Manual of Acupuncture author, Peter Deadman, on iPad apps, community acupuncture & more

Update: If you’re going to comment on this post, please just remove the vitriol. There’s just absolutely NO reason to react to anything anybody has said with anything but respectful dialogue. I’ve had to delete several comments that just crossed the line. I’m the only one allowed to cross the line, here, folks. 😉

Given a choice between practicing only Chinese herbs or only acupuncture, I would quickly choose the former.

That should be no surprise to anybody who has visited Chinese Medicine Central for any length of time. That being said, I have immense respect for acupuncture and find myself fascinated by it daily. My great hope is to someday have enough time to begin to devote myself to a deeper study of this modality that I use almost every day.

This is why, when it was released, I picked up the new iPad version of the iconic Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman (and team). At $35.99, it’s cheaper than the both paper text and the interactive DVD, while preserving some of the best features of each. However, for an iPad app, it may be a little rich for some people’s blood.

For the record, I think it’s a steal of an app – particularly since I know it is under active development. I’ll provide a more robust review in a future blog post, though, because I’d like to focus on something else here.

While working with the iPad app, I ran across a bug, and pressed the in-app support button to shoot an email to the tech team. I had no idea the bug report would end up in front of Peter Deadman himself! I’ve never met him, nor heard him speak, so it was a treat to be introduced in such a roundabout and unexpected manner.

Ever looking for opportunities to come up with information my readers might find interesting, I asked whether he would be willing to answer a few questions. To my surprise, despite his busy life, he agreed. So, thanks to his kindness, I offer below his thoughts on an array of topics. He focuses particularly on the development of the Manual of Acupuncture in all its forms as well as the pros and cons of community acupuncture. I’m sure you will find the information as enlightening as I did.

Thanks, again, to Peter for offering his time to reach out to Chinese Medicine Central readers.

1. Could you please introduce yourself to the readers? Your name, where you’re from, where/how you were educated in Chinese medicine and your current/past work (teaching, books, clinic, whatever you think is relevant)

I was born and brought up in England, the second child of a Russian Jewish mother and an English/Scottish father. Both were committed socialists and atheists. After travelling and living the hippy life to the full, my first career was the co-founding of a natural foods restaurant, followed by a shop (Infinity Foods), bakery, warehouse distribution unit, and charitable natural health education centre.
I went to acupuncture college between 1975 and 1978 and followed that with acupuncture studies in Nanjing, China in the winter of 1981-82, and herbal studies in Nanjing in 1993. In 1979 I set up The Journal of Chinese Medicine which I still run. I have had a 30+-year career practising, lecturing on and writing about Chinese medicine. I also practise and occasionally teach qigong and have had parallel careers as violinist in a klezmer band and a creative writer.

In 1998 I completed the co-writing of A Manual of Acupuncture.

2. You are the man behind possibly the most iconic English language book in the realm of Chinese medicine and acupuncture that is currently published. What pushed you to release the book – and were there any surprises in its creation/publishing?

I was originally asked by a publisher to produce a points book but declined as I felt there were too many out there already. Then I realised that the fact there were so many meant that there was a hunger for a good points book and I felt confident that with the right partners I could produce something better. I have/had a great passion to communicate and in this case I felt that the Chinese medicine profession needed a book that reliably laid down as much of the tradition as possible before it spiralled off into ever more distant realms of imagination and wishful thinking.

Dedication to detail characterised every different aspect of the book, from text to illustrations, to design … and that’s why – instead of taking eighteen months as planned – it took eight and a half years. However it has paid off with the respect and even affection that the book has generated, some of which is down to probably unnoticed details that make the book user friendly (e.g. the lengthy work we did in the layout stage to try and get the point illustration on the same page as the location text).
Apart from the length of time it took, the main surprise was that its success meant I could cut down on work after many years of hard slog and a few years after publication I stopped practising – at roughly the same time I joined a working band (hard to come back at 3am from gigs and be in a clinical frame of mind.

3. You recently released a new version of the text – are there plans for future revisions? What might we expect?

The new version was just a tweak and there are no plans for any further changes.

