Note: The Seitai Shinpo Program is no longer offered through HICOM, but by apprenticeship only.
Seitai Shinpo Program Underway at HICOM
By Beth Chapman Hood
Little did I know when I applied to a small acupuncture college on the Big Island of Hawaii that I would have a once in a lifetime opportunity to study Seitai Shinpo acupuncture. I have had the privilege to study under Dr. Chieko Maekawa for the past 1 1/2 years during my Masters program in Oriental Medicine at the Hawaii College of Oriental Medicine (formerly TCMCH). Our teacher, Dr. Chieko Maekawa, graduated from Waseda Medical Art College in Japan while apprenticing for 3 years with Dai-ichi Sorimachi sensei, who is the founder of Seitai Shinpo. After opening her clinic on the Big Island of Hawaii, Dr. Maekawa collected Seitai Shinpo case histories for ten years. This research provided the basis for her doctoral dissertation on Seitai Shinpo Acupuncture through The University of Health Science.
As previously explained by our Grandmaster Dai-ichi Sorimachi in his article, “Introduction to Seitai Shinpo” (NAJOM, Vol. 9, No. 25), Seitai Shinpo is the first acupuncture method to use acupuncture and moxibustion to correct structural distortions in the body in order to cure diseases. Seitai Shinpo is based upon Sorimachi sensei’s study of So Tai Ho, a system of structural integration developed by Dr. Keizo Hashimoto, Sorimachi sensei’s teacher. The system of Seitai Shinpo is the result of over 35 years of clinical experience and study by Sorimachi sensei. This style of acupuncture primarily focuses on a basic formulary of back shu and helper points and combines precise observation of postural imbalances with palpation of abdominal, spinal and extremity regions. It includes a special method of needling, direct moxibustion, and a nonstandard method of point location. Please see Sorimachi Dai-chi’s article referenced above for a full explanation of Seitai Shinpo.
HICOM Offers Seitai Shinpo Elective
The Traditional Chinese Medical College of Hawaii is the only ACAOM accredited institution at which Seitai Shinpo acupuncture techniques are taught. The Seitai Shinpo elective is a full four-year commitment for the students at HICOM, and first year students must begin the course during the first trimester of school, while they have a “fresh mind like a white cotton ball,” as described by Dr. Maekawa. The class is 30 hours each trimester, resulting in a total 360 hours (or 36 credits) upon graduation from HICOM. Roughly half of the school’s students are taking Dr. Maekawa’s elective.
HICOM is located on the Big Island of Hawaii and offers a fully accredited four-year Master of Science in Oriental Medicine degree program. The college is rooted in traditional Chinese medical theory and practice according to the Eight Principles, but the curriculum incorporates a diversity of subjects such as Five Elements, Chinese pharmacology, history and philosophy of medicine, energy and bodywork, and psycho-spiritual aspects of healing. HICOM places an emphasis on students’ developing themselves as healers, not just as practitioners. The school has allowed students to incorporate Seitai Shinpo acupuncture into their regular course of study as a four-year ongoing elective.
A Day in Class
Our class of eight students arrives at Dr. Maekawa’s clinic at 8:45am, and we prepare our bodies by practicing a branch of So Tai Ho exercises known as Pannya Paramita or the Law of Weight Shifting. Dr. Maekawa watches our class stretch from the windows of her home above us, to observe each of our movements and our breathing. We begin our day with an opening lecture from Dr. Maekawa, which reveals to us a life lesson to be cherished. This gem may be about the importance of truly living with joy and appreciation, of accepting the blessings falling abundantly over us, or of our connection to our source of life (as defined by whatever belief system we adhere to). We integrate these lessons into our studies, which helps us to better understand ourselves and our patients. The day moves on with senior students presenting lectures on subjects such as Japanese acupuncture history, So Tai Ho, Seitai Shinpo, moxa or needling techniques. These lectures are often interjected by Dr. Maekawa’s loving guidance and wisdom, in which she further elaborates on each subject, which allows for the senior students to take away new information from each lecture. We break for a potluck lunch on the lanai, and one of the students leads the group in a question and answer session regarding the morning’s lectures. This activity is designed to develop students’ skills in facilitating discussions.
In the afternoon, we practice various techniques and observe treatments in session. Before we leave at the end of the day we clean Dr. Maekawa’s clinic from top to bottom. Part of our training is in learning to clean with an attention to detail that will train us to clean a patient’s body without overlooking any corners, and with the understanding that the process of cleaning is also clearing our minds. There is a tremendous amount of learning that comes with each full day of class, and I leave each class rejuvenated by the new knowledge I can immediately apply in my life and with my patients.
Commitment to Digging One Well
Dr. Maekawa emphasizes the importance of our commitment to Seitai Shinpo, and she insists that we focus on learning and practicing this one style for the first ten years of our acupuncture careers. Students are encouraged to decide early in their studies whether Seitai Shinpo is right for them before committing to the four year course of study. She describes to us the analogy of digging a well in relation to our commitment to study Seitai Shinpo. There are many different styles of acupuncture available and it is important to choose a style that fits with your personality. No style is better than another, and they all have the potential to reach a source of water deep within the earth. When we focus on digging one well, we are able to reach much deeper than if we are digging five wells simultaneously. There is always water nearer to the surface, but the water is poorer in quality and lacks the depth and clarity of the deeper source of water. At the deepest source, we see that all the styles of healing connect to one another, and once we have reached this source we can adopt other styles with greater ease. Thus, this demand is not made to restrict our learning, but to encourage us to reach a depth of mastery that would be impossible by diverting our attention in too many directions.
