Kaatsu (Japanese: 加圧, often styled as KAATSU or K A A T SU ) is a patented exercise method developed by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato that is based on blood flow moderation exercise (or vascular occlusion moderation training) involving compression of the vasculature proximal to the exercising muscles by the Kaatsu Master device.
In 1966 at the age of 18 while Yoshiaki Sato was attending a Buddhist ceremony in his native Japan, his legs went numb while sitting in the traditional Japanese posture on the floor. He could barely stand the pain any longer with his legs bent underneath him. Out of desperation, he began to massage his calves in an attempt to relieve the discomfort during the long ceremony. He realized that his blood circulation was blocked in his calves as he was sitting directly on his feet. This was when he conceived the original idea of blood flow moderation training. Over the next 7 years, he experimented on himself by applying different bicycle tubes, ropes and bands at different pressures on various parts of his body. He methodically kept track of what type of bands and pressures worked and what experiments did not. With years of detailed trial and error, Sato gradually developed effective protocols to safely modify blood flow in his limbs. By 1973 at the age of 25, Sato developed the details of Kaatsu as it is currently practiced. At that time, on a ski trip, he fractured his ankle and damaged the ligaments around his knee. The injuries were diagnosed and the doctors told Sato that it would take 6 months to heal. With a plaster cast on, Sato rehabilitated himself with Kaatsu Bands applied to his upper leg. He repeatedly applied Kaatsu pressure on and off while doing isometric exercises for 30 seconds on and a few seconds off three times per day. The results of his regimen shocked his doctor when his muscles did not atrophy and he fully recovered within 6 weeks. Between 1973 and 1982, Sato conducted Kaatsu Training and developed protocols that worked best for people of all ages and with various kinds of afflictions.
In 1994, Sato applied for his first patents in Japan (Patent No. 2670421), U.S.A. (Patent No. 6149618), and Europe (UK, Germany, France, Italy with 94206403.0) as he produced the first Kaatsu Training bands. In 1997, Sato introduced the Kaatsu Instructor educational program where his defined protocols were shared with coaches, trainers, physical therapists and physicians throughout Japan. Over 3,000 Kaatsu Instructors were certified.
Kaatsu Training was named one of the collaborative projects of the University of Tokyo Hospital’s 22nd Century Medical and Research Center. Sato also began to offer an ischemic circulatory physiology course at the University of Tokyo Hospital and conducted joint development work with the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation. In the 1990s, Sato began joint research with Professor Naokata Ishii of the Department of Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, at The University of Tokyo. Other researchers in Japan started to explore the benefits of Kaatsu and various research results were submitted to peer-review publications. In 2009, Dr. Sato signed a joint development agreement at China’s Jilin University and the National Research Institute of Sports Science of China. In 2014, Dr Sato established the Kaatsu Research Foundation.
The second generation of KAATSU equipment was launched in 2004 with the introduction of the KAATSU Master and the KAATSU Air Bands. The KAATSU Master device quantified and monitored the precise pressure applied to users’ legs and arms. In 2006, Sato completed the design of a smaller, portable, programmable KAATSU device called the KAATSU Master Mini. Sato developed other applications for KAATSU users like KAATSU for speed and stamina as well as KAATSU Beauty and stress relief. He also designed the KAATSU Chair.