Some 1200 years ago Tui Na - Chinese massage and the Chinese medical theory was taken by the Japanese culture and temperament to become Shiatsu. The practise of Shiatsu massage, especially as seen in the West, has departed far from its Chinese roots although much of the underlined theory has been retained and even added to.
All Chinese medicine focuses on the need to identify patterns of disharmony relating to the body's intrinsic energies called Qi or Ki in Shiatsu. Shiatsu massage aims at restoring balance and harmony.
Hara diagnosis has become an important component of Shiatsu. The hara is the intrinsic energy nucleus of the body and it is located in the abdomen. It is believed to reflect the energetics of the whole body and so can provide important information about its health.
Modern Shiatsu massage has relatively few techniques compared with Tui Na especially manipulations. This has lead to the borrowing of some Thai massage stretches which are becoming more and more common place in today's Shiatsu.
Slow sustained pressure techniques dominate the massage interspersed with stretches and joint rotations. All of this is done on a mat on the floor and as with Tui Na, the patient is fully clothed except for shoes.
Shiatsu massage is usually performed very slowly in near silence and one reason for this is that it is essentially the application of intuitive touch. It requires deep concentration and fine tuning of the practitioner's sense of touch for correct "reading" of the tactile clues that guide the course of the massage.
The distinction between diagnosis and treatment is in effect, very blurred. As with Chinese massage, the ultimate aim is to create harmony and balance in the body's vital energies so that it can heal itself.
Shiatsu massage really is the definitive relaxant. For this reason it can be particularly effective for treating emotional problems and tension due to stress.
For the treatment of chronic and acute musculo-skeletal problems it is often less vigorous than Tui Na, Thai and Indonesian massage.