Anma – Traditional Japanese Massage Technique

Man setting dislocated shoulder joint

Anma Bone Setting

Anma is a traditional Japanese massage that involves stroking, kneading, pressure, vibration, percussion, and squeezing techniques.  While some of the techniques may appear to be similar to the ones of Swedish massage, the major difference is the direction of massage strokes delivery: Anma strokes are directed away from the heart (centrifugal) while Swedish massage’s strokes are directed towards the heart (centripetal).  Another difference between Anma and Swedish massage is that anma is administered through clothing without usage of any lubricants, while Swedish massage is administered directly on the skin and often utilizes some lubricants such as oils or lotions.

Basic Strokes of Anma


Light stroking technique (Effleurage)


Kneading technique


Circular deep stroking and friction technique


Compression technique


Vibration technique


Squeezing/Grasping technique


Tapotement (hacking) technique


Hand rolling technique


Mobilization techniques (active, passive, and resisted movements), assisted stretching and joints manipulations

Brief History of Anma

Ancient man giving arm massage

Traditional Chinese Tuina Massage

Anma is considered to be originated from Chinese medicine. It was developed from Tui Na, traditional Chinese massage method. Tui Na found its way to Japan during the Nara period (710-793), together with other Kampo modalities such as acupuncture and herbal medicine.

(What is Kampo? – External Site)

Anma was widely popularized during the seventeenth century by Yoshida Ikyu Hisashi (Yoshida style Anma) and blind acupuncturist Waichi Sugiyama (Sugiyama style Anma) in the Edo period (1603-1868).
The primary comprehensive textbook on Anma, Fujibayashi Ryohaku’s Anma Tebiki (“Handbook of Anma”), came out during the same period. The Fujibayashi style is the foundation of contemporary Anma method. Following the Meiji period (1868-1912), many of original Anma techniques became incorporated into shiatsu and Swedish massage procedures.  Anma continues to be practiced independently or alongside along with shiatsu and massage therapy in Japan, by practitioners who are licensed by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Anma tebiki

Anma tebiki (Handbook of Anma) by Ryohaku Fujibayashi, 1835

Characteristics of Anma

Relaxation ***

Therapeutic ***

Intensity: Moderate

Lubrication: no

Undressing: no

Tip: Depends on facility

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