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About the creator of Watsu

Harold Dull

Harold's Education

Harold Dull born in 1935 received his BA and MA degrees at the University of Washington. Dull also gained proficiency in several languages. Dull began writing poetry in 1955, while a student of Stanley Kunitz and Theodore Roethke at the University of Washington. After graduation in 1957 he participated in regular meetings of poets with Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan in San Francisco, and published several small books of poetry with the San Francisco Renaissance presses Open Space and White Rabbit Press. Starting in 1976, Dull studied in Zen Shiatsu in America and in Japan, where he studied with Shizuto Masunaga, the original creator of Shiatsu. He also studied with Reuho Yamada and Wataru Ohashi, the teachers who first introduced Shiatsu to the United States.

The Development of Watsu

In the early 1980s, while teaching at the School of Shiatsu and Massage at Harbin Hot Springs, California, Harold Dull began adapting Zen Shiatsu for water. He experimented with floating people in the warm water natural springs, incorporating breathing patterns, meditative presence, and meridian stretches in sessions. He called this new form of aquatic bodywork Watsu, a contraction of Water Shiatsu. Dull discovered that Watsu induced deep relaxation, with profound physical and emotional effects.

Dull, with his background in creative arts, poetry, and English teaching, originally focused on Watsu as a meditative and nurturing practice, and emphasized "heart connection". In the 1980s Dull practiced and developed the techniques with various volunteers from the Harbin community, primarily massage therapists and yoga practitioners. Originally Watsu was developed for everybody – adolescents, young and old adults, pregnant women, athletes, and those suffering from stress. A wide variety of providers now offer Watsu, including psychologists, psychiatrists, physical therapists, massage therapists, and lay people.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s physical therapists and other healthcare providers began to use Watsu with their patients for diverse orthopedic and neurologic conditions. In those early years, there was some resistance to Watsu among those trained in conventional healthcare, primarily because of the roots in Shiatsu and the close physical contact. As increasing numbers of therapists have incorporated Watsu into their treatment programs, Watsu gained increasing acceptance as a form of aquatic therapy, and Watsu is now practiced a spas, clinics, health centers, and hospitals worldwide.

Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA)

Dull founded the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA), and served as president for various years. The Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Registry (WABR) stores records for students and professional aquatic bodyworkers.

Visit the WABA website to find a practitioner in your area at:

Harbin Hot Springs Massage School

Harold Dull has had a long-term association with Harbin Hot Springs, widely known as the birthplace of Watsu. He lived there beginning in 1980 as a teacher and resident, owned and ran the massage school from 1985-2008, and helped design and build the extensive Watsu aquatic facilities. In 1979, the Niyama School of Healing Arts was established at Harbin Hot Springs. In 1985, the school was purchased by Harold Dull and renamed the School of Shiatsu and Massage, which was later bought and operated by the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA). In 2008, the school was purchased and operated by the Bodywork Career Institute, LLC. In 2013, the school was purchased by Harbin Hot Springs and began operating under the name Harbin School of Healing Arts.

Harold taught Watsu and Tantsu courses worldwide. He brought this incredible bodywork to 27 countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Israel, and almost every country in Europe.

Harold passed away on July 31 2019 at the age of 83 from cancer but his legacy will live on forever.

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