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  1. #1
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    Five Element Systems

    Quote Originally Posted by AAPrescott View Post
    Five Element practice advocates once a week treatment as preferable with chronic problems. It is part of the minimalist approch of the Japanese - emphasising non-action, non-striving principles.
    So you practice the Japanese style of Five Elements? How would you say they differ to the Worsley system of Five Elements?

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    What a good question. And I may have been unclear. Most (if not all) of Worsley's teachings are from Japanese teachers in terms of the most direct transmission route. There is a good book by Peter Eckman called In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor that tracked down the provenance of much of Worsley's teachings to his two main Japanese teachers. But I think because of this he came to a wrong conclusion that these ideas were lagely modern Japanese innovations. I think we have a hole in understanding because the Classics themselves and their history are somewhat missunderstood. If I was to think of one particularly significant thing it is that the Japanese preserved a Classic called the Tai Su which was very similar to the Su Wen (but not so much of the Ling Shu). My twin interests in writing are to try to dispel what I see as two parralel missunderstandings. One that TCM is a modern invention (a popular story among FE folk), and the other that Five Element was Worsley's invention (which is a story told both by supporters and detractors). Both teachings have their roots solidly in the Classics, but diverge in the prominence they give to certain aspects of the Classics. I personally would go so far as to say that Worsley actually did nothng that could be called definitely 'innovative'.

    Here in the US we have a predominance of TCM, but other minority schools are represented more than in UK. Japanese Meridian therapy differs from Worsley's teachings, but does overlap in significant ways, and Korean Constitutional is also perhaps the other most represented minority approach. The School where I worked was based upon Van Nghi's so called French-energetics, but this school is not big enough to pass the threshold for representation on accreditation core curricula or national board exams etc. We also have those who represent Daoist lineages such as Jeffrey Yuen where again there are overlaps with Worsley, but also differences.

    One of my main goals is to try to demonstrate that the two main branches (as represented in the modern world) and other strands are part of one system. I find more overlap than true contradiction. I find they pass the test of the Multiple Model theory - they agree where they overlap.

  3. #3
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    As a Five Element practioner of 35 years (60 years of combined experience of my wife and I) I can state that Five Element practice commonly follows a once a week schedule of treatment. Five Element practices are largely derived from Japanese tradition. See Peter Eckman's 'In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor'. I accept your statement that your Japanese teachers do not advocate this I am always happy to learn new information and refine my understanding. I can only think that it may be particular to a teacher or school - or it may indeed have been something that was an innovation of J. R. Worsley. (I don't remember if Eckman specifially addressed this). In the clinical experience of a large number of practioners Five Element treatment takes time to work, and after a few treatments a week is necessary for the effect of a treatment to fully play out. Which is why I find it hard to beleive that Worsley was the first to think of this.

    'non-action', 'non-striving' may sound like philsophical mumbo jumbo to you, but I am at a little loss for words to respond to a statement like that without sounding facetious so I will try to address your question as if it was a genuine wish for information. You say you like to have specific references. Chapter 65 states the basis principles of diagnosis and treament: 'root and tip (branch)', 'direct and indirect' respectively. I suggest that the Wang Bing Chapters that are known to date from the 700s demonstrate a change in emphasis from the original meaning of these terms. In Chapter 65 direct is defined as 'opposing', indirect as 'complying'. In Chapter 66-71,74 there is a change of emphasis to straightforward and paradoxical respectively (in one case a character is swapped around). The principles of 'attack' and 'support' are also defined which has become the main emphais in modern practice. Unschuld points out that 'substance therapies' tend to be more 'attacking' and he references the Wang Bing and later chapter 66-74 as having the increased emphasis on substance therapies and 'attacking' treatment (Unschuld Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen 2003, 287-). Chapter 1 of the Ling Shu also defines the basic principles of supplementation and draining with supplementation being like a 'gadfly/mosquito' 'seeming as if absurd'. It is my theory - or at least I do not know of anyone else putting forward this idea - that we need to separate the older idea of 'direct' and 'indirect' treatment as a an earlier layer than attack/support and supplement and drain, and although overlapping they are not exactly the same. I could provide more extensive quotes, but I have a whole chapter of a book on this subject. So I am simply abreviating (sic) for this message.

