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.
Ampuku : Abdominal Acupressure. The classics at the heart of Japanese bodywork. Philippe Vandenabeele. Editions Shinzui Bodywork International Institute, Fukuoka, 2020
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.
The pure form, which is triggered only during menstruation
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:
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.
Check the diet, especially the quality of the water and anything that may affect the Liver (spices, alcohol, etc.).
There is often an emotional picture that should be treated at the same time.
As in lateral migraine, the Vb is often involved as well.
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.
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:
Empty Blood (of the Liver, of the Heart). It is thus necessary to feed the Blood of these organs + the Spleen.
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.
Liver Yang Rising (always towards the head). The Yang of the Liver is subdued, and its Yin and Blood are nourished.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
and meditative absorption through transcendental knowledge.
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 :
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.
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.
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
It is I who thank you sensei for your time and for answering my questions.
Author: Ivan Bel English proofreading: Chris McAlister
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
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
During the study of Shiatsu, the Xi points (or Geki in Japanese) are among the great classics to be learned by heart. However, the deep meaning of these points often escapes the neophytes. The fault lies in the various translations that are given to this particularly effective family of points.
The Xi points are written 隙 (xì). This word designates “cleft, crack, crevice” but it is not commonly used in Chinese. They prefer to use the words 裂缝 (lièfèng) or 罅 (xià) which have exactly the same meaning. Why then use this term? Because it has a second meaning which means “opportunity” or rather “favorable opportunity”. This reveals the hidden potential of the caracter. The crevice is not only the place where one falls, but also the place where things (here Qi energy) accumulate to constitute a reserve that will prove to be a chance in case of a hard blow. In the deserts of our planet, everything is dry and life has long since faded away. Except in the crevices (I refer SF readers to Frank Herbet’s magnificent book “Dune”, they will understand). Wherever a crevasse remains, there is still hope for life and sometimes life-saving reserves of water.
The same goes for the points that are part of this family. Crevasse points are also known by other names such as herald points, accumulation points or emergency points. All these names are quite justified, even if they do not correspond to the literal translation, in view of the results that these points give. Indeed, they are used in cases of acute pathology, when the case is serious, hence the term “emergency”. Their effects are often very effective, they lead a first-rate fight against the symptoms, hence the term “herald”. In the Middle Ages, the herald was an armed officer who carried the orders of the Prince and officially declared war. In Japanese, the term “geki” refers to this urgency, since it also has the meaning of “acute”. It opposes and thus completes another family of points, the “Raku” which one uses in the cases of chronic pathologies.
Effects and uses
In energetic of the channels, we understand that the Xi points are therefore holes, cracks or openings to the depths. In these points the Qi and the Blood gather and accumulate in a bottleneck before plunging into the body. It is thus the last hope (the good opportunity) to perform a treatment, all the more effective as one acts on both Qi and Blood. Moreover, these points have the particularity of stopping bleeding. More precisely, the Xi points of the Yin channels are known to act on the Blood while those of the Yang channels suppress pain. They are therefore first-rate allies in many Shiatsu treatments.
The pressure on these points will release the accumulation of energy which will pour forcefully into the channel. This is the reason why Xi points are appreciated, because they quickly remove obstructions in the channels and calm the pain related to the affected channel or organ. As you can see, these points are mainly used during the acute phases of a disease, especially in the case of fullness.
One will also note that among the recurring effects of these points they calm the Shen, that is to say the Spirit. One might be surprised by this effect, but when a pathology is acute, the pain frightens the Spirit. This is why these points are also precious: they remove the pain while calming the patient.
Location of the Crevasse points
All the channels and all the Extraordinary Vessels, with the notable exception of the Governor (Du Mai) and Conception (Ren Mai) Vessels, have a point Xi, bringing their number to 16 in total. They are always located in deep parts of the anatomy. But beware! They should not be confused with Sea points (in the ancient 5 Shu system). They too are deep, but they are not related. This said, the combination between Sea and Crevasse points must be interesting, to be tested. Otherwise, all the Xi points are located between the extremities of the limbs and the knee or elbow, with the exception of the 34 Stomach which is a little bit above the knee. Let’s see this in detail.
Lung: Collection hole (LU6 – Kongzui – 孔最)
Infos: The word Kong refers to the Qi of air in Chinese physiology. We are thus well on the Lung channel. It is located 7 inches before the Source point (LU9) in the wrist fold. We can also start from LU5 in the bend of the elbow and count 5 inches.
Effects: It regulates the Qi of the Lung, disperses heat, treats Blood problems related to the lungs.
Large Intestine: Warm dwelling (LI7 – Wenliu – 溫溜)
Infos: If the word Wen is nowadays translated as “lukewarm”, its primary meaning is liquid food (soup) that one brings to a prisoner. As for Liu, it is the accumulated water that can flow again. In other words, it is a point that will feed the Qi of the Large Intestine and make this energy flow. It is located 5 inches from the LI5 point, better known as the “snuffbox hole”, on the radial edge of the dorsal side of the forearm. It is also known as the Snake Head, Thwarted Flow, Pond End, Deep Well or Extreme Hole.
Effects: It disperses heat, restores energy to the channel and treats acute problems of the Large Intestine.
Stomach: Beam hill (ST34 – Liangqu – 梁丘)
Infos: This is the only Xi point that is not located between one end and a knee (or an elbow). Its meaning is that of a bridge over a dividing valley. It is therefore necessary to look for a muscular protrusion and not a hollow as is often the case with points. One of its many names is “hill of grains”, which means that this place comes out when the stomach is thriving. To find it, you have to go up 2 inches from the super-external angle of the patella.
Effects: It treats the Stomach in case of emergency, reduces oedema, stimulates the Luo and regulates the Liver.
Spleen-Pancreas: Earth crux (SP8 – Diji – 地機)
Infos: You usually remember this point all your life if you had the bad idea to press it on a drunken evening. Also known as “sieve of the earth, home of the Spleen or Earth system”, Diji is a very sensitive point to overeating and overdrinking. It is located under the inner edge of the tibia, 5 cun below the bend of the knee.
Effects: it strengthens the Spleen and increases the Ying Qi, heals the uterus, drives out Moisture, regulates Blood, retains the Jing (in case of night pollution) and dissolves ovarian cysts. Special mention for its ability to stop bleeding (hemorrhagic menstruation).
Heart : Yin cleft (HT6 – Yinxi – 陰郄)
Infos: Well, with this point, it’s all in the name. It is the Shaoyin cleft point (Heart-Kidney), also known as “Yin dale, Stones palace, free movement pass”. Located 0.5 inches from the Shenmen point (C7) in the wrist crease, its action on the Heart is first-rate.
Effects: It supports and soothes the Heart, tones the Yin, calms the Shen and chases away depression.
Small Intestine: Nursing the aged (SI6 – Yangliao – 養老)
Infos: This point has a very revitalizing action on aging tissues, because it increases the Yang (hence its name). But the word Liao which means “old, aged”, also gives by extension the sense of “venerable, experienced, who knows a lot, who poured into”. By experience, one must take the time to listen and work on this point so that it gives all its fruits. It is found in the radial side hollow just above the styloid process of the wrist.
Effects: It disperses Heat, eliminates Moisture, revitalizes bones, tendons and muscles, improves vision, facilitates the circulation of Qi in the channel and calms the pain of the Small Intestine.
Urinary Bladder: Metal door (UB63 – Jin men – 金門)
Infos: Among the Gate/Door points (Men), the Precious Door or Metal Gate is also a cleft point, which gives us an idea of its importance. Also called “Golden Gate, Parade Bridge or Bridge-shaped Pass”, it is the starting point of the Yangwei Mai. For all its reasons, it is one of the great treatment points of such power that it is reputed to be the most effective point against epilepsy and convulsions, thus making it a “precious” gateway to healing. It is found on the outer edge of the foot, in a recess on the inner edge of the cuboid bone (between V62 and V64).
Effects: It disperses Heat, opens the orifices (in all senses of the word) and calms the Shen causing a general relief, finally it relieves cramps.
