Bushido, the ‘way of the warrior’, is often compared to the western concept of the knight’s code of honour and chivalry. The two were comparable for many hundreds of years. Both valued benevolence, sincerity, justice and loyalty. Both had a strong spiritual perspective, but they diverged in the late medieval period (15th century) when tactics for warfare made mounted knights obsolete in Europe. With the demise of the knightly tradition in the west, and the emphasis on developing the technology of weaponry and tactics, came a corresponding decline in the skill level and integrity of the individual warrior. During this period the Japanese warrior’s weapons remained unchanged. The sword and the bow had been perfected, what was left was for the individual warrior to be perfected. In the striving for perfection, the deeply spiritual perspective was maintained and built upon.
The spiritual perspective that Bushido values has been a defining influence upon Japanese culture. The Japanese sword (katana) has a unique place in the Japanese psyche and the carrier of that sword is Bushi (samurai). The influence exerted by the Bushido tradition on shiatsu is even more potent. The connection between samurai and the healing arts I spoke of in my last article has given shiatsu, through anma, its unique ingredient that sets it apart from western bodywork modalities. This is the spiritual dimension of shiatsu. By spiritual I mean the perspective that the individual is a part of something greater. What you define that ‘something greater’ as, is not important. What is important, is the effect this ingredient has on the connection between giver and receiver in the shiatsu session. Shiatsu lends itself to a depth of connection not usually found in western modalities because it houses techniques and expressions that have been formed by masters with a deep spiritual understanding. Masters steeped in the tradition of Bushido.
To treat shiatsu as a profession only is to westernise it and follow the medieval knights into oblivion. To honour the art of shiatsu requires its practitioners to continue to develop their inner landscape and foster the spirit and energy that sets shiatsu apart as a practice.
Honour the art