Benjamin H van Leeuwen CP Zen Shiatsu, LMT, Dipl. ABT

The Boston Shiatsu School (BSS) Zen Shiatsu Practitioner training was a well-rounded curriculum. In addition to the expected Japanese Shiatsu and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) training, among many others we studied case histories, Western anatomy and physiology, disease pathology; even business and ethics courses. We were required to perform a minimum of treatments in the student clinic, and present the school founder and director with an effective case study. Below is a course review.


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Sometime during the process it occurred to me that I had completely transformed as a person, and that I had not only learned a valuable skill but had found my calling. I believed then as I do now that this is what I am meant to do.

Shiatsu Basic Form, Advanced Shiatsu, and Zen Shiatsu: Kikuko Miyazaki(BSS Founder & Director), Patricia Carusone, Dipl. ABT

After the introduction of a thorough Basic Shiatsu course, the upper levels of the curriculum focused on the Zen Shiatsu teachings established by Shizuto Masunaga. Just as there are many styles of massage, there are many styles of Shiatsu; today, there are even subcategories within Zen style Shiatsu. Masunaga taught Watari Ohashi and toghether they brought Shiatsu to the U.S.
My training is considered Masunaga style Zen Shiatsu. This makes each BSS graduate a specialist in our field. I finished with a 3.71 GPA, and I've been fascinated ever since. Sometimes in life we cross paths with people who influence and affect us in profound, permanent ways; it was an honor and a privelege to study with Sinseis Kiku and Patricia(they both preferred a less formal classroom and asked for first-name status). Sinsei Kiku was in her early 70s when I entered the school, and studying with her was like being told ancient secrets by a wise sage who wanted to be a friend of those she taught- very serious and very disarming at the same time.
Patricia Carusone went on to become the founder and director of the Charles River Institute for Healing and Inner Arts.

Basic TCM and 5 Elements, Advanced TCM, TCM Lab and Practicum: David Euler, Lic. Ac., Cynthia LaBruzzio, Lic. Ac., Dipl. Ac.
Oriental Visual Diagnosis: David Euler, Cynthia LaBruzzio
Extraordinary Vessels: David Euler, Cynthia LaBruzzio, Koei Kuahara
Moxibustion, Gua Sha, Low Energy Lasers, Cupping, Ion-pumping Cords, Magnet, and Heat Lamp Therapies:
David Euler, Cynthia LaBruzzio

This is where the curriculum became complex, enough to make the graduating class about half the size as the first Shiatsu courses. It was an enlightening experience to have these two instructors, with such different styles. Mr. Euler is a dynamic, energetic teacher who breathes life into a clinical atomosphere. His lectures were often as fun as they were informative- no doubt influenced by his partner, Kiiko Matsumoto. Ms. LaBruzzio, on the other hand, is an intellectual, liked to cover a lot of material in each class, and I found her almost difficult to keep up with many times. I am still referring to both of their courses' materials and listening to old lecture tapes, as they contain so much valuable information.

Acupuncture Without Needles, Toyo-Hari Meridian Therapy: Koei Kuahara, Visiting Professor, New England School of Acupuncture
Pulse Diagnosis: Koei Kuahara

Presenting the subtleties of Qi, we had the fantastic fortune of being studying with Osinsei Kuahara. When good teachers are effective, we have the inspirational experience likened to turning on a light bulb; Master Kuahara's instruction was like experiencing the Sun up close.
He adapted his acupuncture teachings of Toyo-Hari to our Shiatsu format and jokingly referred to it, when asked the name, as "The Genius Technique" then smiled more broadly than you'd think possible. He was of course being proud, sarcastic and funny all at once; and this exemplified his teaching style. He can metaphorically make one statement while saying many, many things- like the ancient texts- and his physical appearance is a sort of a reflection of that. Redefining the phrase 'larger than life,' Mr. Kuahara is an Aikido Master, a macrobiotic who deceptively looks like one could easily pick him up and throw him- but a roomful of students all at once couldn't budge him an inch.
And after his 'Display of Fierceness' exercise, I wouldn't recommend trying it. Read his book instead.
Pulse Diagnosis is an amazingly complex system. By studying the pulse, a trained practitioner can correctly diagnose any condition. In theory, everything we do and experience leaves a clear imprint on the pulse- decoding the information is simply a matter of training. However, this particular training is hardly simple. Mr. Kuahara trained us to make a diagnosis with confirmation, then treat the pulse to balance its energy. He gave us some acupoint combinations based on his vast clinical experience, which are very much like magic formulas - effectively balancing the pulse every time. The world is truly a better, more balanced place with his teachings in it.