Kidney : Water spring (KD5 – Shui quan – 水泉)
Infos: Literally Shui Quan means “water” and “fountain”. But these two terms should be understood differently as the water that comes out (source) of the body (i.e. urine). Thus, we understand that it is a point for treating urinary disorders, hence its other name: “urinary syndrome”. In fact, the KD5 is known to deal with dribbling of urine. To have such strength, Shui Quan is also related to the Chong Mai and the Ren Mai. It is located on the medial side of the foot, against the heel bone, 1 inch below the famous Kidney (R3) source point in the hollow of the tendon.
Effects: Regulates the Chong Mai (Penetrating Vessel) and the Ren Mai (Conception Vessel), clears the lower focus, strengthens the Liver and Kidney, activates the Blood and regulates menstruation.
Pericardium: Xi cleft door (PC4 – Ximen – 郄門)
Infos: Here is another Door point which is also a cleft. Other names : Slit Door or Sharp Door. In other words, it is a door for problems in acute phase or in case of bleeding (like all Xi points of the Yin type). Placed on the central line of the forearm (inner side), it is found 5 inches from the wrist fold.
Effects: Calms the Heart and Shen, regulates Blood and Qi, eliminates stasis, stops bleeding, lifts obstructions in the channel and calms pain.
Triple Heater: Convergence and gathering (TH7 – Huizong – 會宗)
Infos: Litteraly “gathering of ancestors”. In Chinese culture, the cult of ancestors is one of the cardinal points of classical society. This is why this point has a very important symbolism and is nicknamed “fundamental diversion or essential meeting”. Slightly offset towards the outer edge of the arm (little finger side, outer face) in relation to the channel’s line, it is necessary to make a diversion to visit it, as when you go to the temple of the ancestors. At 3 inches from the outer fold of the wrist, it is thus offset by one inch with respect to the HR6.
Effects: it circulates the Qi of the channel, sharpens the hearing, opens the upper orifices of the body.
Gall Bladder: Outer Hill (GB36 – Wai qiu – 外丘)
Infos: Facing GB35 (1 inch forward), 7 inches from the lateral malleolus, located exactly in front of the fibula and between this bone and the anterior tibial muscle, VB36 is not one of the students’ favourite points because of the angle it forms in the channel. That being said, it provides sovereign relief for gall bladder injuries.
Effects: It circulates the Qi in the channel, invigorates the Luo and calms the Shen.
Liver : Middle capital (LI6 – Zhong du – 中都)
Infos: Zhongdu is the name of the capital of the Jin dynasty (1115-1234). But this is not a reference to Chinese history. Its name indicates the importance of its role, because the capital has always been the centre of power for China and the middle, the centre, represents the place of Man between Heaven and Earth, as well as the centre of the known world. It is not for nothing that China calls itself Zhong guo (the country or empire of the Middle). Here it must be understood that this “flourishing Centre” serves to “establish the connection between the top and the bottom”. Its location is a reflection of GB36, since it is also 7 inches above the malleolus (internal this time), on the edge of the tibia bone.
Effects: It regulates the Liver and releases its stagnation, thus makes Qi circulate, invigorates and nourishes the Blood, stops bleeding, calms pains.
Yang Heel Vessel: Instep Yang (UB59 – Fu yang – 跗陽)
Infos: Here we are now on the cleft points of the Extraordinary (or Curious) Vessels. This point is also translated as “Yang of the foot bone”, but the word Fu actually refers to the ankle, or rather the “neck of the foot” and Yang refers to the energy above it. Therefore, it is understood that it is anatomically located above the ankle, 3 inches above UB60, the point that is in the Achilles tendon hollow, on the external side.
Effects: Relieves tendons, promotes joints, disperses heat from the head, clarifies the Luo, treats paralysis.
Infos: Litteraly “Hand over the letter”. One other name for this item is “Cross the messenger”. It is therefore the messenger of the Kidney, responsible for supporting the muscle tone of the inner face of the muscles. Located on the inner side of the leg, 2 inches above the Source point (KD3) in the Achilles tendon hollow, and a little in front of KD7 (whose role is to send the Kidney Qi to the upper body). Jiao Xin is therefore a point that will put Yin energy back where it belongs.
Effects: Nourishes and regulates the Liver and the Kidney, enriches the feminine matrix, refreshes Heat and Humidity, regulates the Blood layer and therefore supports the menstruation.
Yang Link Vessel: Yang intersection (GB35 – Yang jiao – 陽交)
Infos: This point has many nicknames such as “bone hollow of the leg, distinct Yang channel or side gate”. Located 1 inch in front of GB36 (which is also a Xi point), note the importance of this area of the leg in emergency care. This point unites both the Yangwei Mai and the GB channel, hence its function as a “Yang junction”. It is located 7 cun above the external malleolus.
Effects: It circulates the Qi of the Yang channels, invigorates the Luo, calms the Shen, relieves pain and brings general relief.
Yin Link Vessel: Guest house (KD9 – Zhu bin – 築賓)
Infos: At 5 inches above KD3 (and only 3 inches from KD8 the Xi point of the Yinqiao Mai), his name indicates a “man who builds adobe walls”, combined with “a gift you give to a guest”. This point is therefore a shelter, a house, specially built for guests. But another meaning indicates “to submit oneself to…”. It must therefore be understood that the point is a real gift that submits the pain and supports the visitor (ourselves).
Effects: Tones and regulates Liver and Kidney, eliminates Heat and Humidity, clarifies the Heart and calms the Shen.
Simplistically, we can divide the history of Shiatsu in a few chapters and name them in correlation with major historical events. Although we may find the ancient traces of Shiatsu in the incipient forms of Japanese bodywork, the first chapter in the history of Shiatsu is actually the Prewar Chapter. This is the time when Shiatsu emerges as the name for a new therapy and it culminates in 1939 with the publishing of Shiatsu Ho, written by Tamai Tenpeki. The following chapter in the history of Shiatsu, the Postwar chapter, is dominated completely by Tokujiro Namikoshi. Abundant in impressive achievements performed by Tokujiro Namikoshi, such as astounding successful treating of the rich and the famous clientele, founding clinic and institute and peaking with the obtaining of the official recognition, it’s no surprise that this chapter outshines the Prewar chapter.
However, the Prewar Chapter is critical for understanding the history of Shiatsu. I feel that there is not enough awareness in the worldwide Shiatsu community of the importance of the developments from this chapter.First and most important thing: nothing from the Prewar chapter escaped outside Japan.Tokujiro Namikoshi was aware of the importance of spreading Shiatsu overseas. He dispatched masters to United States and taught himself classes in the United States. Shizuto Masunaga also taught classes outside Japan, both in the United States and in Europe. Both Namikoshi and Masunaga left behind them institutions that faithfully had been carrying on their legacies.Compared to Namikoshi and Masunaga,Tamai Tenpeki didn’t start an official school, didn’t obtain the official recognition, didn’t travel abroad to teach Shiatsu. But, he was the first to write a landmark book in the field of Shiatsu. His legacy is compressed in his book, Shiatsu Ho. Given the worldwide dissemination of Shiatsu today, for me, it’s still unbelievable that Tenpeki’s book was NEVER translated into English or in any other non-Japanese language. The book has been re-edited a few times but if you don’t read Old Japanese, you may never know what Shiatsu was like in its formative period.
“Stephen Brown was born and raised in Japan, and he graduated from the Japan Central Acupuncture College in Tokyo in 1983. After becoming licensed as a shiatsu practitioner and then an acupuncturist, he studied Zen Shiatsu at Masunaga Shizuto’s clinic in Tokyo. In 1984 he went to Beijing, China to attend the Advanced International Acupuncture Training Course at the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. After returning to Tokyo, he continue his studies with renowned teachers including Manaka Yoshio MD and Serizawa Katsusuke. He moved to Seattle in 1986 and opened his practice and began teaching shiatsu and acupuncture at the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Later he taught at the Seattle Institute of East Asian Medicine from 1997 to 2019. Being a native speaker of Japanese, he has translated many texts on Oriental medicine and has served as an interpreter in seminars of Japanese traditional medicine. Most notably he has translated Shudo Denmei’s text and promotes Shudo- style meridian therapy.” NAJOM, Volume 27, Number 79, published in July, 2020.
