A turning point. A European story.
I don’t remember the year, nor the day. I was in Berlín, in a Toyohari international workshop. Stephen Birch, a long time teacher and friend, approached Miguel Ángel –a friend and a colleague- and myself: ‘Look, I invited this friend of mine, Chip Chace, to give a seminar in Amsterdam, and I already booked the two of you in’. We immediately said ‘OK’, and after a moment asked: ‘What would be the seminar about?’. Steve was rather vague: ‘Something about palpation, I think… but Chip is a very interesting person and a real scholar’. Then, as we were in the middle of a struggle with writing a book together, he add: ‘Hey Manuel, perhaps you can talk with Chip about your herb’s chapter, I will send it to him and ask he get a look at it’. And that was it.
This is as a good moment as any other in this story to confess that the name ‘Chip Chace’ didn’t evoke in me any special sense of awing or respect. Actually, Miguel Ángel reminded me that we have shared a workshop table the year before, and I still could only barely remember this mostly silent american with long, blond hair and somewhat deformed hand joints. Anyway, I agreed of Steve sending him my ongoing chapter, and mostly forgot about the whole thing up to the dates of the planned Amsterdam seminar
Days passed. Steve told me that Chip agreed on read ‘my chapter’, and he arranged we meet at his home the afternoon before the seminar start. And on this day and place I can say I really meet Chip. Meantime, I have got some basic information about him, and I was consequently grateful of a person of his fame and busy schedule agreeing to take a look of my writings. Not to say how afraid I was of being exposed to a scholar of his learning and knowledge, specially because I was acutely aware that ‘my chapter’ not only wasn’t as academically supported as it should be, but also put ahead some not so common ideas about herbalism in Chinese Medicine.
Day D: I meet Chip at Steve’s home. He was calm, relaxed, a convival guy, the person, in sum, we all know he always was. After some friendly ‘a trio’ conversation with Steve, he went down to business, and asked me if it would be convenient to talk about ‘the chapter’ taking a walk… because he just arrived some few hours ago, and was suffering jet lag. This was my first personal glimpse of his generosity: he was devoiding to me some precious and needed rest time, just the day before starting teaching. And this was only the beginning. We walked and talked, and he very gently ‘grilled’ me about my concepts and knowledge on herbs, very delicately pointing out the weak points of both my reasonement and my academic formality on supporting them. And I want to underline the kindness which he displayed on all that. Chip was the first person in which I recognized what was to become what I think now is the hallmark of a true master: he was discussing with me over matters in which I was clearly inferior, and was able to do it in a manner that gave me the impression that I was almost at the same level than he. No crushing superiority, no the faintest reproach for my obvious lack of academic support, no. This person, who didn’t know me at all, not only was giving me his precious time, but he was also displaying a kindness and an intellectual generosity over whatever standard you might wish to measure them . Kindness, generosity, deep knowledge and intellectual rigor were the hallmark of this conversation, and the years to come will only show that these were virtues deeply ingrained in Chip’s personality
The seminar started. At that time ‘Engaging Vitality’ has no name, and his techniques and learnings were absolutely unknown in Europe. Chip, as you suppose, was brilliant. He made several presentations on different subjects: Extraordinary Vessels (I hardly understood their pulses…), the three basic concepts of dynamics, tendency and incipiency, the shape of qi, the yang rhythm (then still called CRI) and other osteopathic ideas, always stressing the importance of palpation, and making all of us perceive thorough our hands. This was my turning point. Suddenly the ‘Axis’, the now famous paper on LS1 he did with Dan Bensky came alive, a torrent of new ideas was pouring over me, almost I would say drowning me. I felt at the same time that a rug has been pulled under my feet and that I was solidly grounded, stepping in the fundaments not only of the Chinese Medicine, but of a vision of humanity; I felt like falling down a chasm, and at the same time flying; at the same time I appreciated all the techniques aquired along the years and discard them to make place for this marvelous new world… and I realized I had to do something real with all this
At the time I was teaching Chinese Medicine, already nuanced by the history and procedures taught by Steve, Junko and their team; but I had to do something more with this new material, this new feeling. I went to Chip and asked him for his presentations, telling him I wanted to use them in my classes, and again, this generous person, this very special teacher, gave me all his precious slides, withholding nothing, with the only proviso of not to publish them. These slides, which I translated and used in my classes, were the origin of what at the moment I called ‘Subtle needling’. I was always keeping Chip abreast of what I did with his material, and we warmly discussed the ways I evolved it, but this is maybe another story. Chip knows that the material I learned was and is treated as a legacy, not to be –as the parable in the Bible illustrate us- to be kept dusty and untouched, but to be alive, growing and developing. The new vision of Chinese Medicine, the use of palpation and how all that influenced both my practice and my teachings, were a clear turning point, an before-and after point in my life
But I still did another thing: when coming back to my practice in Barcelona I told Rayen she had to go to the next Chip’s seminar. Again the ironies of life: she was very, very reluctant to go, mostly because she was more or less recently trained in Toyohari, and was enjoying his marvelous procedures, but also because she had glimpse Chip in one of the Toyohari workshops and formed a very poor opinion of him. I got her going to Chip’s next workshop anyway, probably out of the respect she had for me at the time, and again Chip’s magic worked. Rayen came back to Barcelona ‘converted’. It would be inconvenient to talk about her experience, it is a subject which has to be addressed by her when and if she cares for, but I can say that she was saying: ‘With Toyohari I found my hand; with Chip I found my other hand’. She worked together with Miguel Ángel to bring Chip to Barcelona to teach, which he did, and when he came, Rayen put to herself the duty of getting him to come at least once a year, aiming to make a kind of permanent base for the development of what we learned. As the books usually say: ‘and the rest is history’. Other people came here, were interested in Chip’s teachings, and proposed seminars in other countries. Marguerite and Dan were also considering setting a foot in Europe and came here to teach. The name of Engaging Vitality was born, teaching was –somewhat reluctantly- getting structured, study groups were functioning, and more and more people were, and is, getting committed to EV principles and practice
Now my part of the story is almost over. All these years I enjoyed Chip’s teachings, wit, and company, and now I am teaching not only Engaging Vitality, but also an acupuncture style were I do a kind if preview of it, with the idea of serving as a bridge towards EV for the people who never learned that a body and its vitality are a palpable reality. All that started in a not so far past, when Steve invited Chip to Amsterdam, and when I was deeply impressed by the quality and generosity of the man who called me ‘his brother on yi’. Now his material presence is over, but as we all know, his spirit and legacy is and will be developing healthy, alive and luminous. A big hug and a deep bow to you, Chip
Manuel Rodríguez Cuadras
Medicina Clásica Oriental, Barcelona, Spain