As Western practitioners of martial arts which are born in the Far East, we feel the duty to try to better understand the cultural roots of what we live in our practice experience. In the cycle of contributions collected from professionals from different areas to provide food for thought and impulse for the restart, this week we are hosting a very dense reflection that builds a bridge of dialogue between the Eastern and Western medical perspectives.
Paolo Fazi is an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine and oriental disciplines. Professional wellness operator through Tuina, he has gained a deep knowledge of the principles that unite Japanese acupuncture, shiatsu, Chinese medicine and Thai massage techniques. His long activity in coaching and wellness has placed him in a privileged point of observation with respect to the muscular-energetic and physiological phenomenology resulting from the psychophysical state of health of both martial artists and men and women of all ages and conditions. Enjoy the reading!
Among many readings in these times of seclusion, spending time in investigating the psycho-emotional impact that the Covid pandemic had on all of us, I found myself reading an excellent publication produced by some Departments of the University of Turin regarding a study which, using a large Italian national sample and validated measures of psychological impact from traumatic situations, shows that about one third of the participants reported moderate to severe psychological distress during the first wave.
The reading unfortunately added substance to my clear feeling on the topic, namely that today, even more after the third pandemic wave, we are victims of widespread unease from post-traumatic psycho-physical stress towards which our society has not yet begun to consider by means of any organic strategy of approach.
For those who, like me, are used to think in terms of Energy and Traditional Chinese Medicine, this lack of strategy has constituted and still is a serious error and is yet another demonstration of the profound difference in sensitivity, vision and approach to reality between our society and the Far East.
So while in the West there has been a focus on physical distancing/sanitation and vaccination research, in the East there has been -“in addition to” and contextually- there is a concern with prevention and early treatment of both the mental/emotional aspects and the merely physical/organic aspects of disease, thanks to the “traditional” component of practiced medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, like its Far Eastern sisters, is ancient medicine and has grown in the awareness of its limits and the consequent importance of early treatment and prevention. Let’s consider in this perspective the “Si Fen” theory, or of the four layers, (Wei, Qi, Ying, Xue), which with reference to infectious and contagious external diseases is concerned with preventing the deepening of the pathogen in the energy levels of the organism from the outermost towards the deepest in the awareness that the greater the penetration of the pathogen, the greater the difficulty in eradicating it.
It is well suited to the current pathogen for which we currently have no “antidote” and which must therefore be at least contained by enhancing and strengthening the body’s natural defenses to prevent the organic situation from degenerating.
This with a preventive and then therapeutic approach modulated according to the severity and involving all the tools available such as nutrition and its integration, lifestyle habits, physical activity and medical gymnastics, pharmacology, massage and acupuncture, in order to prevent and minimize damages.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is also integrated holistic medicine which does not distinguish organic disease from mental suffering; Chinese thought has never accomplished that separation between body and mind on which many of the assumptions of Western culture are based.
Mental activities, as well as all expressions of human activity, are an expression of organic energy levels, imbalances of which involve disturbances of emotions and “feelings” as well as functions that are more purely “physical” for us.
So for example, and making a rough assumption, the energetic lodge of the Earth unites the stomach and the mental activity of reasoned thought, an imbalance involves circular thinking and brooding as a negative emotion and, for example, gastritis as a physical symptomatology.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, healing the body is healing the spirit and vice versa, it is a millenary cultural attitude, deeply rooted in tradition, practiced at the family, group, community and nation level, regardless of the type of regime and never eradicated by any regime, although several have tried.
Let us ask ourselves how much and what pain the Covid pandemic has caused in the population, how much fear in those who have got ill, how much anger in those who helplessly saw their loved ones or their patients die, how much brooding and worry in those who have seen their own slowly die activity, how much sadness and melancholy in all of us for the segregation and deprivation of normal freedoms. Let us realize how all these emotions have weakened the defense capabilities and undermined both individual and social resilience.
The hope is that a comparison made with intellectual honesty between what we have lived and are living in the West and the Far Eastern approach can help us both personally and socially in facing the long path that still awaits us in coming out of this crisis and that it can be a viaticum for the new tests that will certainly be proposed to us in the future.