I'd been practicing Chinese Gung-Fu for four years when I noticed the transformation. The martial arts club had become a staple in my life where I would spend two hours, twice a week (sometimes three) training hard.I originally started in the children's class because even though I was 14-years-old, they didn't know if my maturity level was appropriate for the adult class. At the age of 16, I would be moved to the adult class along with another person who told that we were making history in the club to have been so young at the time of promotion.
The eight years at my first club were character building. Speak while the instructor was talking? Go do push-ups. Come too high up in your stance? Go do push-ups. Looking back with nostalgia, I almost feel sorry for today's generation that believes that type of instruction is too harsh. It taught us things like respect and improved listening and behavioral skills.
During the tumultuous time of being a teenager, martial arts saved me from the life many of my schoolmates chose, and I believe it to be a large reason why I am successful today. Four years into my study and immediately after an examination, I noticed in the change-room when I looked at my abdomen that my body had started to transform. That's when it hit me: it took four years of hard training to get to this point – keep going.
Many of us practitioners, I have found through reading articles, had another transformational event occur I our lives: Chinese medicine school. For me at the Alberta College of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine this was not different. I was very blessed that two other acupuncture colleges opened up the same year I decided to commence my journey; wherein the previous year my college would have had close to 30 students, it thinned out considerably until the following year. This meant that many patients in student clinic were "waiting at the gate" for me to be able to see them.
The importance of this is that I was able to see patients who paid a low $20 student clinic fee on a regular basis. During my observation years, there were so many students that they each had to share patients and of course each student-practitioner changed up the protocols to their own design (rightly so). However, this was not my fate and I was able to see patients through a course of 10 weekly treatments and, due to the low entrance fee, many times beyond.
The Strength of TCM
I believe that the TCM approach to treatment is very much like the principles of Wing Chun Gung-Fu: simple, direct and efficient. Initially, learning TCM is like learning a new language. First, we learn how to speak TCM – what a "Chinese Liver" looks and functions like. Then we accumulate diagnostic information and learn it all backwards: here are the symptoms that present when the function of the Liver is compromised.
Then the patient approaches and gives us all their health information. If we've done the memory work, we're able to zoom out and see that multiple symptoms are related to a single root cause. Acupuncture points fly around in our heads as the patient motions to their arm, their stomach and explain in detail about their bowels.
Traditional Chinese Medicine gets us to the acupoint the quickest way possible; the acupoint almost always what I call a 'heavy hitter' – one that gets the job done and well (and sometimes even more). The strength of TCM is in its ability to connect the practitioner with the patient and the acupuncture or herbal protocol is the bridge in the relationship. Oftentimes, the bridge looks the same in many instances and I posit that this is not a negative thing.
It's no secret that medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc., go to school for a very long time only to use a small amount of a skill. After a short time in practice, the Chinese medicine practitioner starts to notice that they use the same group of acupoints or herbal combinations throughout even one day of practice. I feel this is more a strength to the medicine instead of a weakness, showing that just a core competency of points can be very powerful and enable the practitioner to embed those protocols deep within their psyche so that they may start to create more intuition-based treatments.
Staying the Course
First and foremost, I believe myself to be a martial artist. It was my love for the martial arts and Chinese culture that led me to Chinese medicine – which was an easy fit with the way I wanted to live my life. I see many of the same principles in both the destructive and healing arts and they have to do with two things: 1. Basics, 2. Stay the course. Many a practitioner, martial and healing alike, believe that advanced techniques and protocols make one a superior exponent; this couldn't be further from the truth. Advanced techniques are just the basics mastered.
In fact, when there is a large adrenaline response, the body loses its ability to use fine motor skills and relies on what is programmed beforehand: basics. The same is true of clinic work in that the majority of the time the basics work so well that we need not go looking for some far-off answer to a common concern. What is of equal importance to a sound treatment is the ability to have trust in the process and stay with that protocol until the desired results arrive.
When I train someone in the martial arts, I believe that there are a few different stages of learning that occur. The first is a trust in the techniques. The second is a trust in oneself to be able to perform the techniques. Lastly, there is a transcendence of looking for that technique to perform and just trusting the overall process or "flow."
Trusting in the core acupoints or herbs to do their job can be hard, especially in a private healthcare field when, oftentimes, resources are limited. I, too, only have about three treatments to make some sort of difference in a patient's health before they decide that either I'm a fraud or my medicine is. That is why the rote memorization of key principles is so important - so that the "flow" or intuition occurs. Beyond that, it's all up to time.
I liken the course of treatment to a drop of water hitting a rock at the same point. Eventually, that water will wear down the rock and create a hole. I believe that my treatments do the same thing, eventually wearing down the symptoms while nourishing the root. Eventually, something has to give.
Even after years in practice, I repeat my mantra to stay the course when I have a condition that hasn't yet responded to what I believe to be the full potential. It can definitely be hard to have trust in all: the system we have studied, our skill set and our intuition. However, if our diagnosis is sound and we believe our point selection is sound, it's just a matter of time.
Click here for previous articles by Kenton Sefcik, RAc, DiplAc, DiplTCM.