  4. #4
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    I almost missed a previous posting. One slight amendment. There is some debate as to whether one is born with a Constitutional Factor. (Some of us prefer to say 'constitutional' rather than 'causative'). Officialy the CF is not formed until about age 7. I see it as a process. We have inherited and epigenetic characteristics, but we usually have to have certain life experiences before the CF is fixed. BTW: The Su Wen and Ling Shu both have material that suggests constitutional aspects - The Systematic Classic brough these together. Most notably Ling Shu Chapter 74 talks of 25 types of people. The main difference to the CF is that the Ling Shu is more about morphotypes. But another point of overlap is that in Five Element the diagnosis is refined by 'element within element' so 25 'types'. In the Ling Shu the subtypes are defined in Yin/Yang terms - but these are overlapping concepts.

  5. #5
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    I see another confusion. When I say Five Element I am generally referring to Worsley's school. As I understand it about half the practioners in the UK practice this. In the US we have an almost overwhelming predominance of TCM, but the largest minority is Worsley Five Element. I believe the next minority is Korean Constitutional (Five Element). Others such as Japanese meridian therapy, and such like are generaly smaller minorities. Often not represeneted on national board exams because of small numbers - but I am not exactly sure what others pass the threshold and what the threshold is. But I can see that 'Five Element' on its own is not clear enough. Even Worsley trained people can't decide what to call themselves. I prefer not to refer to it as Worsly FE because I think that there is a great missunderstanding about what is credited to his innovation by either his followers or detractors. Some say Constitutional Five Element Acupuncture - CFEA.

  6. #6
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    I misstyped. I was intending Ling Shu Chapter 64 The Twenty Five Morphotypes. (Van Nghi's translation) My appologies.

    I am only familiar with some of the Japanese schools you mention from books (my wife has attended a Matsomoto workshop so we have discussed these ideas), so I do not intend to miss-represent them and if I have done so I appologise. As I mentioned I have tended to use 'Five Element' to specificaly refer to Worsley's teachings - because many people prefer to use some other term for the theory (five phases, five movements). I quoted a source previously that traces the majority of these teachings to the 'Nan Jing' schools of 20th century Japan. So I accept your criticism that I may have been unclear about what I was describing. Non-striving and non-action are principles of Daoism that are very strong in what might be called the philosophical character of the Su Wen. You even quote the phrase 'less is better' (I am more familiar with some ideas expressed as 'less is more'). It seems you are actually referencing this very idea, but you seem to say he mean't something different. And yet you then go on to describe your understanding of the Japanese needling that you are familiar with and it sounds in essentials exactly like what I am trying to describe.

    Your comments on needling are interesting. I see the idea that the gadfly/mosquito lands gently. But this seems to me to somewhat miss the more straightforward interpretation or implication. The same chapter of the Ling Shu calls the 'minute needle' as being like the proboscis of a gadfly/mosquito - this struck me immediately and again I find it hard to believe that no connection was intended. If using the metaphor of a gadfly/mosquito does it not seem likely that the actual sting is intended to be suggested. That the actual needling is like a gadfly/mosquito. The description of this seeming as if 'absurd' makes sense (and I am not sure that this would otherwise) - why would something seeming so gentle not seem like a mistake. (A variant translation says 'absent-minded' which is also interesting because it fits with the 'intent' in WFE treatment which is less precisely defined).

    On a personal note that I do try to keep away from but this seems unavoidable. Please be aware that you keep phrasing statements in a way that seems to suggest that you are dismissing and even ridiculing what I am saying. Your use of the 'mumbo-jumbo' 'magicians sleight of hand' etc. - I hope I am not doing the same in return, indeed most of the time I try to avoid responding to these phrases in a knee jerk way.

  7. #7
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    The book I mentioned is: In The Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor' by Peter Eckman Cypress Books, 1996. It traces the origin of most of Worsely's teachings to his particular Japanese teachers and the Japanese schools in general. But it is also about the transmission of Chinese medicine in general to the west (mainly before the more formal opening up of mainland China) and so I think it is of interest to anyone. The conclusion is that Worsley was largely passing on what he had learned. Where he may have innovated is in the combination of ideas from different teachers. For example, the emphasis on spirit and emotions directly or indirectly from some particular Japanese based teachers. (Dr. Schmidt), Ono Bunkei, Oshawa and Hashimoto. The Five Element diagram of Worsley is the same as Honma's. etc. etc.

    What I have found is that when one looks at the classics with the understanding of these ideas one seems to find that the Japanese preserved the ideas of the classics they did not make up something new. I also do not find conflicts. Korean Constitutional is different to Worsely's Constitutional Factor, but the ideas are not contradictory when one delves into them, they take the classical principles in different ways. Note that Japan has in its history ruled Korea and Taiwan hence when one talks of Japanes styles one finds some overlap with these areaa that were under Japanese cultural influence. So for example Wu Wei Ping in Taiwan was probably more aligned with Japanese approaches than with TCM.

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