Stephen Brown accepted the challenge to translate “Shiatsu Ho” in English almost one year ago. Upon a quick look over the last edition of the book, he decided that almost half of the content of the book is quite dated and it’s not worth the hard work required for translation to English:“It would be quite an undertaking to translate this classic of shiatsu. At first I considered just writing an article about Tamai’s text for NAJOM. Looking at it closely, however, I discovered almost half of this text is about Western medicine. It goes into great detail describing Western anatomy, physiology and pathology of the early 20th century. Of course some of this is outdated and readers in the West don’t seek such information in a shiatsu text. Tamai’s Western medical orientation makes sense in the context of early modern Japan trying to legitimize itself to the world and catch up with Western science and technology. The readership at the time would have been impressed with Tamai’s modern perspective applied to his unique approach to bodywork.…I believe the real value of Tamai’s text for modern readers lies in the parts that explain his techniques and his unique perspective of the human body and healing work. So I will skip those sections about Western medicine and translate only those parts that relate specifically to shiatsu and share my view along side it.”Stephen Brown, NAJOM, Volume 27, Number 79, published in July, 2020
I took the liberty to post a few quotes from the first paragraphs translated for the first time in English by Stephen Brown. My goal is to raise awareness about the importance of the work that Stephen Brown is doing these days. This is our chance to get a glimpse of what shiatsu was in the vision of its founder. That’s why I encourage everyone of you to support Stephen Brown’s work by purchasing a PDF article from NAJOM. The current price is $1 per PDF article, it’s a total steal for the value you get. It’s very simple: just write an email to [email protected] and ask for the two PDF articles. You will receive the PDF articles by email and another email with PayPal payment instructions. Thank you!
Last year I launched a survey with the help of Fernando Cabo, on the perception of Shiatsu practitioners and schools of Shiatsu on a number of topics. We conducted the survey in French, English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Even if the number of answers is not as high as I had hoped, they do reflect the opinions commonly heard in courses, internships and exchanges on social networks. It is now high time to reveal the data from these surveys, starting with the first, and by no means least important topic: Shiatsu and cancer. To illustrate these answers, I asked two international Shiatsu experts for their comments on this subject: Dominique Chevalier, President of the French Federation of Traditional Shiatsu (FFST) and Tzvika Calisar, founder of Seiki Shiatsu. Both of them have extensive experience of giving Shiatsu treatments to cancer patients.
First of all, I would like to thank Messrs. Cabo, Chevalier and Calisar for their commitment to Shiatsu and their courage in participating in this article.
Origins of answers
We were fortunate to have137 participants answering from 23 countries around the world.
Breakdown by language and gender
Participants by country :
1st question: Do you think it is appropriate to give Shiatsu to patients with blood cancer (leukemia, myeloma, lymphoma)?
This question directly touches on one of the most widespread ideas in the world of Shiatsu: not to touch a person with blood cancer. The answers are classified by the language of the users, which allows us to evaluate how each language group perceives this question. It is interesting to note that the percentage is almost the same everywhere.
Here are the opinions of the respondents. These have deliberately been left untranslated to avoid any risk of altering their point of view. They are classified into four categories: Yes, No, Neutral and the opinions of people experienced in this field.
A condition que ce soit fait avec douceur
Le sang et la lymphe circulent de toutes façons quoi qu’on fasse
Les cancéreux souffrent de nombreux autres maux qu’il faut soulager (notamment la douleur, la dépression, la fatigue…)
Le Ki cherche à restaurer l’équilibre, il ne peut pas blesser
Avec l’accord du médecin
Chez ceux qui ont dit non, crainte que le sang et la lymphe circule plus vite et disperse les cellules cancéreuses
Dans certains pays le shiatsu pour les cancéreux est interdit
Pas de preuve scientifique que le Shiatsu diffuse le cancer du sang
On ne sait rien sur ce sujet
EXPERIENCED PEOPLE COMMENT
I worked in an oncology department in a major hospital in Israel for 2 years and have also worked in my private clinic with cancer patients, including blood cancer, and have seen great improvements in quality of life and physical condition.
Shiatsu is offered as an alternative treatment for cancer patients here in Scotland at Macmillan. It helps to address the emotional side of the illness
A Bruxelles nous travaillons dans un service d’oncologie avec le Shiatsu, et les médecins ne constatent que des bénéfices
Pratico shiatsu ai bambini del reparto oncoematologico, ottimi risultati sugli effetti collaterali da medicinali
Das habe ich schon gemacht und die KlientInnen fühlen sich sehr durch Shiatsu sehr gestärkt
Question 2: Do you think it is appropriate to give shiatsu to patients with cancers other than blood cancer?
The answers here are mostly positive. This is very interesting because again 10 years ago only a few pioneers dared to treat patients with any type of cancer. So here we see a radical change in perception. This is probably due to the very many oncology centres that have opened their doors to Shiatsu throughout the world, such as the Saint-Luc University Hospital in Brussels, to name just one example.
Shiatsu en casos de cáncer ayuda a paliar los efectos colaterales de las terapias convencionales, apoya emocionalmente al receptor y trabaja a favor del sistema inmune.
Cancer is an expression of the bodymind. Shiatsu is a holistic treatment and people can benefit from receiving it.
You can, but you need to learn about specific cancer strategies and do’s and don’ts.
le shiatsu n’y est pas contre indiqué. Cependant il est préférable que ce soit un praticien expérimenté pour accompagner les personnes atteintes de cancer. J’entends expérimenté par ayant terminé son cursus de formation et pouvant faire un diagnostic énergétique précis permettant de savoir que faire et que pas faire fonction du diagnostic énergétique.
It is against the law in our country (country unnamed).
Really, it depends… shiatsu moves a lot of things in the human body. Pressure might not be appropriate in some parts of the body in the case of cancer. For example, one of the three holistic systems of the body is the fascial connective tissue and this is very much stimulated by shiatsu pressure. What happens if the pressure boosts the migration of cancer cells around the body?
EXPERIENCED PEOPLE COMMENT
I have had very positive feedback from my cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: the side-effects are easier to overcome, patients feel stronger and the poisonous pain disappears.
Je pratique sur cancers du poumon, les bienfaits sur la relaxation et amoindrissements des douleurs et fatigue est indéniable
Question 3: Do you think it is appropriate to give shiatsu to patients whose chemotherapy sessions have started and are scheduled to receive more?
With regard to chemotherapy, the idea was to find out whether Shiatsu can help patients overcome the side effects of this treatment. The hundreds of practitioners with whom I have been able to talk over the past 20 years have all confirmed to me the effectiveness of Shiatsu in greatly reducing the period of pain and fatigue associated with taking chemotherapy drugs, as well as the feeling of muscle heaviness, headaches and nausea. A large majority of positive opinions in the data confirms this.
Oui et dans les limites définies par la maladie, en évitant de stimuler la zone affectée. Quoi qu’il en soit, il peut être utile d’accompagner ce type de problématique dans le cadre de leur traitement pour tenter de diminuer les effets secondaires. Je réponds à cette question par expérience. L’accompagnement des chimiothérapies par le Shiatsu est salutaire une séance 2 jours avant et une séance 2 jours après
Le shiatsu est excellent pour diminuer les effets secondaires de la chimiothérapie, notamment la fatigue, les maux de tête et les nausées, voire dans certains cas, la perte de cheveux.
Traggono benefici, allevia il dolore e gli effetti collaterali della chemio. Aiuta a riprendere forza più velocemente dopo chemio e radio. Sveglia una maggiore consapevolezza nella persona e incoraggia a prendersi cura di se.
Ayuda con efectos secundarios y psicologicamente
La chimie fatigue beaucoup, et donc – à moins d’une demande expresse de la personne – il vaut mieux s’abstenir
Always in close consultation with the oncologist. Only start shiatsu when the chemo seems to have started working and the cancer is in remission.
Non ho sufficienti informazioni per trattare persone affette da cancro. Non vorrei nuocere al ricevente.
