladder.

Effects: Treats the Wind of the lumbar and thigh, dissolves the stases of Blood, relieves the tendons, disperses heat, calms vomiting and diarrhea.

Classic combination :

  • Blockage of meridians and pain in the lumbar region, buttock and thigh: UB40, UB54, UB57, GB34.

FEIYANG (Taking Flight) UB58

Info : Bladder communication point.

Effects: Fights the invasion of the External Wind, calms the pains, facilitates the circulation

Classic suit :

  • External wind with nasal obstruction, headache, arthritis of the legs: UB58, UB2, UB10, UB12, UB62, LI3, LI20 in dispersion.

TONGGU (Foot Valley Passage) UB66

Infos : Ancient Shu Point Water Stream.

Effect: Dispels Wind and Disperses Heat (External and Internal) with Stiff Neck Fever

Classic suit :

  • Headache, dizziness, nosebleed: UB66, LI4, GV14, GV16 in dispersion.

ZHONGCHONG (Middle Rushing) PC9

Info : Antique Shu Point Wood Well, Toning Point.

Effects: Eliminates the Wind, disperses the heat of the Heart, makes the Blood circulate, opens the orifices, makes one regain consciousness.

GUANCHONG Surge Gate) TH1

Infos : Point Shu antique Metal well.

Effect: drives away the Internal Wind in cases of fever, sunstroke or even loss of consciousness, disperses heat, awakens the Shen.

Classic combinations:

  • To eliminate Wind Heat: from TH1 to TH10.
  •  Wind Heat with dry and painful lips, mouth and throat: TH1, TH4, KD6, SP6, ST36 in alignment.
  •  Wind Heat with arthritis of the fingers and hand: TH1, TH2, TH3, TH4, GB43 in dispersion, KD6 in tonification.
  •  Heat wind, Liver fire with conjunctivitis: TH1, GB44.
  •  Wind-Heat with urticaria: TH10, GB31.
  •  Wind Heat with eye and ear problems: TH1, TH3.
  •  Wind-Heat with throat problems: TH1, TH10.

ZHONGZHU (Central Islet) TH3

Info : Antique Shu Point Wood River, Toning Point.

Effects: Disperses heat, opens orifices, relieves tendons and strengthens joints.

Classic combinations:

  •  Wind-Heat with eye disorders and headaches: TH3, TH23.
  •  Wind Heat with sore throat or acute hoarseness with cold or flu, signs of Heat: TH3, TH5, LU7, LI4 in dispersion.

WAIGUAN (Outer Pass) TH5

Info: Opening Point V Yang Linkage, Luo Point of Communication.

Effects: eliminates heat and calms the Wind.

Classic combinations:

  •  Disperses Wind Heat as  in the flu with fever and headache: TH5, LI4 or GB20, GV14.
  • TH5 and GB41 in association eliminate the Wind Heat and the heat of the Liver and the GB and treat: nausea, hiccups, vomiting, headaches, eye erythema, nasal obstruction, tinnitus, odontalgia, throat obstruction.
  • Against Heat Wind as flu with fever and headache: TH5, LI4, GB20, GV14. In case of Cold Wind or acute wind invasion.
  •  Chronic illness due to Heat Wind: TH5, GB39 in dispersion.

ZHIGOU (Branch Ditch) TH6

Info : Ancient Shu point Fire River, Root point

Effects: disperses the heat of the Triple Heater, opens the orifices and drives out the hot-cold.

Classic combination: Wind-Heat with hives: TH6, TH10.

TIANJING (Upper Well) TH10

Info: Sea He Earth Point, Fire Dispersal Point.

Effects: purifies heat, transforms Tan

Classic combination: Wind-Heat with hives: TH10, GB31.

YIFENG (Wind Screen) TH17

Info: Crossing point with the Shao Yang of the foot, Heaven’s Window point

Effects: disperses the stagnation of Qi and Blood, drives out the perverse Wind, purifies the heat

Classic combinations:

  •  Wind-Heat with ear problems: TH17, TH1.
  •  Wind-Heat with sore throat and conjunctivitis: TH17, TH2, TH23.

TINGHUI (Meeting of Hearing) GB2

Effects: Treats ear problems due to Cold Wind or Hot Wind, opens the orifices

Classic combinations:

  • Cold wind with ear pain: UB2, UB20 in harmonization, TH5, LI4 in dispersion.
  • Wind Heat with inflammation of the ear and sore throat: GB2, SI17 in harmonization, TH5, SI2 in dispersion.

FENGCHI (Wind Pool) GB20

Infos : Point Window of Heaven.

Effect: Against external Wind, clears the surface, clarifies the head and eyes, strengthens the brain, calms the Shen.

Classic combinations:

  • External wind attack with headache and dizziness: GB20, GV1, lI4.
  • Disperse Cold Wind or Heat Wind.
  • Wind-Heat with allergic eczema: GB20, GB31, GB44.
  • Liver wind with repressed anger, tremors, spasms and muscular pains: GB20, GB21, GB34, LV3 in dispersion.
  • Liver wind with muscular spasms, tremors, vertigo, convulsions, mental confusion, epilepsy, hemiplegia: GB20, GV20, LV3, KD1, ST40, PC5 in dispersion, SP6, KD3, in Tonification, Moxa.

