The Late Grandmaster Dr. Richard Teh-Fu Tan
Balance Method Acupuncture
Anna Katherine Navida Dolopo
Pacific College of Health and Science
Integrative Pain Management
Dr. Juli Olson
May 31, 2022
I started practice in 1999. I am a very proud graduate of the class of August 1998 from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM). I started practice in 1999. From 1999-2006, I was a standard Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. It’s what I knew and what I was most comfortable with. I did expand beyond my comfort level during those first seven years of practice, and even while I was an intern in the mid-1990s, having focused for a while on Japanese Meridian Therapy, Korean Hand Acupuncture, French Auricular Acupuncture, and other styles of eastern medicine that I had been exposed to whenever I had taken continuing education units (CEUs). I did not hold myself back in pursuing other styles of acupuncture to see what can be more effective. Nonetheless, the style I always fell back to was TCM and I was satisfied; or so I thought.
One thing that definitely was missing in my life was a stable income practicing TCM. I did everything I was professionally taught, and I did what I learned from my earlier mentors. It a bit of a sad time of my life because I had to have one to two outside jobs to make ends meet; not being able to sustain a good living doing what I thought was my best. I remember having met three people outside of my education during my PCOM years. They had been trained at PCOM or some other eastern medical school; however, they had left the field, and it was apparent that it was because they were unable to earn a living as acupuncturists. That was not promising to me as a young graduate student. I was 26 when I was licensed and as the years passed without being able to buy a car, a house, pay my student loans, and just be reliant on my actual career as a licensed acupuncturist, I started to believe that I, too, would become a has-been professional of eastern medicine and have to move on to something more realistic in order to feed myself and exist in society.
Right before I was going to quit my passion to heal people with eastern medicine, I received a flyer from Dr. Richard Teh-Fu Tan offering a free seminar. Thursday was free. That whole day would have been $185, but he was giving it away on March 6, 2006 for free. The rest of the 4-day training, Friday-Sunday, was to be paid for. I did not have the money to train with him; however, I took advantage of the free 8-CEU day. I didn’t really care who Dr. Tan was. The class was only 1.5 hours away from Orange County to my hometown, San Diego. I could not afford to miss the class. It was going to be a one-time seminar for me. Take my free CEUs, spend the gas, leave Orange County super early because I did not have hotel money, head home, and resume my mentality of what career to move onto next; one that would be accepted by my parents, and one that can help me feel proud of myself because I would finally have a profession that can PAY ME, so that I can exist like a normal person in society without struggling financially. Little did I know that Dr. Tan was the answer to my secret prayers.
I entered this large banquet room at the Double Tree Hotel in Downtown San Diego. Over 100+ people were there receiving free training, the one and only day that Dr. Tan was giving his training away for free EVER. I met people who were loyal to this man. I had no clue who this doctor was. I saw interns working for free happily. It almost felt cultish, but I would have to say, I was impressed. I bought his books without knowing what I was getting into. I just felt the vibe and I felt that I entered a secret society of eastern medicine. I didn’t know it, but my world was about to change forever, and so would the lives of thousands of patients I would touch going forward.
Looking back, I had about a 40-60% success rate with long-term results using TCM. I thought this was good enough because there were many people whom I had made happy. They felt good with the tui na, acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion and more. I did what I was taught in school, and I thought that was the best I could possibly give. The only concern I always had looming over my shoulder was this dark cloud of not being able to increase myself financially as a licensed acupuncturist.
The day I met Dr. Tan, he treated me during his “dog and pony show” to prove to everyone that his system works. I had right subscapular pain for over 10 years, which was treated with all TCM-related methods, chiropractic, osteopathic, physical therapy, massage, and any other healing modalities I had come across. I was unable to play my violin for over two years due to this ailment, which made me very sad. On the morning of March 6, 2006 was when the pain started to radiate down my right arm. I was afraid at that point that I would actually have to consider doing surgery; all I knew was that now my livelihood as a massage therapist may have to come to an end because of this pain that seemed uncurable. On that fateful day that I trained with Dr. Tan for the first time, I listened to licensed acupuncturists all around me saying that Dr. Tan was “full of crap,” or he was a god among gods. The opinions of Dr. Tan were polarizing. When he asked if anyone had any pain, I raised my hand thinking to myself, “Let’s see if he is a god.” With 3 needles NOT in the area of pain, but in the opposite shin, my decade long pain disappeared mysteriously. I had no clue what this voodoo magic was all about. I had started my TCM training in 1994. It was now 2006. 12 years of acupuncture did not prepare me for this understanding. How in the world did a few needles at liver/spleen channels on my opposite lower leg take away years of chronic scapular pain? Whenever I would use my right bowing arm when playing the violin, I would feel a burning sensation that would drive me insane in just a few minutes. I would lie down in agony wishing someone would just take a knife and tear out my scapula. It was THAT painful. The moment Dr. Tan treated me with “his Balance Method” (BM), something felt different. I literally changed personally and professionally that day. I had up to that point hours of radiating pain while driving over an hour to San Diego and throughout the entire seminar. I was 99.9% certain that I was going to make an appointment with an orthopedist to see if it was time to do something invasive so that I can finally live with more comfort. I was on the verge of losing hope in my body, and in my acupuncture life, both personally and professionally, respectively. “I wasted my life studying Chinese medicine,” was what I thought, “I can’t even heal myself with acupuncture. How in the world am I supposed to heal others if I can’t even heal myself of chronic pain?” Then this happened. A gift that I did not expect fell onto my lap. I began my day feeling deflated, but I ended my day awakened to a new life full of physical freedom from pain and a resurgence that I can actually become a great acupuncturist one day if I can just study what this man knows.