Teaching Seitai Shinpo
Dr. Maekawa’s vision extends beyond training us as excellent acupuncturists to becoming teachers of Seitai Shinpo as well. This training begins on the first day of class when she selects first year students to present a review of a lecture they have just heard. The student is evaluated and given feedback on their level of understanding, poise, confidence, and quality of voice. Beginning the second year of study with Dr. Maekawa, students are assigned to prepare presentations and demonstrations for the new class, and they are responsible for creating study materials in reference to their presentations that are being compiled into a handbook. This system gives great opportunity to the senior students to practice presenting in front of an audience.
Our commitment to learning Seitai Shinpo is that we will continue to participate in annual educational seminars for Seitai Shinpo after graduation. We are also committed to stay in touch with our fellow classmates and Dr. Maekawa, as we are required to contact another Seitai Shinpo practitioner when we have difficulty helping a patient. Through Dr. Maekawa’s class, we are creating a network of practitioners that will be indispensable to the future of Seitai Shinpo. Currently, according to the Seitai Shinpo Acupuncture Foundation, only students who complete this four-year program through HICOM will be eligible to teach Seitai Shinpo. After five years of independent practice following graduation, students will have the opportunity to be certified as teachers upon Sorimachi sensei’s approval. Though acupuncturists can learn Seitai Shinpo in a seminar setting, there are currently no other methods in place to train students to teach this style.
“Hands on” Learning
Every class day we have the opportunity to practice Seitai Shinpo and So Tai Ho techniques with our fellow students, which gives us hands-on experience. We are closely observed by Dr. Maekawa, and we are tested each trimester through a written and practical examination, allowing us to constantly improve our technique.
Because we have such a small class setting, we are very fortunate to receive one-on-one interaction and guidance from our teacher. Our own bodies become laboratories within the class, and Dr. Maekawa teaches us that we can closely observe symptoms passing through our own bodies as well as witness the healing process. As students and future acupuncturists, we are responsible to use our bodies as guinea pigs and to apply this knowledge to prevent imbalance which leads to illness. She tells us that unless we have first hand experience with using a So Tai Ho stretch, an acupuncture point, or a lifestyle change, we cannot teach our patients because we haven’t embodied the teaching and therefore the teaching is meaningless.
One of the most rewarding opportunities of the class is that we each participate in observation at Dr. Maekawa’s clinic twice a month. We are observers, but we also assist with the moxa application for her patients, allowing us a chance to palpate and confirm why she chooses each specific point location. Although in class we are instructed in basic technique, in clinic we are able to observe the depths of Dr. Maekawa’s practice and the individuality of each patient’s treatment.
Clinic Application of Seitai Shinpo
Within the HICOM clinic, we have the opportunity to practice Seitai Shinpo acupuncture and So Tai Ho with patients from the community under the guidance of our clinic supervisors at the school. I have been in the clinic for one trimester and have introduced Seitai Shinpo to a number of my patients. Even with only a year of study and three months in clinic, I am experiencing great results with Seitai Shinpo. One patient came to me with incredible sciatic pain and shoulder pain for which she had been taking ibuprofen daily to relieve her symptoms. I treated this patient once a week for five weeks using only the basic Seitai Shinpo treatment points, adding no additional points, as Dr. Maekawa had instructed me to do during my first year. Following her initial visits, my patient stopped making appointments at the clinic. A month later, she returned to the clinic claiming that she felt better than she had in five years. My patient said she had experienced an increase in energy and that she was no longer in daily pain and had quit taking ibuprofen. The treatment had also allowed her to take part in a yoga practice, which previously had aggravated her pain. Thus, her overall lifestyle had improved significantly in a very brief amount of time.
I am encouraged by the success story of one of the students who graduated from the Seitai Shinpo program last year. He has grown a practice in 3 months to where he is treating 30 patients a week, and he is beginning to make a name for himself and Seitai Shinpo within his local area. Dr. Maekawa tells us that 40 patients in a week is the ideal number for a Seitai Shinpo acupuncturist and I suspect he will reach this capacity soon. One of the exciting parts of learning Seitai Shinpo is that with proper training of the basic treatment protocol, we can begin to treat patients and see positive results very quickly into our training. This means that we can be digging our well and expanding our depth of knowledge of Seitai Shinpo, without having to wait for years before we can successfully help our patients.
Overall I have had a very rewarding and inspiring experience with Seitai Shinpo and my studies with Dr. Maekawa. Becoming part of this lineage of acupuncture is a great honor and privilege to me. Seitai Shinpo has proven itself through our Grandmaster Sorimachi, my teacher Dr. Maekawa and our student clinic, as a successful treatment style which mixes ancient roots of Oriental medicine with modern theory. I sincerely hope that others will recognize the opportunity that is being presented on the Big Island and join us in our studies of Seitai Shinpo.
Beth Chapman Hood is a graduate of the Traditional Chinese Medical College of Hawaii. For further information on TCMCH, you can visit www.hicom.edu or call 808-885-9226.
Article published in North American Journal of Oriental Medicine March 2005