KUNMING, OCTOBER 14-15, 2015
Deepest thanks to Prof. He Ting.
I've been living in China now for 15 years. Life has given me this wonderful opportunity to get to know this great country, to appreciate its culture, learn its language, and best of all, to make many wonderful friends. This has also been an opportunity to deepen my understanding of Chinese medicine and to witness the diversity of its practices, both in China and the West.
However, I didn't learn acupuncture in China but in France, at the school SFERE, over 20 years ago.
The school SFERE
Professors Jean-Pierre Guiliani and Régis Blin, the school's directors, created SFERE 40 years ago. SFERE is thus the oldest school of Chinese medicine in the West and one of the largest. The teachings given at the school are in the lineage of Soulié de Morant; Dr. Jean-François Borsarello, a student of Soulié de Morant, was the professor of Jacques Pialoux, who himself taught Jean-Pierre Guiliani and Régis Blin.
Soulié de Morant started teaching acupuncture in Paris in 1926. Following his teachings, European practitioners were then able to study with Professor Yanagiya Sorei and his disciples. These Japanese masters were invited by Soulié de Morant's students to teach in Paris in the 1950's. Their most prominent legacy is the use of the five elements in acupuncture (four needle treatment).
Through the teachings of Soulié de Morant and Yanagiya Sorei, the curriculum at SFERE is based on the classics: Suwen, Lingshu, Great Compendium of Acupuncture, Nanjing, Yi Xue Ru Men, etc.
The style of acupuncture taught by Jacques Pialoux and SFERE
Contrary to the symptomatic approach of Western medicine, Chinese medicine is considered to be "holistic", meaning that it addresses the person as a whole, not just their symptoms. There are however, different styles of acupuncture, and unfortunately, this often boils down to the symptomatic needling of a set combination of points, according to their function. This form of acupuncture is fairly efficient for the treatment of pain (particularly in the case of rheumatic disease), but has several drawbacks. For instance, when the patient presents with many symptoms, the practitioner will tend to needle a great number of points and will prescribe an excessive number of sessions: every 2-3 days, for several weeks or several months. This style of acupuncture addresses symptoms but does not treat the root of the problem, nor does it cure functional diseases (they are in fact often treated with herbs in China, not with acupuncture).
The style of acupuncture taught by Soulié de Morant and the Japanese masters is based on a global understanding of the physiology of energy and of its circulation in the body. The energetic state of the patient is assessed through the pulse and regulated through needling. This approach to treatment requires very few needles and a small number of sessions, with more time between them. It aims to restore the free flow of zhen qi. This type of treatment addresses functional diseases by treating their root. Once energy is allowed to circulate freely, symptoms and pain disappear.
This style of acupuncture typically relies strongly on pulse, both the radial and carotid pulses (taken at Renying ST-9). Radial pulses are taken globally, at the three positions at once, in order to assess the global form of the pulse, then the practitioner takes the pulses one by one, one channel after the other, one position at a time, with three different depths at each position. The practitioner also assesses the five element qualities of the pulse (as taught by Yanagiya Sorei) to evaluate the need for a "four needle treatment" in order to tonify any deep or chronic deficiency or treat some of the psychological aspects of physical disorders. The practitioner takes the pulse again after inserting each needle to check its efficacy.
To these classic acupuncture techniques (as described mainly in the Nanjing, Great Compendium, Lingshu), Jacques Pialoux has added his own techniques, derived from his extensive study of the Yi Jing:
A study of the way that energy is produced, polarized (into yin and yang), and circulates in the body.
A deep understanding of the physiology of energy, based on the ancient concept of Three Burners. Interestingly, Jacques' view is similar to that of Dr. Li Xin, a renowned herbalist from Shanghai.
A "three-dimensional" vision of the energy system, with a clear ranking of the channels that constitute the body's network. This is true to the traditional concept of surface (biao) interior (li) and replaces the "flat" presentation of the channel system shown by all acupuncture charts. This tiered presentation of the energy network clarifies the symptoms and pulses for each level: three burners and zang-fu, eight extraordinary vessels (qijing ba mai), five elements, primary channels (zheng jing), luo collaterals (jing luo), divergent channels (jing bie), and sinew channels (jing jin). It also specifies the appropriate treatment technique for each level.
Based on the study of the Yi Jing and Qijing Ba Mai Kao, Jacques has also clarified the role and indications of the eight extraordinary vessels and developed an extremely efficient treatment method.
Classic Chinese medicine is not fixed. It continues to progress with the developments and discoveries made by researchers all over the world. In China for instance, we have, among others, the work of Dr. Li Xin, as mentioned above.
The West is also recently contributing to the development of Chinese medicine. In France, for example, the understanding of the body and its energy, and thus the practice of acupuncture, have greatly benefited from osteopathy, particularly from cranial-sacral techniques. Professors at SFERE teach these techniques to complement the classical acupuncture studies mentioned above.
