Thursday, 29 January 2015

Massaging The Hand

Original Source:

everal years ago, I became a big fan of the Zatoichi series (film and TV) starring Shintaro Katsu. The lead character, Zatoichi, is a blind masseur with close connections to the Yakuza. He’s also quite the gambler. He can tell how the dice are rolling just by the sound, and he certainly knows when the house is cheating. He can literally “see” all around him. Why? He’s a master swordsman. He uses Zanshin and Mushin, two states of mind integral to combat field awareness.

As a movie character, he’s fully fleshed out: he has a criminal past; he laughs; he gets angry, sometimes severely so; in life, he’s made numerous mistakes; he feels alone; he’s loved; he’s abandoned and in turn has been abandoned; he’s faced death countless times and has experienced others helplessly dying; he gambles, gets drunk, sings and dances. And then he walks off into the sunset.

I enjoy watching him give a massage. It’s hearty and full of spice, and when he massages evil criminals, it’s as though he’s working out on a heavy bag.

My style of amateur massage (I’m not a message therapist) is the opposite. To me, any type of massage contains both a physical and emotional component. I believe that the physical touch refers back to childhood. Children, hurt or sick, expect a nurturing hug, something that doesn’t rattle the psyche. Whenever I massage, I first try for the gentlest of touch, both exploratory and soothing, then, when I feel that the moment is right, I use elements of chi to soothe and nurture.

One of the most primary ways to achieve this level of touch is to practise a massage on someone else’s instrument of touch – his or her hand.


As usual, drop your own ego. Listen and feel. The hand you pick up in your hand has a history. You can discover it immediately by its weight. It may feel heavy with burden, scarred within (despite there being no external signs), stiff with pain, swollen, dry, moist… Her hand tells a story.

Hold her hand in your hand, providing her with instant support. Your supporting hand does not judge; it allows her hand to pillow down no matter what she’s done or how she feels about herself. Your supporting hand is the non-judgmental parent, her hand is the child come home no matter what. (In Tai Chi, this is the hand that yields subtly to the pressure of a bird taking off from the centre of the palm).

Pass your hand gently over the back of her hand. Use your martial arts breathing. Your breath, your mind and the hand become one. Do this until you feel the hand relax more deeply. Then explore the divide between the bones on the back of her hand (the metacarpals), first with the thumb, then with the index finger, and eventually with two or three finger tips.

Create warmth, not heat. There’s a difference. Gentle warmth dissipates the harsh impact of life – the swelling of arthritis, the brittleness of age, the hollowness of depression. Rough heat is a stressor. It throws gasoline on the flames.

When the hand is totally relaxed, open and feeding on the nurturing sensation your hand provides, turn the hand over. With your thumb, massage the palm, deeper and deeper as you go on.

Finally, work on the thumb and fingers. Place each inside the nurturing embrace of your thumb and index finger, and massage gently up and down many times, then very gently pull each digit three or four times from the base to the tip.

For the recipient, the effect of this type of massage is heavenly; for you, the massage is a chance to practise a deep martial arts state of mind.

And the most obvious…instead of hurting someone, you’re using your martial prowess to do good.

For more about Zatoichi visit

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