EXPERIENCED PEOPLE COMMENT
Yes! Influence over nausea, sleeping patterns and to instill a positive body image to promote healing is achieved with Shiatsu
Shiatsu is fantastic at helping with the side-effects of chemotherapy. Nausea, fatigue, neuropathy, blood-pressure issues, heat and sweating (in my opinion) have all responded better to Shiatsu than to the medications given alongside the Chemo.
Testato che da benefici su nausee, mal di testa ecc
Question 4: Do you think it is appropriate to give shiatsu to patients who have recently received radiotherapy?
This final question asked whether respondents sensed any difference in their willingness to treat patients undergoing chemotherapy with those undergoing radiation therapy. The answers are almost identical to those in the previous question, revealing a consistency of reasoning.
Comments are not given here, since the only interesting – and highly logical – one is not to press on the area burned by the radiotherapy rays. The other responses all refer to the previous question.
From this part of the survey regarding Shiatsu treatment for cancer, it appears that the opinions of practitioners and teachers are increasingly positive. The prevailing opinion 10 years ago, without any proof but as a precautionary principle, was not to touch people with cancer. Thanks to practitioners who responded to their patients’ requests, more and more positive opinions began to emerge. Thanks to the courage and openness of the hospitals there are also more and more experiences and convincing results.
Finally, thanks to the fundraising, promotion and collection work of the Shiatsu Research Network for scientific research in Shiatsu, we can already read 3 studies on the effects of Shiatsu on cancer :
Obviously, this is not enough and if Shiatsu is to continue its progress as a complementary therapy and with its recognition by national health authorities, more will be needed. This is a courageous beginning, however, and we can only salute the authors of these 3 studies for being pioneers in this field. May this encourage current practitioners to commit to entering the doors of oncology services to carry out new studies that will benefit the entire profession. I now give the floor to one of these pioneers, author of one of the three studies: Dominique Chevalier.
Comments by Dominique Chevalier
Masseur – Physiotherapist DE Practitioner – Shiatsu Trainer President of the French Federation of Traditional Shiatsu (FFST)
Allow me introduce myself in a few words. Physiotherapist since 1984, I worked in private practice for about ten years. I also worked with children with multiple disabilities. Then I joined a hospital team in follow-up care and rehabilitation for six years. At that time, I became aware of my own shortcomings in pain management, so I did a University diploma in Pain Management at the Bordeaux University Hospital in 2000. Then I joined a palliative care team at the Saintonge Hospital Center. At that time, I was in my 3rd year of Shiatsu training and had the opportunity to practice Shiatsu with about 150 patients undergoing chemotherapy. The objective of this treatment was to see whether Shiatsu could have an influence on the side effects of chemotherapy. The results were quite convincing, since 64% of the side effects were significantly reduced or even completely disappeared. Since 2006, I have been working with children with motor disabilities. Parallel to this I work as a Shiatsu Practitioner. I am also a Shiatsu instructor and for the past four years I have been President of the French Federation for Traditional Shiatsu (FFST), having previously been a member of the pedagogical committee of this same federation for four years. Since September 2020, I am once again a student at the Bordeaux Faculty of Medicine for a University diploma in Medical Hypnosis.
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Ivan Bel for this study on a subject as serious as cancer.
Many young practitioners are very nervous about treating cancer patients. In their defence, let it be said that they are taught early on that cancer is contraindicated in the practice of Shiatsu.
Let’s take a purely pragmatic look at the situation.
When I began my studies in Kinesiotherapy, we were taught that we should never massage cancer patients, because increasing blood circulation through massage would cause cancer cells to migrate to healthy areas and thus promote the development of metastases… This has never been proven. Nowadays, cancer patients are advised to receive massage and to move around, which increases the flow of blood circulation!
The same argument was used in Shiatsu. Increasing the circulation of Qi could promote the migration of cancer cells… Maybe… Again, nothing has been proven! This remains an open question.
I gave myself this choice:
Accept the standard hypothesis, which implies that we could perhaps have an influence on the migration of cancer cells and do nothing… or
Play the “rebel” and try something – a much more enticing hypothesis!
The question that each practitioner must ask himself is: Should I take the “risk” of giving Shiatsu to a cancer patient, knowing that I may perhaps contribute to reducing the quantity of life, or should I consider the quality of life and try to reduce the side effects of the various cancer treatments? I asked myself this exact question and the answer came to me very clearly. But it’s up to each person to evaluate the pros and cons and decide for themselves.
Let us remember the great principle that prevails in any therapeutic act “Primum non Nocere” – “First of all, do no harm”. This must remain our guiding principle. It is Blackburn’s law of double effect, concerning medical ethics – always weigh the positive and the deleterious effects of a treatment.
Having answered this question, one rule must be respected:
The deal must be perfectly clear. We cannot “cure cancer with Shiatsu”. Our art is a complementary technique, which in no way replaces medical treatment. Let’s hold our space and above all put the patient at the center of their own treatment. This attitude of responsibility involves the patient, of course, but also the entire health care team.
Concerning the Shiatsu session itself:
Always find out if an implantable chamber (infusion directly into the chamber, which avoids peripheral puncture) has been placed under one of the two clavicles, and above all, do not exert any pressure on this area.
There is no defined protocol. We work according to the energy balance we find. However, there are a few constants. The meridian of the Liver is almost always very strong, because the elimination of drugs is mainly done through the liver. Stomach is often weak, hence the problems of nausea and vomiting. Kidney is also weak, which explains hair loss – it would be very interesting to work on it beforehand to reduce this side effect.
To conclude, remember Alain Bashung’s song “Dare, dare, Josephine”. I invite you to DARE. You risk nothing, on the contrary, you can only gain beautiful things!
Kinésithérapie la Revue – Feb. 2007 – p 27 to 31. www.masson.fr/revues/kin Shiatsu Society News – Autumn 2007 – issue 103 – p 14-16. www.shiatsusociety.org Swiss Shiatsu Association – edition 5/2010 p 26 to 29. www.association-shiatsu.ch Same in German version www.shiatsuverband.ch Ian Olver and Monika Robotin – Perspectives on Complementary and alternative medicines – p 373 to 379. Imperial College Press 2012 www.icpress.co.uk Pierre Blackburn – L’Éthique – Édition du Renouveau Pédagogique – 1996
Comments by Tzvika Calisar
Does Shiatsu treatment help patients who are suffering from cancer?
Can Shiatsu damage and “spread” the cancer metastases all over the body?
These are the two main questions I have been asked during my 35 years of practising & teaching Shiatsu in Japan and all over the world.
In this article I will try to answer these questions and many more.
First of all, I will introduce myself briefly. My name is Tzvika Calisar. I started my way in Shiatsu at the Japan Shiatsu School in Tokyo (with Tokujiro Namikoshi sensei) in 1985, and then at Iokai Shiatsu Centre in Tokyo (the school of Masunaga sensei) and continued to study with a few other Shiatsu methods in Japan. From 2001-2007 I taught shiatsu in Tokyo to Japanese students in a Shiatsu school and treated patients from all over Japan.
During those years I also travelled around the world teaching shiatsu to Shiatsu teachers, therapist & students. So, my experience of treating patients with cancer for 35 years (of course not only with Cancer) are not limited to one or two people, countries, traditions or religions.
I will start with the second question – can Shiatsu damage and “spread” cancer metastases all over the body?
The answer is NO!
30 years ago, many Shiatsu schools around the world taught their students that they SHOULD NOT treat people suffering from Cancer precisely because it can spread metastases all over the body.
I completely disagree with this opinion. On several occasions I have consulted with friends of mine who are Doctors about this and their answer is: “Cancer metastases spread through the blood and physical stimulation will neither speed it up nor slowit down”.
In Shiatsu we do not treat on the physical level but on the Meridian and Ki level. (Massage works on the physical level).
The only problem my Doctor friends mentioned is the following: what if a patient is coming for a treatment with a symptom and didn’t check it beforehand with a Doctor? In that case the patient might feel much better in the moment but the cancer will not have been treated.
The solution to this subject is very simple.
Most patients have already been to their Doctor to check why they have the specific symptoms and if not, you can advise them to go and check it from the Western medical perspective with their doctor.
Now for the first question – does Shiatsu treatment help patients who are suffering from cancer?