Shiatsu Diagnosis and Clinical Applications: Cliff Andrews, Bsc. MRSS., Shiatsu College of London

This brilliant syllabus included: Reviewing Masunaga's theory and its relationship to TCM, Integrating Hara Diagnosis with clinical work, Confirmation of Diagnosis, and Exercises to Increase Qi Sensitivity. It was a real treat to attend this very informative weekend workshop, along with many other students, faculty, professionals, alma mater.....Mr. Andrews has an international reputation. It also was interesting to see the same materials from a distinctly British perspective: right, ok, right, brilliant!

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Herbs: B J Wang, Owner, E. Shan Tang Herbs, Allston, MA

This basic introduction to Chinese Herbology was an excellent experience. In the class, we became aware of the vast expanse that is Chinese Herbs, and how they are dispensed. To quote a song, Mr. Wang taught us that there is a time and purpose for everything under heaven. It may seem odd to the average American, how much value can be derived from things we consider trash, like orange peels or
corn husk silk. He once said, "people think the Chinese are crazy because we save everything and use it." To visit his herbal shop and clinic, one unfamiliar might agree. It is stacked with things most of us have never seen before, packaged on shelves or loose in giant barrels; and there is a wall of small square drawers filled with all manner of dried herbs, leaves, stems, roots, bark, extracts, and compounds. You can be a customer at the store or a patient in the clinic. The client waits to be seen, and after greeting, Mr. Wang reads the pulse. He then prepares a very specific, powerful herbal prescription based on his findings.
While you wait, his staff lays out big white squares of paper- one for each dose- then prepares the formula. They weigh each of the various plant substances to the specifications of the Herbalist and put each quantity on the paper. There are many different ingredients involved, often a dozen or more. Once wrapped up, you pay only for the herbs (Mr. Wang does not charge his patients for his time and diagnoses); you are to take them home and make tea with each package once per day. The daily batch doseage is usually once while hot and once or more later after cooled. I tried it and immediately named it "Nas-tea," because it was; but it was also just as swiftly effective. It's medicine; it's not supposed to taste good.

Sotai Body Alignment: Kikuko Miyazaki

Sotai is a comprehensive, gentle system of correcting various bodily posture and structural malignments. It is applied by the practitioner, by providing physical resistance against the imbalanced area while the client does most of the work. The best way to describe the therapy is to describe an example: If uneven shoulders presents, then the client raises the higher shoulder slowly and forcefully while the practitioner provides resistance, pushing against the shoulder and downward. All during a deep exhalation; and when full lung capacity and full scapular elevation is achieved, the practitioner and client release abruptly and exhale forcefully.
Repeat until the shoulders are aligned, which is sooner than one might think- often half a dozen or less.
Structural realignment doesn't sound very gentle, but this therapy is. Sotai is very effective with injuries and bad posture, and each application is controlled by the client, making it impossible for it to be too much, or painful for the client.

Western Anatomy And Physiology, Western Disease Pathology, Western Nutrition: Cynthia McDermott, Ph. D.

This course should have been renamed to Fibulas and Fun. Cynthia McDermott is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard University with a strong silly streak. Anatomy study can be tedious and boring, but I always looked forward to her classes; even with the realities of disease pathology. And if you didn't quite grasp something- as I sometimes did- or needed elaboration she was always very personable and available; she even gave us her home phone number. There is no arrogance about her, like one often finds related to Harvard. She shouldered the responsibility of complimenting the East with the West elegantly and with ease.

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