I was privileged to have access to a unique instruction, that of Nakazono Sensei. We met through the practice of Aikido rather than directly through  Shiatsu.

However the remarkable cross- cutting diversity of his teachings and the subtle intermeshing of the physical, energetic and spiritual dimensions within this martial art created by Morehi Ueshiba Sensei, involved the instruction in techniques of treatment and of personal elevation. Naturally impregnated with this philosophy, Nakazono Sensei shared unrestrictedly the holistic, indeed almost spiritual vision of Ueshiba Sensei.

Text: Michel Odoul
In any case, his encounter with the Aikido of Ueshiba Sensei enabled him to synthesise all that he had acquired on his life path in terms of teachings. Very early on he had become interested in matters of health, in treatment techniques and in natural medicine. One determining influence was that of his mother, a midwife of repute who performed deliveries and accompanied the development of children with traditional massages, plants, the application of poultices, digitopressure to help position the baby correctly, etc.

Throughout his life Nakazono Sensei, an international Aikido Master, also practised the medicine of the body and the soul. He was so well-known and he opened many reputed treatment clinics. During the last period of his life, in the region of Santa Fe, New Mexico, his work was so successful that he had to call upon his two sons to come and help him. The city of Santa Fe bestow upon him, Japanese style, the title of “living treasure” of the State of New Mexico and to distinguish him for “exceptional achievement”, in particular for his active participation in the passage of a law on acupuncture. He created dispensaries, treated underprivileged populations in the shantytowns and ended up exhausted because he neglected himself.

Nakazono Sensei also encountered some exceptional instructors. His Master in martial arts was obviously Ueshiba Sensei (Aikido and Kototama), but he also received the teachings of Koji Ogasawara Sensei (Kototama), Georges Oshawa (macrobiotics), Juzo Motoyama Sensei (acupuncture) and Sakai Sensei (“Te a te” or “treatment by the hand of the spirit”).

“Osteo-articular” Shiatsu

Consequently, his Shiatsu style is a complete Shiatsu. This means that, more than straightforward “finger pressure”, it is a transversal natural therapy whose effectiveness does not lie only in a bio-mechanical or circulatory action on particular parts of the body. It is an “osteo-articular” Shiatsu that works on the joints and the fascia, enables the re-placement of vertebrae and liberates the viscera by means of a profound ampuku. It is also an energetic Shiatsu which works on all the meridians and acupuncture points, particularly the five Shu Points. Finally, it is also a “spiritual” Shiatsu which concentrates attention on “the intention behind the gesture” and the qualitative dimension of energies (the psycho-emotional aspect).

His practice is rooted in Kampo and therefore in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which he taught at the University of Tokyo. But they also has it’s source in the philosophy of Shinto. For him the “therapist’s soul” and the nobility of his intention should be expressed in his gesture. His technique, therefore, always focuses on the synergy of the visible (the gesture) and the non-visible (the intention and what lies beyond this). He considered that the first treatment should always begin with a general re-balancing before developing more specific work based on the patient’s particular imbalances. He always insisted on the fact that the quality and long-term efficacy of the techniques carried out were dependent upon the quality of presence and the attitude of the practitioner.

The modernity of Shiatsu

As a generic bodywork technique that is not based on “recipe” protocols, Shiatsu is a living practice. Its system of logic means that it evolves, not in terms of its forms of action, which are always effectuated using the same tools, the fingers, but in terms of how these forms of action are organised. Hence Shiatsu is in a state of permanent and unlimited evolution.

 I wish you all good practice, then, no matter which style of Shiatsu you have learned. The resulting diversity will polish the practitioner’s gesture and open the heart. In conclusion, I would say that the true and the principal value of a “good Shiatsu” is to be “sincere”, that is, honourable and motivated by an appropriate intention.

Want to work with Michel Odoul? Visit Michel’s workshop at the European Shiatsu Congress.

Read more: “Shiatsu Fondamental”, Albin Michel ed.

This text is also published in French, and in June 2020 in the France Shiatsu Magazine.