woman-getting-a-japanese-shiatsu-massageYou may think all massage is the same, but it’s truly not. Besides more common types such as Swedish and Deep Tissue, there are numerous other techniques that all target specific conditions.

Some massage techniques focus on certain muscular conditions, and others on bones and joints. While others even help to unwind seized muscles.

Another specialty is Japanese massage, practiced by Skip Kanester, HHP. He trained extensively in a specific style called Seitai Shiatsu with Dr. Richard Gold, who had learned the form in Osaka, Japan, from Kiyoshi Kato, the originator of this form of massage. Skip completed an internship with Dr. Gold and became a certified practitioner in 1989.

Skip is currently a senior faculty member at International Professional School of Bodywork, in San Diego, California. He teaches Seitai as well as Tuina, the medical massage of China. Skip cofounded the Center for Bodywork Education which provides continuing education workshops in eastern techniques as well as the “East meets West” series, blending Chinese Tuina massage with Western Structural Integration. Read more about Skip via his blog ­– Directing Shen.

Learn all about this particular style of Japanese massage from Skip’s question and answer format below.

What is Japanese massage?

Most people familiar with massage in this country have heard of Shiatsu, the Japanese system of bodywork. The word itself means “finger pressure” and is derived from the older Japanese style of massage called Anma. In “Chinese Bodywork, A Complete Manual of Chinese Therapeutic Massage”, Shiatsu practitioner Carl Dubitsky, OBT, states, “Chinese Anmo is the source of all forms of Oriental massage. During the 6th century, Chinese medicine spread to the Japanese archipelago and the Korean peninsula with the trade missions sent to open up routes of commerce. Japanese Anma developed directly from this presence, as did Korean Amma Therapy. Japanese Shiatsu is a modern combination (1915) of traditional Anma massage, Chinese abdominal manipulation, the acu-point system, Do-in exercises and Western anatomy and physiology.”

What is the brief history of Japanese Lymphatic Massage?

Developed by Kiyoshi Kato and practiced in his 3 residential clinics in Osaka, Japan, Seitai (meaning “balance the body”) Shiatsu, along with a regulated diet, was used in the treatment of terminal cancer patients. Kato himself was diagnosed with a terminal disease as a young man. After curing himself with fasting and traditional therapies, he dedicated his life to the treatment of disease by natural methods.

How does Japanese Lymphatic Massage work?

Seitai Shiatsu focuses on the formation and circulation of blood, facilitating lymphatic drainage, balancing the body’s energy and harmonizing the internal organs. It is based on an innovative theory of blood formation by a well-known Japanese biologist, Dr. Kikuo Chisima (1899-1978). According to Dr. Chisima, the accepted theory of the long bones of the body being the primary site of blood formation is incorrect. He believed that blood formation started in the villi of the intestines. In the book “In Search of New Medical Treatments” by Kiyoshi Kato, it states that the modern theory of blood formation “was established by three American hematologists, Doan, Cunningham and Sabin. In 1925, they published their findings that after chickens and pigeons had been starved for nine to ten days, or after they had excessive bleeding, their bone marrow turned red and numerous red blood corpuscles were seen there. Then they recklessly applied this fact, observed only under ill-fed conditions in birds, to animals and men in a healthy and well fed condition, producing the theory that red blood corpuscles are always produced in the marrow of the long bones.” According to Dr. Chisima’s theory digested food is absorbed by the intestinal villi, enters the blood vessels and becomes red blood corpuscles. These corpuscles then differentiate to become leucocytes, lymphocytes and all the other cells and tissues of the body. While it sounds very strange, this theory is not uncommon. Dr. Chisima essentially proved the saying, “you are what you eat” using the scientific method.

How is Japanese Lymphatic Massage administered?

It can be administered in the traditional manner, on futon or pad on the floor, as well as on a massage table.

What are some of the components of Japanese Lymphatic Massage?

Seitai differs from most Shiatsu in that approximately 70% of the massage is friction and rubbing techniques with about 30% being acupoint work. A knowledge of the location of the meridians and acupoints is not necessary to learn this form of bodywork. Circulatory type strokes, improving lymph flow, focused abdominal work and a regulated diet are at the heart of this form of bodywork.

What can Japanese Lymphatic Massage help with?

While we would never make a claim that a type of therapeutic bodywork can “cure” anything, in Osaka, patients would come to one of Kiyoshi Kato’s clinics and stay for approximately 3 weeks. During this time, they would be put on a special diet and would receive 2 sessions of Seitai daily. The patient’s family would also come to the clinics with them to learn Seitai so that treatment could be continued after the patients left to go home. Years later after treatment at the clinics, many of Kato’s former “terminal” patients would still come back to give support to the current residents. In fact, Kiyoshi Kato’s head assistant, Miyuki Ito, was a former patient of his. When my teacher went to study with Kato in Osaka, Miyuki Ito had been assisting him for ten years.

What are some popular uses of Japanese Lymphatic Massage?

Seitai can be used just like any other type of therapeutic bodywork, for example in the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal conditions. What makes many of the Asian styles, like Seitai, different is their focus on the internal physiology of the client as well as the external musculoskeletal system.

Anything else you’d like to point out about the benefits of Japanese Lymphatic Massage?

Seitai can benefit most anyone, from those working to overcome a chronic condition to those who are healthy, want to stay fit and work toward optimal health.

Are there any precautions about Japanese Lymphatic Massage that I should keep in mind?

As with all types of bodywork, there are two things to consider – what is the focus of the work and how experienced is the practitioner? Therapeutic bodywork can help in a wide variety of conditions in the hands of an experienced practitioner. Seitai may even be more broad in that it can be tailored to a client’s needs more than other forms. For example, deep tissue massage is deep, there isn’t really a “light” deep tissue and so, there are certain restrictions as to what can be addressed with the form. With something like Seitai, it can be modified much more that other forms. The fact that it was used on “terminal” cancer patients in Japan attests to its versatility.

If you found this information to be of interest, consider sharing it with family and friends who may benefit from Seitai.

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