My wife Annica – who is also a shiatsu therapist – received a session from a final year student a couple of years ago. After the session while giving some feedback, Annica suggested a variation on a technique. The students reply was for me astounding. She stated that she could not use a technique that had not been taught in class as it would leave her open to litigation! When Annica related this to me afterward I was deeply saddened. Is this how we want to treat the art of shiatsu?
There has to be a way of allowing the creative spirit of this art to have expression beyond the constraints of bureaucracy. After some years of teaching shiatsu I noticed that consistently, the quality of touch is higher in beginner students than those finishing their diploma. The overwhelming amount of theory, technical emphasis and peripheral subject material has the effect of eroding confidence. Students lose the innocent ability to touch with curiosity.
The founder of the Japanese tea ceremony – Rikyu shihan – was reputedly once asked, ‘What is the secret of the tea ceremony? He replied,, – ‘Just boil water, make tea and enjoy the delicious flavour.’ The questioner replied, ‘That’s so easy.’ Rikyu responded, ‘If you can do this, then I will become your disciple.’ Shiatsu is like the tea ceremony. When we lose our innocence, when we load the mind with theory, and intellectualize sophisticated techniques we diminish the quality of the shiatsu session.
How to best teach shiatsu so that the quality of the shiatsu session speaks it’s own language? So that the benefits are indisputable beyond the requirements for bureaucratic justification. I believe strongly that one on one, or small group teaching in a working shiatsu environment is by far the most effective model. This would mean that the teaching load would have to be spread throughout the practitioner community, perhaps with oversight and accreditation by a formal association rather than government influenced colleges.
It is important that we do not lose sight of the beauty and simplicity of the art of shiatsu. To do this we must keep at the forefront, quality of touch. The ability to touch with empathy and elicit a healing response that changes lives.

Honour the art
Russell Makoto
Shiatsu Shihan


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