It is important to understand that Acupuncture (and Traditional Chinese Medicine in general), is not "folk medicine". It is a highly developed, systematic, recorded, researched, and peer reviewed form of medicine with several disciplines that continues to evolve. It has a massive amount of real-world data to justify the application of techniques based on several thousand years of human trials.
Chinese Medicine has been in existence since before 500 B.C. with the earliest mentions of "stone needles". Because of Western influence, which brought on the downfall of Imperial China in 1911, it wasn’t until 1950 that there was a distinction between the "old" medicine (yi or yi xue) and the "new" TCM (zhong yi).
There are several reasons why TCM has remained a staple in the Chinese culture among today’s scientific worlds. First of all, due to the lack of Western doctors and hospitals in post war China in the early 20th century, TCM was instituted as a modern mass health care system. It under went a thorough examination and revision, bringing it into a more coherent and unified science. No longer was it passed on to the individual disciple by their teacher, which was the traditional practice of transmission for over 2000 years, but in masses in modern, clinical classrooms. TCM saw its greatest transmission outside of China during the 1960’s as acupuncture began to develop as a profession among Westerners.
But TCM has inherent difficulties in being readily accepted by the scientific medical world as a "legitimate" form of medicine. The complexities of the Chinese language and cultural practices, are a large reason for the slow acceptance into Western medicine. Western based medicine requires exact and precise forms of identification in every aspect, while the Chinese go beyond the mere physical mechanical system. TCM describes the relationship of the physical in its relationship to the aspect of being human and everyday existence. Even in our own culture in the "olden" days, the family doctor was aware of and involved in more than just the physical natures of each family member. In ancient times, Chinese doctors were "paid" as long as the patient was in good health indicating that doctors were an intricate part of their daily maintenance as well. Today we go to doctors and specialists and allow them to operate on us within only a few hours of meeting. Again they are treating our symptoms and are not involved in determining what might have caused the problem or the process of eliminating a possible re-occurrence.
Maintaining and/or balancing the bodies energies or "qi" (chi) is included in the practice of TCM. Within the body, TCM defines energy channels or "meridians" along which acupressure points lie. In an attempt to re-establish a balance between yin (negatively charged qi) and yang (positively charged qi) within the body, an acupuncturist will methodically insert needles into these points of energy causing effects such as tonification and/or sedation, for example, freeing the energies within the channels to regulate the system thus dispersing the ailment.
The same principles of TCM are the basis for many of the original Chinese, Indonesian and Okinawan protection arts. Understanding what makes something work is the key to making it not work. The same medicine a doctor would prescribe as a cure can, taken in the wrong amounts or in combination with other substances, cause other problems, even death. By utilizing the effects of TCM in martial arts, one can synergistically over power or breakdown the strongest attack with ease.
The study of TCM requires an in-depth knowledge of anatomy and physiology, including neurology (nervous system), osteology (skeletal structure), arthology (joints/connective tissue), angiology (vascular system), splanchnology (respiratory) and myology (muscles). Since the body, in its trillions of cells, is enlivened by qi, someone with the understanding of TCM can manipulate and weaken the systems of the body allowing for a much larger person to be more easily subdued with very little strength and effort. One of the benefits that comes with learning TCM for martial applications, is a better understanding and respect for life itself. Though we are implying the martial side, one cannot help but become somewhat proficient in the healing aspect as well.
Some of the laws and principles of TCM, as applied to such arts as Goju-Ryu Karate-jutsu (Ryukyu Kempo) are illustrated below. These are by no means the limit or extent of the sciences and practices that influence TCM.
Meridians and Related Acu-Pressure Points
Qi flows through channels or "meridians" in the body. There are 12 main meridians, and a network of other smaller channels branching off from these main channels. Each of these 12 main meridians is connected to one of the twelve organs and travels along its own route within the body. Unlike the Western blood circulatory system, these meridians are not visible to the naked eye. Acupuncture models show these meridians as lines running and occasionally crossing throughout the body. The individual acupressure points fall along these meridians.
When the vital substances fail to flow smoothly through the meridians, disease occurs. By stimulating even one of the acupressure points along the meridian, it is possible to release any blockages, thus restoring the body to its natural state.
# OF POINTS
Chest to Hand
Hand to Chest
Head to Foot
Foot to Head
Chest to Hand
Hand to Chest
Foot to Chest
Head to Foot
Chest to Hand
Hand to Head
Foor to Chest
Head to Foot
It has been recently discovered by Western studies that 70% percent of corresponding acupuncture and trigger points showed complete or near-complete agreement of the myofascial-referred pain patterns and the associated acupuncture meridians. Although trigger points and their related pain patterns are more "modern, scientific" discoveries, their discovery and identification unquestionably confirm what the "ancients" understood thousands of years ago. Such western applications help to explain and demonstrate that what was once considered as a "nonsensical" method is valid and legitimate in practice and application.
