A couple of months ago, the President of the Illinois Acupuncture Association asked me to write a piece on the unique and amazing experience of studying Traditional Japanese Medicine (TJM) with Masahilo M. Nakazono, Osensei, the man who brought Aikido, Japanese Acupuncture and the Kototama Principle to the West. I have written several pieces about this extraordinary individual and herein I quote from an article of mine published in the November 2010 issue of North American Journal of Oriental Medicine (NAJOM). For further coverage of studies with this Grand Master of Healing, NAJOM has published another article of mine in the November 2011 issue. I share for all, especially those who ask, “Isn’t all acupuncture the same? “Isn’t all acupuncture training the same?” “Isn’t the art & philosophy of Oriental Medicine the same?” “What’s the difference between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Medicine?” Here is the article that was published in the Illinois Acupuncture Newsletter. Comments and questions encouraged.
Who is Masahilo M. Nakazono , Osensei? What is “Nakazono’s Way”?
[excerpt from unpublished manuscript – copyright 2008]
[The first five paragraphs of this article were published in the November 2010 issue of the North American Journal of Oriental Medicine* as part of an article entitled Traditional Way, R.I.P.]
“In Japan,” M. Masahilo Nakazono, Osensei was speaking to his first formal class of Kototama Life Medicine students, “it is held that when a student has read the pulses of 10 people a day for ten years, that student may earn the title of “Beginner.” It is like that. My studies of the pulses began with Sensei in 1977. I am just a beginner.
Nakazono Sensei opened the Kototama Institute with the expressed purpose of training 100 persons in Kototama Life Medicine. The graduating class of 1985 brought his student count to 107 and he closed his school.
Opening the Kototama Institute was an expression of gratitude to his new found home, America. He wished to share his wealth of 50+ years of discipline and mastery of the martial arts: Aikido, Judo, Karate, Kendo; his practice of Buddhist and Shinto principles coupled with 40+ years of practice and mastery of traditional Japanese Natural Medicine, integrated through the Kototama Principle. His holistic, trans-disciplinary, multi-faceted reinterpretation of Five Element Meridian Therapy he termed Kototama Life Medicine. He encouraged his students to comprehend ‘who is I am’ in healing spirit, mind, body; to master the pulses in order to heal ‘other’, and to comprehend the Kototama Principle in order to guide society.
We spent the first year of studies treating each other with handwork (Te-a-Te) and moxibustion and treating ourselves with natural diet and Kototama Sound before being shown and being allowed to practice “the Way of the Needle.” Sensei taught his students to treat the meridians with the hands and only then taught how to use needles as an extension of oneself. This is how he practiced; this is how he taught. The treatment is in the diagnosis; the diagnosis is in the pulses; the hands treat the pulses; the needle is an extension of the hand.
Nakazono Sensei taught his students to respect, handle and care for the acupuncture needle “as a samurai respected his/her weapon.” Our first needles were gold for Ho treatment and silver for Sha treatment. [‘Ho’ & ‘Sha’ can be translated ‘tonification’ & ‘sedation’; in Inochi Medicine, the meanings are ‘enhancement’ & ‘liberation’]. We sharpened them after each treatment; they were our swords. The ‘fire needle’, a high caliber surgical steel needle with which we conducted moxa needle therapy, kept a sharp point with a whetstone for about 50 insertions. Gold and silver needles were soaked in alcohol; fire needles could be autoclaved. In the early ‘80’s HIV/AIDS caused a significant alteration in the manufacture of acupuncture needles. Cheap, massed produced, disposable needles became the norm and the use of high-grade gold and silver ended. Dedicated acupuncturists appreciated even a greater obligation to be even more skilled in the way of the needle.
What was impressive about Masahilo M. Nakazono? He had an amazing thirst for knowledge and perfection in his practice. He studied with Morihei Ueshiba Osensei, founder of Aikido and was one of the highest ranked Aikido masters in the world. He studied with George Ohsawa Sensei, founder of Macrobiotics and opened the first Macrobiotic Center outside of Japan (India, 1956). He studied Hon Li Te A Te with Master Sakai, a mountain mystic who introduced him to Jizo Bosatsu, the Compassionate Buddha of ancestral wisdom and guidance. Nakazono Sensei conducted Jizo Bosatsu ceremonies beginning in 1972 and passed that responsibility to me in 1987; the practice has continued for the past 24 years.)
