Published here are some articles that I have written that have been published in the North American Journal of Oriental Medicine, which in my opinion is the only industry periodical worth reading. It's a great journal and Mizutani Junji works tirelessly on providing this very valuable learning tool to other acupuncturists.
These are primarily written for other acupuncturists but I have decided to place them here as well. I hope that they are some help should you have the time to read them. Should you feel so inclined, if you have the hard copy of the periodicals, some of them are translated into Japanese.
Note- December 2011 Update-
Check out the latest article published. Its the last one down.
QI MOVES BLOOD, it really does.
(NAJOM, Vol 17, no 50, pp22)
To start let me first say that I believe Acupuncture to be truly ‘occult’ in its nature. That is the more you delve into its knowledge the more of said same knowledge is revealed as you are ready to accept it. So with that in mind and after 8 years of practice, I’m finally ready to accept the truism, ‘Qi Moves Blood’. It happened that recently I had an interesting experience with a client that expanded my understanding that ‘Qi moves blood’. I realize that we all know this saying but it really struck home for me when I was treating this particular patient. If you will indulge me I’ll set the situation up.
I had been treating client X (male, 58yrs) for a Kid/Liv Def Syndrome. Symptoms strongly resembled the syndrome known as Running Piglet Qi, complete with the tell tale palpitations starting in the middle heater then rising to the chest. I had been treating him for several months with slow but constant progress when I decided to do some Kyutoshin (moxa needle) on Bl-23 to help grasp the Qi in the kidneys. Normally I find this works quite well. However…….
When the client returned the following week he complained of getting significantly worse that week. Palpitations were worse, as were his headaches. Where he had been improving, the Bl-23 deeper moxa needling from the previous week’s treatment I felt was the culprit. Classically, a strengthening of the Yin Qi at Bl-23 should have helped sedate the Heart heat by helping the Kidney Qi but instead it seemed to have the opposite effect.
So, during this current treatment I focused only on strengthening the Yang Qi, with contact needling and very shallow insertions. I returned to the principle that when treating male clients one should be concerned with the yang qi and with women the yin blood. I kept the same root treatment, the same branch points as before but at a lighter, and more Yang depth of insertion.
Then as I was working my way down the Bladder meridian to the backs of the legs, again I stipulate it was just contact needling, when I noticed a distinct change in the patient. Where the legs had been tense, tight and hard to the touch, suddenly I could see the muscles twitching under the skin, blood vessels were pumping fluids and the tension that was present a minute ago dissipated.
Here I was tonifying the Qi when suddenly I could literally see the blood and flesh responding, visibly moving under the skin where there was no movement beforehand. The veins were suddenly active and the muscles were dancing, flittering away, twitching as if aiding the lymphatic flow throughout the legs.
Here it is, I thought to myself at the time, Its Qi moving the blood. I had done nothing to stimulate the deeper Yin Qi and yet here it was obviously affected by the Yang Qi stimulation. I realize that this will not change the world but it certainly changed my outlook and understanding of what we do and the effects that are possible.
After 8 years of practice I’m still finding new ways of being interested in this field, new understandings opening up to me, new realizations. It’s one of the reasons why I love Acupuncture so much.
A Modern Master/Disciple
(NAJOM Vol 18 No. 52 july 2011)
I thin k it remarkable that after 8 years now, I still feel like a novice when I compare myself to those significant few that I have had the privilege to study under, learn from and refer to as Sensei. Also I’m quite sure that that feeling will never leave me, in another 8 years I expect to feel just the same, a humbling thought. The expanse (measured conceivably in time and skill) that exists between master and apprentice will always remain constant. Interestingly the years that separate them also brings them together, like polar opposites, one sitting in a wealth of experience, eager to pass it on. It’s opposite, the ‘initiate’, a wealth of potential, in need of guidance. It is a unique relationship.
The nature of this special connection between the master and their apprentice has been a continuum dating back to medicines earliest beginnings like an unofficial lineage or ancestry. The cycle of master to student, endlessly repeated. Perhaps then all participants in this succession of learning are related to the Yellow Emperor, the first recorded master? Compared to western medicine who’s origins are merely a couple of centuries, our traditions are counted in millennia. Why then do not more students seek mentors, it has become an option rather than being seen as a necessity. Unfortunately I question whether our universities have become so engorged on their own importance that they do not encourage more the way of the apprentice.
