Reflection and change
about the same time, the Church hierarchy was also pressuring Fr. Josef
to stop, saying that reflexology was not his proper work. Though he
firmly believed that he was simply doing what Jesus did in helping people,
the strain was great. He finally took a leave of absence, resting, praying
and meditating at a Benedictine convent in Israel.
There, he came to some important realizations.
One was that every reflexologist must first take care of his or her
"This must be taken seriously," he says. "We
can only do as much work for others as the amount of good health we
Secondly, he decided that the future of reflexology
in Taiwan would be best served by placing his work into the hands of
others. He turned to his "adoptive" brothers, Joseph and Thonet Tschen.
(It is a tradition in Taiwan that a foreigner will be "adopted" by a
Chinese family. Mr. and Mrs. Tschen were Fr. Josef's Taiwanese adoptive
parents. Their sons, Joseph and Thonet, had known Fr. Josef since they
were in their teens.)
In 1982, just a year after his work with Li
Wen had created such publicity, the brothers started the Rwo Shur Institute.
(By that time, Fr. Josef had become so famous in Taiwan that his associates
insisted the institute must be named for him; in Chinese his name is
Rwo Shur.) Both of them were trained by Fr. Josef.
Fr. Josef's technique has become widely known in Asia as the Rwo Shur
Health Method, although Westerners usually refer to it as Taiwanese-style
reflexology. And since the time he first introduced his technique in
his adopted coun- try, the Taiwanese government has slowly come to
accept reflexology as a viable health-care method. Fr. Josef estimates
that 20 percent of Taiwan's population receives reflexology sessions regularly.
Fr. Josef does not hide the fact that he is
completely self-taught, since no teachers were available to him. Although
he is very knowledgeable about the body and the reflex points, with
characteristic humility he says, "Honestly, I could not pass one [reflexology]
exam." He claims that his only guiding principle was to get results
as quickly as possible for the sake of the client's health, and that
he learned by reading books on reflexology and medical texts, and through
trial and error.
It seems, though, that aiming for a swift recovery has also saddled the Rwo Shur method with a deserved reputation
for being painful. Then again, there is no denying that its practitioners
have suc- ceeded remarkably with scores of "hopeless" cases.
Fr. Josef tells the story of one of his very
first clients, 73-year-old Mr. Chen, who suffered from severe back pain
due to an accident. Mr. Chen had visited seven physicians, with no relief;
used up all his money; and finally decided to tell his priest- Fr. Josef-that
it was time to go to heaven.
"Not yet," Fr. Josef told the man. "I will see
you at 4 p.m. tomorrow." Fr. Josef showed up the next day. At some point,
Mr. Chen began crying from the pain of the session. The second and third
sessions were equally painful. When Fr. Josef returned a fourth time,
Mr. Chen had hidden himself to avoid the treatment, but neighbors told
on him. Fr. Josef treated him once more, although he himself had lost
hope. That night, around 10 p.m., Fr. Josef received a joyful call from
the man's family, saying, "It works! Come back tomorrow!" Within two
weeks, the man who had been ready to die was fully recovered. By working
on very tough cases like this from the out- set, Fr. Josef gradually
developed his technique.
Today, he admits that perhaps in the early years
he was too aggressive, and he now counsels stu- dents to pay attention
to the client's pain tolerance. However, he maintains that deeper pressure
works faster, and that if the patient has a "shell" over a certain reflex,
there is nothing to do but break that shell, which will be painful.
Of the pain involved with the technique, physician Eugene Cheng, M.D., says, "Though the Rwo Shur Method, in the early
days, was painful, Fr. Josef's affection, sincerity and modest deeds
gained the trust of his [clients], and many people loved him because
of the cures he effected. He was never arrogant, and kept studying with
his students for new knowledge, creating better treatments, and seeking
for ways to reduce the clients pain."
In the beginning, Fr. Josef used only his hands,
and especially his thumb. He was in such demand and working so hard
that finally a helper observed, "Try using a stick, or you will kill
yourself." It took him about six months to incorporate the four-inch
long wooden tool into his work. He finds it especially useful on tough
feet, and he believes the stick can go deep into a reflex without creating
so much pain. His technique has also evolved to use fingers with thumb,
like pincers; the thumb knuckle; and forefinger joint.
The reflex points addressed in Fr. Josef's method
are similar to those used in Western-style reflexology. A few differences
include working the diaphragm on the top of the foot, around the base
of the metatarsal bones; a new reflex called the balance organ in the
hollow between the fourth and fifth metatarsal heads on the top of the
foot; and a larger solar plexus reflex, encompassing the kidney, adrenal
gland and gall bladder points.
