One Man’s Journey – Part 3

We left off in Part 2 with instructors branching out to teach around the U.S., including Maryland. Philadelphia, PA; Princeton, NJ; Amherst, MA; Honesdale, PA; and in Westchester and Long Island, NY.

Globalization

By the 1990s Ohashi had witnessed many changes, especially in Japanese/American relations. When he first came to the US, very few Americans ate sushi. By the 90s, there were hundreds of noodle shops and sushi bars in New York City alone. Japanese management techniques had been incorporated into the curriculum of business schools and the yen was at an all-time high.

Ohashi saw an interesting phenomenon that he called “international cultural catchball.” His view was when an element of a culture travels to a different environment, it is ingested and changed. Ohashi saw that happening with shiatsu. “Once quantity develops, quality changes,” Ohashi says. “Sometimes the more popular something becomes, the less value is placed upon it.”

It was clear that the decision to differentiate his technique from traditional shiatsu was a correct one. More and more, the supportive relationship of the giver and receiver, rather than the technical knowledge, became an important component of Ohashiatsu®. “My technique and philosophy is not only for American and Japanese – it is for everybody. It is universal and that’s the reason people from many countries come here to study. They need it and enjoy it. It has become a part of the globalization phenomenon.”

Ohashi’s dream of teaching the “Ohashiatsu…Touch for peace” philosophy to the world was beginning. In 1990, the Institute was contacted by the Psycho-Political Peace Institute (PPPI) to help in its project to introduce psychotherapeutic and holistic modalities to the citizens of the newly disbanded Soviet Union. That Ohashi in Russiayear the Institute helped sponsor 12 Russian doctors and therapists who were coming to New York for a month. During that time, they studied Ohashi’s Oriental Diagnosis and Ohashiatsu Beginning I. They were so impressed that they invited Ohashi to come to Russia. A year later, Ohashi taught these two courses to 100 students in Russia.

Five years later, the Ohashi Institute again partnered with PPPI. This time to assist the village of Bakuriani in the Republic of Georgia, which had been a world renowned ski resort where the USSR Olympic teams trained. The breakup of the USSR left Bakuriani a desolate village with polluted drinking water, no heat, and electricity available only after 11:30PM. There was only one doctor in town – one who had trained with Ohashi in the US. The Institute sponsored Vasil Jioev, who worked as a massage therapist at a hospital. Vasil completed the Ohashiatsu curriculum in one year and, when he returned to Georgia, donated one week per month working in the refurbished Bakuriani Hospital.

“Ohashiatsu is something amazing. With massage therapy, it’s just bones,  

muscles and tendons and maybe a person somewhere in there.

Ohashiatsu is about the human being. Not just the physical,

but the psychologicaland the emotional –

it’s so deep – it’s about the universe. Now I can sense that deep place

inside the person and hope that I can touch it as well.”

~ Vasil Gioev.

Ricochet

In 1992, Ohashi returned to Japan to teach, and during one weekend more than 80 people came from all over Japan to hear him. Understanding human nature, Ohashi instinctively knew that when people study something that is already part of their own culture, they tend to take it for granted. So, Ohashi taught the Japanese students in English through a translator! The students said that by hearing a Japanese subject taught in English, they discovered a different angle to what they already knew and enjoyed a different dimension of comprehension. Once again, Ohashi fulfilled his mission – he added another level of understanding to human nature through his modality of touch communication.

RefinementBeyond Shiatsu

As the Ohashiatsu program continued to grow worldwide, the Institute increased its focus on refining the curriculum and standardizing the training so that the course material could be taught the same way around the world. In this effort, the many senior instructors who had trained at the Institute or in Europe contributed to this process.

During the 1990s, Ohashi began to refine his published work by writing a new book that captured the true nature of Ohashiastu. While most other books and instructional videos focused on the benefit of the receiver, how to deal with the receiver’s problems, they hardly said a word about the giver’s well-being, the giver’s consciousness, the giver’s reward. When published, “Beyond Shiatsu: Ohashi’s Bodywork Method” was the only book that focused on maintaining and improving the giver’s movement, posture and well-being.

“Priority must go to the practitioner,” Ohashi states emphatically.

