As an acupuncturist, my job is to help people restore their health. I’ve always found it to be a fascinating discipline. Developed before blood tests, X-rays and MRI scans, there’s an entire system of medicine based on skilful observation and treatment. This medicine has developed a detailed understanding of the effects of food, climate, emotions and other factors on the body and mind. Through careful observation, you notice the patterns of disharmony affecting a person and identify how things need to chance to restore balance. You then use a few tiny needles, inserted skilfully into very specific points to encourage their body to heal itself. It is a medicine of gentle cooperation, and yet the results can be profound.
As a child I was fascinated by the martial arts, especially those of East Asia. Those that interested me most were seen as spiritual disciplines, not just fighting arts and I was particularly drawn to the internal martial arts. The idea of these arts is to develop power, not by strengthening the muscles, but by building Qi. The result is that as you age, rather than getting weaker, you continue to get stronger, as well as maintaining your health and mobility. Given that all my favourite characters from books and films were powerful but humble wise old masters (Mr Miyagi, Obi Wan Kenobi, Albus Dumbledore), this seemed to me to be the thing to learn.
My first favourite book on the topic was The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan by Wong Kiew Kit. Years later, just as I was coming to the end of my psychology degree, I trained with Wong Kiew Kit in Chi Kung (Qigong) and Shaolin Kung Fu, as well as training with his students in Tai Chi Chuan. During this time, I also read his book on Chinese medicine and was inspired to learn acupuncture. Medicine and martial arts have long been considered two sides of the same coin in the Daoist tradition, and this path would allow me to help people and make a positive difference in their lives.
I trained at the College of Integrated Chinese medicine, where we spent the first three years learning Chinese medicine theory, acupuncture point locations and functions, needling techniques, other methods like cupping and moxibustion, and Qigong as well as conventional medical science and anatomy. After three years we finally started in the student clinic, and spent 9 months treating patients under close supervision before qualifying.
Over the next few years, I trained in Qigong with a few other teachers including my current teacher, Damo Mitchell and was encouraged to teach my own classes. Training in Qigong involves deepening your awareness of your internal state and learning how to change your posture, breathing and movement to change the quality of your experience. By choosing the appropriate exercises and techniques we can restore balance in the same way we would with acupuncture, but can also develop the kind of relaxed power used in the internal martial arts.
My further training has been primarily focused on developing greater needling skill, massage techniques, and the treatment of pain. I tend to use relatively few needles, quite a lot of massage and sometimes use other techniques such as cupping, moxa and gua sha. I often give tailored lifestyle advice or exercises to help patients make changes that will support their treatment.
BSc (Hons) Psychology – University of Sheffield
BSc (Hons) Acupuncture – College of Integrated Chinese Medicine / Kingston University
Licentiate in Acupuncture – College of Integrated Chinese Medicine
Member of the British Acupuncture Council