> What is Zen Shiatsu?

In the 20th century, Tokujiro Namikoshi and Shizuto Masunaga were two influential Shiatsu teachers. Namikoshi (1905-2000) contributed to the state recognition of shiatsu in Japan. The orientation of Shiatsu that he shaped is practiced mainly in Japan today.

Shizuto Masunaga (1925-1981), the son of Shiatsu practitioners who studied psychology in Kyoto and Shiatsu at Japan Shiatsu College, founded the Zen Shiatsu, which is based on Zen philosophy. In the early 1970s, he first brought his version of energetic bodywork to the United States. From there, his concept came to Europe and is mainly practiced here in this form.

The picture shows Shizuto Masunaga during a Shiatsu treatment

Building on the Namikoshi system, Masunaga expanded the idea of ​​applying pressure to certain parts of the body with additional techniques from physical therapy, such as stretching and joint mobilization.

The core of Zen Shiatsu is working with Kyo and Jitsu. They are terms from Traditional Japanese Medicine. They stand for energetic abundance and emptiness and are determined using four East Asian diagnostic methods that also originate from the TJM, especially from Kampo medicine: viewing, hearing, questioning and touching.

  • Mon-Shin, the conversation with the client
  • Bo-Shin, watch the client
  • Bun-Shin, pay attention to certain smells
  • Setsu-Shin, touch to detect energetic imbalance.

With Setsu-Shin, Shiatsu Masunagas uses Hara diagnosis (belly diagnosis) typical of Traditional Japanese Medicine. The diagnosis in Shiatsu is treatment at the same time.


In the further course, instead of individual tsubos (treatment points on the body), entire meridian courses are treated according to the hara diagnosis. In Zen Shiatsu, Masunaga also extended the meridians, well known from the Traditional Chinese Medicine in lengths and course.

Meridian courses according to Masunaga: The dotted line shows the position and course of the lung meridian, the solid line shows the position and course of the big intestine meridian. Both meridians are assigned to the metal transformation phase.

In addition to this special concept, in which Masunaga also combined knowledge of western psychology with that of Traditional Japanese Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is the same attitude as in the traditional form of shiatsu: respectful touches, evenly flowing finger, palm or thumb pressure , which is generated by “leaning”, that is, by shifting the giver’s body. But typical of Zen Shiatsu is working with both hands, a resting hand (mother’s hand) and working hand (child’s hand).

Shiatsu (Japanese for finger pressure) can be calm and gentle, but also dynamic and powerful. In addition to the respective energetic state, the needs of the client are decisive. The aim is to help them through mindful, deep touches, to release tensions and blockages and to stimulate deep relaxation with a simultaneously invigorating effect.

Shiatsu as a holistic, energetic body work is suitable for people of all ages and in many life situations. The focus is on the personal development and health literacy of the recipient.

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