Josef has distanced himself from the Rwo Shur Institute in recent years
because, he says, he believes that as the organization grew larger,
money became more important to many practitioners than did helping
However, he says that the institute did a marvelous job spreading Taiwanese-style reflexology throughout Asia. Under
its auspices, Fr. Josef offered many courses in Singapore, Malaysia,
Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.
On mainland China, there has been an especially
strong response to reflexology. While China has had a tradition of foot
massage and uses points in the feet for acupuncture, the theory and
practice of reflexology seem to have been largely either lost or unknown.
Fr. Josef and his students were the catalysts in introducing reflexology
to modern Chinese.
When Fr. Josef attended the China Reflexology
Association's conference in 1996, he was amazed to hear the Chinese
health minister publicly announce his support of reflexology. Explaining
that health insurance is not yet available to every- one, physician
Qian Xin-Shan said that physicians and reflexologists have a duty to
teach natural health methods so that people can help themselves.
Today, reflexologists in China practice alongside
physicians in Chinese hospitals, and they are very active in case-study
documentation and research. In only a decade, membership in the China
Reflexology Association has grown to almost 10,000.
work of this authentic, humble and charming priest is becoming known
to more people. In 1998 he introduced reflexology to another part of
the world: South America. In Santa Cruz, Bolivia, he taught laypeople,
physicians and nurses his technique.
Fr. Josef has been a keynote speaker for International
Council of Reflexologists' conference. In 1991 he was presented with
the council's Special Recognition Award for his successful efforts in
popularizing reflexology in China; in 1999 he received the council's
International Humanitarian Award for helping spread reflexology throughout
Asia. He has also addressed the Reflexology Association of America.
"Through his humility and compassionate love,
he has brought help to thousands and thousands of people who cannot
afford Western health care," says Christine Issel, a founding member
and first president of the International Council of Reflexologists.
"If I were to make a list of those who have had the greatest influence
on the growth and development of reflexology, his name would be right
under Eunice Ingham's [Ingham developed and popularized the Western
method of reflexology]. What Eunice did in America, he has done in Asia
and around the world.
"As far as I'm concerned, he is the most influential
reflexologist alive today," Issel continues. "He exemplifies what reflexologists
aspire to attain both in helping humanity and in their own personal
The result of exposure in the United States
is a nonprofit organization called The Father Josef Method of Reflexology,
which sponsors workshops where reflexologists receive instruction from
Not surprisingly, Fr. Josef has fans in both
the East and West.
"Fr. Josef acts as a bridge between the East
and West," says Geraldine Tay, a translator of Fr. Josef's book on the
Rwo Shur Health Method and a reflex- ologist in Singapore and Malaysia.
"He is a European who speaks Mandarin and Chinese dialects, working
in the East. His understanding of the people of Europe and Asia makes
communication between the two easier. Furthermore, people accept him
and his reflexology because he is a priest who preaches love, a very
important factor to make foot reflexology work. [He] will not practice
reflexology for monetary gain or fame, but for the love of mankind."
Mitsuru Orita, a reflexologist in Tokyo, Japan,
trained in the Rwo Shur Method. "Fr. Josef is for me a big, brilliant
star in the sky," he says. "I met him for the first time 13 years ago,
and since then, he hasn't changed. He continues to have passion and
vigor to promote reflexology to the world. I continue to follow his
Bill Flocco, founder and director of the American
Academy of Reflexology in Burbank, California, adds, "Because of Fr.
Josef's introducing foot reflexology to Taiwan and China, millions of
people's lives throughout the Orient have been improved-through better
health, less illness, greater well-being. [Fr.] Josef has done more
than any man in recent history to touch the lives, souls and well-being
of such a massive number of people throughout the countries of the Orient."
Connecticut reflexologist Irina Breslav says
she was fortunate to be chosen from the audience at the Seventh International
Reflexology Conference in Hawaii in 1999, as the person Fr. Josef would
demonstrate his technique on. "
One month later, with his permission, I was
in Taiwan working beside him in his remote village of Chang Pin, learning
and applying his unique method of reflexology," she says. "Since returning
to the U.S., I have been employing a blend of his method and the classic
Ingham approach, which has doubled my practice and generated enthusiastic
healing stories from my clients."
Despite the worldwide acclaim, Fr. Josef continues
quietly on his healing mission. And although he has continued his parish
ministry in Taiwan successfully all these years, he maintains that reflexology
became his mission through a special calling.
"There are all kinds of healing methods in nature,"
he says, "but the most wonderful one, the Lord of the Universe has put
into everyone's feet."
Treece is a certified massage therapist who often incorporates reflexology
into her work. Living in Tokyo, Japan, she is also a writer and teacher
from Massage Magazine, Issue 93, September/October 2001 with permission
from Massage Magazine, Inc.
copyright 2001, Massage Magazine, Inc.