4. What other books on Chinese medicine and acupuncture are interesting to you – what would we find on your bookshelves?

I am fascinated by the yangsheng [ed: “nourishing life”] tradition – not so much the esoteric aspects but the down to earth wisdom about behaviour and lifestyle. This is something I lecture on a lot and I am always amazed how bang on the ancient teachings are in the light of modern research.
To give one example from hundreds, it is only now (astonishingly enough) being acknowledged in scientific medicine how much the quality of life of the mother during pregnancy affects the future health of the child.This has been known in the Chinese tradition for a good two thousand years (how pregnancy conditions may affect the pre-heaven jing) – specifically under the heading of foetal education. So although I have handed on a lot of my clinical practice books, my shelves groan with qigong and health preservation texts.

5. You recently released an iPad application that is, essentially, an enhanced version of the textbook. What got you interested in creating this?

Technology seems to create its own demands. Once it becomes possible to do new things the imagination is easily caught. In the case of our digital publications, a lot of the credit goes to Tom Kennedy – a young practitioner with IT skills – and his wife Kate who has a BBC film production background. Tom pushed us into producing the initial DVD, and the point location videos we made for that found their way onto the iphone/ipad app.
We also wanted to replace the point card study set which we originally published alongside the textbook. That was because when I studied points and later herbs I found the best way to memorise was to write out cards and go for long walks. In a digital age, the smart phone can serve the same function.

6. What should people expect in future iterations of the iPad app?

We are working on a totally new version of the DVD (kickstarted by Apple whose new Lion operating system meant the DVD unexpectedly no longer worked – to our and our customers’ dismay). This will have several new features but additionally it will be ipad compatible so users can either opt for the cheaper, cut-down app version or the full text/full functionality multimedia/DVD version.

7. How do you see technology like the iPad and similar mobile devices changing the way that Chinese medicine is practiced and learned? How do you feel about it?

Traditionally Chinese medicine was learned by memorisation, which is why Chinese medicine books produced in China still have lousy indexes. I feel memorisation is still fundamental to good practice. Digital publications offer the best of both worlds … imaginative tools to help memorisation, but maximum searchablity for reference also.

8. If there is one thing you wish would be brought to mobile technology in the realm of Chinese medicine, what would it be? (eg – Bensky’s materia medica, a complete version of the Ling Shu in English, etc…)

The Bensky materia medica and formulas and strategies would be a good start.

9. Any advice you would like to offer to new students in Chinese medicine? What do you wish you would have known when you began?

The hardest thing is to get a rewarding (emotionally and financially) practice. So many new practitioners never get a practice off the ground – at least one that can give them a decent living. In my mind there are two answers. The first is the work being done in the field of community acupuncture … matching patients who simply can’t afford high fees with practitioners happy to work in multibed clinics. The other is the development of the highest level of skill and knowledge allied with a degree of specialisation.I think these two strands can find a way to co-exist.
There is a buzz about multibeds right now, and lots of patients benefit from the affordability, the communal atmosphere and the ability to have more frequent treatments. They are a pragmatic solution to a particular problem. However, I don’t think they represent best practice and I feel very strongly that best practice (which is almost inevitably more time consuming) risks being diminished by the need to offer quick treatment.

In fact I think that lots of practitioners need to raise their game – continuously studying to build on their initial education. How many practitioners for example know the diagnostic tests, natural progression and prognosis of the hundreds of different musculoskeletal disorders the human body can suffer from? This despite the fact that musculoskeletal problems probably form the majority of the cases we treat.

I also feel that acupuncture – having its roots in the Chinese medical tradition – has a lot to offer patients in terms of understanding cause of disease and what are helpful and unhelpful behaviours. The way I was taught, this was part of the job and Chinese medicine has extraordinary wisdom in this respect.

When community acupuncture offers three-minute consultations and tacitly or overtly expects ‘the needles to do all the work’ I think this is a betrayal of acupuncture as medicine. After all, much dismay accompanied the transition from the old-style GP who lived in a community, knew their patients and their lives, relationships, strengths and weaknesses, to the modern rushed GP whose main preoccupation is to find a way to stop their patient talking so as not to exceed the few minutes allotted to each consuation

Yet even they spend considerably longer than three minutes.

Thanks again to Peter for his time, not just for this brief interview, but over his long career. We’ve all benefitted from his dedication. If you’re interested in accessing his work, please visit the following links:


About Eric Grey

Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.

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