HUANTIAO (Jumping Circle) GB30

Info : crossing point with the Bladder

Effect: Eliminates Cold Wind and Dampness, strengthens tendons and joints.

Classic combination :

  • Blockage of the meridians with pain in the lumbar region, the knee and the outer side of the leg: GB30, GB34, GB39.

FENGSHI (Windy Market) GB31

Effect: Treats the Wind of the lumbar and thigh, disperses Dampness, invigorates the Luo.

Classic combination :

  • Blockage of meridians and pain in the lumbar region, buttock and thigh. Heat wind with urticaria: GB31, TH10.

YANGLINGQUAN (YaYang Mound Spring) GB34

Info: Point Shu Antique Sea Earth, Point Meeting of the Tendons.

Effect: Dispels Wind from the 4 limbs and relaxes tendons, eliminates stasis and circulates Qi.

Classic combinations:

  • Pain of the external face of the lower limb with difficulty in walking: GB24, GB30, GB39. Calms the Wind of the Liver.

XUANZHONG (Suspended Bell) GB39

Info : Meeting point of the Moelles.

Effects: purifies the heat of the Liver and the VB, strengthens the Yang, energizes the marrow, invigorates the Luo

Classic combination :

  • Calms the Internal Wind: GB39, LV3.

YAOSHU (Low Back Transporter) GV2

Info : Point of agreement

Effects: chases away Wind (internal and external) and Humidity, purifies heat, strengthens the lumbar region and the knees

YAO YANGGUAN (Low Back Yang Passage) GV3

Effects: chases away Cold and Humidity, tones the Kidney, strengthens the lumbar region and the knees

Classic combination :

  • Stiffness and pain of the sacro-lumbar region following a Cold Wind Humidity: GV3, GV4, UB23, UB25, UB60 in Harmonization or Moxa.

JINSUO (Muscle Spasm) GV8

Effects: Treats Jing Feng (Wind with convulsions) of the Liver, painful back and lumbar region

Classic combination :

  •  Regulate the Internal Wind of the Liver : GV8, GV9, GV17, LV3, UB18, UB20, UB23, KD6

SHENDAO (Way of the Spirit) GV11

Effects: Treats Shen, purifies heat, relieves back pain and cures cough

Classic combination :

  • Dizziness, headache, chest pain, irritability, agitation, palpitations. In association: GV11, GV20, LV3, GB34, KD3.

SHENZHU (Body Pillar) GV12

Effects: Treats epileptic convulsions in children (one of the forms of Wind), supports Zhen Qi.

Classic combination :

  • External cold wind with headache and stiff neck: UB12, GV16, SI3, UB60.

TAODAO (Way of the Pot) GV13

Effects: calms the Spirit, releases the surface, purifies the heat and disperses the Wind, supports the Zhen Qi and drives out the perverse (Xie), regulates the Yang. To be used in case of fever, chills.

Classic combinations:

  •  In case of invasion of External Wind with sneezing, runny nose, generalized aches and pains of the neck and occiput, fear of cold: GV13, GV14, UB10, UB11, LI4, ST36 in dispersion or Moxa.
  •  In case of invasion of Wind-Heat with sore throat, fever, cough, hives or eczema: GV14, LU7, LI4, UB40 in dispersion.

DAZHUI (Great Vertebra) GV14

Effects: relieves surface area, calms asthma, eliminates heat, treats Feng Shi Bing attacks (wind/cold/humidity)

Classic combinations:

  • Controls the rising wind following a fever: L14, GV16.
  • Eliminates the invasion of External Wind: GV14, GV15, VG16 or VV14, GV16,LGI4, LI20, LU7 in dispersion in case of colds with rhinitis and neck pain.
  • Treats an Internal Wind :GV14, GV20.
  • Wind Heat with fever, thirst, red, tender and painful throat, yellow nasal mucus: GV14, TH5, LI11 in dispersion.
  • Wind Heat like cold with acute cough, sore throat and fever predominance: GV14, CV22, LU7, LI4, TH5 in dispersion.
  •  Against an invasion of Cold Wind of Tai Yang: GV14 in Moxa.

YAMEN (Mutism Gate) GV15

Info : Crossing point with the YangWeiMai, Sea point of Qi

Effects: Disperses the Internal Wind, the disturbances of the mind. Against the invasion of the External Wind and purifies the heat. To be used in case of headaches and dizzy sensations, apoplexy or epilepsy, after-effects of hemiplegia or speech disorders.

Classic combinations:

  • Cold wind with acute occipital headache, muscular pain in the neck and shoulders, cold or flu: GV15, GV14, LU7, LI4, UB10, UB11 in dispersion.
  • Against a TaiYang Cold Wind invasion: GV15 in Moxa.

FENGFU (Wind Palace) GV16

Info : Demon Point, Sea of Piths Point, Window of Heaven Point, crossing point with the YangQiaoMai and YangWeiMai.

Effects: treats Wind diseases, purifies heat, clears the brain

Classic combinations:

  • External cold wind with headache and stiff neck: GV16, UB12, SI3, UB60. Calms the Shen.
  •  Vertiginous sensations, neck pain, headaches, mental confusion and lack of clarity of mind: GV16, GV20, LV3, GB20, UB34 in dispersion and LV3 in tonification.
  •  Against a TaiYang Cold Wind invasion: GV16 in Moxa.