He spent decades studying the Kototama Principle with Koji Ogasawara Sensei and brought it to America. It was here that he came to understand the significance of the Kototama Principle and its vital importance to the metamorphic evolution of energetic medicine and pulses. He opened the first Japanese-style acupuncture school in North America (Kototama Institute, 1978). He kept us focused continually on the classic 12 wrist pulses + Chu Myaku (Middle Pulse, ‘Stomach’ Pulse, Life Pulse) diagnosis, Jingie (St. 9/carotid artery) pulse diagnosis, “Kototama Five Dimensions of Life Being” and use of bodywork treatment as an integral aspect of Meridian Therapy. That he was the first acupuncturist in the United States to demonstrate acupuncture to a Legislative body (New Mexico State Senate, 1972) is impressive. He spoke seven languages fluently, was a damn good angler and always won when we played pool. Everything about Masahilo Nakazono Sensei was impressive.
The most impressive aspect of Sensei’s genius was his understanding of the Kototama Principle that lead to his discovery of a new Elemental pattern. Sensei grasped the “Five Dimensions of Life Being”: The Will to Be = Fire (I); the Power to Be = Metal (E); the Spirit to Be = Wood (A); the Form or Embodiment of Being = Earth(U) and the Continuance of Being = Water(O). Kototama practitioners don’t speak of “Wood, Fire, Metal, Water, Earth”; the terminology is “A,I,E,O,U.”
For a year, Sensei taught his students the diagnostic and therapeutic theory and applications of Gogio (Five Element) medicine. We were studying pulse diagnosis and Meridian Therapy. We were also studying the Kototama Principle and Kototama sound rhythms and patterns. After a year of these studies, Sensei guided us toward an understanding that the sound pattern of (A,I,U,E,O) is the same as the meridians’ order of Wood , Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. That is, the traditional order of the ‘Five Elements’ has been a particular expression of consciousness. As our collective consciousness shifts, it is in keeping with energetic planetary shifts. Take the pulses, witness evolution.
With Sensei’s realignment of Gogio relationships consistent to A,I,E,O,U (Wood , Fire, Metal, Water, Earth) notable changes take place. With this model of Life Energy, metaphysical as well as physical changes became the common patient experience and cure rates skyrocketed. It was this discovery that led to the founding of the Kototama Institute. Sensei needed to share this metamorphosis of Gogio with his adopted country.
What is “Nakazono’s Way”?
There is one meridian and its pulse is Chu Myaku. Chu Myaku, the Japanese name for the Middle Pulse, is flowing throughout the body. When we feel a pulse at Ki 3, St 9, behind the knee, St 42, anywhere, we are accessing chu myaku. We are constantly reading the Life Energy of the body. There is one body, one pulse, one meridian. All treatments are from that point of view. Keep it simple.
Traditional teachings tell us there are 12 main meridians and 8 extraordinary meridians. Sensei held that there are 10 a posteriori (formed) meridians and 10 a priori (before form) meridians. As one deepens the study of Kototama, it becomes clear that this is more than semantics. The order and connectedness of body-mind-spirit to all living beings, the thinking processes of the mind and the spiritual development of all humanity can all be understood and utilized through the Kototama Principle. Sensei considered all meridians extraordinary. He termed meridians whose energy creates and maintains organs and systems “a posteriori” and the ones that are channels of Ki without systems or organs, he called “apriori” meridians.
The Five Dimensions of Life Being are necessary for the existence of life: the Life-Will to Be; the Life-Power to Be; the Life-Spirit to Be; the Life-Form of Being and Life-continuance of Being. In modern times, Oriental Medicine refers to this universal dance of creation as the “Five Element Theory” and seeks to persuade “Wood”, “Fire”, “Earth”, “Metal”, and “Water” to improve their interaction. In Kototama Medicine, these five ingredients of life formation are manifestations of the basic sound rhythms created as the finite universe begins. The universe enunciates its presence and identifies itself through the human voice. This is the key. The universe manifests the human as its voice. The five vowel sounds, the five elements, the five pairs of a posteriori meridians are manifestations of the same universal life energy. The Spirit of Being, for example, is the A dimension, the Spirit Awakening, Ketsu Yin/Sho Yo (Jue Yin/Shao Yang); those who call it “Liver Meridian” or “Wood Element” are looking at symbolism and taking analogy as reality. The “Wood Element” is actually the human consciousness awakening.