The answer is YES!
In the last 10-15 years, Shiatsu treatment for patients diagnosed with cancer is increasingly common in many hospitals around the world. For example, in Israel every public & private hospital now offers Shiatsu in its Oncology department.
There are 3 main types of patients with cancer (any type of cancer) who come for Shiatsu treatments:
1- The first type are patients at different stages of Cancer who are in the beginning or middle of the conventional Western medicine treatment (Chemotherapy, Radiation or Biologic treatments). The main reason and intention for the Shiatsu treatment is to awaken their internal Seiki (meaning Internal healing energy & power) which helps them successfully overcome the hard and difficult treatments. The results are great but I can’t say whether it’s because of the Shiatsu treatments, the conventional treatments or the combination.
We should always recommend them to continue with conventional treatment and not take the risk that they will stop it and receive only Shiatsu or any other Oriental medical method.
A while ago I was treating an American woman suffering from liver cancer and she could not even get up from her bed due to weakness and pain all over her body. After a few Seiki Shiatsu treatments, she almost returned to a normal life without pain (but still with cancer). One day she asked me “If I should recover completely from the cancer, how I will know if it’s because of your Shiatsu treatments or because of the chemotherapy?” I smiled and answered her “Never mind why. The most important thing is that you recover, get healthy and live normally”.
2- The 2nd type of patients coming for Shiatsu treatments are seeking help with reactions to Chemotherapy & Biologic treatments, for example: abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle cramps, nausea and various other reactions. In these cases, the results are very fast and effective and it is clear that the reason for the improvement is the Shiatsu treatments.
3- The 3rd type of cancer patients who are coming for Shiatsu treatment are those who are in the last few months of their lives, when the doctors in the hospital have given up and told the patient and her/his family that there are only a few months left. In that case, there are basically two kinds of reactions: either starting the process of parting from life & family or trying to fight until the end. For most people “this is the end”, while for others it’s only “one part of a long journey”. In both situations our Shiatsu treatments should focus on helping the patient to depart this life peacefully.
A few years ago, I flew from Japan to Vienna to give a Shiatsu workshop. A student came to pick me up from the airport and in his car on the way to my hotel he began to tell me that his friend who he was treating was in hospital, dying of cancer. His whole family were telling him to fight and that he would be ok. My student asked me advise him how to treat his friend.
I asked him to drive me to the hospital to meet his friend. When we arrived at his room, I looked into his eyes and they showed a great sadness. I talked to him but he could not talk back. His family were pushing me to tell him he would survive but I could not say anything like that. In the car on the way to my hotel, I said to my student “When you treat your friend, do it with the intention that he will pass away peacefully and that his family will support him”. After a few weeks, my student called me and told me that his friend had passed away peacefully.
As a Shiatsu therapist, you should not be afraid to treat patients with cancer. We can treat them at any stage and in any condition because Shiatsu treatment helps them so much.
Just be clear what the purpose of your treatment is:
Fighting the cancer?
Balancing Kyo & Jitsu?
Releasing Jaki (negative energy or stagnation)?
The purpose of Seiki Shiatsu is to awaken the patient’s Internal Healing force/energy – the internal Seiki. In my Shiatsu method, we diagnose and treat the “Seiki Meridian”, meaning one of the 14 meridians (apart from the Kyo & Jitsu meridians) that connects directly to the internal Seiki of the patient. The awakened internal healing force of the patient can do its work very well.
I have been practicing martial arts for 33 years now and 20 years just for Shiatsu. For years I have been obsessed with studying and learning, which is still the case, but to a lesser extent. I have sought and am still seeking approaches and techniques that allow me to be effective in the face of the problems I encounter. But following this path I have locked myself into the technique (jutsu) doing -if you want- a kind of Shiatsu-jutsu. Of course, the martial experience allowed me to distinguish quite early on the fundamental principles of Shiatsu. For the record, the principles underlie the technique and not the other way around. While working on the principles, I gradually left the techniques to let myself go more to the inspiration of the hands and the body. Finally, like in a game of Tetris, I saw the pieces of the puzzle forming a larger and deeper picture of Shiatsu and it’s not over yet. When I left to live in Africa, I had to slow down my pace of work, which allowed me to immerse myself more in reading and meditation. As I resumed treatments in France over the last 8 months, I realized that my technique had changed. At first I was surprised and spent some time analyzing how it had evolved and in what extent. As in sports, the variations in the intensity of the work, the breaks, but also all the other contributions come to nourish the practice. This is why Shiatsu is a Way (Do). The years being added to the years, we always discover more layers to what we already knew, but in a superficial way. After 20 years of intensive work and study, it is barely possible to feel the directions in which Shiatsu pushes us, but it is impossible to know where it takes us. This is what walking on the Path is all about. And the most wonderful thing is to understand: there is no end to this journey.
Because technique is an end in itself, and it always leads to a dead end once it is acquired. At that point you go around in circles, you get bored and finally you run out of breath, you lose the passion. This is what I have often seen in physiotherapists and osteopaths after 20 or 30 years of work. On the other hand, a Way is a path that leads to discover the human being that we are, a path towards the inward.
The truth is, to get there we have to make a double journey: the one that makes us walk on the surface of the world to find masters and learn new things and the one that makes us enter into ourselves to make our art resonate with all the layers of our being. And there are so many strata, with so many nuances and evolutions according to age, place, climate, food, emotions, encounters that we feel it is endless. This allows us to walk without limits, always further and, above all, always deeper. As a result, we progress, we are never bored and we increase our inner breath more and more.
Shu, Ha, Ri
I have already addressed these themes on various occasions, but let’s review again the three stages of learning any art as the Japanese have cleverly defined it.
Shu: At the beginning, we imitate our teacher, trying to copy the movements and decode the theories. This lasts as many years as it is necessary for each one, more for those who follow several schools, until they feel worthy to assume the role of shiatsushi and dare to start practicing.
Ha: This is the stage where we try, where we test ourselves and where we start to sort out the techniques by using them on the tatami mat. This is the phase of integration through practice. One could compare it to the “black work” in alchemy. These are years of work with no other goal than to practice and experiment with what has been learned. It is also the beginning of the polishing of technique and personality, passing little by little from student to practitioner.
Ri: Finally, a beginning of maturity is emerging and we can start teaching. The concepts become clearer and the technique has been tried and tested a thousand times. We have rejected that which is not useful to us, that which is superficial or has too many details to start simplifying and moving towards the essence of his art. The continuation of the inner journey consists in polishing the gesture, the spirit, the soul, to blend and become one with the immemorial principles of oriental medicine.
These three stages are well known to martial arts practitioners, but much less so to the Shiatsu public. Of course, there are no clear boundaries in Shu Ha Ri, and often they overlap, cross, and intertwine. Sometimes one has the impression of starting from scratch when one meets a new master, even if this is never quite true. Moreover, each of these three stages of understanding is not similar from one individual to another. It all depends on the involvement and the amount of work done. But Shu Ha Ri are steps common to all those who understand that they are not studying or practicing a technique, but following a Path.
Kotaï, Jutaï, Ryutaï et Kitaï
Within the three previous steps, one can begin to enter into the depths by distinguishing other equally exciting concepts to go through. These new steps represent the way to approach the technique.
Kotai: literally translated as “hard body”. It is hard work where one tends to either over-press or over-use the muscles of the body. This is what you do when you start and you don’t yet know your limits in terms of strength, endurance over time, energy and mental expenditure. Kotai can also be a very useful work choice when facing certain types of actions or problems that we encounter. Finally, it is the choice of certain schools to work in this way. However, make no mistake: working hard does not mean a lack of flexibility. It is like the bones that holds the human frame. They are solid, powerful, but fortunately they have a certain flexibility that prevents them from breaking with each shock. Therefore, hard work has a roundness that allows it to pass without ever being felt hard. This work is typical of the martial Shiatsu’ schools.