I could not afford the remaining three days, but somehow, I managed to land myself a seat on Dr. Tan’s right-hand side at dinner. Dr. Eileen Han invited me to dinner and when I arrived, she moved away from her seat and demanded that I sit next to her master. I will never forget that dinner. That day was the moment a clear demarcation was created between hopeless and helpless acupuncturist Anna and since then, a very confident and powerful Anna.
My success rate immediately transformed from 40-60% to 85-95% (with long-term results) overnight. I changed religions; from TCM to BM. I devoured as much knowledge as I could. I became a Dr. Tan Gold Level Certified Balance Method Acupuncturist in April 2012, celebrating my achievement at my beloved Shifu’s black and white attire event at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas when we celebrated his 60th birthday. My second child was not yet two years old. She and I made an entire party laugh while I gave my tearful speech; sharing that I owe my entire life to Dr. Tan. I have had since March 6, 2006 a busy practice. My last paycheck from another company was January 24, 2007. I have paid my own way in life since then. In 2015, months before my beloved master made his transition to a better life, I earned my Dr. Tan Ba Zi Certification, truly the most difficult and intense training in Chinese medicine that I had ever encountered. I also bought my first house that year.
I thought my life would be meaningless when Dr. Tan died. He was my mentor and the reason for my acupuncture success. I dedicate my entire practice to him. He took a very pitiful acupuncturist and helped me mature in great confidence in this field. I never told anyone until I was in Taiwan with the other senior students that Dr. Tan told me that I was the chosen one. I laughed when I said that because there’s no way he should have meant that. He has far more talented students, the greatest of them being his top student, Dr. Han. However, in 2017, Dr. Han approached me and asked if I could teach a very important class with THE ACADEMY OF ACUPUNCTURE. She created THE BUSINESS ACUMEN OF SUCCESSFUL ACUPUNCTURISTS class for me to teach. Me, the one who could barely make ends meet from 1999-2006 was now being asked to teach other acupuncturists how to make a great living doing what we love the most.
In 2020, the year the world was closing, six of my students, whom I endearingly refer to as my “Elite Black Belts” (EBBs) opened their thriving practices around the USA; they are still thriving as of today 2022. That’s one of my greatest achievements, to say that I have instilled the confidence Dr. Tan had in me into other acupuncturists who went from barely making money to having the desire and follow-through to open up practices during one of the world’s most financially challenging times. I think that might have been what Dr. Tan was referring to, that I am the “chosen one” to share with other acupuncturists that they can make a great living doing very effective acupuncture.
I can’t say TCM doesn’t work. I still love TCM. It is the foundation of my career, I still refer some of my thinking process to TCM methodology, and once in a blue moon, I’ll do a straight TCM treatment. However, I humbly believe that TCM is a derivative of Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM), and I am a devout student of CCM; the style I happen to practice is BM.
My entire website is built around my work as a BM practitioner, from musculoskeletal to fertility to auto-immune to cardiovascular issues and more. When I once heard that BM is only for pain, I have dedicated my career since 2006 to prove that it is so much more than for pain.
Before I end my story of BM, I’ll share how I trailblazed my own path as a BM acupuncturist. I went to family parties and stuck needles in everyone. I asked where their pain was, and I practiced BM acupuncture. I did system one for six or more weeks and went onto system two and so on and so forth. I use the philosophy of doing a system 10,000 times before I move onto another system. I teach this. I’m truly not afraid of the 10,000 strikes a person only practiced once. I am deathly afraid of the one strike a person has practiced 10,000 times. I’ve been doing this with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the last 10 years, and I definitely do this with acupuncture. Thus, acupuncture learning is lifelong. After 23 years of practice, I consider myself not yet a master, but I am mastering my skill set. I am confident in my skill set. June 22, 1999-March 5, 2006, I was not confident. My methodology in practice was hit and miss. Since March 6, 2006, I strike with precision, and I am not afraid to practice and fail. I heard that Google has a 50% expectancy to fail in their projects, thus they encourage their employees to take risks. I learned from Dr. Tan to take risks. Understanding CCM, the use of the Ba Gua, applying BM, have taught me to be relentless in my quest to really push myself creatively as an acupuncturist; and I’m grateful to share that my track record online shows great results.
I write this essay not to impress my colleagues reading this, but to impress upon us as a global community that if we are to practice, we should practice with all our hearts, and a genuine desire to really learn the foundation of CCM. There’s so much more to our medicine than TCM. For those of you willing to learn BM, learn from Dr. Eileen Han. Learn it all or don’t start. Fall in love with BM and you will see tremendous results in your practice. Learn, practice, and repeat. Less asking questions and more doing. This is part of my secret to mastering BM. When something doesn’t work, before I ask questions in class, I go back to my notes, and I just think. In this world of instant gratification, many of us have lost the art of thinking. It takes patience and a still mind to think. Answers are revealed to us when we allow our thoughts to play.
My clinical pearl is my love for Dr. Tan’s Balance Method. It has proven in my practice to be very effective for pain 90-95% of the time with long-term success. If I can’t fix a condition by 50-80% within certain treatment guidelines, I am fine with telling the client that I have limitations in my current skill set. People have a kindness towards practitioners who are honest.
Thank you for allowing me to share my love and my interpretation of my master’s work. Dr. Tan told his students that he gives us all pieces of rocks in hopes that we return to him with pieces of jade. I have two websites: my practice website, and my business website, that are my simple pieces of jade that I humbly present to my teacher every day when I leave my office. Even seven years after he passed, I still work every day hoping that he sees my work and is proud of what I’ve done with his teachings.