BAIHUI (One Hundred Meetings) GV20

Effects: Treats apoplexy, disperses Wind, clears dizziness

Classic combinations:

  • Resuscitation: GV20, GV26, KD1, PC8.
  • Against Internal Wind and hyperactivity of the Liver Yang with hypertension, headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, stroke and its after-effects: GV20, GV1, LV3, LI4 in dispersion.

XINHUI (Fontanelle Meeting) GV22

Effects: relieves dizziness, chases the Wind, soothes infantile convulsions

Classic combination :

  • Calm the wind. GV22, HT5, TH5, LV3, GB20, LI11.

RENZHONG (Middle of the Person) GV26

Info: Demon Point, crossing point with the YangMing, crossing area of the ChongMai and RenMai.

Effects: Resuscitation point, eliminates obstruction, revives the brain, calms Shen, purifies heat, treats apoplexy.

Classic combinations:

  • Resuscitation: GV26, GV20, KD1, PC8.
  • Cold wind with facial paralysis: GV26, CV23, ST4, ST36, LI4, LI20, local points.

Bonus:

GV + Yang Talon vessel.

Chases the External Wind.

Yang Link Ship.

Against Wind-Heat.


Authors: Nathalie VOLTERS & Ivan BEL

Translation: Paul BANESTER


Sources:

  •  4th year Ryoho Shiatsu course. Ivan Bel.
  •  “Vade-mecum de Shiatsu thérapeutique ” Bernard Bouheret . Editions Quintessence 1990.
  •  “The Spirit of the Points ” Philippe Laurent, Editions YouFeng 2010
  •  www.lartetlavoie.fr ” Functional classification of acupuncture points “. Doctor Marc Barrault. DIU acu-obst. Lille, France.
  •  www.institut-yin-yang.com Yin-yang Institute.  Work of Zhang Di Fen of the Chinese Medicine Hospital “Hu Guo Shi” in Bei Jing. Work of Professor Wei Feng Po in the use of the four “Wind points”.
  •  www.acupression.fr Anne Cossé
  •  The French Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tran Viet Dzung. 1985 / 108, 28-29.
  •  ” Art et pratique de l’acupuncture et de la moxubustion” Volume 1. p 61 Nguyen Van Nghi, Tran Viet Dzung and Recours Nguyen. Editions NVN.
  •  www.bazante-shiatsu.fr/medecine-chinoise/traitement-des-douleurs
  • “Shiatsu for Dummies” . p 243 Synthia Andrews, Bobbi Dempsey and Michel Odoul. FIRST Editions 2009.
  •  “Tremors”. Doctor Jean Yves Henry.
  •  “Dictionary of Chinese Energy Medicine from A to Z. Anne Ducasse. P 323, 324, 325.
  •  “Associations of points: the key to success in acupuncture”. Jeremy Ross, Satas Editions.
  •  “The diagnosis in Chinese Medicine” p 943 to 946. Giovanni Maciocia, Editions Satas 2006.
  •   www. fac.zhongyi.net/ Dr Genming Huang
  •  “Abstract of acupuncture”. AGMAR. Lebherz Foundation Collection.
Ampuku : abdominal acupuressure

Ampuku : abdominal acupuressure

The book Ampuku by Philippe Vandenabeele is a must have in his library. It will delight historians, those who seek to understand the original techniques of Shiatsu, lovers of ancient images and explorers of all kinds. But this book marks an important turning point for Western Shiatsu: the beginning of the translation of the reference books of Japanese Shiatsu.


You should know that when I review a book, it is because I have read it in its entirety and in great detail. That is why I write about it long after it has been published. Philippe Vandenabeele kindly sent me a copy a long time ago, but I have only recently been able to read it. And I have to admit that the pleasure of reading ‘Ampuku’ lives up to the expectations.
A little historical reminder
Shiatsu is not a creation ex nihilo. It comes from the Anma which was divided into two branches: the classical and medical version called Koho Anma and the popular version performed by the blind. Over the centuries Koho Anma has almost disappeared, mainly due to the influence of Western medicine. Fortunately, some talented practitioners wanted to revive this magnificent technique. At first they called it Happaku ho (acupressure technique), as it was when Tokujiro Namikoshi opened his first clinic in Hokkaido. The term Shiatsu came later. In terms of literature, in a very simple way, there were three major books which are usually referred to as the founders of Shiatsu:

1- Anma Tebiki, written in 1799 and published in 1835, by Fujibayashi Ryohaku
2- Anpuku Zukai, published in 1827 (so the first one to come out), by Ota Shinsai
3- Shiatsu Ryoho, published in 1939, by Tamai Tenpeki, the founding book of the term Shiatsu

In Philippe Vandenabeele’s book, the first two books are not only presented, but also analysed and Anpuku Zukai is entirely translated, page by page. It is therefore a titanic task (and a painstaking one) that this book offers us, because it takes patience to translate the turns of phrase and thought of ancient Japanese. But what a result. First of all, I liked the clever layout of the book and then I was captivated from the first page by the historical account of the manual therapeutic arts in Japan in which I did not find any error, which is unfortunately too often the case in most of the books I consult. For that reason alone, I recommend this book.

