Zen Shiatsu, also known as Masunaga Therapy, is a form of Meridian Shiatsu. Zen Shiatsu uses not only thumbs and palms but also fists, elbows, and knees.
Zen Shiatsu represents a return of the values of Traditional Chinese medicine, in comparison with anatomically or physiologically based Shiatsu (cf. Tsubo Shiatsu). While the Namikoshi school emphasizes Westernization at the expense of Chinese medical understanding, Masunaga advocated a return to Chinese Taoist practices such as Do-In and Ankyo within the context of Japanese Shiatsu.
The meridian system represents the “crosstalk” between tsubos or acupoints of the human body. It also represents divisions of the complete function of the human organism into discrete spheres of influence. Masunaga advocated treating the whole meridian system through pressure and stretching to achieve systemic change for the entire body.
The primary precept of Zen Shiatsu is the importance of remaining in a Zen-like, present state when practicing shiatsu; nourishing weak kyo areas and dispersing excess jitsu areas; using two-handed technique to better feel the flow of qi (life force); working from the hara (belly), which is the body’s energy center; and using perpendicular pressure to access the qi. Masunaga moreover expanded the meridian system, discovering extensions of the classical Chinese meridians, and developed an effective new system of hara diagnosis predicated on his experience as a Western-trained psychologist.