Cranial-sacral osteopathy can be seen as an interface between Western medicine and Chinese medicine. It is based on anatomy and Western physiology, and focuses on detailed understanding and refined perception of the movement of fluids in the body. This so-called primary respiratory mechanism is analogous to the opening and gathering movement of energy described by Chinese medicine as the fundamental dynamic of yin and yang. Jean-Pierre Guiliani and Régis Blin, both trained in osteopathy and acupuncture, have integrated these two techniques into one unique form of treatment.
Using J. Pialoux's study of the Yi Jing and his own knowledge of osteopathy, Régis Blin has established a series of relations based on resonance in the body. He postulates the existence of a set of correspondences between the physical structures of the body (bones, muscles, joints, organs, etc.) and its energetic structures (zang-fu, channels, luo collaterals, eight extraordinary vessels, points, etc.). These structures resonate with each other, as harmonics on a musical instrument, establishing relationships. His treatment uses an extremely simple technique based on this resonance between corresponding structures to restore the vitality, the energetic respiratory mechanism, or zhen qi of the tissues.
Two types of relationships link the physical and energetic components of our bodies: conduction and resonance. The former is better known. It is the link established between parts of the body through nerves, blood vessels, or energy channels, i.e. through a specific pathway. Acupuncture commonly uses conduction, for example when stimulating an acupuncture point to act on an organ, an area of the skin, a muscle chain, or a joint; simply put, an energy pathway links the stimulated acupoint and the physical structure being treated. Conduction is also used when stimulating a reflex zone to act on an organ, a limb, etc. through the nervous system, as in ear acupuncture, scalp acupuncture, or reflexology.
The notion of the resonance structure of the human body is less well known, though it is mentioned in classics such as the Huai Nanzi, Ch. 6, where it is called ganying 感應. Resonance links structures that are not otherwise linked by actual pathways, whether physical (nervous or vascular), or energetic (channel). When a bone or a joint is blocked or displaced, this will directly affect another bone or joint because of this resonance. By also using resonance, the practitioner will be able to unblock a bone, or restore its movement, through a very simple technique involving another corresponding bone. For example: in the case of a sprained ankle with a blocked talus, the first cervical vertebra will also be affected and incur recurring lesions. This will affect the patient's sleep and cause migraines, vertigo, etc. This is also a yang motility vessel pathology, with symptoms located along its associated pathway (ankle, neck and head). In this example, chiropractic manipulation of the first cervical vertebra will not solve the problem. The practitioner needs to address the root and use resonance to unblock the talus to restore its proper energetic movement, that is its essential vital mechanism: the opening and gathering of energy, the movement of yin and yang, or tissue respiration. Once this is done, correcting the atlas will produce lasting results.
In the same way, each cranial bone is linked by resonance to one of the phalanges. When correcting the temporal bone, for example, with symptoms of vertigo, tinnitus or hearing loss, migraines, etc., the practitioner can first diagnose the blockage of the temporal bone by palpating the corresponding phalanx, then use this phalanx to restore the energetic movement of the temporal bone.
The principle of resonance applies to all the relations between physical and energetic structures of the body: bones, muscles, organs, as well as acupoints, channels, extraordinary vessels, etc. Let us go back to the example of the temporal bone above. Generally speaking, symptoms such as vertigo, tinnitus, or hearing loss can be related in Chinese medicine to Kidney energy. When the temporal bone is blocked, it will anatomically affect the inner ear, whereas energetically, it resonates with the Kidney. Proper treatment would then regulate Kidney energy with acupuncture (through a five element treatment, for example), and then restore the vital movement of the temporal bone in order to treat the symptoms of vertigo and tinnitus.
Jean-Pierre Guilliani's work draws on the same energetic principles. His treatment however, uses the form and the sound of Hebrew letters: they are visualized and pronounced like a mantra to restore tissues' vitality and zhen qi.
These techniques have been experimented and validated by hundreds of practitioners around the world: Régis and Jean-Pierre have been teaching them for many years to acupuncturists and osteopaths in Morocco, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia, Kirghizstan, and now China (at the Zidao Jingshe Institute in Shanghai).
For those who wonder that a French national should be proposing new developments in Chinese medicine, let us not forget that the value of Chinese medicine resides also in its universality. Though deeply rooted in classical Chinese civilization, Chinese medicine is not an obsolete or dying tradition. It is a living medicine, growing, evolving, and progressing through the discoveries of modern Chinese researchers but also through those of researchers of other nations or other fields of science, to the great benefit of their patients.
In that sense, Chinese medicine has acquired the same universality as allopathic medicine and as such, is one of the truly great contributions of Chinese civilization to mankind.