Acupuncture is one component of a larger body of Chinese and alternative medicine, but even within acupuncture itself, there are a variety of styles and sub-styles, based on culture, history and geography.
When you choose an acupuncturist, it is helpful to understand a little about how their art was influenced – is it classically derived directly from 5,000 years of history, as in from the original text books, such as Nei Jing or Nan Jing, or is it an evolved form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the most known acupuncture style, which was synthesized as a unified style by the Peoples’ Republic of China in the 1960s?
Does your acupuncturist practice from a Korean or Japanese influence, as the art spread through these countries in the 6th century? It is important to distinguish the difference, as there can be significantly profound changes in the philosophy, and thus how acupuncture is practiced on a patient.
For example, here are 5 main differences between Japanese acupuncture, TCM and Korean acupuncture:
- Needling: Japanese needling is much easier for a patient, since the needles used are a smaller gauge, and sharper. This means that the needle only needs to be inserted into the surface of the skin, in a very superficial layer. The Japanese generally needle more points with less manipulation inviting very delicate changes, covering a larger area of the body. Chinese needles are usually thicker and inserted more deeply. The Chinese usually use less needles, applying more vigorous movements of lifting and thrusting on a smaller number of points. In comparison, Korean style uses only four needles (Four needle Technique). They focus on the extremities like the hand or the ear. Korean acupuncture also utilizes a constitutional analysis (body type), rooted in Chinese medicine.
- Palpation: Japanese acupuncture utilizes touch, also called palpation, prior to the use of needles. Practitioners palpate the abdomen and other areas to determine the condition of the energetic strength and flow from the touch. This practice was developed from the many blind acupuncturists in Japan’s history. Such practitioners develop intuitive skills using palpation and other senses. Japanese acupuncture is also often called ‘meridian acupuncture,’ as it focuses on the meridians running throughout the body with palpation and observation.
- Herbal Medicine: Most Chinese acupuncturists utilize herbs with their treatment with needles, as this is considered an adjunct form of healing and part of the Traditional Chinese Medicine protocol. In modern Japan, acupuncture and herbal medicine are usually practiced separately, but traditional Japanese practitioners still incorporate them when they have the knowledge and find it would be useful to the patient.
- Moxibustion: Japanese acupuncturists almost always use a form of “moxa” or moxibustion using the mugwort plant to warm the points right after removing the inserted needles. This adjunctive therapy invigorates blood circulation and warms the internal organs, offering a deep, penetrating warmth to resolve issues of too much ‘damp’ or ‘cold’ in various organs. Moxibustion is also extremely effective for all types of pain.
- Frequency and length of treatment: The Japanese styles of acupuncture often treat the root cause of illness, in addition to treating symptoms. Therefore, they tend to spend a relatively longer time for comprehensive treatment for each session (about 1.5 – 2 hours). TCM tends to offer shorter, more frequent treatments, often 2-3 sessions a week, to sustain the effect of the treatment.
Among the Japanese, there are various sub-styles of acupuncture inherited from different master teachers. They pass on their lineages and skills to young practitioners through apprenticeship. In addition to formal education to receive a license to become a practitioner, training with master teachers for several years is still a common practice in Japan.
Each form of acupuncture is effective in its own right. Dr. Yihyun Kwon, assistant dean for acupuncture and oriental medicine at National University of Health Sciences says, “Japanese, Korean and Chinese acupuncture all have their foundations in traditional Chinese medicine, and all are very effective. How acupuncture evolved in different regions of Asia reflects the culture and history of each region.”
All forms of acupuncture also emphasize the need for balance in the emotions. Stress, worry, anxiety, depression, and an inability to maintain a calm emotional state, can lead to disharmony in qi [vital energy] contributing to disease in the body.
As you may have surmised, there are a myriad of styles and modalities to utilize in the practice of acupuncture. Finding a master acupuncturist that is well educated in the different philosophies and styles of this ancient practice is best, as you can discuss your preferred method of treatment, and rely on their expertise in moving, and healing qi.
A Little About My Lineage
My style was developed based on the two distinctive, powerful Japanese styles: Kiiko Matsumoto Style, internationally known for its systematic palpatory method and its efficacy; and Ken Kobayashi style, a 400-year-old family style practiced in Japan. I completed 3 years of apprenticeship with Ken Kobayashi before opening my private practice.
Mastering the two styles of acupuncture helped me develop a systematic approach to address the root cause of illness (Kiiko Matsumoto style), constitutional support in responding to the need for restoring the functions of major organs, such as the kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, stomach, spleen, intestines and others (Ken Kobayashi style) and intuitive skills to communicate with the subtle message derived from the body and the mind of the patient.
My Integrative Style of Japanese Acupuncture
Each of my acupuncture treatment is comprehensive, incorporating the following three goals:
- Constitutional Treatment: Supports organ functions, such as kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and other vital organs and systems.
- Root-Cause Treatment: Treats root causes that obstruct healing, with the body encouraged to return to homeostasis in activating it’s innate ability to heal.
- Symptomatic Treatment: Alleviates manifesting symptoms, such as pains.
Because of the holistic nature of the treatment, each session takes longer than usual, up to 2 hours. This will allow the body to relax, return to homeostasis, innate ability to return to original state of health, and improve the para-sympathetic nervous system to counteract the sympathetic nervous system dominance (fight or flight response).
This article “5 Unique Aspects of Japanese Acupuncture: My Lineage”was originally created and published by LoveandCompassion.com under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Mika Ichihara, M.S., L.Ac., LL.M., B.Phar., Founder Owner and Grand Master in Eastern Medicine and Energy Soul Medicine. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution and author bio.