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The Forms of Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT)


The AOBTA uses the term "Forms" to refer to the various Asian Bodywork Therapy professions which we have recognized as specific and distinct. 

All Forms that are recognized here originally had their roots in Chinese Medicine. Over the centuries, practitioners in China, Japan, Thailand, Korea, and more recently North America and Europe, have adapted and evolved these Forms into separate and distinct professions. 

The AOBTA formally recognizes those Forms of Asian Bodywork Therapy that meet our professional curriculum standards and have been approved by our application process. 

Although AOBTA members are trained in a specific Form, they often refer to their profession by a more generalized term such as: Shiatsu, Acupressure, Amma or Qigong.

There is an application and review process required for a Chinese Medicine based bodywork profession to be formally recognized as an AOBTA Form.

Related Links
Jia: Examining the Use of the Word "Forms", article by Cindy Banker written for the ePulse Newsletter.




Acupressure is a system of balancing the body's energy by applying pressure to specific acupoints to release tension and increase circulation. The many hands-on methods of stimulating the acupressure points can strengthen weaknesses, relieve common ailments, prevent health disorders and restore the body's vital life force.  

Acupressure Long Definition PDF  |  Acupressure Five Criteria PDF


Amma is derived from "Amma" in China.  Classic Korean Asian bodywork is called Amma. The name “Am-ma” literally translates to “push-pull.” Amma is a specialized form of skilled (somatic) touch therapy that combines deep tissue bodywork with the application of pressure, friction, and touch to specific acu-points, superficial primary and tendino-muscle energy channels, muscles, ligaments, and joints. It is rooted in the fundamental principles of Chinese Medicine, focusing on the balance and movement of Qi (energy) within the body. The techniques of Amma aim to remove blockages and free the flow of Qi in the body — restoring, promoting, and maintaining optimum health. Amma practitioners are also trained the principles of wholistic nutrition and eastern dietary principles.  

Amma Long Definition PDF  |  Amma Five Criteria PDF

AMMA Therapy®

AMMA Therapy® is a highly refined and complex system of bodywork therapy utilizing techniques and treatment strategies combining the use of Chinese Medicine principles for assessing and evaluating general imbalances in the energetic system and a Western approach to organ dysfunctions. AMMA Therapy® restores, promotes and maintains optimum health through the treatment of the physical body, the bio-energy, and the emotions, which reflect and are bound into the neuromuscular system. AMMA Therapy® has proven to be an effective healing modality used to treat a wide range of medical conditions. The treatment includes the use of dietary therapy, herbs, nutritional supplements, and the external application of herbal preparations. This method was created by Tina Sohn.  

AMMA Therapy Long Definition PDF  |  AMMA Therapy® Five Criteria PDF

Chi Nei Tsang

Chi Nei Tsang is an entire system of Chinese deep healing that makes use of the energy flow of the five major systems in the body: vascular, lymphatic, nervous, tendon/muscle, and acupuncture meridians. With this practice one is able to increase the energy flow to specific organs through massaging a series of points in the navel area. Chi Nei Tsang frees the energy blockages in the navel and then guides the healing light energy into other parts of the body. Chi Nei Tsang was brought to America by Master Mantak Chia.

Chi Nei Tsang Long Definition PDF  |  Chi Nei Tsang Five Criteria PDF

Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure®

Jin Shin Do® means “The Way of the Compassionate Spirit.”  Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® uses gentle yet deep finger pressure on specific acu-points and verbal Body Focusing techniques, to help release “armoring” or chronic tension, balance the “Qi” or energy, and improve vitality. This clothes-on method helps relieve stress- and trauma- related problems.  A unique synthesis of a traditional Japanese acupressure technique, classic Chinese acupuncture and acupressure theory, Taoist philosophy, Qigong (breathing and exercise techniques), Reichian segmental theory and principles of Ericksonian psychotherapy, it is recognized as a major form of Asian Bodywork Therapy .  Originated by psychotherapist Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® promotes a pleasant trance-like state, in which one can relax and move out of the head and into the body, accessing feelings and inner wisdom.  In its most basic form, Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® is a simple, easy to learn, valuable self-help tool that can be shared with family and friends. In the hands of a skilled and sensitive practitioner, it can be a powerful, profoundly effective, transformative tool, which is easily incorporated into other therapeutic methods.  

Jin Shin Do® Long Definition PDF  |  Jin Shin Do® Five Criteria PDF

Jin Shou Tuina™

Jin Shou Tuina™ is the method of tuina practiced and taught by the North American Tang Shou Tao Association (NATSTA).  Diagnosis and treatment are based in the tenets of Traditional Chinese medicine.  Manual therapy techniques range from very soft energetic work, to deep and vigorous manipulation to appropriately affect soft tissue, structural alignment and the meridian systems.  Adjunctive therapies such as moxibustion, cupping and external herbal applications are also utilized as needed.  Jin Shou Tuina developed out of the internal martial art traditions of China and personal development through commitment to gong fu physical culture is seen as fundamental to the process of becoming an adept practitioner. 

Jin Shou Tuina Long Definition PDF  |  Jin Shou Tuina Five Criteria PDF

Medical Qigong

Medical Qigong, an ancient branch of Chinese Medicine, has existed for several thousand years. Like Acupuncture and Tuina therapies, Medical Qigong is based on meridian and point theory, as well as ancient Chinese philosophy. Medical Qigong refers to a wide series of therapeutic methods, including but not limited to: breath training, psychosomatic exercises, meditation, and guided visualization that direct the practitioners to create a place of health and balance in their clients. Medical Qigong practitioners are trained in Qi transference and replenishment to be used as a healing art different from self-Qigong exercises taught for personal use.  

