Kiiko Matsumoto Style Acupuncture

What is Kiiko Matsumoto Style Acupuncture ​and How Does it Work?

Kiiko Matsumoto Style, or KMS acupuncture, is a blend of several different styles of acupuncture practiced by notable Japanese masters. Kiiko Matsumoto studied with these masters and created her own style known as KMS. Kiiko is an internationally renowned practitioner and teacher with over three decades of experience. Her style is taught in various schools across the country, including Harvard Medical School. Kiiko is widely regarded as a living master of acupuncture, and her style is amongst the most powerful, being taught and practiced anywhere.

In order to fully explain what sets Kiiko Matsumoto Style acupuncture (KMS) apart from other styles, it is first necessary to describe the basic theory of acupuncture in general.

Acupuncture is a treatment modality that treats pain, illness, and disease by regulating the flow of Qi in the body. Qi is the energetic “life force” that when flowing freely, animates us and protects us from illness, pain, and disharmony. Our health is determined by the quality, abundance, and availability of our Qi. Qi is considered to be the “master” regulatory force that enables and controls all the systems of the body.

Qi moves through the body via pathways called meridians or channels that connect the internal organs and glands to the rest of the body. Meridians can be compared to rivers or stream-flows that must be abundant and free from blockage to maintain health. An acupuncturist uses acupoints found along the meridians to regulate the flow of Qi. Acupoints can be stimulated in many ways, which include (but are not limited to): needles, magnets, electricity, heat, and touch. The success of an acupuncture treatment is dependent upon how well the practitioner is able to determine two things:

  1. The underlying reason Qi is not flowing freely is called the constitutional or “root” cause of imbalance.
  2. The immediate cause of pain, discomfort, or disease is called the symptomatic or “branch” aspect of the patient’s main complaint.

Due to the fact that the root and branch are linked, these two aspects must be understood by the acupuncturist and treated simultaneously for the treatment to be both successful and long-lasting. Here is an example using an analogy to help explain this concept:

A person is using a long hose to water her garden. She turns the hose on, water flows freely, and she moves from one plant to the next with no problem. After some time has passed, she has moved a good distance away from the faucet where the hose is connected, and suddenly water stops flowing. She examines the end of the hose and doesn’t see any obstructions that would cause this. So the question is: Why has the water flow become obstructed? There are many possible answers to this question:

  1. Someone turned the faucet off.
  2. Someone turned off the water to the whole house.
  3. The hose has become kinked or twisted on itself.
  4. The hose has become stuck on something.
  5. The hose has been cut.

In this example, the problem to be solved, (branch or symptom) is obvious; lack of water flow. The reason, or root of the problem has to be investigated to be known. The fix or treatment of the problem depends on the cause. Unkinking the hose won’t work if someone has tuned off the faucet or if the hose has been cut. In this case the first step would be to turn the water off at the faucet before repairing the hose.

With this analogy in mind, it can be said that all styles of acupuncture, (on a theoretical level) attempt to understand both the root and branch relationship of any given problem. What sets KMS apart from other styles is that the practitioner is verifying that their diagnosis of root and branch are correct and that treatment will be successful while performing the evaluation and treatment. 

How does Kiiko Matsumoto Style work?
It works by asking the questions: “Why is the patient not getting better?” And: “How does Qi need to be moved so the patient’s ability to heal can become fully functional again?” These questions are answered through palpation.

KMS utilizes a highly developed system of palpation to evaluate, diagnose and assess the effectiveness of a proposed treatment. Palpation is the application of pressure on areas of the body to determine the presence or absence of discomfort as felt and reported by the patient. An area that is found to be uncomfortable or tight is seen as a clue in answering the question of why the patient is not well. The foundation of KMS is diagnosis and assessment through abdominal palpation. 

The abdomen is the most important area of the human body, because it is the energetic, digestive and physical center, and at the middle of all of this is the navel. The navel is the root of every person, because we were all connected to our mothers through our navel via the umbilical cord and everything that we needed to survive and grow: oxygen, nourishment, etc. was provided through our abdomen. It can be said that we developed and grew from the belly outward. Therefore the belly or Hara (in Japanese) reflects every aspect of our energetics and physiology and is thus an accurate measure of our health status.

A KMS practitioner uses palpation to create a sort of map that indicates the individual’s areas of strength, weakness and energetic blocks. These are then evaluated against the patients main complaint to determine the most effective treatment strategy. The advantage of using palpation is that both the practitioner and patient are aware when an area being evaluated is uncomfortable and when it is cleared by treatment. This is not the case with acupuncture as it is taught and tested in schools throughout the US.

The educational model that is used to train acupuncturists in this country teaches a form of pulse evaluation for assessment and diagnosis that is very hard to master and typically takes years, if not decades of study and practice in order to be used effectively. Pulse diagnosis is highly subjective and neither the practitioner or patient has any way of knowing if the treatment that is being performed is effective while it is being given. For this reason, palpatory diagnosis in the form of KMS yields better, longer lasting and more reliable results overall.