History of IPA Physio

The story of Gregg and Vicky Johnson, co-developers of FMT.

Physical Therapy for Optimum Health!

An Idea 40 Years in the Making!

The story begins 40 years ago with Gregory S. Johnson, PT, FFFMT, FAAOMPT and Vicky Saliba Johnson, PT, FFFMT, FAAOMPT, who would eventually found the Institute of Physical Art (IPA) and develop Functional Manual Therapy® (FMT).

The Johnson’s beginnings in Physical Therapy were at Kaiser Vallejo Rehabilitation Center , an internationally renowned training program for physical therapists specializing in neurological rehabilitation. At Kaiser Vallejo they studied under Maggie Knott, PT, who is one of the co-developers of the worldwide recognized approach of PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation). Watching patients experience the life-changing impact of function-based, hands-on physical therapy inspired the Johnson’s to determine that every patient would be given the opportunity to discover their untapped potential.

The Beginning: Quality over Quantity

Throughout the 70’s and early 80’s, Gregg and Vicky Johnson continued their studies of the human body with some of the profession’s greats such as Stanley Paris, PT, PhD, Ola Grimsby, PT, PhD, Robin McKenzie, PT as well as alternative approaches such as Rolfing, Feldenkrais, Aston Patterning, Trager Approach, and the Alexander Technique.  For the Johnsons, the gap between the “function-based” care of the neurological patient and the “pain and recovery” based care of the orthopedic patient was bridged by blending the knowledge gained in this expansive scope of the study. The Johnsons believed that to successfully treat an orthopedic patient (such as a patient with knee pain), it would take more than simple exercise and joint mobilization. They approached orthopedic patients the same way they approached a neurological patient, asking the patient to walk and perform applicable functional activities to observe the effects of the injury on the total body function.

After leaving Kaiser Vallejo and entering into private practice in the late 1970’s, Gregg and Vicky utilized a unique concept of one hour, one-on-one treatments.  These one-hour treatments allowed them time to explore human function, establishing the foundation for the development of a new and unique manual therapy approach.  In addition, this one-on-one, hour-long visit enhanced each patient’s experience and ability to develop self-responsibility and an expanded understanding of their body’s function.  Gregg and Vicky looked at every patient as an integrated and interdependent system and determined to study, learn and discover how to treat every aspect of that system.

Continuous Development Through Problem Solving

Understanding that knowledge creates the perfect canvas for the art of healing, The Johnsons partnered with a pioneer in Holistic Medicine in the late 1970’s to explore and better understand the complex interrelationship between the health of all human systems and musculoskeletal/neuromuscular function.  This partnership allowed Gregg and Vicky to truly focus on health and optimal function, and not only rehabilitation and recovery.  While working with professional athletes in the San Francisco Bay Area, they had the opportunity to explore the function of the human body at the highest level.  It was during this time that Gregg’s work with the fascial and soft tissue system reached the point of definition, allowing him to introduce Soft Tissue Mobilization into the physical therapy profession and establish an expectation for all therapists to evaluate and treat the soft tissues as an integral component of human function.

In the early to mid-1980’s, Gregg and Vicky became professionally associated with Dr. White, one of the nation’s most renowned spine surgeons, and began to observe the importance of function-based manual therapy for spine patients and to present this concept nationally at conferences and conventions.  This working relationship provided the platform for the development of the concepts and techniques of CoreFirst® strategies, which are an integral component of FMT.  From the beginning, Gregg and Vicky focused on facilitating an automatic core engagement. They believed, regardless of the motion or task performed, that the core muscles should contract first and automatically to provide stability. This need not and should not be a cognitive process. Knowing this, they developed functional tests to assess whether the core was contracting automatically, and focused on utilizing treatment techniques to reinstate the automatic function of the core.

