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The Foundations of Shiatsu

by Chris Jarmey

listed in shiatsu

[Image: The Foundations of Shiatsu]

Tempting comparison with Maciocia’s epic,1 the title evokes a landscape of sweeping grandeur, expectations of pace and style, of imagination captured in the first paragraph. In truth, this is a well intentioned yet workaday manual, honestly presented as a reminder. Untrammelled by fresh ideas or new ways of telling the ancient story, Jarmey reiterates information from his Shiatsu course, reminding students how to prepare, to apply technique, to understand and remember the reason for doing Shiatsu in the way described, and why it has its effect. Each chapter is illustrated to give “as great a visual reminder as possible within a book”. The quality of the illustrations more than compensates for that of the text.

Basic concepts of theory and practice are presented in the first few chapters with more detail towards the end. A student versed in Chinese medicine, Shiatsu and western anatomy would find this a useful aide-memoir, while a gallery of beautiful images relieves the labour of reading long lines of small type or scatter-gun blur of large thin fonts. Two columns per page, as in the appendices, would be easier on the eye.

As might be expected from a Physiotherapist, the emphasis is on the physical, to the exclusion of such insights into the spiritual foundations of Shiatsu as offered in recent years by Fall2 and North, and Chinese medicine by Jarratt3 or, twenty years ago, Matsumoto and Birch.4 Undisturbed by spirit, the student is free to concentrate on memorizing sequences in the established tradition of learning by rote rather than the current trend toward ‘learning by discovery’.

“You should” and “you must” dominate the authoritative text. Illustrations bordered and marked in red warn against incorrect technique; minor confusion occurring where correct techniques are marked in the same colour. Scope for major misunderstanding lies in advice to encourage receivers to wear loose-fitting clothing “to reduce the likelihood of sexual connotations arising…” What connotations might arise from suggesting this to a client? Like saying, “Don’t think of elephants”. The standard practice of recommending loose, comfortable apparel for easy movement and circulation of air would suffice.

Superb images, tables and diagrams illuminate a turgid text. With literary elegance rare in a genre tolerant of pedestrian prose, one might excuse the proliferation of split infinitive, tautological adverbosity, adjectivitis and demotion of pre- to post-position as not so much an irritant but fair trade for the wealth of detail, rather as one tries to ignore the small discomforts of a bumpy road for the visual delight of the scenery. Note the absence of an editor credit on the verso page. It takes rigorous pruning to yield the eloquent restraint of such as Beresford-Cooke’s Shiatsu standard,5 facilitating absorption of subject matter without grammatical distraction: hallmark of a successful textbook.

Were Foundations intended for the novice, a glossary of anatomical and foreign words would be helpful. While explanations of the latter can be sought through the index, one unfamiliar with the language of anatomy might struggle with basics, neither indexed nor explained, such as medial, lateral, proximal and distal, let alone tragus and suprasternal. For the scholar, a bibliography would be of interest, additional to the references supporting the Chronology appendix, exhaustive, but time-marked in old-fashioned AD rather than the current convention, more considerate for non-Christian readers, of CE.

Chinese and Japanese medicine and bodywork are correctly referred to as “oriental” throughout the text but so generic a term begs mention of the existence of, say, Ayurvedic, Thai or Tibetan traditions; at least in the appendix “An Overview of Traditional Oriental Bodywork”, is confined to the Chinese.

Placing his list of “useful addresses” (one – his own!) at the very beginning rather than in the usual appendix format lessens the likelihood of his appearance on the reading lists of other schools.

With so many extant Shiatsu books one is prompted to pose Jarratt’s “Why another?” question. Jarratt inspires by reviving the fundamental concept of a paradigm reduced to the mere physical half a century ago by Mao’s dialectic materialists.

Like the heir to a noble house, The Foundations of Shiatsu is expected to live up to a great name. Does Jarmey justify his grandiloquence or do his efforts result in no more than revision material?

Reasonably priced at £12.99, it should sell on the title.


1.    Maciocia G. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone. London UK 978-0443074899. 2Rev Ed 2005.
2.    Fall S. As Snowflakes Fall: Shiatsu as Spiritual Practice. Hazelwood Publications. Totnes UK. 978-0952889700. 1996.
3.    Jarratt L. Nourishing Destiny: The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine. Spirit Path Press. Massachusetts USA. 978-0966991605. 1999.
4.    Matsumoto K & Birch S. Hara Diagnosis: Reflections on the Sea. Paradigm Publications, Massachusetts USA. 978-0912111131. 1988.
5.    Beresford-Cooke C. Shiatsu Theory and Practice: A Comprehensive Text for the Student and Professional. Churchill Livingstone. London UK. 978-0443070594. 2Rev Ed 2003.

Further Information

Available from good bookstores and from Amazon.

Kris Deva North
Lotus Publishing

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