Structure of the book

The book is structured as follows:

1- A historical introduction, presentation of the literary classics on Anpuku work and a lot of interesting reflections and analysis from the author.
2- The list, meridian by meridian, of the points used in Anpuku, which are finally quite few. But here we will enjoy the images taken from old Japanese manuals
3- The picture by picture explanation of the book Anma Tebiki
4- And finally the complete translation, image by image, of the book Anpuku Zukai, currently being translated in NAJOM

I might as well tell you that this is no mean feat, because although the text can be read quickly, understanding it and trying to integrate it into one’s practice is far less easy. You will have to see it again and again, read it and re-read it to move from the book to the hands, from the intellect to the practice. Not that it is very complicated to read, but as is often the case with the Japanese, the explanations are rather elliptical. And it is like everything in our art, it takes time.

At the end of the book, however, one has a taste of “not enough”. We would have liked more explanations to be able to do something with it all. But a small white note on the cover of the book caught my attention: “Volume 1”. I asked the author what this meant and this is his answer: “A second volume is being prepared for 2022 on the practical application of the Anpuku books”. That’s great! So finally all’s well that will end well in the next volume.

In any case, this book (for the moment in English only while waiting for the French and Dutch versions) has immediately become a must-read along with the one published in Italian on the same subject (I will talk about it). Don’t wait for the next volume to come out and add to your library now (you can find it just about anywhere online), as it finally unearths a big piece of the history of our therapeutic art. I can only call for more Japanese books on Shiatsu to be translated or, as here, even before the creation of Shiatsu.


Book:

Ampuku : Abdominal Acupressure. The classics at the heart of Japanese bodywork. Philippe Vandenabeele. Editions Shinzui Bodywork International Institute, Fukuoka, 2020


Author: Ivan BEL

Treatment of hormonal migraine

Treatment of hormonal migraine

While the treatment of headaches and migraines (frontal, ocular, lateral, occipital andapex) is a great classic of therapeutic Shiatsu, the treatment of hormonal migraines for women remains little discussed and difficult to treat. However, it is one of the most recurrent cases in a Shiatsu practitioner’s career, since 80% of the patients are usually women. To avoid getting stuck on this subject, here are some treatment tips.


In a woman’s life, it is not uncommon to suffer from menstrual migraine, whose scientific name « catamenial migraine ». And for those women who suffer from it every cycle, we can clearly speak of an ordeal to live, because they live in anticipation of their own menstruations. As a Shiatsu practitioner, I recommend everyone to constantly educate yourself on female disorders. Honestly, we cannot just sit back and hope it goes away, that would be beneath our profession. So, let’s see what western medicine has to say about it.

A hormone story

In general, migraine disease is related to neurovascular dysfunctions, which occur under the influence of genetic, environmental and sometimes emotional factors. In women, it is a drastic fall in a particular hormone: endogenous oestradiol. This hormone is used to maintain secondary sexual characteristics in women. Like most hormones, it is derived by metabolic action from cholesterol via testosterone. Knowing this is interesting, as it indicates the importance of cholesterol and fatness in women, as well as a little testosterone, to live harmoniously from a hormonal point of view. Indeed, cholesterol (as well as oestrogen) are the building blocks for a very large part of the hormones we produce. Skinny women will therefore be a target audience for menstrual migraine, but they are not the only ones. Indeed, this hormone can be found in synthetic form in NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and in certain livestock products. The massive distribution of these drugs and intensive livestock farming will end up in urine and then in running water. So much so that the French Water Framework Directive requires the level of oestradiol in drinking water to be monitored. As a result, plump women and even men can also be affected by this hormone, which then becomes an endocrine disruptor.

There are two forms of catamenial migraine.

  1. The pure form, which is triggered only during menstruation
  2. The form aggravated by an already migraineous terrain outside of menstruation

Vision of Eastern medicine

If we stick to the Maciocia « Gynaecology and Obstetrics », we can read in the etiology that the roots can be found in excessive physical activity. This damages the Spleen and produces a Qi and blood deficencies, and emotional tensions. These tensions induce a Liver Qi stagnation and can create rises of Yang or Fire of the Liver towards the head. Another possibility is an Empty Liver Blood.

Blood accumulates in the Baozi (Uterus) and does not circulate well at the time of menstruation, which also affects the Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai).

From my clinical experience, it is always in the best interest to:

  1. To ask how the periods take place and what happened during childbirth if there was any. There is almost always a time when the person has lost a lot of blood, either during childbirth, a major operation or a very heavy period.
  2. Check the diet, especially the quality of the water and anything that may affect the Liver (spices, alcohol, etc.).
  3. There is often an emotional picture that should be treated at the same time.
  4. As in lateral migraine, the Vb is often involved as well.
  5. For the most advanced practitioners, think also of the Old Blood, O-ketsu and the techniques of Anpuku or Qineizang to drive it out of the Uterus. Be careful, these techniques can be harmfull ; it is necessary to be well trained.

Treatments

You don’t have to be a fortune teller to understand that the question is about Blood, which makes sense when talking about menstruation. There are four main pathological tables for migraine:

  1. Empty Blood (of the Liver, of the Heart). It is thus necessary to feed the Blood of these organs + the Spleen.
  2. Fire in the Liver (which goes to the head). We drain the Fire, feed the Yin. Think also about chasing away the Wind which often comes to sow discord in the Liver.  it does no harm.
  3. Liver Yang Rising (always towards the head). The Yang of the Liver is subdued, and its Yin and Blood are nourished.
  4. Liver Blood stagnation. We combine the Liver meridian and the Penetrating Vessel and we open the Liver Luo points.

