Learning Acupuncture

Learning acupuncture can seem daunting.

 There seem to be many details and lots to do all at once.  This is mostly because the courses that teach acupuncture are badly organised (yes, I am in the midst of writing a better one.  That is part of what this blog is about).  This article is about finding your way of learning if you are studying acupuncture somewhere else.

To find your own individual way of learning there is only one way.

That is to remember how you have learned things in the past.  Make a list of ten things you have learned  – a variety is best, (things that took a long while or  were quick, things that were easy or were hard, different areas of your life – sport, friendship, speaking your native language etc).  Examine these things to find out what helped you learn and what didn’t.  Then look for common elements about how you learn best.  You will then have a list describing your own way of learning that you can apply to learning acupuncture.

When I do this I find that what helps me learn best is clear and simple instructions: just do this, just keep doing that.  So with acupuncture I look for the vital skills and concepts.  The details that I use I’ll remember and anything else I can look up.  Others of course are the opposite.  A friend of mine at acupuncture college loved the details – all the ins and outs of the different points were what he loved.  My approach to learning was completely useless for him.

I’d also like to give you some general approaches to learning.  The most useful I have found is three styles of learning:



and hand.

  • Head means ideas and abstractions,
  • heart means people and feelings,
  • hand means moving and doing.

All of these will usually be part of learning.  However each of us usually has a preference.  The more we can use this preference the easier our learning will be.  Because acupuncture has ideas, it is about healing people and the concepts refer directly to our experience it can be learned pretty easily by a person with any of these preferences.

If you are a head person like me it will help to organise the concepts.  My way of doing this is: health, sickness, treatment.  Health consists of the channels (and their organs) and vital fluids, sickness is what interferes with health (the devils and thieves) and treatment is diagnosis, point selection and needle technique.  There are only about 40 ideas you need to know (yin and yang, the five elements, the 12 channels and organs, the six devils, the six thieves, the four examinations plus a few miscellaneous).

Forty can seem like a lot but it is only one idea a week for less than a year.  It can also help to write a brief bit about the idea and stick it up where you see it frequently – above the sink, on the back of the toilet door, wherever.  In this way it becomes part of your life and not something you have to sit down and focus on – it can be a lot easier.

If you are a heart person it will help to learn with and about people.  Talking over the ideas with others can help (as long as you just don’t confuse each other).  It will help to think about how the ideas affect people, how you can use them to understand people, and how you can use them to help people.  You can imagine helping someone reorganise their life or imagine saving someone’s health by using this acupuncture point (or combination of points), you can imagine saving someone’s life with you diagnostic skills.  The more you can practice on people or think of how it affects your friends and people you know the easier it will be for you to learn.

If you are a hand person you will understand by moving and doing.  Unlike much western schooling acupuncture lends itself to this style of learning (though this isn’t understood by those who organise the colleges).  Acupuncture speaks about our experience, of hot, cold, dry etc of qi (that feeling of liveliness) and the organs with their command of the different parts of our lives.

Here are some examples, yin and yang can be experienced by opening and stretching and then curling up.  The five elements pertain to different movements and senses.  In acupuncture even these very abstract parts of the theory refer to our experience.  You can learn the channel pathways by tracing them on yourself and others – there is even a qi gong routine that follows these pathways.  Learning diagnosis and treatment probably won’t be hard for you.

Learning acupuncture can be easy for anyone if they can find their best way of learning.

I hope this has given you some ideas about how learning acupuncture can be easy for you

3 Responses to “Learning Acupuncture”

  1. Peter says:

    Hi Ev.
    Just one question, or six. How do I get the needles in the right place, or can i use the little surface ones.
    Can acupuncture help me to get over my fixation on putting things off until later?

  2. Evan says:

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the response.

    Yes, you can use the little surface pins, even massage (though massage takes longer).

    There are lots of books you can buy to tell you where the points are. The gold standard for illustrations and details on what the points do is Peter Deadman (and friends). The price reflects the quality. There are lots of cheaper books available.

    I’ll eventually get to doing the points on this blog, but it will be a while, so in the meantime find one of the cheap books.

    As to putting things off. Acupuncture should be able to at least assist. It would involve a proper diagnosis. Often it is to do with what is termed the spleen. This would usually be dealt with by points on the spleen and stomach channels (you can massage along these each day). This is if the mood is not strong, called ‘pensive’. If your mood is intense and driven it may be to do with what is called the liver. If so there is a point between the bones on your feet between your big toe and the one next to it, it will be sore. Massaging here and along the outside of your leg roughly where the seam of your pants run will help. However it really requires a full diagnosis.

    Using acupuncture for ‘psychological’ conditions can be tricky. You may need a few sessions of counseling as well.

    Trust this helps and answers the question or six. Thanks again very much for your comment.


  3. Mike says:

    From my experience learning acupuncture is not that hard. It does involve at least 3 years of study and training to become licensed to practice acupuncture. The basic theory of Chinese Medicine and the 5 element theory I think is easier to learn than western based Medicine.
    It’s amazing stuff!

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