The Summer School
Last month I flew to Tokyo for the Toyohari Association Summer School, a five-day intensive training. The Association was set up in 1959 by blind practitioners of acupuncture and has developed a very distinct study focus.
The five days consisted of guided practice and constant repetition of clinical basics such as needling techniques, palpation and diagnosis – all while being closely monitored by the instructors. In short, we all practised, practised and practised!
What was inspiring was that this practice involved all ranks of the association from new practitioners to the more advanced, right up to the senior instructors and branch presidents. It was amazing to see people in their 80’s doing the same drill as me and getting the same frank feedback on their techniques. .
Our sessions included diagnosing in front of the blind instructors, needling them and receiving needling from them. As some of these (mostly) men have been in practice for many decades the feedback was very precise and helpful. They noticed the slightest wavering of focus or posture and gave feedback with an astonishing level of detail and perception. It was like spending five days with fifteen or twenty Yo-Yo Ma’s, all complete masters of their art and all concerned to help us junior practitioners improve.
At the end of the course I was asked to say a few words to thank the Association on behalf of the foreign participants. This meant writing a quick speech in capital letters on a napkin during lunchbreak for my friend Atsuko to read and prepare before we were on.
After the course
I had also been invited to teach a different group of acupuncture and moxibustion practitioners in Tokyo. They were keen to find out more about Ontake Warm Bamboo, the method I have developed in KL over the last four years. This was the first time to teach it in Japan and I felt honoured to be able to share my knowledge.
The day before the workshop, the organiser of the workshop was kind enough to take me to a little known Shinto shrine, dedicated to Waichi Sugayama, known as the father of Japanese acupuncture. He was a blind 17th century acupuncturist who was so renowned that he eventually became the personal physician to the Shogun.
In exchange he was allowed to set up the first school for blind acupuncturists and his pioneering example led to the huge influence of the blind on the healing arts in Japan, the direct ancestor of the Toyohari style we practised in Tokyo.
As always, I loved my time in Japan and hope that I have improved my skills by going there. It’s fine to study Japanese acupuncture outside Japan but to begin to fully grasp it, I think we need to experience it in its place of origin. I had many eye opening experiences there and I hope to integrate some of what I found with my practice in KL.