In the mid-1600’s lauded genius Waichi Sugiyama, a Samurai by birth, lost his sight to smallpox. He traded in his Samurai training for that of acupuncture and moxibustion, and began teaching the skill to other people who were blind. Palpation skills of those without vision far exceeded those of sighted practitioners. ‘Meridian Therapy’ was revived whereby imbalances in the body could be felt at the surface level of the Meridians. Blind practitioners are still some of the most highly skilled in all of Japan, using a combination of Shiatsu massage, acupuncture and moxibustion.
At around the same time, a different interpretation of the ancient Chinese medical texts led to a much shallower needle insertion technique. De Qi or Arrival of Qi is described in the ancient texts as the subtle sensation by the practitioner that the Qi has arrived to the needle, initiating therapeutic effect. It was more widely thought that the sensation of De Qi was felt by the patient as heat, pressure, or muscle twitch.
Proponents of the new interpretation claimed that deep insertion causing these sensations for the patient were too strong and would cause depletion of Qi to the patient. By this new interpretation, claimed to be the most accurate by this Japanese movement, the intention of acupuncture was to work with the Yang Qi. This active, warm energy of the body circulates at the skin level so to properly address this Qi, superficial needling was most effective, and least harmful.
Many Japanese styles of acupuncture therefore utilize a very shallow insertion technique, often barely piercing the dermis. The practitioner is trained to be sensitive enough to pick up the very subtle sensations of the Qi arriving to the needle with their non-dominant (classically, left) hand.
For treatment in this style, more emphasis is put on the subtle palpation skills of the pulse, of the abdomen, and of the Meridians themselves to find areas termed Jitsu (Excess – hardness, induration) and Kyo (Deficiency – relative softness, emptiness). Determining Jitsu-Kyo indicates to the practitioner areas of the body where there is lack of balance of energies. Treatment protocols are based on those findings.
The basic principle is to tonify or strengthen the most deficient Meridian first, and can then often include local treatment to scatter congested Qi.
A return to the Classic original 9 needles has a resurgence of the Enshin and Teishin needles. These non-insertive needles are hovered just above the surface of the skin until Qi arrives to the needle. Then, as outlined in the ancient classics, the practitioner swiftly removes the needle and blocks the ‘hole’ to supplement Qi, or removes the needle slowly, leaving the ‘hole’ open to reduce.
Training in this style allows for relatively gentle treatment while maintaining strong energetic potency, opening the door for acupuncture therapy for children and infants, as well as for needle-sensitive adults.