Training and Courses / Complementary Health

Why do Shiatsu?

By ann sheldon, Wednesday Apr 11, 2018

Keith Phillips founded one of the first UK Shiatsu training colleges in Bristol. He’d grown up in Hong Kong dreaming of becoming a doctor and then a psychologist. He quit Psychology to live off the land in Ireland with his young family before discovering a lifelong passion for this form of Japanese bodywork.

How did you discover Shiatsu?
Back in 1976, I received a 20-minute Shiatsu from someone who had just done a short course in Japan. I was amazed that it completely removed my headache and decided there and then that I had to learn to do it myself.

So what is it?
It’s a bodywork therapy from Japan that supports our natural ability to heal and find balance. Shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’ but practitioners may use thumbs, palms, knees, elbows and even feet, to work on the body and meridian energy system. It’s deeply relaxing as well as being physically emotionally and spiritually healing.

Keith Phillips’ Bristol School of Shiatsu helped oriental medicine grow in the UK

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Where did you learn?
I started learning from books, then studied at The Kushi Institute in London in 1979. It seemed to touch myself and others very deeply. I would describe it as soul medicine. It helps and heals all kinds of health conditions but this seems almost secondary when you see the effect it can have on your overall life.

How does it work?
Our difficulties often contain the seed of their own healing. There is untapped energy in our stress and untouched soul in our exhaustion. To access this, we sometimes need help from another, and Shiatsu offers a way to do this. Where massage releases tension from tissues – Shiatsu restores vitality where it is blocked.

What has life taught you about health?
That every moment is an invitation to heal if we slow down long enough to feel and embrace life, just the way it is. Healing spontaneously arises when we connect deeply with the felt sensations in our bodies and open up to our feelings and the mystery of life.

Why set up the Bristol School of Shiatsu?
My first training was as part of a larger course including Macrobiotics and Oriental Medicine. I spent the 80s studying with visiting international teachers to deepen my practice. There was a clear need for a dedicated training school and in that my vision was born. I set up Bristol School of Shiatsu in 1984 as one of the first UK schools.

Have patients changed much over 30 years?
Yes, there is a move from seeking help for physical ailments, to seeking help for life challenges and personal difficulties and insecurities. Increasingly, people come to connect more deeply with themselves, for personal transformation. Shiatsu can open you up to often-forgotten and hidden parts of the self, that once reconnected, allow you to feel more vital and whole.

The next 2019 Shiatsu Introductory Training is a ‘Three Weekend Foundation Course’ starting on 13/14 April – with weekends in May and June. This builds basic Shiatsu skills to work with family and friends – prior to deciding to continue with professional training.
For more details, see:

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