Jutai: litt. “flexible body”. Flexible work requires a different approach to the technique, making it softer and rounder. By default it is often the work of the person who lacks confidence at the beginning, who does not dare to press hard, which is often the case with very strong students who are afraid of hurting or with weak ones. But later on, those who master flexible work understand that it must be incisive, without compromise. To return to the previous image of the human body, it could be the muscles. Muscles are soft in relation to bones, but the movements they create are unstoppable, clear, well-directed, and they can become hard at any time. The mistake is to work flexibly, but without power, otherwise you get a soft technique without energy and above all, without result. This is typically the work of Masunaga, who with gentleness presses deeply and without embellishment to avoid pain. It was necessary to go to the heart of the pain.
Ryutai: litt. “free body”. This time the work is free, the techniques go from hard to soft, but also from deep to surface, from fast to slow, mixes stops and restarts, becomes staccato to pass to pianissimo. The practitioner plays with all the technical registers he knows, invents new ones, truly composes a symphony guided by the heart and played by the hands without even thinking about it. The advantage of this step is that he can choose what he wants to do. For the practitioner it is a stage of pleasure, almost of playing, which is counterbalanced by listening and knowing the effects of each movement, depth of pressure, rhythm. This is the beginning of mastery. To stay in the metaphor of the body, once the bones and muscles work together, one can play, dance, do acrobatics and joy arises.
Kitai : litt. ” body energy “. This time the practitioner’s body is one with his energy. And through this energy, it reaches the depths of the receiver. It is a kind of second time where the practitioner no longer does what he wants, but where he realizes what the body of the receiver expects. For this, the technique is guided by an intense listening at all times, which offers an instantaneous reactivity to what he feels in the other person. This connection of energy from one to the other blurs the boundaries of the body. All advanced practitioners are familiar with this feeling where the two are one, where one can work in the other while working within oneself, while remaining each independent of the other. To finish the metaphor of the body, this is the moment when one knows the other so well that it is no longer necessary to move or speak. One look is enough to understand each other and to know what the other needs.
Of course, once again, the boundaries between the different types of work are neither clear nor absolute and there is always a way to get back to one or the other. But as the years go by, each step becomes more and more obvious.
In my experience, we go through Shu Ha Ri all the time and in each of these three levels we experience hard, soft, free and energetic work. Even if each step of our progression is not always clear as to its beginning or end, I am convinced that we must go through them all. As a beginner, I am familiar with work ranging from hard to energetic, an experience I had while I was still at school. As a practitioner, I have experienced these same four types of work, during the tens of thousands of hours of service to people. And while teaching, I do the same in every course, in every internship. To be clearer, one can teach at the beginning, being carried away by enthusiasm and forcing students to go fast. Over time, you soften the teaching, and then you start playing with your audience. Finally, you don’t say anything, you show while being able to take the students where you want them.
Some preliminary conclusions
It is important to understand or infer several things from this. First of all, we are only talking here about a first degree of deepening the art of Shiatsu and its Path promises us many more. Secondly, when one has the impression of no longer succeeding and returning to a more basic or harder form, this is not necessarily a sign of regression, but that it may be the crossing of one of the Shu Ha Ri stages. Therefore, one should not torture one’s mind too much and blame oneself. You must continue, again and again, to practice, to put your fingers down, to take back the basics, to work on yourself and on others.
Then, when you find a technique that works well, you can be satisfied with it, but under no circumstances should you stop there, because that would be an end to its progress. Do not cling to this technique and continue to walk in the wonder and joy of the Shiatsu Path, there lies the strength of the practitioner.
It is also necessary to be aware of the moments when one practices by choosing the art and the way, which is completely different than when one works in a certain way due to lack of choice, lack of tools or lack of knowledge.
And still, I have not yet spoken about the time it takes to go from one level to another, the challenges that life and patients bring us to help us progress, the trays without progression that are like so many desert crossings; there is something for all practitioners and for all levels.
Thus, the apprentice is always a practitioner, the practitioner is always a teacher, and the teacher is always an eternal beginner. Shoshin.
Elisa Carpiaux is a passionate and exciting Shiatsu teacher in the French-speaking part of Belgium. When I met her for the first time 10 years ago it was in a small Mexican restaurant, to introduce myself and tell her about my plans to open my first school. She was from the beginning not only a friendly support to this project, but since then a person with whom I have always been able to exchange on many subjects. Because what I didn’t tell you is that she is not just a Shiatsu teacher, but the 1st Shiatsu teacher in Wallonia. If today there are about ten schools in this part of Belgium, she remains this “first lady” that all Belgian practitioners should meet at least once in their life.
Ivan Bel: Hello Elisa. It’s really nice to see you again for this interview. The first time we met was 10 years ago. Already… But for the readers who don’t have the chance to know you, could you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about your youth and your awakening to natural health, very early in life.
Elisa Carpiaux: Hello Ivan, thank you very much. I was born January 2, 1970. I am the eldest of 4 children born in the space of 5 years! A father who is a teacher and director of secondary schools, and a mother who is also a teacher. As far as I can remember, my mother has always taken care of us in a natural way, and I experienced macrobiotics very early in my life. She regularly took us to see osteopaths and alternative therapists of all kinds.
My maternal grandfather, who was also a career soldier, had trained himself in homeopathy (early 1950’s) and he treated us with passion at the slightest sneeze. So I have been bathed in the soup since my first steps… In addition, all my family on my mother’s side worked in alternative medicine, my mother was a therapist, my aunt a homeopath and my uncle an osteopath.
So you grew up in a family environment conducive to awakening your natural health side. Then you go to university, but you don’t get too excited about it and finally you go to Canada. Why did you decide to go to Canada? What are you going to do there?
I decided that I didn’t know what to do when I graduated from the humanities and decided to go to law school. After two years of hard work, I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Social Communications at UCL. Communication already speaks to me a lot more, but it is towards another way of communicating that I am going to go without knowing it. Indeed, with my diploma in my pocket, I don’t see myself launching into active life in Belgium, and I decide to make a jump to Quebec with a friend from university, Quebec where part of my family lives, to find an internship in the field of Communication. I landed in a ‘Clownerie’ where I sold the services of actors, singers, jugglers… to companies and shopping malls in Montreal.
During this stay in Canada you will meet Shiatsu, but here is an incredible story that I let you tell.
I decide to leave for 6 months with 3 other friends to South America to travel through Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. After 3 months of traveling, the decisive meeting with shiatsu will take place in an unusual place. Arriving in the center of Bolivia amid luxuriant nature, I landed in a small inn called ‘Sol y Luna’ run by a German woman who provides shiatsu sessions to her guests. I let myself be tempted by the experience and there it is love at first sight. The one you meet only once in a lifetime. I am still moved when I think back on it today. At this very moment, I know what I want to do with my life: to learn and practice this technique. I hesitate to stop my trip to return to Montreal to start a training course, but my friends convince me to finish the trip with them.
“Sol y luna” is not something that can be invented. You might as well write roughly “Yin and Yang”, it’s unbelievable! What a wink of fate! When you come back after this trip, what are you going to do to learn Shiatsu?
It’s 1995, and as soon as I get back, I find out about shiatsu schools in Montreal. I was lucky to be living in Canada at the time, because shiatsu was already well established in this country, and was part of my studies in massage therapy. Schools were legion at that time, unlike in Belgium where shiatsu and massage therapy in general were in their infancy. I visited a few schools and I chose the Hito Center, a school of the heart that has kept a very human side, compared to other schools with more impersonal dimensions that included physiotherapy and massage therapy.
Shiatsu training in Canada is quite reputable, even in Europe. Do you know why?
Some Japanese masters such as Ohashi who migrated to the United States have been developing Shiatsu for years and Canada benefits directly from this. This is why this practice is much more renowned and developed in this part of America than in Europe.
You will work right away with Shiatsu and massages. But if I understand correctly, you start in the street?! Explain to me precisely how it happened.
Yes, one day while walking down St-Denis Street, one of the busiest streets in Montreal, I see a herbalist shop renting space for the practice of massages. I went straight to it and rented two days a week. To make myself known, I don’t hesitate to take my massage chair down to the street, and I offer Anma sitting sessions for a dollar a minute. Some people only have 5 minutes of their time, but that’s how I develop my practice of longer shiatsu sessions. And very quickly my two days are full!