But remember that Shiatsu is not acupuncture. So, you cannot just press points and hope it works. As Master Kawada used to say “The human being is not a machine. It is not enough to push buttons”. Therefore, it is essential to massage the organs (especially the Liver), the meridians, the great 5 elements and to adapt the treatment to Shiatsu. This can be learned, especially from the UFPST schools which teach pathologies in their curriculum.

My little trick to help you: I often recommend a drainage of the Liver in spring or autumn, with the help of drinkable solution containing artichoke, black radish and milk thistle, alongside the shiatsu treatment. The detoxification of the Liver once a year if one does not control its food is always a good idea. But drainage of the Liver only. Do not combine with a drainage of the Kidney at the same time as some brands sell, because it tires the body unnecessarily.

When draining an organ, it is always good to have the other ones in support.

Good practice!


Author: Ivan BEL

Translator: Catherine Struman

Interview with Nobuyuki Takeuchi: founder of Yin Shiatsu

Interview with Nobuyuki Takeuchi: founder of Yin Shiatsu

Still quite unknown in Europe, Yin Shiatsu starts to make a name for itself. But at the origin of this name there is a man and not the least: Nobuyuki Takeuchi sensei. One can easily think of him as a modern-day samurai, uncompromising on behaviour, commitment and study, values that he applies first and foremost to himself. But what he says in this interview will ring true to all practitioners who have committed themselves to the Way of Shiatsu. Meeting with a master, in all senses of the word.


Ivan Bel: Hello sensei. Thank you for accepting our invitation for this interview. From which region of Japan and from which background do you come?

Nobuyuki Takeuchi: I was born in Fukushima prefecture, in the locality of Yoshimaruyama. I grew up in a peasant family and I was the youngest of three sons.

At what point in your life did you become interested in the therapeutic arts?

It was around the age of 18. At that time I had begun studying Taoist arts, particularly through the thought of Lao-Tzu and Chouang-Tzu.

Have you been introduced to pharmacopoeia, Kanpo medicine and acupuncture? What memories do you have of these years of learning?

It was at the same time that I started to study with my uncle. He was an admirable person. However, my affinity with Taoist thought led me to question Shiatsu as it existed.

With the aim of developing my Ki to diagnose and treat patients, I fasted two days a week and practiced zazen daily. I also devoted myself to “Fukukihō” (服気法)[i], one of the three breathing techniques of Qi Gong.

Since then and for 30 years, I have continued this daily routine.

You founded the “Akahigedo” clinic, which translates as “Redbeard’s Pavilion” in 1978. Is this in reference to Akira Kurosawa’s 1965 film Barbarossa [ii]? How did this character inspire you?

Barbarossa played by Toshiro Mifune in the film by Akira Kurosawa. All practitioners should have seen at least once this magnificent film.

The character of “Redbeard” is a doctor from the Edo period who really existed [iii], a sort of Robin Hood from your home. It is above all his attitude, his state of mind that inspired me. The patient’s suffering, if not cured, becomes my own suffering.

So I have to work on myself, through the practice of fasting for example, and my own determination to be able to respond to it. This is the Way of Bushido.

In what year did you create your own style called “Yin Shiatsu”? What are the peculiarities of your method that differentiates it from other existing currents?

When I was 29 years old, in this context, I made the decision that if I didn’t succeed in accomplishing my own Way within a year by using an exceptional technique, I might as well commit suicide, as the writer Mishima did[iv].

This extreme determination led me to found Yin Shiatsu as it exists today. I formalised a different approach to the Shiatsu existing at the time in Japan, allowing in particular to treat by distal points, without directly touching the affected areas or by connecting areas of the body by similarity of form.

Treatment of a high-level sportsman at the Akagahigedo clinic. (c) Nourit Masson-Sekine

For years you have been doing research which has led to an interesting theory: the triangular relationship. Could you please explain it to us?

In my opinion, the origins of Shiatsu are very old, long before the Christian era. The theory of the triangular relationship, which is at the base of Yin Shiatsu, appeared to me, as an inspiration, following the regular practices of fasting and purification in the open air that I told you about.

This intuition led me to review the pre-existing theory of meridians. It was very moving for me, because none of this was mentioned in the founding texts such as the Huangdi Nei Jing for example.

If you want to know more, I invite you to get closer to Mehdi and Misako[v] who live in Strasbourg and who benefited from my teaching. And you will also have the opportunity to learn more if I come to France or if you come to Tokyo yourself.

What is your understanding of the disease?

My conception of illness comes from the Buddhist thought “In Ga Ron” (因果論). It is the “Law of Causality” or “Law of Cause and Effect”, and the notion of Karma can possibly be the outcome of it. By this I mean that a Cause leads to an Effect but the “En” (縁) comes into play in this mechanism. The “In” can be translated as fate/destiny, chance/occasion. “In” is also the right place at the right time with the right person. In the present context, it is more about the individual’s choice in the face of opportunities, the opportunities available to him or her that he or she will or will not seize.

Also, the same thinking can be applied to illness. When a symptom appears, it is important to identify the cause, the source of the problem. However, it is also essential to discern the life choices that have led a person to an imbalance and the choices that will enable him or her to regain the right balance.

