Aki Murakami, LAc, taught me acupressure at the Oriental Medical Institute of Hawaii in Honolulu. Upon seeing the large size of his thumb pad, I knew there was something special about his acupressure technique.
With his sturdy frame and joyous smile, he always left his patients feeling energized, and in much less pain!
Aki spent the first 38 years of his life in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. After his father died when he was 16 years old, Aki took on the responsibility for his family. His youngest brother was terribly disabled with polio, so in 1978, Aki began to study at Hakkoryu Koho Igaku Shiatsu Chihogaku, and started giving acupressure treatments to his brother. Increasing vitality motivated Aki to pursue his training in acupressure, which has become a lifelong study and practice.
Aki's acupressure treatments were incredibly painful for his brother to endure, and it took two other people to hold him down in order to treat him. Aki worked on circulating his qi throughout all of the meridians, emphasizing the Gallbladder and Urinary Bladder meridians. Due to the stiffness and pain, his brother was unable to walk, dress or feed himself. After months of treatment with Aki, his brother learned to perform the daily tasks that he previously could not do. Aki experienced that his system of acupressure genuinely helped others, which was an incredible honor for him to do. Trained in the style of jiu jitsu, he integrates acupressure with martial arts training. "In order to be effective in self defense." he says, "we had to learn points and meridians."
By 1989, Aki founded his own Koho Shiatusu Associatiion in Lima, Peru. As his acupressure skills advanced, so did his martial arts skills. As a bodyguard for a U.S. diplomat, during his travels, he treated patients in Peru, Turkey, Japan, and Washington, D.C. He dreamed of working and retiring in Hawaii. He has achieved this, although he has not retired yet. He currently teaches jiu jitsu at his school in Sunset Beach, on the north shore of Hawaii, while he practices in Honolulu. The following interview with Aki occurred in his clinic.
Jennifer Waters (JW): Tell me about your style of acupressure.
Aki Murakami (AM): My head master is the founder of Koho shiatsu; that's what my acupressure is based on. My training in shiatsu and martial arts were simultaneous. In martial arts, you understand the channels on the body (a.k.a., meridians). Usually the Large Intestine and Stomach channels are the weakest, and we learn how to use points on them in self-defense. It really stimulates deep inside the body. Ordinary shiatsu is based on a lot of force, but I can relax; that's why I can never get tired. It is part of the technique from jiu jitsu.
JW: So, basically you're protecting your own qi when you're working on others?
AM: Many shiatsu practitioners get black-and-blue thumbs because they are using force. Actually, you need to be completely relaxed and focused on meridians or acupuncture points.
JW: What is going on in your mind when you're working on someone?
AM: My mind is completely blank or clear. I forget everything and just follow my thumb. I think of sending the energy from my hara to the end of the Small Intestine meridian. I stay completely relaxed and focused on meridians or acupuncture points. The small finger is the supporting finger, so there's a connection between the thumb's energy through to the small finger. The small finger is the strongest finger because it has the Small Intestine and Heart meridians. We also use our fingertips, a technique from jiu jitsu.
JW: How would you treat a herniated disk, for example?
AM: Of course, I would treat all of the channels first, then begin to focus on the area. It depends on if it's in the early stage or late stage. I may use needles at certain points and/or treat with ear points or yao tong xue. I will try to send a message to the patient's brain, not to where the person has the problem. We need to promote the body's natural healing functions. The power of healing is very important. If they have a good natural healing function, then only a few treatments are necessary, because their power of healing is strong enough. But I cannot promise from the beginning how many treatments will be necessary - it depends on the person's vitality.
JW: What is the best way to promote one's health?
AM: Keep your hara or tan tien strong! Do this with practice. I tried this with za zen, finding, actually, that jiu jitsu better strengthened the hara. One should also maintain some exercise routine. If you are going to build muscle, this can often lead to tension, so we have exercises to help stimulate your own channels so that patients can do this on their own. You hold certain points and take stances that will help circulate energy through certain meridians.
JW: If you think stress is the main problem with people's health today, how do you treat it?
AM: I try to make my clinic comfortable, so I am happy to have patients come here to rest and lie down. I have a spare table here so patients can come and lie down. On my spare table, patients lie down and perhaps listen to music. For me to be able to do this is a huge gift. Laughing produces many strong forces in the body to help strengthen your resistance, so I try to get my patients to laugh. My head master would always be laughing: even when he was inflicting excruciating pain, he would be laughing, and so would we. We all laughed no matter how severe the pain was, and it really helped
JW: Can you change your relationship to pain by using laughter?
AM: You definitely can! In school we were never taught this specifically, but I have learned that if you can make the patient feel comfortable, then they are much more open to receive your treatment.
JW: What is the greatest discovery you have made when treating people?
AM: That if you can make them laugh, their recovery time with speed up immensely. Also, if the person trusts me, they can heal much quicker. If they don't trust me, it may not work as well because their brain function is not as strong.
JW: If you were to impart one piece of knowledge to a student, what would it be?
AM: First, strengthen your tan tien. Second, send your energy to your small finger while treating patients. I found out that the practice of jiu jitsu will make your tan tien strong and stable. I treat a lot of surfers and discovered that they may have balance, but they move around a lot. Jiu jitsu makes you have balance and not move around. The ocean will take a lot of yang energy. My headmaster always said, "Follow nature," and if you follow nature, you will not stay in the ocean too long. So surfing in the ocean for a long time will take your yang energy. Many surfers have cold feet. I usually tell them to drink hot ginger tea before and after surfing so that they can warm up their body and keep yang qi active.
JW: Thank you.
Click here for more information about Jennifer Waters, LAc, Dipl. Ac.
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