Happy Monday! I’m feeling a little feisty. A sharp-eyed reader let me know about an article by an emergency room doctor talking about precautions to take when using KAATSU. He started his article by saying KAATSU and BFR are the same thing. I wish there had been a trigger warning on the article . . .
<sigh> Deep breath in . . .
KAATSU IS NOT BFR!!!
Dear reader, you’ve probably been here with me before, so I apologize for repeating myself. For those who may not have heard this before, please understand there are significant differences between KAATSU and what has become known as Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training.
A Short History
KAATSU is considered “The Original BFR”. Dr. Yoshiaki Sato came up with the idea in 1966. He probably wasn’t the first to ever think it, but he was the first to create a method, start a clinic, treat people from all walks of life for all kinds of ailments, have it researched for a decade at Tokyo University Hospital on 12,000 cardiac rehab patients, have his unique method patented, train thousands of practitioners all across Japan, and eventually find an apprentice who could help introduce KAATSU to the rest of the world. Now distributed in 47 countries, KAATSU equipment and protocols are celebrating their 50th anniversary of clinical use. Millions of user sessions have established KAATSU’s reputation for safety and efficacy.
How is KAATSU Different from BFR?
What is now known as Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training didn’t exist until 2014. It is also commonly referred to as “occlusion training”. Why? Because the commonly accepted definition of BFR is as follows:
“a training method partially restricting arterial inflow and fully restricting venous outflow in working musculature during exercise (reference)”
In comparison, when used properly KAATSU will NEVER stop your blood from flowing. This is what is referred to as “occlusion”. The equipment is specifically engineered to NOT occlude when used properly.
What about improperly? According to Steven Munatones, CEO of KAATSU Global, you’d have to make a significant effort to try and use KAATSU to occlude your blood flow and you still probably wouldn’t be successful. In fact, there was a study done by the makers of a BFR product that demonstrated that while their equipment could occlude ARTERIAL bloodflow, they could not do the same with KAATSU equipment. (reference)
Because KAATSU can NOT occlude, is not designed to occlude, and does not rely on occlusion in any way for its protocols to be effective, that is a major foundational difference between KAATSU and BFR. They are similar, but they are not the same.
So How Can KAATSU Be “The Original BFR”?
In Japan, KAATSU is called KAATSU. The word itself is a compound word meaning “additional pressure”. In the English scientific journals, the word KAATSU was not considered to be sufficient to convey what was being studied. The need for clarity led editors to suggest the term “Blood Flow Restriction”. It’s akin to calling Yoga something like “body bending, stretching, and breathing exercises”.
It is this unfortunate terminology that has stuck and has come to define the category. Because KAATSU was the first system on the market, early BFR advocates also referred to BFR as “KAATSU Training”, even though the two modalities differ significantly.
I said I would make this a “short” history, so I’ll stop here. Suffice to say, KAATSU’s approach (non-occlusion vs. occlusion), protocols and equipment are very different from BFR. In addition, KAATSU’s patented Cycle mode allows KAATSU to be used in ways that BFR can’t.
So, to the doctor who equated KAATSU with BFR, I humbly suggest taking time to learn the differences between the two modalities. KAATSU may be the original form of BFR training but it is most definitely NOT BFR. People who think they are the same thing are ignorant of the truth, and that’s unfortunate, especially when they’re in positions of influence. If medical doctors are supposed to “do no harm”, then they are doing their patients and readers a disservice when they equate BFR to KAATSU.