Point Selection

Please Note! Due to the high volume of irritating spam and slow-down of participation here, we are no longer accepting new comments, questions, or subjects on this Forum. We are keeping all the subjects and comments for review as there is a lot of good stuff here relating to practice-building subjects. So, dig deep! Thanks to everyone who participated here but it is time to move on to bigger projects educating the public about acupuncture! Matt Bauer

03-Dec-2013 08:17 AM

Matthew Bauer

Posts: 211

In the Making Acupuncture Pay (MAP) Forum thread “I Could Use Help On…” , I was asked to comment on the subject of point selection – a big subject I will try to keep reasonably short. I made a separate thread for this subject in case people want to comment on it and also posted this on the MAP Facebook page. Point selection can be divided into two primary categories; Points selected by employing certain theories and points found by various methods of palpation or by “feel”. I think it unfortunate that our current education system is focused almost entirely on point selection by theory and little attention is paid to finding points by feel. This happens because we rely on licensing exams based on a written format and you can’t test for finding points by feel that way. Like most, my formal education was focused on selecting points by theory and I think I was fortunate to learn several different theoretical systems. After some years in practice, however, I made the transition to relying almost exclusively on finding points by feel. Just how this transition took place is a long story related to my experience with my two great teachers – Taoist Master Hua-Ching Ni and Qi-gong Master Si-Tu Jie. I plan to detail that experience at a later time. For now – let’s consider the big picture of these two methods.

Selecting points by theory is an art that has seduced countless generations of Chinese medicine practitioners over multiple millennia. Such methods are based on the beautiful theories grounded in Yin/Yang logic that are paradoxical and yet logical once you begin to understand them. Most acupuncturists seek-out teachers that can help them see the logic behind the paradox – that explain the complex theories so students begin to feel confident they are making the right choices when they select points for treatment. Learning these methods is like learning the logic behind different strategies in a complex game such as chess – you begin to have confidence you understand the game and can see several moves ahead. Theories based on things like the Five Shu points, Luo Connecting Points, Master Couple points, or specific methods like Master Tung’s Points or Richard Tan’s Balance method, all offer the hope of making sense of the countless possibilities that have been confronting acupuncturists for more than 2,000 years.

My school’s clinic was run by a Korean doctor who took me under his wing and taught me many different methods (thanks, Dr. Park). In treating his patients, he would give one method a try for 2-3 treatments and, if not satisfied with the results, try another one, sometime muttering under his breath “It’s GOT to work”. Like most students, I was fascinated by such methods and in my first years of practice devoured  every CEU course I could hoping to find the key that would unlock the mystery to “knowing” what to do.

Long before I enrolled in acupuncture schooling, I had taken a class with an exceptional Shiatsu Master – Wataru Ohashi who taught how to locate points by palpation. Like many acupuncturists just starting their practice, I had some doubts about my acupuncture skills so would combine a good dose of acupressure/body-working techniques with each treatment figuring that if the acupuncture didn’t work at least my patients would get a decent body-work session for their money. This being the case, I was combining my point selection chosen by the different theories I had learned together with the palpation methods I had been using since before my acupuncture training.

Just after I took that course with Ohashi, I met and became a student of Hua-Ching Ni and began a deep study of Taoism that included qi cultivation of various types. In my second year of practice, I began to study qi-gong with Master Jie. A year or so later I had a breakthrough that helped me become sensitive to qi blockages and then I began to find points by palpating my patient’s qi blockages directly usually without even needing to physically touch my patients. So – when I speak of “finding” points by various methods of palpation, I am not only talking about palpating a patient’s flesh like I learned to do from Ohashi but also using my qi to “palpate” my patients qi both with and without touch. After I became sensitive in this fashion, it still took me nearly a year before I finally gave into it completely and stopped using the many theoretical methods I had been taught to select points and just find the points by feel – both feel of flesh and the qi surrounding (and infusing) the flesh.   

You may have noticed I don’t try to teach methods of diagnosis and point selection as many teachers do. This is because I find points by feel and I can’t teach people to feel what I feel (although I could teach people qi cultivation techniques that may increase their sensitivity). I do teach some of what I call my favorite point combinations but never explained that these are the points I have often found on my patients over the years by feel.  I have also never tried to make the case that finding points by feel as I do is better than finding by theory because I don’t necessarily think this is the case. I do teach that practitioners need to find their own methods that resonate with their sensibilities. Some will find their niche by learning and refining diagnosis and point selection theories. Others may find that by refining their ability to feel qi imbalances directly. Both are an art and acupuncturists need to find their own artistry.  I do strongly believe, however, that whatever method you use, there are some fundamentals that everyone should learn such as how to space treatments, communicate with patients, and basically run a private practice. These are arts too and this is what I decided to focus on teaching for now because no one else was teaching this and such knowledge will apply to any point selection method you use.     

I plan to go further into the subject of finding points rather than selecting them so stay tuned. 

Matthew Bauer


03-Dec-2013 08:50 PM


Posts: 12

Thank you Matt!!!

Can you recommend a Daoist or QiGong Master in NYC?

Peter C Doyle


06-Dec-2013 07:12 AM

Matthew Bauer

Posts: 211

Hi Pete – I am sorry I don’t know of anyone to recommend you to. I can certainly recommend Master Ni’s books that you can find at their website at:  http://www.taostar.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=eshop&Category_Code=BI

The main classics are the teachings of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and the I-Ching. Let me know if you have any questions on any other topics. They also sell dvds on Tai Chi and Qi-Gong. 

Matthew Bauer