The Effectiveness of the Hand

Kiyoshi Ikenaga, Shiatsupractor

In the correct form of Shiatsu Therapy, one's hands and fingers are utilized. This is clearly stated as the definition of Shiatsu in "Theory and Practice of Shiatsu" published by the Ministry of Health in December 1957. Therefore, any method that applies force by the use of elbows, knees or feet cannot technically be called Shiatsu.

For your reference, below is a definition quoted from the Japan's Ministry of Health:

"Shiatsu technique refers to the use of fingers and the palm of one's hands to apply pressure to particular sections on the surface of the body for the purpose of correcting the imbalances of the body, and for maintaining and promoting health, and it is also a method contributing to the healing of specific illnesses."

Then, why is it so important to only use hands and fingers?

"Diagnosis and Therapy Combined = Essence of Shiatsu" describes how hands and fingers are indeed excellent sensory instruments that can recognize and treat 'trouble spots' in the body. Yet there is also a mystery hidden in the mechanism of the hand itself.

In Japan today, people still use the word for 'treatment', 'te-a-te', which literally means "hands-on". This means that by laying hands on the body, we can cure illnesses. Historically, this refers to the hands-on technique of healing, and in a broader sense, this can be traced back to the origins of "Shiatsu".

In fact, Hands-on healing methods are not exclusive to Japan; as suggested in historical documents in many parts of the world. Hands-on Therapy have been an integral part of peoples' lives as an effective treatment method. In Japan, up until TCM was imported around the period when Buddhism was introduced, Hands-on Therapy would have most likely been the main medical treatment. However, in the year 984, in what is considered as Japan's oldest existing medical document called "Ishinbo", compiled and edited by Yasuyori Tamba, in this document, he introduced the Chinese system of Meridian Line and Meridian Point along with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Also, until so-called Western Medicine was imported during the Meiji Restoration Period, methods introduced from China such as TCM, acupuncture, and moxibation took over center stage in Japan's medical practice for approximately 1000years.

However, during the Meiji Era, the simplest and most effective form of Hands-on Therapy was practiced under the guise of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine by historically renowned doctors such as Ryozan Goto and Fuzai Ohta. Needless to say, until Tokujiro Namikoshi Sensei developed Shiatsu, the only form of Hands-on Therapy used was not Shiatsu, but Anma Acupressure technique based on the theory of the Chinese Meridian Line, Meridian Point system.

Today, Anma Acupressure derived from China, western forms of massage, and uniquely Japanese Shiatsu are each accredited byJapan's Ministry of Health as distinct methods of Hands-on Therapy.

During the initial stage of policy restructuring, Shiatsu, along with massage, was categorized as a branch of Anma Acupressure for some period of time. For that reason, still today, some people tend to make such assumptions. However, based on its history and theory, Shiatsu differs completely from Anma Acupressure. In fact, Shiatsu can be categorized in the spectrum of treatment methods somewhere between massage and chiropractic.

Therefore, while both techniques effectively use the hand, Shiatsu does not rely on the TCM theories of Meridian Lines or Chi Gong in the same way that Anma Acupressure does.

The effectiveness of the hand in Shiatsu therapy is extremely connected with blood circulation. Medical Doctor, Fumimasa Yanagisawa clearly explains the relationship between Shiatsu Therapy and blood circulation.

There are numerous negative ions in the palm of a person's hand, which react with the positive ions within the bloodstream, which in turn help to improve the circulation of the blood. In other words, while calcium is the main component of the positive ions in the bloodstream, when the palm of the hand adheres closely with the surface of the skin, this increases the calcium component in the bloodstream. When the percentage of calcium in the blood increases, Potassium, interfering with blood circulation, in turn, decreases. This brings a fresh new blood supply to the whole body and acts to promote the natural healing powers innate in the human body, helping to prevent and heal illnesses. Moreover, with Shiatsu, the pressure penetrates to deeper regions compared to massages which may merely rub the surface of the body with oils etc., thereby bringing forth greater effectiveness.