For example, to simplify, if a patient is at risk of obesity, he or she may have a genetic predisposition to being overweight. The patient’s choice to divert what appears to be a fatality would be to not indulge in overeating and to ensure that he or she is better nourished.

A multitude of other examples can be found on this subject.

To put it another way, during treatment we often focus on the causes and their symptomatic effects. However, few will attempt to address the patient’s actions, motivations and “negative thoughts”. Acting on one’s own behaviour and life choices is the key, the lever to change one’s destiny.

To understand this principle of “In”, we must be aware of the existence of our free will (自由意志)[vi]. By this I mean that we can choose for ourselves, with our heart, our conscience, what is good or bad, right or wrong, positive or negative for us.

Takeuchi senseï. (c) Nourit Masson-Sekine

Your treatment is multidisciplinary: acupuncture, Shiatsu, medicinal plants, etc. Why this choice when most acupuncturists, for example, are satisfied with needles only?

Many patients come every day with various and varied pathologies: depression, cancer, atopic eczema, asthma, gynaecological diseases, children’s diseases…. Treating these diseases are therefore very serious challenges and if you only treat them by one technique: just with acupuncture, just with Shiatsu or just by dietary advice, it is not always enough. I adapt the treatment according to what is necessary, according to the priorities and specificities of each case.

This is why Akahigedo offers a complete range of treatments. For me, what is important is the result. I have no excuse if I am unable to treat a person. This is my way of life.

You are a recognised expert in Chinese medicine and have invited many Chinese specialists in Qigong and acupuncture. You have also made several trips to China to study these medical approaches in greater depth. Furthermore, you have been trained in Japan, notably in Kanpo medicine. In your opinion, what are the differences between the Chinese and the Japanese in their approach to oriental medicine?

Indeed, I have been to China on many occasions and I have met many proclaimed masters, also in Japan. Unfortunately, I think that today the Chinese or Japanese senseïs are generally not very rigorous… I have observed that they are too often satisfied with the result of their care even if the patient is not cured. Sufficiency and the desire for recognition at work too often seem to divert the doctor from his initial objectives. Daruma (or Bodhidharma)[vii] said in the face of Emperor Han Wudi[viii] that there is no merit in doing good if one expects recognition in return.

There is, however, another way of living. I am uncompromising with myself. And so it is a challenge for me to be able to relieve those who suffer, to be able to heal them. This is why I deal with all possible means. You may consider me a somewhat boring therapist…

On the contrary, I find it exciting! Coming back to Qi gong, this art of energy saving, could you tell us how it nourishes the practitioner of oriental medicine and what it brings you in your daily life?

Someone who practices and lives as an Oriental medicine practitioner must learn and deepen his or her Qi Gong. This requires a strict and arduous practice which does not necessarily correspond to the reality of our time. Very few follow this path and really confront the difficulties it imposes. As a result, few teachers take the trouble to transmit the true Qi Gong, don’t they?

Yet the use of Ki is a formidable tool in diagnosis and treatment. Qi Gong leads to fabulous results! It allows me to perceive the patient in the “depth of his being” (心の中) and to hear the “voice of Heaven” (天の声). Without really practicing it, one cannot become a good practitioner.

Takeuchi sensei and his Qigong master, Shen He Yang. (c) Nourit Masson-Sekine

I use therapeutic Qi Gong on patients, what they release allows me to confirm or complete my diagnosis. It informs me about the seriousness of the patient’s condition, the stage of his illness, but also about his state of mind or the vital energy stored in the body. Therefore, these indications can be important in the case of the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases etc. Last month, in November 2020, we also had very encouraging results on 3 breast cancer patients and 2 patients over 90 years old suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

This clinic is a place to welcome patients, but it is also considered as a dojo, a place of practice and training for therapists. In this way, you keep alive the traditional spirit that considers therapeutic arts as paths (Do) and not as techniques (Jutsu). In their learning, you seem to pay a lot of attention to moral rigour. What is the implication of this rigour in the training of your practitioners?

This question is a difficult one… It all depends on the disciple’s demands on himself, the patient he wishes to treat and the type of therapist he wishes to become.

There can be a gap between what I teach and his own expectations.

I know that the path of Bushido, this traditional, radical and sacrificial form of therapy, can today be perceived as “moral harassment” in the contemporary world. At the moment, I don’t think that any disciple would want to do that…

So I adapt, without giving up, and I continue my teaching every day as best I can.

In any case, it is also the therapist’s role to accompany the patients so that they acquire this moral sense.

What other qualities do you think a therapist should have?

Of course this question is very important. Originally it was through the study of Taoist arts that I learned. It is a Way of the Heart of great depth and through which one can develop the required qualities. There is an expression: “Shin Sui no Rō” (新水の労), which can be translated as : “Fetching water requires effort”. This means that in everyday life it is important to make an effort to serve others. I also ask the disciples to know how to put aside their ego in order to assimilate my teaching, to follow the same path as me. But the times are now very different from even 30 years ago. It doesn’t work like it used to.

Portrait of Takeuchi sensei in 1986 (c) Nourit Masson-Sekine

Having said that, I sometimes decide to go and clean the public toilets myself and I ask my disciples to join me. We do it for nothing. We do it so that we don’t forget where we come from and remain humble. These are also, to answer your question, the qualities to maintain in order to leave room for the other, the patient in particular. Of course we are talking about moral rigour, but laughter is also important. I ask therapists to know how to embody a character so that he can make patients laugh while remaining respectful.