Medical Qigong Long Definition PDF  |  Medical Qigong Five Criteria PDF

Nuad Bo 'Rarn

Nuad Bo'Rarn is the traditional Thai medical bodywork form. Thai bodywork is based upon an integration of Indian Buddhist medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thai bodywork utilizes hand techniques and a unique approach to passive movement and stretching in order to open up the veins or energy passages and release chronic tension from the body. Nuad Bo 'Rarn incorporates a spiritual dimension in its gentle and focused approach to ABT.  

Nuad Bo'Rarn Long Definition PDF  |  Nuad Bo 'Rarn Five Criteria PDF


Shiatsu became widely recognized in Japan as a therapeutic approach to manual therapy.  “Shiatsu” is a Japanese word which literally translates as “finger pressure.”  Shiatsu continues to evolve with various approaches to incorporating traditional Japanese manual therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine and western anatomy and physiology.

Presently, the AOBTA® acknowledges six specific Forms of shiatsu, which all meet the national education requirements for the AOBTA’s Certified Practitioner level in Asian Bodywork Therapy. These forms are: Five Element Shiatsu, Integrative Eclectic Shiatsu, Japanese Shiatsu, Macrobiotic Shiatsu, Shiatsu-Anma and Zen Shiatsu. Other forms of shiatsu may be recognized by theAOBTA in the future.

Five Element Shiatsu

The primary emphasis of Five Element Shiatsu is to identify a pattern of disharmony through use of the four pillars of examinations and to harmonize that pattern with an appropriate treatment plan. Hands-on techniques and preferences for assessment varies with the practitioner, depending on their individual background and training. The radial pulse usually provides the most critical and detailed information. Palpation of the back and/or abdomen and a detailed verbal history serve to confirm the assessment. Considerations of the client's lifestyle, emotional, and psychological factors are all considered important. Although this approach uses the paradigm of the five elements to tonify, sedate, or control patterns of disharmony, practitioners of this style also consider hot or cold and internal or external symptoms and signs.  

Five Element Long Definition PDF  |  Five Element Five Criteria PDF

Integrative Eclectic Shiatsu

Integrative Eclectic Shiatsu utilizes Japanese Shiatsu techniques, Chinese Medicine theory and Western methods of soft tissue manipulation. Dietary and herbal methods are also included to create a comprehensive integrated treatment method.

Integrative Eclectic Shiatsu Long Definition PDF  |  Integrative Eclectic Shiatsu Five Criteria

Japanese Shiatsu

Shiatsu literally means finger (Shi) pressure (Atsu) and although Shiatsu is primarily pressure, usually applied with the thumbs along the meridian lines, extensive soft tissue manipulation and both active and passive exercise and stretching may be part of the treatments. Extensive use of cutaneovisceral reflexes in the abdomen and on the back are also characteristics of Shiatsu. The emphasis of Shiatsu is the treatment of the whole meridian; however, effective points are also used. The therapist assesses the condition of the patient's body as treatment progresses. Therapy and diagnosis are one.  

Japanese Shiatsu Long Definition PDF  |  Japanese Shiatsu Five Criteria PDF 

Namikoshi Shiatsu Therapy Long Definition PDF

Macrobiotic Shiatsu

Founded by Shizuko Yamamoto and based on George Ohsawa's philosophy that each individual is an integral part of nature, Macrobiotic Shiatsu supports a natural lifestyle and heightened instincts for improving health. Assessments are through visual, verbal, and touch techniques (including pulses) and the Five Transformations. Treatment involves non-invasive touch and pressure using hand and barefoot techniques and stretches to facilitate the flow of Qi and to strengthen the body-mind. Dietary guidance, medicinal plant foods, breathing techniques and home remedies are emphasized. Corrective exercises, postural rebalancing, palm healing, self-shiatsu, and Qigong are included in Macrobiotic Shiatsu.  

Macrobiotic Shiatsu Long Definition PDF  |  Macrobiotic Shiatsu Five Criteria PDF

Shiatsu Anma Therapy

Shiatsu Anma Therapy utilizes a unique blending of two of the most popular Asian bodywork forms practiced in Japan. Dr. Kaneko introduces traditional Anma Therapy® based on the energetic systems of Traditional Chinese Medicine in long form and contemporary pressure therapy which is based on neuro-musculoskeletal system in short form. Ampuku, abdominal bodywork therapy, is another foundation in his school.  

Shiatsu Anma Therapy Long Definition PDF  |  Shiatsu Anma Therapy Five Criteria PDF

Zen Shiatsu

Zen Shiatsu is characterized by the theory of Kyo-Jitsu, its physical and psychological manifestations, and its application to abdominal (Hara) diagnosis. Zen Shiatsu theory is based on an extended meridian system that includes, as well as expands, the location of the traditional acupuncture meridians. The focus of a Zen Shiatsu session is on the use of meridian lines rather than on specific points. In addition, Zen Shiatsu does not adhere to a fixed sequence or set of methods that are applied to all similar client needs. It utilizes appropriate methods for the unique pattern of each individual. Zen Shiatsu was developed by Shizuto Masunaga.  

Zen Shiatsu Long Definition PDF |  Zen Shiatsu Five Criteria PDF


Tuina is a method of Chinese bodywork characterized by the smooth gliding or rolling movements of the hands and arms. Through Tui (push) and na (grasp), kneading, pressing, rolling, shaking, and stretching of the body, acupoints are opened and qi flow is realigned in the musculo-tendon meridians. Tuina techniques are used to treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal and internal organ disorders by opening stagnant meridian channels and encouraging the flow of qi into deficient areas. Tuina utilizes Chinese Medicine theory in assessing energetic and functional disorders. In addition, the use of external herbal medicines and therapeutic exercise is also included.  

Tuina Long Definition PDF  |  Tuina Five Criteria PDF