the starting spark

Beginnings may be small, may be coincidental. And then they may grow, winding their way through several stages of transformation. The Shiatsu Research Network emerged from the European Shiatsu Congress (ESC) 2017 in Vienna. Leisa Bellmore held a lecture about the basics of scientific research and its role in advancing the shiatsu profession. She invited shiatsu practitioners to consider taking steps in this field. Kristina Pfeifer, one of the participants, proposed collecting email addresses to establish a connection of practitioners interested in research. Kristina had recently taken part in a small evaluation about hypertension and shiatsu introduced by Silvia Eberl-Kadlec, which showed astonishing results. With the network, she hoped to motivate more research in the community. Initially, there were only about 30 people in a small google mailing group but this group soon grew.


Mike Mandl, the organizer of the ESC 2017, offered co-hosting with the ESC homepage for the emerging network. Kristina agreed, registered a domain and built a sub-homepage on the ESC platform that offered access to the mailing group and provided a small list of shiatsu studies. With the help of the ESC platform and an announcement via the Hara Journal, the network grew up to more than 100 members coming from several continents of the world. In this stage of immediate growth, introductions by members allowed for the sharing of ideas, hopes, questions, critiques and know-how that may guide the network and shift shiatsu research to the next stage. During autumn 2018, the Shiatsu Research Network (SRN) homepage migrated from the ESC homepage due to increasing traffic. Stergios Tsiormpatzis has joined the admin team, suggested a new host and developed a new homepage to meet the growing demands of the SRN. Together, with Irene Reichl, a three-person admin team was developed. The growing network with significant email traffic had become a platform of international discussion.

debate and discussion

Past issues were addressed and the network entered a stage of debate which led to lively discussion. Solutions were suggested, meetings arranged and support was provided. One result of a global debate about the basic necessities of research in shiatsu was a panel discussion in Vienna in June 2019 with practitioners, including Fernando Cabo and Patrizia Stefanini who had advocated for scientific research long before the network came into being. The three-hour discussion was broadcast on the radio and the recording is available [audio recording]. The panel discussion, organized by Eduard Tripp, identified a common focus and provided confidence to practitioners that scientific research can support the profession. In this discussion, Karin Koers and Achim Schrievers presented their research project about shiatsu and mindfulness practice which is based on a preliminary study by Jana Kraft [final report] . The SRN had already facilitated a strong relationship between the German research team and their shiatsu association and the associations in Austria and Switzerland. Kristina Pfeifer, Sandy Gsell, Karin Koers, Achim Schrievers, Catherine Ott and many others had met in May 2019 at the German Shiatsu Congress to share ideas and support for future tasks. At this time time the SRN provided a three hour workshop about research literacy organized by Karin Koers, Sandy Gsell and Kristina Pfeifer.

productivity and advancement

The network transitioned to its next stage of productivity. Stergios Tsiormpatzis worked diligently to provide first-hand advice and information when responding to questions and inaccuracies that arose. He helped to increase the level of discourse in the active group, which enhanced the approach and planning of studies. This process will continue in upcoming projects. As Irene Reichl, who developed a logo for the network and helped design the organizational structure had increased demands, Sandy Gsell from Switzerland joined the administration team in the summer of 2019. Sandy’s focus started with the open world café workshops, which promote a research literacy approach, and she expanded her input to guide the development of a concept for the growing SRN and identifying next steps . 

future tasks

The SRN mailing lists consist of a moderate and an intensive discussion group, both of which are open to all practitioners. Within the intensive discussion group future projects are discussed and connections are made, while other projects are developed from in-person meetings. For the immediate future, the SRN plans to establish a database for research studies about or related to shiatsu, develop resources for increasing research literacy in the shiatsu community and for enhancing the quality of research projects, create connections that help foster research with academic institutions and acquiring funding, and consider a possible transformation of the SRN into an international association.

Currently, members of the active team participate in research projects all over the world through providing expertise, establishing academic connections, creating a lobby for funding contacts, etc. Finally, shiatsu researchers no longer need to struggle and work in isolation. And practitioners who are interested in stepping into this world will find support through the SRN to make their plans and hopes become attainable.

... the workshop

So, what’s in here for you? At the ESC Amsterdam we will offer an exploratory workshop that will help you dive into the adventurous questions of scientific research. While we will give you an overview of various study designs, we will focus on how practitioners can do research within their own practice which may, with a diligent approach, lead to publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Because, after all, we know what we can accomplish with our hands, but it also needs to get out into the public to be seen.

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash