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Shiatsu vs Tui-na



A therapy center near me is starting courses on shiatsu and on tui-na. I have always been interested in continuting my acupuncture knowledge through getting a certificate in one of those two massage therapies, however, now that I am finally ready, I realized that I still cannot decide which one to learn! I have researched far and wide the differences, and to be honest, there don't seem to be many differences, they are both highly regarded, so I am still at a total loss as to which class to sign up for.

For some reason, at this particular therapy center, the shiatsu course is much shorter than the tui-na course.

Does anyone have any practical advice when it comes to choosing between learning these two massage techniques?

Thank you!


Shiatsu is from Japan, translate to chinese is Zhi Ya Shu(指压术), means the technaques of using fingers to press the body for healing. Tuina(推拿) is from TCM, translate to English is Push and hold, means use differen&#39t kinds of technaques to treat the muscle and joint even other kind of body problems.


You are correct in that there are similarities depending on where it is taught. It is very difficult to find "real" teachers in either of those disciplines. What I mean by that is that they are both very complete and ultimately extremely useful systems, but they are often taught marginally at best because of the environment they are taught in and due to the teachers teaching these systems. In certain environments they are often taught as adjunctive techniques (for example - massage schools) where people "learn" these techniques with very little of the medical knowledge required to properly apply them. Even in my fairly comprehensive acupuncture school there was one one semester course in tuina offered and I had to train for many years privately with a Chinese master to better grasp the system as it is properly applied. Even then there are legal barriers (i.e. not doing adjustments) to completely practicing the medicine in the western legal/medicine structure. They are both very serious disciplines that require (in my opinion) just as much understanding of the underlying medical theory as their acupuncture counterparts (i.e. Chinese and Japanese acupuncture) - if not more.

Ultimately both systems can be used for what we use physical therapy, osteopathic techniques, chiropractic, neuromuscular massage therapy, and other related systems within western medicine. They are very complete systems of medicine. Between the two, properly applied, there is very little difference although generally speaking tuina can be a far more comprehensive training than shiatsu and is arguably better preserved in its entirety than shiatsu. Tuina is actually quite difficult to do properly (i.e. not as just a "technique") and is really only well performed by those who have a very firm grasp of underlying Chinese Medical theory as well as A&P.

All that said and underlining all my caveats and generalizations within, tuina would be my choice for someone heading towards (or within) being an acupuncturist and shiatsu would be my choice for a person heading towards (or within) various energy medicine forms and/or bodywork. Again, just my opinion from experience and understanding the general structure within which these systems are taught...

Probably the easiest answer in your case would be to study the system from the teacher for whom you have the most respect and can observe the most clinical success...



I can only speek from my own experience, and that would be as an Shiatsu therapist. It depends how well the program is done. My school was International school of shiatsu, and the school lasted for almost 5 years!

The basis for traditional shiatsu massage is TCM, and therefore, you have to learn TCM to be able to understand the principle of aplying the shiatsu.

After that, you will learn Zen shiatsu, which also rely on TCM, but also applies new things, it learns you to feel the energy, rather than to apply specific touch on some ACU points to treat the problem.

You will also learn basic rolfing routine, as well as some osteopatic treatment, energy treatment, and even more, if you are willing to participate more.

So, you should ask for a more detailed program of both of schools, and try to see what interest you more. It&#39s your desicion.

Best of luck!



Hello, I studied at the Shiatsu , School of Canada in Toronto. The program is 2200 hours where the courses included TCM theory (five elements and 8 principles), point location and action, western medicine (pathology, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology), practical hands-on and 250 hours of clinic time. Obviously as an acupuncturist you wouldn&#39t need the TCM or the western courses.

Shiatsu is a full body treatment starting and finishing with the hara treatment. One of the main principle of Zen Shiatsu is "Treatment is Diagnosis and Diagnosis is Treatment". Meaning that as you work the meridians of the body you will notice the Kyo (deficient) and Jitsu (excess) conditions of the meridians and the points, and balancing them as you go along.

The patient wears loose and comfortable clothing because there are many stretches performed throughout the treatment. Shiatsu can be much deeper than regular massage or tui na which allows the autonomic nervous system to relax giving the patient a very deep, almost trance like state, of relaxation. This also helps to increase organ function.

The Tui Na I have studied in Acupuncture school seemed pretty basic to me and was not a profoundly effective as I have seen Shiatsu to be.


Thank you everyone for your thorough responses, as you can see, I&#39ve again had compelling arguments in favour of both! :) So I think my decision will be based on a personal connection with one or the other (I have had both done, but they were not done by very skilled people), so I shall see a skilled tuina therpist and a skilled shiatsu therapist, and see to which I have a natural affinity. I am guessing both will be a great experience, but am hoping one will stand out more for me. I know this is perhaps a silly way to choose, however, both seem such wonderful practices, and I never flip a coin. :)


Although shiatsu eveloved from anmo which originated from China and can be regarded as a form of tuina, shiatsu and tuina are vastly different disciplines. They are different in theory and practice. Since you are TCM orientated, you&#39ll find tuina a much more familiar path.

I think going with your comfort and feeling of connection with the teacher is sound. Good bodywork should be more than physical manipulation. Both tuina and shiatsu could be profound arts and finally, more than theories or techniques, it&#39s the quality of energetic connection achieved through touch between giver and receiver that brings healing.

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