My own initiation to this unofficial society came primarily though the tutelage of Katsuhiko Okuma Sensei, a wonderful practitioner who showed me what it is to practice Japanese acupuncture. More importantly however I observed the ten thousand things that are required to run a practice. The nuances of adopting the role of practitioner cannot be taught though theoretical classes. Like learning pulse diagnosis, these nuances must be observed over and over again in order for a ‘practice to come naturally’.
And there we have it, ‘for practice to come naturally’, a phrase that epitomizes what it is for the Ki energy to flow in the clinical setting. For the initiate, adopting the role of practitioner should be as effortless as the client‘s innate adoption of the role of a patient. It is in recognition of the patients need for an authority figure in the field of medicine that we take on that role but it is not a role that comes naturally to us, even if we did play doctors and nurses as children. It has to be learnt (and then forgotten). Certainly, for the general public, confidence in ones medical practitioner goes a long way towards a healthy recovery and if the patient’s respect is not natural forthcoming then a successful treatment will be an uphill battle.
I say that the role of being a doctor does not come naturally to us. That is only half true. I believe that it is innate to us all though some are better practiced at it, but we all start in a state of naïve ignorance. Infants in the field of medicine, we should naturally look to our elders for guidance, to learn; as child does by mimicking their parents. This kind of learning, mimicry and repetition are pathways to clinical competence. The fact is initiates by explanation have no experience. This is why medical internships exist. Young doctors watch experienced doctors ply their trade and in doing so build upon their own experience. Western medical doctors have internships to hone their analytical skills as well as their practical skills. In Australia at least we have no such option for the eastern medicine doctors. How then to proceed once we are licensed to practice, fresh from university and thrust upon the general public with only a rudimentary working knowledge of the art?
Apprenticeships allow the student to hone their skills on so many levels, not the least being taught to run ones one clinic or to practice soundly in the future. Not only do they fill the gaps in a working knowledge of acupuncture but they give us time to mature as practitioners. As I stated earlier, being a doctor is not as easy as hanging your shingle, the classics are rife with examples of the difference between good doctors and great ones. Being great takes time, even being a good doctor takes time, the practical skills have to be given time to mature, to be rounded out with solid clinical experience.
Even more, beyond any argument for public safety, there is professional pride at sake. I have always maintained that any given medical system cannot be worth its weight if it wasn’t possible to do the wrong thing, to make people significantly sicker than what they already were. Call it a litmus test of any medical system’s proficiency. What then does it say about acupuncture that we use a sink or swim attitude to new practitioners. At university I had to complete clinical hours, but these were spent largely on ones own. Junior students watch senior students and senior students have only their own cunning and ingenuity to work with. Proper supervision and demonstrations of treatments were few and far between. Essentially it was a case of the blind leading the blind.
Conversely, the master/disciple relationship is built on demonstration and repetition of techniques and is at essence practical by nature. It is a rarity in a modern world punctuated with weekend workshops that increase your skills base without any actual clinical experience. Such workshops exist merely as teasers, promising better skills and promising panaceas. Yes they serve a necessary function but they should not be seen to replace actual experience.
There is an old saying, excuse me for not knowing its origin, it goes that a young acupuncturist knows fifty different ways to treat just one disease, but an experienced practitioner uses just one treatment to cure fifty different diseases. Personally I see the trouble with spending all of ones time seeking out new techniques found in workshops and seminars is that you have no time to master the ones that you have already. Instead it is better to spend ones time working under the guiding influence of someone who can instruct with patience.