Such studies of sound rhythms and vibratory phenomena manifesting as meridians are lengthy studies, for sure. Suffice it to say, Nakazono Sensei discovered that the Five Vowel Sounds that are universal in languages and the Five Elements that are universal in life are the same vibration. This definitely changes how one speaks and how one treats, regardless of the language or linage.
The Chu Myaku Pulse (Middle or “Stomach” pulse) provides the biofeedback of the a posteriori meridians, “Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, and Kidney”, as well as, the apriori meridians, “Heart Constrictor/Triple Heater”. These 6 Zo/Zang and 6 Fu aspects of life energy - A dimension (‘wood’), I dimension (‘fire’), E dimension (‘metal’), O dimension (water’), U dimension (‘earth’), Yi dimension (‘source’) viewed through the paradigm of Kototama provide the treatment protocol of “mother-child” relationship as follows: A dimension (‘Liver’) is the mother of I dimension (‘Heart’) which is the mother of E dimension (‘Metal’) which is the mother of Yi dimension (Fire minister) which is the mother of O dimension (“Water”) which is the mother of U dimension (Earth) which is the mother of A dimension (Wood). This approach to diagnosis and treatment is further supported through the Jingei diagnosis. Understanding jingei diagnosis verified to Sensei the accuracy of the Kototama diagnosis protocol. Understanding Jingei diagnosis is how I came to understand that the pattern of the roku-bu-jio-yi (wrist pulse diagnosis) was of another era and that there is another way to understand the wrist pulses. This way of pulse diagnosis based in Kototama and termed Inochi (Jap: LIFE) Medicine is what I have taught to all my students since 1988.
There are practitioners trained in this system of pulse diagnosis in Maine, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado and Mexico.
Sensei’s studies and practice of Kototama brought an integration of Life Dimension diagnosis and treatment through acupuncture, moxibustion and tactile therapy. It also brought a method of meditation and centering in one’s personal spiritual journey, as well as the spiritual discipline necessary for the adequate delivery of acupuncture, moxibustion and tactile therapy. Kototama Inochi Medicine is not an occupation; it is a way of life, a point of view. It has to do with balancing all the aspects that constitute being a living, human being.
Just as Sensei taught us to correct all pulse imbalances with our handwork, he also guided us in pain-free needling, non-traumatic direct moxa usage, non-violence and community service. He was, as a teacher, a hard taskmaster; as a physician, a gentle warrior. He left so much of himself in his attempt to heal America that everything I do or practice is best described as NAKAZONO’S WAY.
Kototama – Word Soul. The study of the creation of reality through the spoken word. The study of human consciousness as the creative principle of the universe. Three arch-types of consciousness as described by Koji Ogasawara are: Spiritual consciousness, the Sugaso Order –
AOUEI; Material consciousness, Kanagi Order – AIUEO and Cosmic consciousness, Futonolito Order-AIEOU. [Traditional Five Element Medicine is of the Kanagi Order] The study of the human mind, body, spirit as the exact mirror reflection of the Universe. The ultimate human responsibility for the existence of everything. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and everything made was made by the Word.” The Gospel of St. John stating the Kototama Principle.
Te A Te – Hand Healing Spirit; Spiritual Handwork. Tactile therapy centered in the Breath of the Tanden(Dantien), through the Hand Qi Exercises of Sakai Sensei and the tactile protocol (Kototama Anma, Kototama Shiatsu, Kototama Ampuku, Kototama Kappo, Kototama Sotei) of Nakazono Sensei.
Thomas E. Duckworth, L.Ac. has been in private practice since 1980. He began his studies of the Kototama Principle in 1973 and Kototama Medicine in 1977. He is the only graduate of the Kototama Institute to be awarded a Doctorate in Kototama Life Medicine (1987) for his radical redefinition of the 12 pulses of the wrist consistent to the discoveries Nakazono Sensei had made concerning the logic of the Kototama Principle in defining the energy of the meridians. He founded the Institute of American Acupuncture & Life Medicine, Inc. in2002 to provide direct acupuncture services to those in the community who are under-served and to provide professional education in Kototama Life Medicine. Thomas Duckworth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org (314)991-6044.