Chokkan — What is that?
When deciding on a logo and name for my business, I did quite a bit of research. I wanted something that was relevant, accurate, and that honored the Japanese tradition and culture from which both shiatsu — the technique — and shiatsu — the word — came from. Initially, I thought carefully about what I wanted to convey. Chokkan is not so much a technique or method — my shiatsu training is already rooted in the methods and techniques of the various shiatsu masters with whom I have been honored to study.
Chokkan is more of an approach. It is a way of approaching the session with my clients and a way of seeing them. Chokkan essentially means, “direct perception” or “deep insight”. It is a looking at something and gaining a deep, intuitive understanding. But the source of the word came from a book I happened across while doing this research. The book, Folk Art Potters of Japan: Beyond an Anthropology of Aesthetics by Brian Moeran, in part discusses Yanagi Sōetsu, who is considered a founder of the folk art or folk craft (mingei) movement in Japan. As I understand it, mingei was about the beauty of everyday crafts of ordinary people. According to Moeran, Yanagi experienced a “mental shock” as he looked at the craftworks. Moeran adapts Yanagi’s writings as follows:
“When you look at things, your eyes can be clouded by knowledge, by habit, or by the wish to assert yourself. But this is not the way to look at things. There should be nothing coming between the person who is seeing and the thing that is seen. A thing should be seen for what it is. This is ‘direct perception’ — just seeing things. You enter into the thing; the thing communicates with your heart. When the two become one, you have direct perception. To know about something, without seeing it directly, gives rise to pointless judgment.
“In order to see things properly, you should look at them directly. But to do this, you must not prejudge them. Direct perception must come before criticism. If you allow your learning to come before direct perception, then your eye will be dulled. To know and then to look is the same as not looking at all. In order to come into contact with beauty itself, you have no need of intellectual analysis, for this only impedes your perception. Without direct perception, you will never understand beauty. (Moeran, 2013)”
So what does this have to do with shiatsu? My extensive training in shiatsu and many other forms of bodywork teach me to begin assessing from the moment I make contact with a person — as they breeze through the door; as they walk down the hall; perhaps even as I listen to their voice over the telephone. But, according to the philosophy of my Chokkan, I must hear and listen, but not judge. I must watch and see, but not assess. To truly be open to the story that a person has to tell me, I must set aside my training and my tendency to analyze and preconceive. This is mastery: Receiving the story of another person exactly as presented — with quiet acceptance and genuine appreciation for their unique manifestation in that moment, just as I would receive a morning sunrise. When I allow and trust my intuition to inform my understanding, then I become truly ready to participate in the informed and yet improvisational dance that is shiatsu. So, Chokkan Shiatsu is a way of approaching shiatsu, but not a technique; not a method; not a form. It is a way of silently helping to facilitate the healing of another human being by recognizing their purpose, honoring their intention, and find the beauty in their present state. This is how, together, we help them regain freedom in their body, restore the integrity of their thoughts, and begin to express the emotions of their feeling spirit with grace.
As for my logo design, I was fortunate enough to find a graphic designer from Japan, whose first language was Japanese. We discussed the meaning of Chokkan so that I could ensure I was using it in an appropriate way. Besides affirming my usage, the designer added that Chokkan could be understood to mean something like “deep tissue”; i.e., the ability for my touch to deeply effect the person, even if just physically. I shared my intention and vision and on the first try she came back with what eventually became my logo, after only a few minor tweaks. The soft hands of the logo, the whirling cyclical energy, and the representative lotus that symbolizes attaining enlightenment each identifies a premise upon which Chokkan Shiatsu is based. Soft hands do not impose my will on my clients, inadvertently using shiatsu to force them to go the way I want to lead them, instead of gently guiding them into recognition of the way they want and need to go. The energy of the circle represents the motion of ki and the passage of time by way of movement through space, while maintaining a reliable orbit. The lotus flower reminds us that we can find our center despite the activity around us and that in doing so, we develop into the most serene and beautiful expression of ourselves.
I hope that some day you and I will be able to work together so that we both can experience this powerful interchange of true respect and understanding through the way of Chokkan Shiatsu.
~ Veronica (11/23/17)
Moeran, B. (2013) Folk Art Potters of Japan: Beyond an Anthropology of Aesthetics (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.