"After studying shiatsu, it was a natural move for me to go into liniments. Liniments and herbology, Natural aids for injuries. My patients would come to me and say, 'you know so much about the body, what can I take for a stomachache?' Or, 'What can I do for this problem without using drugs?' So I started to research different herbs. I met several teachers whom I have to give credit for showing me different ways to look at various problems."
"After a while I thought, when you teach martial arts, people try to punch you, they try to kick you-and it's fun," he says with an ironic smile. "It's an exchange of energy then after your lessons, at the end of the month, some of your students will either give you the money willingly, or begrudgingly. If you do a shiatsu treatment, people like you," he says with a smile. "They give you hugs. You're not only paid with money, which is given gratefully, but they're making gifts for you, and you're in their presence as a positive force. So I figured it was better for me to do shiatsu on a professional basis then do martial arts!"
As Reggie was making this career move, the laws in New York State were changing. New York now requires all massage therapists, including those performing shiatsu, to be licensed in order to practice. Reggie enrolled in the Swedish Institute, which was and still is one of the few accredited schools that prepares students for the state licensing exam. While at the school, he also became proficient in Swedish massage, which was a requirement to pass the test.
It seems that each step in his development has been tied to a particular event. During Reggie's studies, a guest lecturer gave a demonstration on the use of Swedish massage therapy in the treatment of Bell's palsy, a condition that causes partial facial paralysis. Reggie was impressed for the first time by the use of the Swedish technique. The guest speaker told him that many people in her field did amazing things with massage, and that he should join the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association). They had regular meetings, and it would give him a chance to network and learn.
"Eventually, the AMTA needed someone on the board that had an expertise in shiatsu, and they wanted to have a minority balance," Reggie explains. "The person had to be an expert in shiatsu and licensed in Swedish massage. There weren't too many who fit the bill. Some of the teachers I met at the Swedish Institute remembered me and thought I would be a good person for the board." Within a short time Reggie was asked to become a board member of the AMTA.
The Swedish Institute wanted to add the shiatsu program to their curriculum, and Reggie Cesar became the perfect choice to head the department. "It was one big circle" he says with his gentle smile. "I see that happening many times-that I come full circle, and as I complete one circle, another one appears."
Another thing that made an impression on Reggie occurred when his was studying martial arts in Chinatown at age eighteen. "I hurt my shoulder pretty bad in one of our practice sessions. It put me out of commission for a week. The teacher asked my practice partner why I hadn't been coming to class, and he told him. When I finally returned to class, the instructor put some liniments on my shoulder, moved it around, massaged it a couple of seconds, and told me to go out on the floor again.
"I was amazed. I was suddenly able to move my arm." He says, making big circles with his shoulder as he relives the moment. "I couldn't believe it! For a week I was at home, aching, and this guy fixes it in two minutes. That started my fascination with the oriental culture. My buddy and I would go to chinese movies, and we'd visited different chinese doctors to learn about their practices. That evolved into my studying oriental philosophy.
"Years later," says the soft-spoken Reggie, "I was teaching martial arts with a partner, and we thought, What happens if someone gets hurt? Besides just liability, we should know how to heal someone if we're teaching them, even if we can only treat them on a minor level. So, I took a class in shiatsu. I was curious because I knew these things could work. I had watched my mother use herbs and natural healing methods, and I experienced my shoulder being healed almost by itself".
Reggie enjoyed the shiatsu class and decided to take another. He quickly realized he was taking more shiatsu classes and he was teaching martial arts classes. He decided that it would make sense for him to do something with all the knowledge he been accumulating. So he began to take on a few clients.