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Gerad Kite: Acupuncture

Friday, May 8th, 2009 Gerad Kite: Acupuncture

Anna Murphy of the Telegraph (26 03 09) writes article on Gerad Kite acupuncturist with a list of famous patients as long as your arm. However, he warns that after a few sessions with him, life can change in all sorts of ways. It will be now pertinent to explore his methods of approach in order to achieve a better understanding of this intriguing character.

Once-upon-a-time approximately 20 years ago Gerad Kite ran a very successful travel agency in San Francisco. He says, ‘I was only interested in making money at the time. I was very stressed. I was working too hard. I was drinking too much.’ A self-confessed sceptic when it came to all things ‘alternative’, Kite found himself going along with a friend for a session of classical five-element acupuncture.

From that point on things drastically changed, to the extent that the next day Kite shut his business down. Upon his own admission, it took him a long time to make the connection between the two events, but by then he was already training in so-called five element himself.

Today, tucked away above the boutiques of Bond Street in London Kite (48) runs arguably the most lauded acupuncture clinic in the country.

In essence, the majority of his clients attend his clinics and have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, he argiues that this is very much an issue of our time. Other problems include the suffering of depresssion, addiction to headaches to a vague feeling that something is not quite what it should be.

As readers it will now be relevant to evaluate the five element key to Kite.

Murphy suggests five element embraces such uncertainty in a way that Western medicine, with its rigorously systemic approach, is unable to. ‘Five element came out of the Taoist tradition, which was based on how the Chinese related to nature, how they understood the link between what was happening in the outside world and the interior one. They were also interested in the uniqueness of the individual: the idea that if you are fulfilling your destiny, being true to who you are, you will stay well.’ Clearly this is a very much holistic approach.

Notably, in Britain, it is traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is the more common form of acupuncture, but this was only brought in by the Communists. ‘They looked at the existing system of medicine and thought, “We need an approach that is Westernized, where we look at distinct symptoms and have distinct remedies for those symptoms.”

Crucially, the five element approach differs? ‘We note a patient’s symptoms, but they don’t support our diagnosis, or determine how we set out to help. They are simply alarm bells of distress. Instead we are interested in how the person presents, in how they are – how they look physically, how they smell, how they sound, their emotional state. It is like the medieval idea of the “humours”. It is about sensing how a person is out of balance. The idea with five elements was that you treat people in advance of them getting sick. When someone is properly sick it is often too late.’

Murphy states that she is talking to Kite some months after she first went for a treatment. She relays that that is a good thing on a mutual level for many reasons. For her as an individual she went to see him with reference to poor digestion and lack of energy and both issues have now been resolved. From Kite’s perspective, it is also good as he is aware that he is talking to someone who has disbanded any Western scepticism. Significantly, from the view point of Murphy, she says, ‘a lot of what Kite says is very difficult for a Westerner to get their head around, until you experience how remarkable his results are for yourself. Over and above the relief of particular physical problems, what Kite gifts his patients is something they often weren’t aware they had lost: that ineffable sense of ‘me-ness’ that a child is born with but that many of us mislay along the way.

Fundamentally, ‘Five elements is just a way of looking at a person and saying how can we break this down practically so that we can do something about it? We all know when a human being looks well. They have good colour in their face, their eyes are bright, their hair is shiny – we comment on this kind of thing in everyday life all the time. And you can hear from someone’s voice on the phone if they are slightly “off”. Or if someone is sick they start to smell bad. We all know all this stuff already. I am just working on a more subtle level with the same things.’

The five elements are earth, fire, water, wood and metal. Each element represents what Kite calls ‘a distinct energetic movement within the body, just as there are seasons in nature’.

More specifically, each element has its own individual value and relates to a particular organ or organs. Wood, for example, is linked to the liver and the gall bladder, and water to the kidneys. When an individual goes out of balance it is one of those elements that becomes stressed, like the weakest link in a chain, and this prompts a range of physical and emotional symptoms. A ‘water’ individual might manifest either dryness – eczema, dry eyes – or, at the other extreme, bloating or a weakened (watery) digestive system. They might feel powerless or frightened – sticking in a job they hate because they are fearful of leaving – or have inappropriate levels of fearlessness, throwing themselves down a black run when they don’t know how to ski. Whichever element is your weakest link, it will always be this one that goes off-kilter. Even so, one has to guard against seeing five element as a kind of horoscope, says Kite. ‘People think, “Oh, I am earth, so therefore I do this, I do that and I have fat legs.” But it doesn’t work like that.’ This is why he won’t tell a patient which element is under stress until the sessions are well progressed.

Murphy goes on to say that a session with Kite can feel like a therapy. Up to half of the hour session the client will simply just sit and talk. Questions are directed to you in terms of health. He also asks about your emotional wellbeing and anything that may be of concern to you, overall he has a wide approach.

Kite is more interested in how you tell him things, not what you tell him, he argues, ‘What people say is irrelevant, as people have ideas about themselves and tell stories that aren’t true. Instead, you try and pick up on what is appropriate. For example, if someone is telling you about the day their grandfather died and smirking, that is inappropriate. Or if someone tells you about a great party they have been to but talks about it as if they have just been to a funeral, that is also not appropriate.’

He has also suggested that he can pick up a clients imbalance. He will also observe the skin colour, the smell, and the myriad imperceptible aspects that make up a person’s physicality in that moment.

It is at this point that he will get out his needles, using five different points. The needle is inserted only for a moment, until the client is aware of a dull ache within the immediate area. Murphy suggests that the wider effects can be instantaneous and powerful, a feeling of intense energy or wellbeing, a liberation almost. And this feeling can strengthen over the ensuing days. After one session the changes are palpable, and after two or three the physical symptoms, be it migraine or constipation, have either dramatically receded or gone altogether. (’People are often living their life under a veil of sickness they think is normal,’ says Kite. ‘It is amazing how we tolerate sickness.’)

In equal measure, Kite is aware of the placebo factor surrounding acupuncture. It has been further suggested that Kite has little concern. Indeed, he says, ‘The placebo effect is powerful in all treatment approaches – in drugs trials 40 per cent of positive results can be achieved using placebos. This research simply reflects that. But with acupuncture you also have the patient/practitioner relationship that notches the success rate up another 20 per cent. And that still leaves 40 per cent, which is where the real ‘cure’ comes in, based on correct diagnosis and treatment.’

Besides, Kite continues, the research completed so far is of limited relevance to his work. ‘These trials look at the efficacy of TCM [traditional Chinese medicine], but lump them under the generic title of acupuncture. They use simple treatment protocols: the same treatment for each patient treating the same condition. This is not how acupuncture was designed to work.

The trial we are currently running with Exeter University examines five element by looking at a group of patients in the NHS with “medically undiagnosed symptoms” [about 15 per cent of all patients]. This way we avoid the more Western and post-Chinese-revolution idea of a linear cause and effect and look at the wider impact of acupuncture. These are patients who drive the GP nuts as they cannot help them, patients who attend frequently and present with a variety of symptoms on a regular basis.’

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