Shizuto Masunaga: Saito’s Mentor
Shizuto Masunaga is a name very familiar to meridian-based shiatsu therapists around the world for his daring research, which in the 1960s culminated in the publication of the Shiatsu Meridian Chart. This chart, controversial in its departure from the familiar and more simplified Traditional Chinese Medicine view, depicts the 12 Regular meridians running the full length of the body; it also shows abdominal (or hara) diagnostic zones for each meridian.
Masunaga, born in Japan in 1925 and trained first as a psychologist, possessed a rare passion for the study of Oriental medicine. He also possessed meijin-gei, or “master’s skill,” an extraordinary degree of sensitivity that enabled him to trace the meridian pathways in detail. Masunaga's book Zen Shiatsu (Japan Publications Inc, 1977) is still the primary guide for beginning students and experienced practitioners alike.
Tetsuro Saito studied with Masunaga Sensei between 1966 and 1968, and for more than a decade after that, hosted him on regular teaching visits to Canada. Masunaga died in 1981. Saito picked up where his mentor left off.
Saito’s Exploration Of the Deeper Meridian Systems
Tetsuro Saito links the most ancient and forgotten tendrils of Chinese meridian theory with Masunaga's insights, his own findings, and the invaluable research being undertaken by other contemporary Oriental medical pioneers. Trained first as an electrical engineer and then a shiatsu therapist, Saito has merged the frontiers of science and healing arts to take our view of the human energy matrix far beyond both the Traditional Chinese Medicine meridian chart and Masunaga’s chart. His alternative is a far more complex, yet comprehensible view of the human body at work.
The Regular Meridians
A natural teacher, Saito illustrates with striking clarity how our road map of the Regular Meridian system, as it appears on the TCM charts, has been abridged over time for simplicity's sake. He asks how the skinny zigzagging lines and tight loops shown on these charts can possibly be a true rendering of “natural” energy pathways in the human body. He looks at anomalies in the positioning of points, and guides us, step by step to understand how each of the Regular Meridians actually manifest at three distinct levels of imbalance.
Three Levels of Imbalance
In his book, Shin So Shiatsu – Healing the Deeper Meridian Systems, he writes: “The classics acknowledge what the TCM chart does not and cannot show. Each of the 12 Regular Meridians can manifest at a first, second, or third level of imbalance, with the latter reflecting the deepest or most chronic level of illness. Further, at each of these levels, the meridian will shift its position: in other words, it will flow along a slightly different pathway.”
As shown below, these three levels are the Hei-myakyu (the most normal or balanced), Ze-do-byo (second degree of imbalance, primarily affecting the meridians), and Sho-sei-byo (third degree of imbalance, at the level of organ disease).
Saito used the Finger Test Method to explore and map these intricacies of the Regular Meridian system. From here, he went on to fully explore the Extra, Divergent, Ocean, and Tai Kyoku energy systems, and examine how they interrelate with each other.
The Extra Meridians
The Extra Meridian system becomes activated when the Regular Meridians cannot regulate the body’s energy on their own.
The Divergent, Ocean, and Tai Kyoku Systems
If the imbalance or condition persists, the Divergent meridians are called in to play. The Ocean and Tai Kyoku 1 and 2 (Cosmic) energy systems reflect even deeper disturbances. Outcomes for treatment of these systems depend on the practitioner having developed his or her own ki level. In treatment, Shin So Shiatsu works by balancing the energy at the level where the deepest imbalance lies: in doing so, the other meridian systems will be balanced, even though they do not directly receive treatment.
Most Shiatsu therapists have been trained to work only with the Regular Meridians. Tetsuro Saito has come to realize this is not enough.