“When you give Ohashiatsu, you are regenerated and energized

because of the way your body moves,

because you are enhancing your vital Ki (life force energy),

and because you are meditating while you are working.

This book and Ohashiatsu will help the giver preserve his or her body

so that he or she can continue this wonderful work for many, many years.”

Teach a Man to Fish

Ohashi believes that people need to take responsibility for themselves. Clients need to take responsibility for improving their health, students for their own learning, and instructors for their continued learning and financial well-being. Ohashi wanted instructors to be self-sufficient rather than rely on the Institute for their livelihood. Thus, in 1995, the Institute established an outreach program allowing instructors to teach anywhere they liked, without having to set up an entire school. Result: the Institute could access different niche and geographical markets and more and more people could be introduced to the physical, psychological and emotional benefits of Ohashiatsu.

The New Millennium

With greater and great technological communications advances, Ohashi is concerned about human well-being. “The more technology advances, the more people are becoming isolated. You don’t have to contact another human being to get what you need to survive – you can do everything over the Internet. But people need people. We need human interaction, human touch. The more technology, the more touch we need. I call this “High Tech/High Touch.”

Society has now embraced “alternative” knowledge and modalities. We continually hear about a “new” therapy, but, of course, we know that these “new” therapies are what philosophers, monks, healers and indigenous pCircle of Energyeoples around the world have known for centuries.

Ohashi developed a series of videos for students. With the advent of the DVD, Ohashi created a new series that addresses the public at large. A new e-book will be published soon. He continues to travel around the world teaching his courses and new instructors. To date, Ohashi and his instructors have taught in the US, Canada, Italy, England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Bali, Belgium, Costa Rica, Israel, Burkina Faso, French Guinea, Russia, and the Netherlands. In 2015, Ohashi will introduce his modality to students in Melbourne, Australia; Istanbul, Turkey; and Zagreb, Croatia.

As more and more people look to alternative modalities for their health and well-being, the Ohashi Institute and the Ohashi Method®/Ohashiatsu® are ready to provide the world with more instructors to teach people to help themselves. And Ohashi’s techniques, method and teaching will continue to emphasize communication and synergism between two people, on the self-development of the giver, as well as the receiver, and on harmony for both.

Ohashi is like

One Man’s Journey – Part 2

A Turning Point

In 1976, Ohashi was called back to Japan because his father was very ill with cancer. While caring for his father, Ohashi decided to study with Dr. Shizuto Masunaga, whose articles and monographs he had read. A psychologist-turned-shiatsu practitioner, Dr. Masunaga evolved his own method of shiatsu treatment and established a theoretical basis for shiatsu therapy. Based on his many years of clinical experience, Masunaga placed a large emphasis on the psychological effects of meridian energy.

1976 was also the year Ohashi’s first book, Do It Yourself Shiatsu, was published. He would follow this one year later with the publication of Zen Shiatsu, a collection of Dr. Masunaga’s monographs which he edited and translated. Ohashi chose the title to represent Dr. Masunaga’s approach to healing and life. The book, since translated into several languages, introduced Dr. Masunaga’s work to an English audience. After that Ohashi brought Dr. Masunaga to the US for several popular workshops.

The Evolution

Ohashi used what he learned from Masunaga to inform his own observations of human nature and his earlier experience in the U.S. human development movement. This would influence the evolution of Ohashi’s methodology and his own approach to shiatsu.

By 1979, the curriculum of Ohashi’s school, Shiatsu Education Center of America, was changing from a technical, left brain, book-oriented curriculum to a more experiential, right brain, feeling approach. Some of the School’s early instructors, especially Esther Turnbull and Pauline Sasaki, believed it would be better for students to learn to feel before incorporating book knowledge into their techniques. Over the next few years, Ohashi and the school’s instructors continued refining and expanding the curriculum. Their focus was on how to make giving a treatment session easier, and how to make it healthier for the giver. As Ohashi’s method evolved, it could no longer be called “shiatsu.” The approach and delivery of the technique was unique, something epochal.