Great! 20 years ago, in 2000, you return to Belgium. You were then just 30 years old. You already have a good experience of Shiatsu, but you decide not to stop there and go back to school.
In fact, it was already a little before the year 2000, during shorter stays in Belgium, that I looked at what was being done on the training side in Europe, and I was told about IMI Kiental, the International Shiatsu School in Switzerland, in the Bernese Oberland. An extraordinary school, in a magical place, mountains at 360 degrees around the center. I spend extraordinary moments there, suspended in time: 3 weeks of intensive training (10 hours of shiatsu per day) with 50 students from all over Europe. The courses are given in German and translated into all languages. The healthy macrobiotic food is delicious. I have been there several times. I remember, I came home in an incredible shape, a real rejuvenation…
Indeed this school is clearly at the heart of many things that have subsequently developed in the european Shiatsu world. In Namur, you open your practice successfully and quickly start your first initiations. How did your beginnings as a teacher go?
Well, as soon as I came back to Belgium in 2000, I opened a shiatsu practice which started quite quickly. I feel people are very open to discover the practice of shiatsu. A friend who was seduced by this practice and who worked at the “Maison de l’écologie” in Namur, a center that offered all kinds of training in the field of well-being and health, suggested that I give a small introduction to shiatsu. I am a little hesitant and very quickly the trainings follow one another and shiatsu still unknown seduces more and more people.
Personally yes, teaching was a challenge for me. I would never have imagined one day that I would teach, as I didn’t have a very positive image of the school. Coming from a family of teachers, I had a model in mind that had to be desacralized and reincarnated by my singularity. This was done quite naturally, and I loved to pass it on very quickly. Seeing the real pleasure, the little stars in the eyes of the participants during the workshops is a real gift.
At that time there were not many schools in Belgium. Can you describe the situation in Wallonia at that time?
The only notorious school was that of Master Kawada in Brussels. There was also the Iokaï school. And then some therapists were giving some training on a more private basis. In the end, there was very little choice. People didn’t even know the word ‘shiatsu’, few had ever heard of it.
Finally, you will meet our friend Frans Copers, who is then the president of the Belgian Shiatsu Federation (BSF) that he created a few years before. Under what circumstances and what was the result?
Yes, another beautiful and decisive meeting that destiny put on my way! I see in the program of my fetish school in Switzerland (Kiental) that a master called Master Kishi comes to give a Seiki-Soho workshop. Reading the description of the course, I feel a little bit the same feeling as when I met shiatsu, a call of the soul, I dare to say.
Mr. Kishi’s assistant is Frans Copers. Surprised to know that I reside in Belgium and that I give some introductory courses, he shares with me his wish for a long time to enlarge the Belgian Shiatsu Federation in Wallonia and his despair to have little or no answer in this part of Belgium. Flanders was already gathering many shiatsu schools at that time.
we quickly connect and it is quite naturally that he pushes me to be recognized as the first school in Wallonia approved by the Federation. He generously shares with me his great expertise as a teacher and a school. I am enormously grateful to him for having placed such trust in me.
Today you are the headmaster of the Kajudo Shiatsu School. By the way, can you explain this name to me, because it’s not common.
Kajudo was born in 2009, it’s the continuation of “Massotherapie.be” which existed since my return from Quebec in 2000. I was officially recognized by the BSF in 2007. So it’s been 13 years now. So, Kajudo literally means ‘the way of the fruit tree’, it is my friend and aikido sensei Stéphane Crommelynck who inspired this name. Kaju means fruit tree in Japanese. I love the symbolism of the tree which is so important in our practice of linking Heaven and Earth and which also bears fruit. I like the idea of sowing seeds that one day will create fruits that will bear future seeds…
You have learned several massage techniques in your life. Why did you finally specialize in Shiatsu? Do you think that learning massage is a plus to being a good shiatsushi?
Shiatsu has always been my favorite, as I explained, but when I was in Montreal Swedish massage was very well known and in demand, so I learned it as well to diversify my practice. But the practice of this technique was more of a dietary one for me. I quickly chose to stop practicing it and to devote myself solely to shiatsu, whose knowledge seemed limitless and passionate about it. I don’t think that learning massage is really a plus for learning shiatsu, except maybe the fact that all these techniques allow us to develop and deepen our feelings.
You now have 20 years of experience as a teacher and I guess the way you teach is different from your beginning. In your Shiatsu teaching, what do you insist on? What is important to you?
It’s true that in 20 years, we inevitably evolve. What seems important to me to transmit first of all is a return to the body, our vehicle, our temple. We came to incarnate ourselves in a body to make this earthly experience. In our modern society unfortunately the body is completely forgotten in favor of the mind which has become the master. Shiatsu allows us to find the right master, that of our hara, our anchorage, our instinct of life and to re-appropriate it. Putting one’s head in one’s hara is my leitmotiv.
Then the breathing, the comfortable posture, the right intention and the open heart are important concepts for me to transmit.
I also insist a lot on taking care of oneself. When we engage in this Way of Shiatsu, the tendency I sometimes observe with my students who are very excited by this discovery is to put the other before oneself. You can’t help someone without starting with yourself. And it’s a great way to learn about yourself.
What is your vision of Shiatsu as a manual art?
Shiatsu is a tribute to the life that flows within us. Shiatsu is for me a therapeutic art that brings us back to simplicity. That of being simply and offering to the other through our hands, our listening, our benevolent presence and our pure intention a greater freedom to be oneself and to know oneself. Through this fabulous natural process of self-healing of the body, shiatsu brings a little more peace and harmony in the body and mind of the person who benefits from it. It is each time a journey to the heart of oneself. I am always amazed at what can emerge from a shiatsu session that little by little, layer by layer, brings us back to our essence, the core of our deep being.
With you I am starting (at last!) a series of portraits where I give the floor to women Shiatsu practitioners and teachers. So, I take this opportunity to ask you a question that may be a little complicated: according to you, is there a different way to practice Shiatsu when you are a woman?
It’s not easy to answer this question, given the lack of a point of comparison from the inside of course. I would say that the woman may have an easier time connecting with her pelvis, because the power of a woman lies in her womb, the life she is going to transmit originates there and passes through the hara. And in that sense, she is more connected to her instincts directly through the hara and in a natural way. The man will gain by anchoring himself in his pelvis where the raw energy resides to let it rise towards the heart. For it is said that man’s strength lies in the heart.
I like to end my interviews with one or more pieces of advice that could be given. I would like you to give advice to practitioners who are starting out on this path, those who are already facing the difficulties of managing pain, human drama, etc. I would like you to give advice to those who are starting out on this path. How do you manage to get through, year after year?
There would be so much to say…
I will say first of all, to reconnect with nature, our greatest master, as often as possible, trees can give us great support to unload what does not belong to us and to put down roots.
Remain humble and consider each person who arrives with his or her problems as a facet of yourself that still needs to be transformed, improved… I like to see the person as a mirror that gives me the gift of reflecting my condition of the moment. It is never by chance that a person has come to my office.
Another aspect of humility is also to realize that even though I am the one working with my hands, my body and my knowledge, I am only a channel of universal energy at the service of the greater whole.
Also along this path, as I was saying earlier, it is important to be attentive to one’s limits, to give to oneself what I like to give to others. Know how to balance giving and receiving.
I think it is also necessary to dare to ask the question which part of me I come to repair or save when I engage in this work of accompanying others. Because if this search to help the other fills a void in me, then I am not in the real gift. I can only truly give to the other if I am first nourished and filled by the love and caring that I give to myself. It is a very important personal work of introspection to accomplish on oneself.
Here are some advice in the form of sharing that have been my milestones throughout this exciting life journey.
Thank you very much for this exchange and we look forward to seeing you again soon.
Most Shiatsu practitioners know their meridians to their fingertips. But is this really the case? How many know that each of 12 the meridians follow pathways that can run either on the surface or deeper? The study of their deep paths greatly improves our understanding. Lets’ take this journey using the Lung meridian as an example.
