Sei-ki is the name given to his art by Kishi Akinobu.  He was a consummate practitioner of Shiatsu and devoted himself to learning and perfecting the methods of his teachers.  He gained his Shiatsu license from Namikoshi’s school and was the top disciple of Masunaga. His is one of the strongest lineages in Shiatsu and, in the correct manner, departs from it in order to remain faithful to its essence. 
Shiatsu was renewed through his personal study and realisation. He called this renewal, Sei-ki or Sei-ki Soho. Sei-ki is both the pinnacle of Japanese Shiatsu and different from it.  It is not, we should be clear, a style of Shiatsu. 

Text: Alice Whieldon MA PhD FwSS

Sei-ki Soho fosters no-mind through the not-doing of touch; Sei-ki is the art of touching with empty hands.  This is immediately a problem for our intellects because ‘touch’ is a verb. Since we only have doing as a template for understanding, it is hard to imagine the opposite of all our doing.  And not-doing must not be confused with doing-nothing. Sei-ki Soho is powerful medicine.

There is a great deal of doing involved in Sei-ki Soho. The client arrives and the business of getting ready is done. There is doing in finding the right distance, the first point. You choose to watch, to touch, to listen, to engage. This involves will, choice, action.

The session is framed by degrees of wilful doing and this holds the space in which surrender can be invited. Surrender is closely related to not-doing; it is an openness to what really is. Surrender can only be invited – it cannot be done. There is a paradox here: while you usually1 must actively invite surrender, that which is surrendered to comes of its own accord.

Another aspect of not-doing is that, when you recognise another person, you also recognise that there is nothing to do to them. There is only something to do while there are fixed meanings and ideas of right and wrong. In not-doing, there is no fixed meaning; no judgement.

For instance, if I diagnose a problem, this suggests I intend to do something about it. Problems require fixing. Naming it also creates a separation between you and them. But if I recognise another person with the attention of my hara, not my intellect, through emptiness rather than in terms of syndromes, there are no ideas and no judgement; no impetus to fix because there is nothing amiss.

Through hara development we dislodge the mind/ego from its pre-eminence in creating meaning towards non-intellectual knowing. In recognising the other person, comes the knowledge that there is nothing to do. This is not a kind of pointlessness as in, there is no point doing anything. It is that there is, finally and completely, nothing to do here.

This requires skilled observation, which is what Sei-ki trains. In the observation of how things really are, there is change because there is already change which we are now conscious of. You cannot achieve this as a technique. You cannot trick change by seeming not to do anything while in fact trying to make things change. And, finally, recognition is the strongest medicine there is.

Curious about doing and not-doing? Visit Alice’s workshop at the European Shiatsu Congress.


  1. There are occasions when surrender is forced on us, such as in a trauma when one might be shocked into surrender. Or one might be surprised into a moment of surrender.