History of Ohashi Institute
Ohashi sensei’s pioneering efforts in energetic bodywork and alternative health, together with an intense interest of American culture in all things Eastern found an enduring expression in the founding of the Ohashi Institute in the United States. Incorporated in the state of New York in 1974 as a non-profit educational organization, the Institute’s original title was The Shiatsu Education Center of America.
At its beginning, the Ohashi Institute was one of only two organizations in the U.S. that taught and promoted shiatsu as a therapy and lifestyle. Originally housed on the second and third floors of a small brownstone in mid-town Manhattan, the school thrived, attracting young people of the day, intensely curious about alternative lifestyles and other cultures. Some of these early students were the colorful “hippies” of the ’70s and early ‘80s, but students from all walks of life – salespeople, dancers, lawyers – came to study this type of bodywork they could practice on friends and family, and that made them feel healthier.
Ohashi himself was influenced by organizations leading this American cultural trend in self-improvement courses and exercises. At the Omega Institute in the Northeast, Ohashi taught for the next twenty years, and was a return lecturer at the Esalen Institute in California. It was during this period that he wrote Do It Yourself Shiatsu. This book contributed to his reputation as a trendsetter in energetic bodywork and holistic health. Published in 1976, Do It Yourself Shiatsu is still in print today and is used by many massage schools as a text for this topic.
The book was also published in several European languages. In growing numbers, Europeans began to adopt some of the New Age interests and philosophies that had been in vogue in the States. Some of these European students traveled to the U.S. to seek Ohashi and his instructors, and several diverse organizations invited Ohashi to teach for them — not only massage and health institutes but also groups focused on psychological health and societal change.
By 1977, a new era was emerging for the Institute and its teaching program. Not only did the Institute develop a full course curriculum that started with the Beginning level and progressed to the Advanced level, but the Institute expanded its presence to Europe. Thus, by 1979, curriculum courses were offered in Germany, Switzerland, and eventually in Italy, taught first by American instructors and later by newly trained European graduates.
The growing popularity of the Institute and its curriculum attracted more students actively seeking instruction in Eastern alternatives for well-being and healthy living. Enrollment soared and soon the brownstone space became too small. In 1985, the school moved to a much larger space in Manhattan — decorated to reflect Ohashi’s Japanese esthetic and his inspiration from Zen philosophy: a quiet and simple, but elegant space evoking peace and serenity to all people who entered. In the new location, the Institute could offer more than one course at a time and provide private sessions to those seeking a one-on-one experience.
By the end of the 1980s, different styles of shiatsu were developing in the U.S. and Europe, along with different approaches to teaching it. Ohashi decided to distinguish his style by calling it after his name: Ohashiatsu. He trademarked this term in 1989 along with its motto: “Touch for Peace” – an important concept of this modality and its practitioners. Ohashiatsu® is recognized as a leading style of shiatsu and its approach remains appealing. Ohashiatsu® uniquely offers meditation and experiential exercises along with theory and techniques, all enfolded into a holistic education that offers fun along with serious knowledge.
The Institute’s student body and instructor training program continued its remarkable growth well into the 1990s. As western society wearied of the fast pace of society and work, more people began to accept the health benefits of massage therapy as a means to relax and maintain health. Students at the Ohashi Institute found they could maintain a living by seeking a career in bodywork. The Institute continued its various programs, training some to be professional therapists and instructors, and offering an interesting lifestyle to others who appreciated their education to enhance their daily lives.
As early as 1979, Ohashi reached out to Dai Bosatsu Zendo as a venue for a yearly retreat for students of the Institute. This retreat attracted hundreds of students over the years, from throughout the U.S. and Europe. Many life-long friendships began as the result of students traveling from so many diverse places to experience Zen sitting and teachings while studying Ohashiatsu. This program continued through 2008, and even today students return to the Zendo on their own to benefit from the deep experience of staying at this Zen monastery.
At the start of the 21th century, year 2000, Ohashi’s interest in video grew. Even though he had published six books, he felt his healing and teaching gifts could be better served by making many DVDs of his modality. During the next decade, Ohashi’s creative work amassed a library of 10 DVDs. He continues to add to his educational library each year, producing other titles including his special 3-volume series Ohashi Method® Muscle Meridian Sedation, which focuses on techniques he has pioneered.
Along with providing education through digital technology, the Institute’s next focus in the U.S. will be virtual teaching – offering instruction through the internet along with current classes offered in various locations. In Europe, the Ohashiatsu program continues to expand in many locations in Italy, France, Netherlands, Austria, and Czech Republic.
Ohashi continues to seek ways to manifest his rejuvenating healing arts and reach the greatest number of people possible. Whether through educational downloads of his beneficial Ohashi Method® educational programs via the worldwide web, live video sessions, social media posts and/or publishing e-books, Ohashi’s joyous and uplifting teaching will continue to offer the healing power of balancing body, mind and spirit.
> For more information and to register for courses, go to www.ohashiatsu.org