Japanese Acupuncture Study Camp with Ikeda Sensei 2011

In November, 2011 Masakazu Ikeda sensei held a study camp at his clinic in Imabari, Japan. Participating in this camp were members of the Nan Jing study group that meets up monthly on the Gold Coast, Australia. All of the participants were students of Acupuncture practitioners in Australia who have studied with and been strongly influenced by the work of Ikeda sensei. We all wanted to make our teachers proud by demonstrating good conduct, attitude, behaviour and knowledge. On the 31st of October we departed the Gold Coast. After a flight, numerous trains, 2 nights stay in Osaka and a bus to Imabari we finally arrived at Ikeda sensei’s clinic, not really knowing what to expect but keenly ready to learn.

I can’t speak for everyone else there, but personally I was very worried about committing a faux pas and irretrievably dishonouring our clan. This feeling did not diminish when Ikeda sensei greeted us all individually and felt our hands. The nervous tension in the group was palpable. Most literally for sensei, as he reported nearly every males hands in the room as “a bit sweaty”. The mood was quickly eased by sensei making some jokes about hitting us with a fly swatter and chatting casually about people he knows from Australia. Before we knew it we had jumped into an interesting Q&A session about the development of Liver Excess from alcohol and drug abuse.

The following morning began with another Q&A session. We had all been asked as a prerequisite of attendance that we each have 2 questions ready relating to Meridian Therapy. Topics of discussion included constitutional diagnosis, mental attitude, menstrual problems, insomnia, pulse diagnosis and much more. Sensei dispensed many practically useful pearls and the conversation moved seamlessly from topic to topic. After lunch at sensei’s favourite coffee house we began a practical class in the clinic. We all were given advice about pulse taking, abdominal palpation, do in massage, contact needling and were even given the opportunity to test our diagnositc skills. Dinner in the Japanese restaurant next door was followed by another Q&A session. The first topic we discussed was the importance of attitude toward study. Sensei was adamant that we must never never stop studying and developing our skills. He went on to say that there is no perfect personality for acupuncture. His advice was to keep a good attitude and continue to polish your character. As the evening went on we discussed the importance of being able to synchronize with your patients, treating terminally ill patients, 8 extra meridians and delved into organ/meridian physiology. I think sensei could have talked all night once we got onto the latter subject, but it was getting late and clinic would be open for patients in the morning. So with a final bit of advice (to focus on watching his treatment rhythm and the way he synchronises with patients) he was off to bed and so were we.

The next day we observed in the clinic. We went down three at a time, while the others stayed upstairs practicing techniques, sharing experiences from clinic and revising theory. Not only did we have the opportunity to see treatments, we also received treatment. It was an eye opening experience receiving treatment from Ikeda sensei. The subtlest of needling generated very strong qi and the responses to treatment were deeply felt. Perhaps the things that were most noticeable in his treatments were their fluidity, rythm and efficiency. Sensei used a lot of contact needling and always did scatter needling on the upper back to finish. Tonification during the root treatment that was often merely contact needling for a second. The back shu points were needled very superficially and there was a fair bit of rice grain, needle head moxibustion, massage and qi gong. By the end of the day in clinic everyone had had their minds blown and were trying their hardest to piece together the experience. After a good meal Ikeda sensei showed us some books, special treatment tools, pills and herbs that he had from Tibet. We tried out a Tibetan medicine technique for invigorating Yang qi in which needle head moxibustion is lit atop a gold needle held in place on DU20. The mood was very good that evening and it made everyone very happy as sensei seemed to be enjoying our company as much as we were his. As the evening progressed we moved onto discussing other topics such as treatments from the day in clinic, spiritual possesion and touched on point selection for root treatments as outlined in the 75th difficulty of the Nan Jing. Again we, somewhat begrudgingly, called it a night.

The Third and final day of the study camp was much like the previous one with observation in clinic and a group discussion with sensei in the evening. We discussed what it is like to be a clinician and then moved on to a more in depth discussion of the 75th difficulty. The concepts were difficult but it was great to be learning and we all went to bed with much to digest. As we settled into sleep one of the group was complaining of a fever and in minutes developed a cough that was throwing his body around all over the place. We went down to the clinic to try to help for about an hour without much luck. Around midnight Ikeda sensei casually waltzed on in, took the pulse, shunted one point and did some qi clearing on the chest. The fever and cough were both almost completely gone in an instant. Sensei remarked that he never comes down to the clinic in the middle of the night, but he felt drawn to it. That evening Sensei stayed up with us for another hour or so chatting about spirituality, acupuncture and life. It was a lovely way to end the trip.

It was an honour to have met a man like Ikeda sensei who is so dedicated to our art. He was humble, kind, generous and had that special sense of timing that only comes with persistent attention to the ebb and flow of the world. I must also give a big thank you to Takashi Furure. He worked tirelessly as a Japanese-Australian cultural buffer and interpreter during the trip. His dedication to Japanese Acupuncture was the corner stone of this most memorable and successful trip.

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