What martial arts have you studied? For how long?

I studied Kendo, Iaido and Okinawan Karate (Goju Ryu) for 3, 10 and 20 years respectively. I don’t remember clearly the names of the teachers at that time.

I am also a kenjutsu practitioner, so I understand the very special relationship one can have with the sword. But not all readers are in this case. Could you tell me what lessons you have learned from the art of the sword. How do you apply them in your medical practice?

In oriental medicine, the term “Bōshin” (望診) is used to refer to the observation time in front of the patient. It is part of the 4 diagnostic arts: listening, looking, asking, touching. It is really a very important technique that can reach an almost divine level.

There are equivalents in Iaï, notably through the concept of “Marobashi” [ix]. A work in harmony with nature, free and formless, which adapts to each situation. In order to be able to apply it, it is important not to have a pre-determined intention and to face each situation in a neutral way in order to perceive the constant changes of the person in front of you. Here too the “Bōshin” is present.

We can also talk about the “Ai-Nuke” (相秡) which can be translated as “mutual preservation”. When opponents end their encounter before they even fight, out of respect for each other and for Life in general.

These concepts have in common the need to be in harmony with the “will of Heaven/Universe” (天の意志). They are in the field of recognition and acceptance of the other. In other words, it is through the path of enlightenment. By integrating the 6 virtues of Buddha into our daily life:

  • generosity
  • integrity
  • discipline
  • patience
  • perseverance
  • and meditative absorption through transcendental knowledge.
On the right Takeuchi sensei explaining the points and their treatment in Yin Shiatsu. (c) Akahigedo

I was talking about illness before, it can be precisely the result of neglecting these virtues. If they are not integrated into our values. Negative emotions such as anger and greed are the seed. The practice of the sword can therefore influence medical practice through this ethical dimension and the relationship to oneself and to others. It also allows us to remain anchored in time and to rid our body and mind of the superfluous.

I have friends who are experts in Iaï and Yabusame[x]. If you come to Japan, I will introduce them to you and you will be able to experience them.

It would be a pleasure! You have been a follower of Misogi, the purification of the body through water. You also practice calligraphy, which is a very demanding art. These techniques all come from the Japanese tradition. What place does it occupy in your life and in your practice?

I no longer practice Misogi, but, in other forms, I practice daily exercises of purification of body and mind.

Concerning the art of calligraphy, it has existed for a long time in Japan, but many currents are only practices that focus on technique, on aesthetic performance.

Many calligraphies are indeed very beautiful, but this dimension of Ki is missing. I think it is difficult to achieve “harmony of soul/mind” (魂の調和)[xi] through this. Calligraphy that is not enriched by this dynamic does not harmonise with the universe.

However, the way I approach calligraphy comes from my practice of Qi Gong. It is then done in connection with the “Way of Heaven” (天の道). It is through this synergy, through inspiration that the ideograms come to me, I don’t know beforehand what I am going to do and it is even sometimes difficult for me to decipher what results from it!

So, how do I achieve this harmony? Here again, I think that the practice of Qi Gong opens this way.

What do you see as the evolution of pathologies in Japan? In France we have seen a clear increase in joint problems and burn-out. But people don’t just want to be relieved, they also want to understand why they are in pain. Is this your case?

Japanese patients are in fact not very different. The problem for many of them comes from their diet: the oils, fats and sweets they regularly consume. If they are not aware of this, we cannot achieve satisfactory results.

In recent years, we have almost always found the same symptoms related to :

  • Intestinal hyperpermeability (“Leaky Guts Syndrome”);
  • Hyperpermeability of the blood-brain barrier (“Leaky brain Syndrome”).

This is very interesting, thank you for this information. In Europe, the energetic aspect of Shiatsu and the healing arts are very much in vogue. In your opinion, is the use of meridians and Ki the only thing you need to know to be able to treat a person in a natural way?

I don’t think there is only one thing.

Apart from the meridians and Ki, which are unfamiliar concepts for most people, what is important is: what the person says about how they feel, how they think, how they perceive things (心のあり方)[xii] … All this has to be taken into account.

It is also about living with respect for others and knowing how to bear one’s mistakes/defects (恥を知る心)[xiii] as the Japanese did in the past. There are expressions such as :

  • 自らじるという言い方もありま : acknowledgement of one’s wrongs
  • 自らを恐れるという言葉 self-criticism
  • 自らを慎むという言葉: restraint and moderation
  • 自らを戒めていく心 : self-discipline

I am constantly aware that this is the driving force behind the treatment.

Wooden panel at the entrance to the clinic. (c) Mehdi Abid

I will now ask you a question that could be simple, but is not: in your opinion, what is a meridian and what is Ki?

I think we can make the comparison between what exists in the human body and the railway networks. Meridians are like the rails of a train, the Ki is the electric current that makes it work.

These are notions that can be easily demonstrated during a treatment at the clinic. The human body is truly extraordinary…

To end this interview, what advice do you give to your students? What do they need to do so that they can practise for a long time, for decades, without becoming exhausted?

Feeling gratitude is very important.

It is necessary to know how to be grateful and to ask forgiveness from one’s parents. Think about what your parents have given you and what you have given them in return, what harm you may have done to them.