Taking the time to become a good practitioner is a worthwhile pursuit, one that should be revered amongst one’s profession and welcomed by the public at large. It ensures quality in the profession which although is thousands of years old, is only new to those of us in the west. Someone who takes the time to labor under an established clinician has the advantage of seeing ailments and injuries treated over and over again. This repetition, punctuated by the nuances that differentiate each and every person, perhaps this is where the true learning begins. Up until that point for the initiate, the world of medicine exists solely as classroom theory. Eventually, finally, treatments become effortless actions, the result of countless hours of practice. This ought to be desired aim in following an apprenticeship. The accumulation of experience, enough to and one day reverse the roles and teach others what you have been blessed with. In this way the Yellow Emperor’s legacy can live on.
The Art in 'the Art of Acupuncture'
(NAJOM Vol 18 No 53, Nov 2011)
Personally I find it quite interesting to consider what it meant by the phrase the ‘art of acupuncture’ or the ‘art of medicine’. Is it at all possible for there to be an art to medicine or even is it morally right that there should be an ‘art’ for if this were to be true, that an art form (albeit a medical one) can affect the health of an individual then the logical implication is that we, as people, are canvasses of sorts even that life itself is an art form. Life likened to art, certainly there is an art to living well but how can the application of an art, techniques performed by an outside party, affect another’s living, breathing, physical form. This kind of thinking is a long way from traditional western scientific thought, but should be explored for its own sake.
Thus I inquire, what is it that is meant by the phrase the ‘Art of Acupuncture’ and why should there be an ‘art’ to the practice? Does ‘art’ make reference to an artistic or aesthetic consideration or is it an allusion to a higher quality of craftsmanship of those who would burn the mugwort and ply the needle. Assumedly it’s the latter, though through my own experience the two are somewhat interconnected as there is a blurring of the line that exists between the ‘art’ and ‘artfulness’ that often transpires. Life is rarely understood in terms of black and white (it’s more like yin and yang).
When Cicero, the Roman senator and philosopher wrote ‘Aegri quia non omnes convalescunt, idcirco ars nulla medicina est’, (because all the sick do not recover, therefore Medicine is not an art) he questioned this very premise of there being an art to healing. Where Cicero saw the world of health in fairly pragmatic terms, our understanding of what both art and medicine is today is obviously different to that of ancient Rome but the human condition and the interaction between doctor and patient nonetheless remains the same. (Somewhat interesting fact- Roman doctors undertook specialised training to ignore the screams from their patients). What is remarkably different in the practice of acupuncture to the medicine of Cicero’s time and that of western medicine, of course, is acupuncture’s Taoist roots.
Where the practice and pursuit of art has suffered its ups and downs, medicine has enjoyed cult like status and has long been heralded as a higher calling. Calligraphy and other Arts may hold high standing in the east and Art in the western culture can also be revered (albeit it’s predominantly posthumously). The practice of art and the artworks themselves can both be connected to the enlightenment process. But when we refer to the ‘art of acupuncture’ we are not talking about aesthetic representations of needling, encapsulated in a painting or sculpture, it is in fact the action of the art that is referenced. The acupuncturist who practices their art is perhaps an artist of the Ki energy balance so to speak. A balancer of Ki and Blood, yin and yang, form and spirit (I could go on).
There is a saying that indicates the enlightening aspects of a true acupuncture treatment.
‘Acupuncture treatments should be like the clouds parting to reveal a bright sunny day.’
The ‘bright sunny day’ speaks of this enlightenment but the part of the phrase which says ‘should be like’ is far more revealing as to the ‘art’ of the treatment. Presumably this is what treatments should be like, but do not by definition necessarily achieve (I am all too aware of this from my personal experience as a practitioner). Surely this is where the ‘art’ of the practitioner comes into play. This artistry is evident to anyone fortunate enough to have experienced the difference between treatments from a master as to that applied by a novice.
In the 61st chapter of the Nan Jing the differences in abilities are explained wherein the hierarchy existing amongst practitioners is extrapolated.
“A Spirit looks at the patient and knows his illness…A Sage looks at the patient and listens to him to know his illness….An Artisan looks at his patient, listens and asks him to know his illness….. A Skilled Workman finally feels the vessels and, in addition, must look at the patient, listen to him and ask him, only then does he know about his illness.”
Nan Jing (Classic of Difficult Issues, translated by Paul U. Unschuld).
