Monday, July 7, 2014

Acupuncture vs chi kung – competitive or complementary practice?

The practice of chi kung has a long history in China, predating tai chi and other internal martial arts.  In ancient China, chi kung practice was the main treatment method for poor people when they were sick. And the teachers of chi kung were sometimes Taoist masters in local Taoist temples. Sometimes such treatments were accompanied with religious faith, more often, it rested upon the trust of a local healer who learned from Taoist masters.

The practice of acupuncture also has a long history. Primarily it was an supporting medical practice for traditional Chinese medical doctors using herbal medicines for healing. In addition to opening internal blockages for healing, another important usage of acupuncture is to suppress the sensation of pain and was used as anesthetic for surgical procedures in Dynasty China.

In our contemporary society chi kung is now practiced as mind body exercise rather than as medical practice. On the other hand acupuncture is practiced as a traditional Chinese medical practice. In Hong Kong, everybody can claim to be a chi kung teacher (whether or not he has any student/"patient" is not an issue here) while practicing acupuncturists are regulated - passing a Licensing Exam with prior Undergraduate degree.  The question is: do these two discipline overlap?

Both acupuncture and chi kung aim at opening blockages in our body. The former aims at reaching finer area to heal specific disease while the latter target as broader area aiming at opening more holistic muscle/body tissue groups. The former depends on the activity and sensitivity of the acupuncturist while the latter depends on the activity and sensitivity of a practitioner (and his teacher). Both need to be trained. The former depends more on “prescribed method” based on classical texts and oral tradition while the latter depends almost exclusively on the inner sensation of a practitioner (or as perceived by his teacher).

Does an acupuncturist need to learn chi kung for his practice? The answer is no. Needling sensitivity is different from chi kung's chi sensitivity. Therefore a chi kung master doing acupuncture has no additional edge (and vice versa). If your acupuncturist tries to impress you with his chi kung background, don’t listen to him. It is just his sales pitch. Judge him on his needling skills only.

When doing acupuncture, a patient is advised not activate his chi (assuming that he has learned how to activate his chi through his chi kung training). He should relax completely so that his acupuncturist can feel or sense his internal chi and manage his needling accordingly. Any internal activation will interfere with, instead of, helping the needle healing process.

One exception that I have heard of from a learned chi kung master and meditator. It is that a certain school of Neidan (Taoist yoga) of the Dragon Gate lineage has a “secret” needling method for stimulating chi going up one’s spinal cord – the classic microcosmic circulation. To properly jump-start the microcosmic circulation, a practitioner needs to boost up a huge amount of concentrated energy. These “needling practitioners” was reported to have a method that uses a special method of needling around the tip of the spinal cord. With the practitioner using such stimulation as a way to activate chi, a massive amount of chi energy was said to be able to boost up to create a proper microcosmic circulation. A speedy way to open the blockages in our spinal cord without the lengthy method of deep meditation, as a proponent of this method proclaimed. I didn’t personally know anybody having tried this method. Therefore I cannot judge its efficacy. Personally I don’t want to have somebody needling the tip of my spinal cord. In theory, this method might just work.

Traditional acupunctural points

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