Japanese Meridian Therapy (JMT)
This new system of acupuncture, distilled from the classics, restored the emphasis on the meridians in Japanese acupuncture and filled a gap for many practitioners who never before had a practical method to guide them in the selection of acupuncture points.
-Shudo Denmai on Japanese Meridian Therapy
The Origin of JMT
Every country that has been exposed to acupuncture has taken the root of the medicine and made it uniquely it’s own. Vietnam has it’s own style of acupuncture; Korea has several styles and even within China a multitude of different lineages exist. Japan is unique in that acupuncture was able to develop in isolation on this island nation.
Born in the early 1940s, in a reaction to TCM’s modernization of acupuncture, Japanese Meridian Therapy is grounded in the traditional Japanese approach that developed in the 17th century independent of China’s influence. However, in Japan, the beginnings can be traced to the Nara, Heian, Kamajura periods and includes the great traditions of the blind hari practitioners of the Edo period.
According to Shudo Denmai in Japanese Classical Acupuncture: Introduction to Meridian Therapy, the origin of meridian therapy developed in the 20th century with Yanagiya Seisuke. Yanagiya, son of an acupuncturist, entered the first acupuncture school in Japan established for those with sight, when he was sixteen. Following his procurement of a license at age seventeen, he changed his name to Sorei. Sorei is the Japanese reading of the first characters in the titles to Suwen and Lingshu. He dedicated time searching for a new approach to acupuncture based on an understanding of the classics. In 1927 he opened a school of acupuncture and began to assemble a group of loyal students. This core group of his students was later to become the originators of a neoclassical approach to acupuncture called meridian therapy.
According to Denmai, this youthful group of acupuncturists organized around Yanagiya held bold views of upholding the traditional concepts of acupuncture until they were proven false. This belief lead to a relationship working with Takeyama Schinichrio, a reporter and social activist, through Komai Kazuo, the most influential acupuncturist in pre-war Japan. Komai was not only a very successful practitioner in Osaka, but also held a doctorate based on experimental studies of acupuncture. He was also the founder of the Oriental Medicine Research Society which published the Oriental Medical Journal.
The relationship between Takeyama and Komai asked the two to join forces.
Yanagiya began when Takeyama was a charismatic organizer who was able to heal himself with herbal medicine after a serious illness. Denmai claims that the social activist was largely responsible for setting the stage for the introduction of a classical system of acupuncture in Japan. He also states that Takeyama motivated key members to devote themselves to developing a new treatment system.
In 1939, a society for the intensive study of the classics under the direction of Takeyama was formed. According to Denmai, the intention was to go beyond restoring the status of traditional medicine in Japan. The goal was to establish a new, practical approach to acupuncture firmly grounded in classical tradition. The group rigorously applied the principles of acupuncture set forth in Nanjing or Classic of Difficulties, developing a classical system of treatment. During this time, most acupuncturists needled random selections of points without any diagnosis. Most used methods of stimulating tender points or other points that to be effective for specific symptoms.
Embodying the spirit of therapeutic treatments outlined in the Nanjing, they called their system meridian therapy. Particular emphases were placed on chapters 54 and 69. The focus of this new system was to ensure that the meridians are restored to their rightful place and brought into harmony. Special emphasis is placed on the six-position pulse diagnosis in determining the pattern for treatment. Most treatments began with what is called the root treatment. A root treatment involves tonifying or dispersing points associated with the five phases on the limbs to balance the Qi in the meridians. Once balanced, symptomatic treatment provides an additional layer of relief.
Determining the Japanese sho (pattern) based on Nanjing 69
The principles of meridian therapy draw particular emphasis from Nanjing 69. This question concerns the treatment principle of toning up or adding Qi to the mother points in the case of a deficient child. Nanjing 69 outlines the mother-child relationship, a fundamental Chinese medicine concept of the Sheng (Generating) cycle of the Five Element, represented by the illustration to the left.
This question states:
A deficiency disease should be toned up, an excess disease should be sedated and a disease which is neither deficiency nor excess should be treated by the points on the meridian involved. What does this mean? The answer may be presented as follows: In applying the principle of toning up the mother in the case of deficiency and sedating the child in cases of excess, it is necessary to tone up first, followed by sedation. A disease which is neither deficient or excessive should be treated by the points on the meridian involved because the disease is generated from that meridian itself. It is not caused by the pathogen from other meridians.
The elements or phases flow naturally from one to the next. Each organ and meridian corresponds with fire, earth, metal, water, and wood in a generating cycle. Each element also has a zang/fu or yin/yang organ/meridian pair. Fire is associated with the heart/small intestine as well as the pericardium/triple burner. The earth phase is with spleen/stomach. The metal phase is with lung/large intestine. The water phase is with kidney/urinary bladder. The wood phase is with liver/gallbladder. Assessing the pulse in terms of the natural flow of the five elements from Nanjing 69 is fundamental to Japanese Meridian Therapy root treatments. The proper flow of the Qi dynamic ensures a healthy mind/body.
The controlling cycle, or Ke cycle, shown on the right, is also a natural function of the elements. In this cycle, water “puts out” fire, fire “melts” metal, metal “chops” wood, wood “restrains” the earth, and an earth dam “holds back” water. The controlling cycle is used to determine secondary patterns to be treated in addition to the root treatment.