When you have realised all this, your true nature/energy will appear and you will then have all the resources to practice.

(c) Nourit Masson-Sekine

I will end with this expression, which I invite you to reflect on:

我以外全て師
Ware igai subete shi
Everything but self is master

Thank you.

It is I who thank you sensei for your time and for answering my questions.

Author: Ivan Bel
English proofreading: Chris McAlister


Acknowledgements:

I would particularly like to thank the following people for putting me in touch with Takeuchi Sensei, for speaking with him, clarifying his thoughts, translating from Japanese to French and providing the photographs:

Mehdi Abid
Misako Sekine
Nourit Masson-Sekine


Notes:

  • i] Fuku ki-hō (服気法): literally the ‘Ki’s habit technique’.
  • [ii] To find out more about this excellent film, see the fact sheet on allociné.
  • [iii] Barberousse…
  • iv] Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫) Japanese writer born in 1925, who was the last Japanese man to commit suicide by seppuku (opening his belly with a sword) in 1970. He is the author of numerous poems, novels and plays.
  • v] Mehdi Abid and Misako Sekine are the representatives of Yin Shiatsu in France. To know more about Mehdi Abid, read his interview on France Shiatsu. To know more about Misako Sekine, go to his website.
  • [vi] Jiyū ishi (自由意志) : word for word “freedom + will”.
  • [vii] Bodhidharma (Sanskrit in devanāgarī: बोधिधर्म “wisdom teaching”; simplified Chinese: 菩提达摩, pútídámó or 達摩, dámó; Japanese: 達磨, daruma; c. end of 5th and beginning of life century), was the Persian Buddhist monk from India, who brings the dhyāna from mahāyāna, under Chan in China and Zen in Japan. The Chan school claims to trace its roots back to the Buddha, Bodhidharma is considered to be his 28th patriarch and his first Chinese patriarch. He is also the one who brought Indian martial arts to China.
  • [viii] Hàn Wǔdì (汉武帝: -157 to -87 BC) is the seventh emperor of the Han dynasty of China, reigning from 9 March 141 BC until his death, a total of 54 years of reign. He is considered, along with the emperors Tang Taizong (Tang Dynasty) and Kangxi (Qing Dynasty), to be one of the greatest emperors in the history of China.
  • ix] 丸橋 (Marubashi) which may mean a circular bridge. Perhaps a reference to the cyclical nature of life/learning, or to a unit of time, past present future merging together.
  • x] Yabusame (流鏑馬) is a Japanese archery technique practiced on horseback. The archer shoots arrows without points (either hissing or with a ball at the end) at three wooden targets at full gallop.
  • [xi] Tamashī no chōwa (魂の調和): means “harmony of the soul”.
  • [xii] Kokoro no arikata (心のあり方): can be translated as “the heart as it should be” or “how the heart should be”.
  • [xiii] Haji o shiru kokoro (恥を知る心): In the context of the article, this means “being aware of one’s faults/errors”.
Book: La figura de mio padre : Tokujiro Namikoshi

Book: La figura de mio padre : Tokujiro Namikoshi

What do we really know about the life of Tokujiro Namikoshi? Not much, really. There is no official biography and that’s a pity. Everything that is said about him is mainly by word of mouth, but with all the possible and imaginable distortions. However, there is a way to know a little more about the life of this formidable Sensei who largely influenced Shiatsu. This way is this little book published by Shiatsu Milano Editore.


As many people know, I spend a lot of time looking for information on the history of Shiatsu in order to understand how and why, who and in what order… Seeing my efforts, Roberto Palasciano and Serena Trotti had the kind idea to send me several books including ” La figura de mio padre : Tokujiro Namikoshi ” and I thank them very much. It has been a long time since I had read an entire book directly in Italian, but I finally managed to read it all. This book is a compilation of memories of the current president of Shiatsu Namikoshi: Kazutami Namikoshi, Tokujiro’s second son.

To tell the truth, this is not the biography I was expecting, but this little book is full of information, anecdotes and above all photographs, which for an apprentice historian is a godsend. For example: we’ve all heard about Tokujiro Namikoshi’s treatment of his mother, but we’ve never seen her. Well, here she is at an advanced age with her husband.

(C) Shiatsu Milano Editore

But what is most interesting in this book is to better understand some elements of Tokujiro Namikoshi’s life journey, especially the large number of people he met and the incredible popularity he enjoyed among sumos, politicians, masters of all kinds and the public thanks to the television show he participated in. Here he is with his great friend the master Izawa who participated for a long time by teaching at the Japan Shiatsu College in Tokyo. This scene around a glass of sake shows how close friends they were.

(C) Shiatsu Milano Editore

This book raises many questions as well. For example: who were his masters? For if he was a great self-taught man, one cannot imagine that he invented Shiatsu all by himself. In fact, in some of the photos we see the words “with his master” or “with so-and-so”. This is something to investigate further. In any case, this book deserves to be read and I encourage all Shiatsu publishers to continue the collection of testimonies so that one day we can finally write a complete history of Shiatsu.

Tokujiro Namikoshi before a kenjutsu demonstration, and in front of his master (of sword? of shiatsu?)
(C) Shiatsu Milano Editore

Link to order: La figura de mio padre: Tokujiro Namikoshi, by Kazutami Namikoshi, Shiatsu Milano Editore, Nov. 2016.


Author : Ivan BEL