Cohesion of Functional Manual Therapy

As the Johnsons continued to study and develop new techniques, they were motivated to find solutions for patients who had not improved through existing systems of care. This led to the development of a cohesive and fluid system of patient care, eventually named Functional Manual Therapy® (FMT). This approach became the foundation of the course material taught through their continuing education company, the Institute of Physical Art (founded in 1978).  Gregg and Vicky committed a significant portion of their careers to “passing it on” through both short-term and long-term education and mentoring.  Their desire to see all physical therapists “Discover Their Potential” drove the Johnson’s to eventually train thousands of physical therapists in the FMT approach. Through this, they were able to have an impact on the lives of individuals around the world who were touched by therapists trained in FMT.

In 1997, the first FMT Certification was offered, providing those therapists who had spent years training in FMT the opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in both the FMT skills as well as the FMT clinical reasoning.  For those therapists desiring further refinement of their FMT skills, Gregg and Vicky created residency and fellowship programs, focused on enhancing competence and mastery of FMT. Less than 0.5% of practicing physical therapists are fellowship trained.

The Inception of IPA Physio

The increased demand by patients to seek out and receive treatment by physical therapists certified in Functional Manual Therapy inspired Gregg and Vicky’s son, Ryan Johnson, to establish IPA Physio, Functional Manual Therapy® clinics. These clinics would be completely founded on the original vision of his parents:  To discover each patient’s untapped existing potential and educate and inspire all therapists to achieve their optimum potential to change patient’s lives.


1971 to 1978: Gregg Begins his Career

Gregg Johnson worked at Kaiser Vallejo, internationally renowned Rehabilitation Center, under the mentorship of Maggie Knott, and served as a primary instructor in the three-month and six-month PNF Residency programs.

1978: Vicky Completes Residency at Kaiser Vallejo

Vicky Saliba Johnson completed her 6-month Residency at Kaiser Vallejo

1978: Teaching PNF outside of Kaiser Vallejo

Gregg, Vicky, and Maggie taught the first IPA weekend course on PNF, and set the goals to teach PNF to physical therapists (PTs) across the nation who could not come to Kaiser Vallejo to learn in the residency program.

1978: Gregg and Vicky enter Private Practice

Gregg and Vicky opened a cash-based private practice in Mill Valley, CA, Preventative and Rehabilitative Physical Therapy (PRPT), in conjunction with the first president of the Orthomolecular Medical Society.

1980: Introducing Soft Tissue Mobilization to Physical Therapy

Gregg Johnson developed the first Soft Tissue Mobilization course for the physical therapy profession (Functional Orthopedics I), which was offered nation-wide through the IPA.

1982: Presenting on Soft Tissue Mobilization at National Level

Gregg Johnson presented the first-ever lecture on Soft Tissue Mobilization at Combined Sections Meeting (the largest national physical therapy conference) in Reno, NV.

1982: Residency Program Develops

PRPT expanded to a new location – Kentfield, CA. In this setting, Gregg and Vicky developed their first manual therapy residency program, giving new professionals the opportunity to be mentored in both clinical reasoning and skills.

1984: First Co-Owed Spine Center

Gregg and Vicky, in conjunction with the President of the North American Spine Society, Dr. Author White, opened the very first free-standing Spine Center in the US in Kentfield, CA.  This partnership between a surgeon and physical therapist represented the continual evolving role of PT as an integral component of the orthopedic care team. Additionally, within this clinic, the PT’s served as primary care providers, doing all intake evaluations prior to presenting the patient to the medical doctors. This center employed physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, physiatrist, Aston practitioners and, Feldenkrais practitioners, all dedicated to a holistic, team approach to patient care.

1985: Cohesion of FMT Approach

Gregg and Vicky Johnson developed the remaining course work for training in the Functional Manual Therapy approach: Functional Mobilization Upper and Lower Quadrant and Back Education and Training.  This year was a landmark year, as it represented a transition from teaching individual courses, to teaching a cohesive approach to clinical reasoning and patient care, which they called Functional Manual Therapy®.