In order to attain a Spirit’s flair for treatment requires more than the core set of skills belonging to the ‘Skilled Workman’. It takes an artist’s eye, for it is stated, a ‘Spirit’ is able to determine illness through looking alone. Further into the commentaries of the same chapter, Hua Shou says ‘Spirit implies subtlety and sophistication. Sage implies penetration and understanding’. Subtlety and sophistication transforms the application of penetrative understanding into more effective treatments, into, as the saying goes, ‘the clouds parting’.
The highest ‘art’ of acupuncture practice requires the height of subtlety and sophistication according to Hua Shou. It’s not too hard to imagine that a wisdom comes to us as our medical journey starts with barely being able to thread a needle into a guide tube, working our way up to at least the state of skilled craftsmen. Like any profession, practical skill sets are attained through repetition but with acupuncture and perhaps it is because it is an art; the wisdom to put those skills into practice is achieved primarily through clinical experience mixed with that indefinable element of spirit or heart. One particular pearl of wisdom, illustrating the development of the art of acupuncture put into practice was illustrated on the cover of NAJOM in July 2011, Vol 18, no 52. The calligraphy on the cover art says ‘kokoro waza’ or ‘technique and heart’.
Surely it is that very part of the equation, the spirit or the heart of a treatment that makes our medicine an ‘art’. I know from my own observations of painting and sculpture that it is the sprit/heart of the artwork that makes it great, technical ability alone does not make for great art. The addition of heart to a treatment connects the artist practitioner to their canvass patient; it is what makes a treatment ‘part the clouds to reveal the bright sunny day’. This, I believe is what is meant by the phrase, the art of acupuncture wherein the ‘art’ is in the kokoro waza of the practitioner’s treatment.
3 Benefits of Japanese Acupuncture
(30th July 2013)
Acupuncture is a procedure that involves needle penetration into the skin to stimulate central points on the body. This type of traditional medicine was believed to have originated in ancient China. Later on, it spread to Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan. The classic form of acupuncture composes of traditional Chinese medicine, one of the oldest healing methods in the world.
Acupuncture is done by stimulating specific acupuncture points to correct the imbalances in the flow of the qi through the meridians. It is widely practiced in various countries and has many variations. It was even endorsed by the US National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.
With the many variations of the Chinese acupuncture, each country found different ways of doing the healing method but the aim is the same. Japanese acupuncture emphasizes on palpation, uses touch to diagnose problems, and practices simple theoretical models to achieve positive and effective results without too much stimulus and pain. Aside from the needling method, the Japanese acupuncture methods use a wide range of therapeutic techniques that are minimal and gentle to the patient.
Here are 3 benefits of Japanese acupuncture and why you should try to have one today:
Japanese Acupuncture aims for restorative treatment
Because acupuncture is aimed to balance the central points of the body, it restores the body to its normal state and maintains overall treatment. The acupuncturist will locate the different acupuncture points, known as active point. Since they are dealing with actual patients, there is no textbook that will guide them as to where the actual locations of the points are. They are licensed and have been in many years of training as to how to locate and palpate the “active points”.
Japanese acupuncture assists in a wide range of illnesses
Japanese acupuncture has been proven to be effective in treating a variety of medical conditions, including headaches, back pains, knee pains, fatigue, depression, anxiety, gastric problems, strains, sprains, bruises and even infertility. If you plan to be diagnosed and treated, try acupuncture. It can also help you in cardiovascular problems such as chest pain, high or low blood pressure, and poor blood circulation; in respiratory problems such as hay fever, common colds, bronchitis and asthma; in urogenital problems such as low virility, kidney disorders, and cystitis and bladder dysfunction; and in dermatological problems, including rashes, psoriasis, and dermatitis and hair loss.
Japanese acupuncture is more subtle and gentle
There are people who are not very comfortable with the sight of long needles that produce strong stimulus and may weaken or make them tired. The Japanese way of acupuncture uses smaller and finer needles, thus reducing the pain. A metal or plastic tube is used to guide the needles into the skin so the insertion is more accurate and done more gently. Pediatric patients can also benefit from Japanese acupuncture with its variety of illnesses that can be treated and can be done without the use of needles.