For some time now, I am privileged to be in contact with more and more shiatsushis, notably thanks to the courses I give and to social networks. People from different background and Shiatsu style come and ask me questions. These questions are essentials to the teacher as it pushes him as well to question himself, thus progressing. During this summer intensive bootcamp, I often spoke about the deep pathways of the meridians as I was realizing that seldom was it taught to the students during their courses. And yet, it is for a good reason that they are mentioned: their existence tells us stories that complete our understanding of the meridians.
Since it is the first meridian taught to students and well know both to them and practitioners, we will use the Lung as an example. Everybody knows where the Lung’s first point starts (6 cun lateral to the anterior midline, level with the 1st ICS) which marks the beginning of the meridian, and even more where is the second point which is even easier to locate (6 cun lateral to the anterior midline, below the clavicle in a depression medial to the coracoid process). But to my great surprise, few knew that LU 1 is in fact the start of the surface meridian, i.e. the segment where one can act directly on the meridian outer energy, in other words the points or tsubos.
But there are other paths which are usually represented in Shiatsu’s related charts as dotted lines, and which form the deepest part of the meridian. It is like icebergs; you have the tip and the immersed part. This submerged part gives a lot of information about the role or roles of the meridian, its connections and link with the organ, in this case the lungs. This is exactly what is meant by the Biao/Li relationship, the connection between the depth and the surface. In the case of the Lung meridian, the deep path makes a sort of hook above the navel, thus passing largely into the intestine zone of the transverse Large Intestine and a section of the Small Intestine.
In other representations it is found crooked around the navel. Whatever the case, it continues through the pylorus (lower gate of the stomach) … the stomach pouch ..the diaphragm’s centre… divides itself right and left around the heart passing over the lungs… merges again under the manubrium (the broad upper part of the sternum) …. head straight up into the larynx to finally go asides towards point LU 1.
Next to this, a second internal branch leaves from point LU 7 and joins LI 1 directly.
But what does this mean?
Study of the mini-path of the hand
You do not need to be a big shot in Chinese medicine to understand the meaning of these deep paths.
As for the small branch on the hand, it is simply to illustrate the relationship between the Lung and Large Intestine meridians which form the well-known Yin/Yang polarity couple, and which is linked to the Metal energy. Indeed, the Lung ends on the thumb and the Large Intestine starts on the index finger. Although these two fingers are not far apart, they are neither in direct relation nor close contact. When I was a student, this question puzzled me a lot. I was given explanation that Energy did not need a direct connection as it flows through the skin barrier to “jump” to the starting point of the next meridian. Really? And why this finger and not another one or even the tip of my nose? In short, there was something fishy about this explanation. The deep path of the Lung on the hand explains more concretely how the relationship is made possible and especially which points are making this possible.
LU 7, Rekketsu (Liè quē in Chinese – 列缺) or “Broken Sequence” is not a point to be ignored. Located in front of the styloid process (in the direction of the meridian flow), it is at first a point that belongs to the VIP club of the Master points. There are only 5 of them in total and they are all like Swiss knives as they have so many applications on a given anatomical area (presently the chest). Then, it is a Raku point or better known in Chinese as Luo (communication) and guess what? Who do you think it communicates with? With the Source point of the associated meridian of course, which is the Large Intestine (LI 4). So, there is already de facto a relationship between the two meridians via LU 7. But that’s’ not all, if your interest is in the Extraordinary Vessels, you will discover that it is also one of the Master Point of the Conception Vessel, it can also be called the Opening point of the Conception Vessel, when paired with KD 6. And backward, KD 6 is the opening point of the heel Yin Vessel and LU 7 its paired point. As you can see, just by studying this deep mini-path of the Lung, a lot can be learned. Therefore, what about the great deeper pathway?
From the belly’s depth to the emergence of energy
Let us now follow the great deep path of the Lung, the one’s, if I can say, through which everything is made possible. We are not going to look too much in books to understand it. Rather, I would like to show you how to perceive it using basic common sense and little observation skills. Its hook above the navel indicates a relationship with the mid part of the Triple Heater. If it is below the navel, like a fishing hook, it tells us how important the link between breathing and birth is. Without the first breath, there is no life, and therefore no umbilical cord that dries and forms a navel. At the beginning of our life, as soon as we leave our mothers’ womb, we have – before anything else – to take a deep breath. Otherwise, a tap on the baby’s butt triggers a nervous reaction and the result is the same. In other words, this means that the belly and the breath are intimately linked, and I personally prefer this explanation, even if it is a little less academic.
Afterwards, the crossing of the pylorus, the stomach and the transverse part of the large intestine and the diaphragm is not innocent. Indeed, as soon as we experience stress, we stop breathing and put ourselves into apnea. Just look at your reaction when you receive an unpleasant email, read painful news or listen to someone criticizing you. And here we are just talking about things that are emotionally manageable. Now imagine that you witness, just in front of you, a person being ran over because he or she is crossed when the pedestrian light was red. As this happens, you stop breathing, then you scream and turn white or green, depending on your nature. This is called emotional shock.
The organ that is most sensitive to emotional shocks and the stresses that result from them is the Lung and immediately afterwards, the Stomach. Who hasn’t felt their stomach to be knot up at the announcement of bad news? It doesn’t take long to feel it tight, does it? This is due to its cellular nature, but let’s not get carried away here. And what’s the best way to relax that area? I’ll give you a hint: breathing. If the energy of the Lung rises at the time of stress, then you will cry, otherwise you will calm down if you let it go down into the belly. The diaphragm located just above is the champion for blocking itself in case of stress, which automatically cuts off the breathing since it is the one that allows the inspiration thanks to its downward movement. Here again, it will be necessary to do some breathing exercises to unwind it, not to mention receiving a good Shiatsu of course.
Its onward journey is quite simple. The pathway goes around the heart on both sides to enter the lungs, this time to indicate or demonstrate the connection between the organ itself and the meridian, and then heads up to the larynx. The larynx is a complex organ, part of the respiratory system which purpose is to manage the opening and closing of the upper airways, allowing the air to flow in and out, to yawn, to swallow, but above all to make the vocal cords vibrate, and therefore to express oneself. The air, the breath, the speech, the lung, all of this is intertwined and explains why we must be careful with what we say (the Buddhists speak of the notion of Right Speech in The Noble Eightfold Path) or else we will hurt both the Lung energy and the Heart’s one which is close by. As a reminder, if all the Yin organs are responsible for an emotion, only the Heart can feel them. It is now time for all this energy to come to the surface after charging all these organs, which it does at the first point of Lung 1.
Again, a little study of the names tells us a lot. This point is not to be called only “LU 1”! This is only a naval warfare game-like code to facilitate learning at first, but which can quickly become a sea mine as one progresses. No, its name is Chyūfu (or Zhōng fǔ in Chinese – 中府), which means ‘Central Palace”, ” Central Treasury “, “Central Archive” according to the magnificent explanations of Jean Motte, the famous French acupuncturist, and which is, by common sense and wisely translated, “Middle of the bowels”. The palace is where are located treasures and what better treasure for us Shiatsu practitioners than the belly, the foundation and source of the Ki. Therefore, and logically, the ancient Chinese designated LU 1 with a name that indicates the source of the deep path of the meridian. In Chinese medicine, there is no such thing as coincidence.
The quest of deep paths
If equipped with a hint of common sense, and without losing ourselves into complex explanations, we can accept to change our way of thinking, then the study of the deep pathways becomes an ongoing discovery and learning journey giving sheer gratification. Very early in my teaching, during the second-year course, I provided a teaching syllabus containing the deep pathways, the musculotendinous and the communication meridians, because it is not because one learns Shiatsu that one should be ignorant of these aspects of energy. By contrast, this knowledge is key to grasp the full picture of the complex jigsaw when it comes to Eastern medicine. This will allow you to make skilled techniques unthought of before. For example, if one day you find LU 7 completely empty, a quick and easy way to boost it is, while keeping on pressing it to exercise a friction below the navel and forcing the breath from the hara. The speed of results is quite impressive. Therefore you should not waste any more time this fall reading the umpteenth evergreen story on Metal energy as we are entering autumn, and whatever the case, this would be a long-winded reading as if there were not already thousands of subjects that have not yet been written and immerse yourself in the deep pathways of the meridians. You will come out greatly uplifted.