1986: Cohesion of FMT in the Clinic

The Johnsons combined their two clinics in Marin County, The Back Clinic and Resource Center and PRPT, and formed Marin Spine and Orthopedic Center.  Combining the two philosophies of manual therapy and education led to the solidification of the underlying premise of Functional Manual Therapy®, that all patients should be assessed and treated with the following three components in mind: Mechanical Capacity, Neuromuscular Function, and Motor Control.

1987-1992: Clinic Growth

The Johnson’s residency and mentorship programs grew at Marin Spine to the point of the practice employing 12 physical therapists, all involved in both learning and teaching.  By 1992, this clinic was seeing over 1500 patients a month.

1994: Move to Steamboat Springs, CO

The Johnsons sold their practices in CA and moved their family, clinic and IPA corporate office to Steamboat Springs, CO, where it still resides to this day. Their new clinic was named Johnson and Johnson Physical Therapy (JJPT).

1995: Expansion of IPA

Courses offered nationwide by the IPA doubled in number from 50 to 100.

August 1997: CFMT First Class

The IPA offered the first Certification in Functional Manual Therapy® in Steamboat Springs, CO, to those physical therapist who had completed the entire FMT curriculum.  This program is dedicated to excellence, only certifying therapists after thorough testing in both written and oral/practical exams, to ensure that every CFMT is an accurate ambassador for the FMT approach. Each year 32 PTs sit for this certification during the first full week of August.

2007: IPA’s FMT Fellowship Program Credentialed

The IPA’s FMT fellowship program is credentialed by the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) and AAOMPT (American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists).

2009: IPA’s Orthopedic Residency Accredited

The IPA’s FMT residency program is recognized by APTA as an Accredited Orthopedic Residency Program.

2009: FMT Non-Profit Foundation established

Gregg and Vicky Johnson establish the Functional Manual Therapy Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), dedicated to research and philanthropic support for patients who cannot afford physical therapy.

2010: IPA opens clinic in India - Vardan

IPA, in conjunction with the Times of India, opens Vardan, a FMT clinic in New Delhi, India. This clinic is dedicated to the training of Indian Physiotherapists in FMT and the offering of advanced physiotherapy to the citizens of India.  IPA has since trained over 25 Indian physical therapists and provided the opportunity for 13 Certified Functional Manual Therapists to spend time in India as mentors.  Vardan has offered care in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Gurgaon.

2011: IPA Manhattan Physical Therapy opens

Gregg and Vicky Johnson partnered with Brad Gilden, DPT, CFMT, FFMT, FAAOMPT and Dean Hazama, MSPT, CFMT, FFMT, FAAOMPT, to open a cash-based private practice in Manhattan, which served as a second FMT fellowship site from 2012 until 2016.

2012: IPA offers courses in Japan

IPA begins offering courses in Japan

2014: IPA offers courses in Poland

IPA begins offering courses in Poland

2014: Inception of IPA Physio

Ryan Johnson, DPT, CFMT, FFMT, FAAOMPT, completes his FMT Fellowship at IPA Manhattan, and begins creating the framework for IPA Physio, a business idea he conceptualized in 2013.

September 2015: IPA Physio Nashville opens

After a year of planning and business development, Brad Grohovsky, DPT, CFMT and Ryan Johnson team up to open IPA Physio’s first location in Nashville, TN.

2016: JJPT becomes IPA Physio Steamboat

Johnson and Johnson Physical Therapy (JJPT), located in Steamboat Springs, CO, joins the IPA Physio team as IPA Physio Steamboat.

2016: Planning for Expansion

IPA Physio begins plans to open additional offices in several locations throughout the US.

FMT Worldwide

As word spread throughout the US and around the world, more and more individuals wanted to know where to go to receive this life-changing care offered by Functional Manual Therapists.  The Johnsons were invited by the Times of India to establish an FMT clinic in New Delhi that would only offer care by a physical therapist trained in FMT.  Soon Japan and Poland were also offering IPA courses in FMT, and there is a growing interest in several other countries as the world of physical therapy grasps the simple complexity of this comprehensive approach to patient care.

Let’s Use Movement as a Medicine

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