Like some of his own clients, Akihiko Tsubuku had a life-changing experience when he first discovered Rolfing.
Not only did Tsubuku find himself more relaxed and breathing easier, he also found himself a new profession: Rolfing.
Now, the native of Tokyo runs Rolfing Office Okinawa, a place that focuses on – you guessed it – Rolfing.
According to Tsubuku, Rolfing is a therapeutic maneuver applied directly to the skin with hands and elbows. The treatment is meant to improve body posture and structure.
Rolfing may be widely acknowledged in the U.S., thanks to endorsements from celebrities such as Randy Moss or Gwyneth Paltrow, but in Japan, not many people are familiar with the treatment. It was even more so in Okinawa, where there wasn’t a Rolfer to be found.
“I looked everywhere,” says Michelle Delaney, an Air Force spouse, as she described a long journey she went through, looking for a Rolfer on the island.
To relive chronic pain in her neck and shoulder, Delaney tried many forms of treatment while living in the states, but nothing worked like the Rolfing she received in Alaska. The fascinating effect was gripping. So, once on Okinawa, Delaney desperately looked for a Rolfer on the island. Luckily, Tsubuku opened Rolfing Office Okinawa in Mihama Chatan in 2016.
Introduction to Rolfing
“It is difficult to explain what Rolfing is,” admitted Tsubuku, who learned Rolfing at places such as Rolf Institute in Colorado and the European Rolfing Association in Germany. “There are three elements that set Rolfing apart from the other treatments: stimulus to fascia, body awareness, and gravity.”
A brochure Tsubuku provided compares “stimulating fascia” to tightening or adjusting the lines for a tarp over a tent. And Tsubuku explained that “body awareness” and “gravity” are closely linked.
“Everything on earth is under the influence of gravity,” said Tsubuku. “You feel uncomfortable when your body is at odds with gravity. Rolfing helps you put gravity on your side by putting your body in good balance.”
What happens in a session
At Rolfing Office Okinawa, a session roughly consists of five segments: Counseling, photo shoot and observation, treatment, second photo shoot and observation, and closing brief.
Appointments at Rolfing Office Okinawa are called “session” for reasons. There are parts clients are expected to do. Sometimes, Tsubuku asks his clients to pay attention to certain parts of their bodies. And he will ask them to move their bodies in certain ways. Clients are expected to stay conscious, but in a relaxed way.
Although a certain amount of pain can be part of Rolfing sessions, there is no need to worry, suggested Tsubuku.
“I apply pressure directly to client’s body, which may cause pain depending upon how much pressure I apply, or which part of the body I apply pressure on,” Tsubuku said, “A kind of pain that makes you feel good. That’s what my clients often feel.”
According to Tsubuku, a “No pain no gain” mentality was a big part of Rolfing when it was just beginning to gain name recognition.
“Rolfing used to mean something painful. But thanks to progress in medical science, uncomfortable pain came to be best avoided, and tolerable pain became ideal,” said Tsubuku.
Long lasting effect
Many clients see Tsubuku for pain or tightness in neck and shoulders, back pain or sciatic nerve pain. After treatment, they often experience better breathing, better sleep,
rejuvenation, and flexibility, according to Tsubuku.
The effect of his treatment on pain may seem subtle at the beginning, but it leads to a bigger result.
“Some clients forgot about their pain and recovered without knowing it,” Tsubuku said. “Pain is not something that goes away suddenly. It gradually subsides through subtle changes.”
In addition to those who suffer chronic pains, Tsubuku’s clients include athletes, dancers, yoga enthusiasts who take sessions for better balance, more flexibility, and better performance.
The office, which is located near the Starbucks on Route 58 in Chatan, offers three options for sessions: 10-series, 3-series, and single session
A ten-session series will help to understand what Rolfing can do at its best, but even one session can be telling according to Delaney.
“It makes a huge difference,” said Delaney, who had her tight neck and shoulder worked on. “I feel amazing. I knew it was just so tight. I like it. I feel fantastic. It’s amazing. Just even the freedom, things just start crack more. You can move more.”
In a trial session, Tsubuku worked on my stiff chest and hip joint. After the session, my posture was straightened out. I had better balance and was able to walk and breathe much more smoothly.
Tsubuku recommends taking a 3-series or single session for first-time clients. His suggestion likely comes from his own experience.
“It took only one experience to know how good it is,” Tsubuku said. “One experience of Rolfing literally changed my life.”
Rolfing Office Okinawa
Address: Tomikawa Mansion #708, 2-2-4 Mihama, Chatan-cho 904-0115
Note: For attire, sports shorts, sports bra are recommended. Rolfing can be applied over clothes, but effects are maximized when applied directly to the skin.