Some years later, Ohashi would recount in Beyond Shiatsu, when he taught in English while in Japan: “When traditional knowledge returns to its source in a changed form, it must be presented in a different way. The very idea of self-development is an American one, not at all Japanese. The term shiatsu happens to be Japanese, but the practice of healing through touch is not exclusively Japanese. Ohashiatsu is universal.”

27 Street - New DigsNew Names/New Digs/New Schools

The new curriculum became popular and it became clear that Ohashi’s teaching and his modality needed to be differentiated from “traditional shiatsu.” In 1982, “Ohashiatsu” was trademarked, and with his new modality so named, “Shiatsu Education Center of America” no longer fit his school. In 1984, the name of the school was officially changed to The Ohashi Institute. Its instructors and consultants were given the titles of “Certified Ohashiatsu® Instructors” or “Certified Ohashiatsu® Consultants.”

The Ohashi Institute was outgrowing the space on 55th Street in mid-town Manhattan, and Ohashi once again went looking for a new location. At last, after a two-year search, the Institute leased a large space on 27th Street, five times larger than its previous location. The décor, embodying the principles of Japanese aesthetics, was carefully designed to provide a tranquil and comfortable space for students to meditate and to study,

Beautiful, customized space for the West 27th Street location.

 

The Eighties

Ohashiatsu® increased its popularity in Europe and the first European student graduated in 1980. The early European sponsors and instructors, Johan Byer and Rosemary Solterman from Switzerland, and Klaus Metzner from Germany, soon set up branch schools in their respective countries. Since they were just beginning, Ohashi sent US instructors to teach until the European graduates could train to become instructors themselves. Schools were organized in Heidelberg, Munich, Muenster, Zurich, Basel and Bern. An Italian graduate, Alfonso Crosetto, became the first to sponsor courses in Italy, establishing a school in Turin, Italy. Others set up schools in Florence, Rome, Milan and Asti. Today there are more than 20 Certified Ohashiatsu® Instructors and Consultants in Italy, teaching in various cities. In addition, COIs teach in Austria, Canada, France, French Guiana, and the Netherlands.

In 1988, an American graduate, Matthew Sweigart, began offering courses in Evanston, Illinois, inviting COIs from New York to teach. By 1990, he opened the first Ohashiatsu® branch school in the US. A year later, Hazel Chung, a former dancer, opened another branch in Ellicott City, Maryland. Other COIs started organizing courses in Philadelphia, PA; Princeton, NJ; Amherst, MA; Honesdale, PA; and in Westchester and Long Island, NY.

Hippie OhashiAs we have seen, Ohashi’s own development of a compassionate and effective approach to healing through touch drew not only on traditional sources like shiatsu, the martial arts, and Eastern Medicine. He was also influenced by the humanistic alternative education movement, as promoted by leading organizations of the day: the Esalen Institute in California and the Omega Institute in New York.   Another important learning source for Ohashi is his collaboration with instructors, students, and even his clients, whom he credits everyday. One of his favorite teachings is, “Every single day you are developing, improving. Your receiver is your teacher. Your receiver is your examiner.” He wrote of his 1996 book Beyond Shiatsu, “It has taken me more than 20 years to write this book, because I am still studying, still changing. Each day I discover something to improve my technique.”

Ohashi in Print: In keeping with his philosophy of knowledge being more effective when it is widespread, Ohashi recognized the value of publishing and devoted hours to writing several books. Many of these books have been translated into multiple languages.

Ohashi in Print

In our final chapter of One Man’s Journey, we will talk about globalization, refinement and the future.

 

 

One Man’s Journey

The Beginnings

Wataru Ohashi was born in Hiroshima, Japan, in June of 1944. Even though he and his family lived in the rural area and were not in the city when the atomic bomb fell the following year, they did not escape the ravages of war. He was born prematurely and malnourished because of this mother’s poor health. As a baby he was fragile with a weak constitution. Then, at less than two years of age, his short life was threatened by dehydration from cholera, which spread through the town where he lived. Many children his age died. Because no Western-style medicine was available, his family turned to Oriental medicine The ancient healing art of moxibustion, commonly called “heat acupuncture,” saved his life. He still bears the round scars of the moxa burned directly on his skin, on CV 46 and BL 23. He regards these scars as “Seals of Life.” This early childhood event set the direction that Ohashi’s life would eventually take — one of a career in healing, although that path would not show itself until he had explored other options.