Yin/Yang (Complimentary Opposites)
The principle of Yin/Yang in Chinese philosophy is simple... but to understand such a "foreign" concept, Westerners have written numerous books on the subject. Originally, the "Yang" was the sunny side of a slope, and the "Yin" was the shady side of the slope. These terms are used to describe any item in nature. When the two forces are in balance, the item being described is in its natural state. It Yang is described as "hot", the Yin must be described as "cold"; if Yang is "outside", then Yin is "inside"; if Yang is "up", then Yin is "down"; if Yang is the "head" of a coin, Yin is the "tail" of the coin, etc.
In the partner exercise system of Karate-jutsu (bunkai, kakie, kumite, etc.) , practitioner seeks to upset this balance in their opponent while maintaining their own balance. Whenever one of the forces increases to its extreme, a violent transition will occur to bring them back into balance (this is where the legends of extraordinary strength originates).
It is important to realize that Yin/Yang are not separate items, they always appear together when speaking about the principles of Yin/Yang. To see them written or expressed as "yin and yang" gives the idea they are removable from one another and therefore can be discussed separately of the other.
Since one is opposite, yet complimentary of the other, one cannot appear without the other. In fact, the presence of one without a complimentary amount, but not necessarily an equal amount, is exactly what Acupuncture and Acupressure is designed to correct. When there is a condition in the body where the Yang force is excessive or out of compliment, then an acupoint or series of acupoints is stimulated to bring about proper compliment to the system as a whole.
Either of these treatments will balance the forces of Yin/Yang, thus bringing the body (physical, mental and psyche) back to its natural "balance" or state of homeostatis. When the body is in a state of homeostatis, it is considered healthy. The selection of what acupoints to use and whether to increase or decrease forces in the body is difficult and why acupuncturists go through rigorous training, and have access to thousands of case studies.
In TCM, the body is divided not so much by structural differences (i.e., organs, bones, nerves) but by the complimenting and regulating natures of the body (left/right, internal/external, physical/mental). The concepts of yin/yang allow for an "unbalancing" of the contrasting idiosyncrasies of nature within the body in a such a manner that weaknesses are instigated. Bringing left to right, top to bottom or combinations thereof, tend to "cross up" the body. A connection of yin fire which "melts" yang metal weakens the body internally causing an external manifestation such as the legs losing their ability to maintain posture and body stability. Defense against a strong yang attack would suggest complimenting with yielding yin response.
Laws of Nature - Five Elements or Phases
TCM divides the human body and psyche into one or several categories of the five elements or phases of change, depending on its nature or function. These elements are identified as Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water and more specifically yin wood/yang wood, yin fire/yang fire and so on. The internal organs of the body are assigned to one of the elements and are set in pairs, one being yin and the other yang in relation to the other.
It is important here to state that the heart or anything for that matter, is only yin when related to something that would allow it to be identified as such.
There are two main orderly cycles of the elements, the Creative Cycle and the Regulatory Cycle. Where the constructive cycle is the order by which the elements feed one into the other to "create" life, the regulatory cycles helps to maintain an efficient balance. By intentionally causing an imbalance, the qi will seek to regain balance. However, because the imbalance is "strategically" executed, an "allergic" reaction or over compensation results in a greater response.
Think of it in the context of a simple cold. Runny nose, hacking cough, and congestion are your body’s over response to a common bacteria. By accessing the energetic properties of the elements and placing them in contradiction with their natural order, a person can suffer from loss of mental and physical dexterity, sight focus, restricted breathing, temporary numbing (paralysis), elevation or drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and more.
Here is a table of the elements along with their associated indications:
The Quadrant Theory (Dividing The Body)
Closely related to the concept of Yin/Yang, the Quadrant Theory holds that each side of the body is divided into quadrants and that moving an element out of one quadrant into another in which it does not belong gives you a mechanical advantage.
As easy verification of this statement is to hold your arm directly in front of you in line with your shoulder. Have someone apply downward pressure against your arm a couple of seconds. The idea is to test your ability to maintain that position. Repeat the process with pressure up, to the left and to the right.
Then bring your arm to center line or just pass centerline and repeat the exercise. You will notice a significant loss of strength and the inability to maintain your arm in that position.
In a combative situation this is an extremely important bit of knowledge in not only helping to weaken your opponent's capacities, but to help you maintain proper body alignment and posturing. As an instructor, this was a huge validation to students why techniques must be practiced perfectly over and over again, with and without a partner.