A couple of weekends ago, I had the privilege to participate in Dr. Kubota’s first seminar in the United States on a Japanese style of acupuncture: the Ishizaka Ryu-school. Those of us attending felt extremely honored to be in this first group and to learn this special treatment method. In this post, I’ll share an overview of this acupuncture style as well as discuss Dr Kubota’s needling technique.
History of the Treatment Form Used in Ishizaka Ryu Acupuncture & Single-Needle Acupuncture
Dr. Kubota began the seminar by describing the history of Japanese acupuncture and how single needle acupuncture came about. Japanese acupuncture originally came from hands-on healing methods, such as Shiatsu, An-Ma, Do-In, and Te-Ate (all of which are loosely translated as “massage”). One old Japanese massage technique used a finger-pressure point method, pressing various tender points along the body. Over time, this method incorporated a stone needle to press the points. A metal needle then eventually replaced the stone needle. Soon the single-needle acupuncture treatment was born.
Single-needle acupuncture’s method is to quickly insert and withdraw a needle superficially along various pressure points. The needle is moving, much like the rhythm of a massage, all the way down the spinal column. This unique style of acupuncture technique was called the “Irie Ryu” method during the Azuchi-Momyama Period (1582–1600 AD). This model became “Ishizaka Ryu Acupuncture” (1770–1841 AD) and then “Kubota Zone Acupuncture,” which Dr. Kubota invented (2003–present).
Ishizaka Ryu Acupuncture Is Distinguished by Its Inclusion of Dutch (Western) Medicine
What I found unique about Ishizaka Ryu acupuncture is that it has a history of inclusion of Dutch Western medicine. According to Dr. Kubota, this was the first time classical Asian acupuncture and Western medicine were combined. With the presence of Dutch medical doctors in Japan, Dr. Ishizaka had access to Dutch anatomy charts, rarely seen in his part of the world, and he applied them to his extensive studies. He combined this knowledge with the Irie Ryu needling technique to form his “Ishizaka acupuncture,” in which there was a particular emphasis on the spinal column and the two meridians running down the spine, Urinary Bladder and Du-Mai–Governing Vessel, which were long known to Chinese acupuncturists. There are more than 300 acupuncture points in the spinal area, including those meridian points, Hua Tuo Jia Ji points (other classical Chinese points), and “newfound points.” As you know, in the Western medicine view, nerves start in the brain and move down the spinal cord. The brain and spinal nerves regulate the entire body. Dr. Kubota explained that both Western and Asian medicine agree on the importance of the spinal area.
The Ishizaka Doctrine
The Ishizaka Doctrine was based on Dr. Ishizaka’s belief that a single treatment system—one focused on the spine—would heal all conditions. The practitioner uses the one-needle, in-and -out technique of needle insertion all the way down the spine to resolve issues. Based on his research and clinical experience, Dr. Ishizaka found the human body suffered from blockages caused by everyday life—for example, too much alcohol or fatty foods, working long hours and not getting enough sleep, injuries that never resolved, and stress. Toxins build up within the body and become knots in the spinal area—all due to physical and/or emotional stress.
Dr. Kubota: A Student of Ishizaka Ryu Acupuncture and Originator of Zone Acupuncture
As far as Dr. Kubota knows, Dr. Ishizaka never indicated his diagnostic techniques in any text or writings. Dr. Kubota believes Dr. Ishizaka’s diagnostic technique was primarily via massage of the back, a method that can only be taught through observation in a clinical setting. After more than 30 years of practicing this style of acupuncture, Dr. Kubota created “Kubota Zone Acupuncture.” The Kubota Zone Acupuncture Chart is the primary diagnosis chart for this style of acupuncture. It is currently listed in Cyndi Dale’s new book, The Subtle Body, published by Sounds True in 2009.
Learning This Treatment Method
After the fascinating lecture portion of our weekend, we were taught the needle technique by observing Dr. Kubota in action, treating one of the volunteers in our group. I noticed immediately the lovely rhythm and style Dr. Kubota has as he applies his needle technique. It was a fascinating combination of massage and needle technique all at once—something one must really see to understand. After observing, we then partnered up and practiced this new method on one another. Dr. Kubota walked to each treatment table, patiently correcting our needle technique. He stressed the importance of relaxing your own body while inserting the needle. He said, “You are like a willow in the wind.” He gave very clear suggestions on how we can improve our technique.
The techniques I learned easily complement the treatment methods I am currently using in my private practice. Many of my patients have a primary complaint of chronic pain. This style of acupuncture is extremely effective in stopping pain and can easily be combined with other treatment modalities. I see this as yet another tool to add to my clinical toolbox. Again, I feel honored to have spent a weekend working directly with Dr. Kubota!
If you would like more information about Dr. Kubota and his Zone Style Acupuncture, see his web page: http://www.naokikubota.com/index.html.