Ohashi attended Chuo University in Tokyo, where he majored in American literature. At the same time he became interested in the type of healing that had saved his life and decided to take a course in shiatsu. He was also interested in going to the United States to experience African-American history, literature and the civil rights movement that he studied at university. In spite of his family’s objections he made plans to go there after graduating from college.

Thus began his journey in 1970 to the United States. A journey that would take him much further than he ever dreamed at the time. He spent two weeks on a boat to reach California, and then another week by Greyhound bus to reach the South, where he enrolled at Tougaloo College, a predominantly African-American college outside Jackson, Mississippi, to improve his English. He later transferred to Howard University in Washington, DC, but studied for only 6 months, as he found living in Washington, DC, offered many different kinds of education that interested him more. To support himself, Ohashi fell back on the old healing techniques he knew and started giving shiatsu sessions at a health club located in the Watergate complex. Among his clients were then US Attorney General John Mitchell and Governor William Egan of Alaska.

Ohashi and NagyOne day, Ohashi was called to the Kennedy Center where the American Ballet Theatre was rehearsing. Their principle dancer, Ivan Nagy, had injured himself and was in a great deal of pain. Ohashi gave Nagy a few sessions and within two days the dancer was back on stage. And so began a long relationship between Ohashi and the dance world. The connection was so strong that Ohashi soon moved to New York City to be close to his new-found clients and friends.

The Growing Years

“Where do ideas come from?” A profound question. Usually, it’s a small group of people, not necessarily connected, that influence a “movement.” The human development movement of Hippy Ohashithe 1970s was just beginning when Ohashi arrived in New York. Without realizing it, he became one of the people in the US who would have such an influence. Many of today’s ideas about healing and alternative health began with this “handful of people” who were exploring a new lifestyle. Ohashi’s ideas and teaching can be found in many modalities.

He knew that giving sessions one-on-one would only get his health message to a few. Recognizing that teaching was the way to get information out to many, in 1973 Ohashi started the Shiatsu Dojo on the upper west side, with two “secretaries” who wanted to study with him and help him establish his school. They helped him to understand English, how to maneuver through city and state bureaucracy in order to incorporate the school, and with registration and promotion.

Within two years, Ohashi was so busy with students and clients that he outgrew the small space where he started. He needed to look for new space. He took out a map of New York and made aNew COI square extending from 60th Street to 50th Street and from 7th Avenue to Lexington. His assistant exclaimed, “But, Ohashi, that’s the most expensive area! You can’t afford it!” “I can’t afford anything,” Ohashi calmly replied. “So I can’t afford not to be there.” Within ten days, in 1974, Ohashi moved to 55th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, in the prestigious Midtown district. It was the second floor of a midtown brownstone. There he established the Shiatsu Education Center of America, which he founded as a nonprofit organization.

Needing instructors to help him, he decided to start training his students to teach. His first instructor was Pauline Sasaki. In the summer of 1975, Ohashi obtained a ride with one of his students to travel to a yoga retreat in upstate New York. A young woman along for the ride was in the publishing field and would later become his wife, Bonnie Harrington.

Ohashi and BonnieOhashi first published a 5×4-foot Meridian and Tsubo chart in 5 colors (the colors of the Five Elements), which received a design award. He had already started writing Do-It-Yourself Shiatsu, which was published in 1976, and is still in print. Soon this book was translated into German, French and Italian, and organizations started to invite Ohashi to teach in Europe – first to Eschweiler, Germany in 1977; then to Switzerland the next year, and soon after to Italy. His book and those of other American writers were introducing Europe to the human potential movement. Within a few years, Ohashi began sending his American instructors to teach the entire curriculum. Soon Europeans started traveling to New York City to study the entire program. Ohashi was living up to his name, which means “Big Bridge.” Western Europeans were traveling west to study in America, and Ohashi was traveling east to teach in Europe. Many were crossing the bridges that Ohashi built.

This was just the beginning: next month we’ll discuss The Evolution of how Ohashi transformed shiatsu into the entirely new, elevated form we know now as Ohashiatsu®.