Fernando Cabo, the director of the Professional Shiatsu School has
developed the Puro shiatsu style. Puro means professional in Japanese,
and the name was intended to reflect his interest in helping those
students who are interested in shiatsu as a profession.
Interview with the director of
the Professional Shiatsu School
Q: Is Puro Shiatsu different to other shiatsu styles? In what way?
A: Puro shiatsu プロ指圧 (pronounced pooroh) means professional shiatsu in
Japanese. It is different to most shiatsu styles in that the main tool to apply
shiatsu is the thumb.
We use both thumbs next to each other in about 90% of the treatment.
Other styles use much more the palms and the arms, and thumbs are used
much less, and they are used either bilaterally, or one thumb pressing while
the other hand is stationary, instead of using both of them as one unit
as we do.
Q: What are the benefits of using the thumbs?
A: Using the thumbs as much as we do has advantages and disadvantages.
The main disadvantage is that beginners may experience some stiffness at the
base of the thumb, because we don't normally use those muscles. It doesn't
last long, and it goes away with practice.
There are, however, very important advantages. The thumb is home to a very
large number of mechanoreceptors, so, with practice, it can become very
sensitive to the state of muscles and tissues. It is much more sensitive than
many other parts of the body. This allows us to feel hypertonicity or
hypotonicity in muscles, and change our pressure accordingly.
We are diagnosing, if you will, the state of the body at the same time we are
working. This is more difficult to do with the palms of the hands or the elbows,
which are not as sensitive.
The thumb is also a much more precise tool to find exact points than larger
areas such as the palms of the hands. And, it is very easy to change the angle
of the thumb to the heels of the hand to adjust pressure. Without changing
our position, we can apply from the lightest to the strongest pressure.
Q: Why does it take so long to train in shiatsu compared to other types of
A: First, because one of the aims of Puro or Professional shiatsu is to teach the
students how to acquire a deep, pleasant and painless pressure. It is not
difficult, but it takes time. When you are a beginner, you don't realise when
your pressure is hard or painful. So the teacher needs to check and correct
the way pressure is applied. It takes time and practice.
Second, because students need to learn how to work on a futon, on a couch
and on a chair. They need to learn the correct posture so they can work
a full day without getting tired. We teach efortless shiatsu in which each
treatment is a type of meditation.
And finally, because we include clinical practice in our training.
A: You have mentioned painless pressure. Does this mean that Puro shiatsu is a
very gentle form of shiatsu?
Q: Well, it depends what you mean by gentle. If by gentle, you mean a light
touch or superficial pressure, then, no, it is not gentle. When I was in
Brighton for shiatsu awareness week, some years ago, a few people told me
they had never received such a deep shiatsu. But our deep pressure is not
pointy or penetrating, it is painless. So in that sense, yes, it is gentle.
Q: I understand that shiatsu is based on the concept of balance.
A: That is right. Balance is an essential basis to promote the health benefits of
a shiatsu session. This concept begins with the general notions of yin and yang,
internal and external, etc. and it encompasses balance within the
autonomic nervous system, which controls many of the bodily functions,
such as the peristalsis in the digestive system, blood pressure, blood flow
to skeletal muscles, the production of insulin, the induction of sleep and
In order to achieve muscular, nerve and general balance, we change our
pressure according to what we feel. But it is a whole body balance we are
talking about. This concept is the basis of sotai too.
Q: Why is Puro Shiatsu so different from many of the other styles?
A: Puro or professional shiatsu is derived from the official shiatsu style in Japan,
which is called Nippon or Namikoshi shiatsu. This is the type of shiatsu you
need to know in Japan in order to take the government exam in shiatsu and
obtain a licence to practise.
But Puro shiatsu has been adapted to clinical settings, to the types of cases
one is likely to encounter in real-life situations, when people come to us
for shiatsu treatment.
By contrast, most of the other styles practised in Britain are derived from
what is known as Keiraku or Zen Shiatsu, which makes more use of the
palms, the arms and the elbows. Unlike Nippon shiatsu, Keiraku shiatsu,
originally, didn't consider a sequence with a set number of points or tsubos
So, it has derived in many different styles, with some teachers adopting
techniques from other massage modalities, or adding their own
Q: Do you put a lot of emphasis on using the katas?
A: Our katas or sequences are not something to adhere to all the time.
We use them above all in the first year of our training. As I explained before,
Puro shiatsu has been adapted to real life. A sequence is a learning tool that
teaches us the points we can press on the body, and the best body and hand
position to do it. It serves us as a guideline, but we need to adapt and
modify it for the person or condition we are treating.
Q: How different are your katas compared to Nippon shiatsu?
A: Quite different. We have changed a few things. For example, we press thumb
next to thumb instead of thumb over thumb, because we found that the
pressure is much nicer for the receiver, and less hard on the thumbs of the
We have also increased the number of points and simplified some of the
therapist's positions to make it easier to learn and to apply.