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Massage Today
June, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 06

Just Tell Me What I Need to Know to Pass the Test

By Barbra Esher, AOBTA CI. Dipl. ABT & Ac. (NCCAOM), LAc

These are the words to make any instructor wince! I want my students to be inspired by what I teach. I'd like them to learn Asian/Chinese medicine because it's fascinating and it works. But practically speaking, like it or not, exams are necessary for evaluating theoretical material learned, setting standards and creating laws.

There is also a certain amount of information you need to commit to memory before you are able to pass an exam. This article is designed to help you learn the Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) theory portion of the National Certification Exam (NCE) so you can continue to do whatever it is that you love the most. The NCBTMB states that the NCE covers some basics of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and although this outline is as simple as you can get, I can't guarantee that it covers all of the questions asked.

I have to tell you truthfully though, that if this subject matter doesn't thrill you and/or you have had little or no training in ABT, don't worry. According to Cliff Korn, a past chairman of the NCBTMB, there is only a small percentage of the content outline pertaining to traditional Chinese medicine on the exam, and you can probably miss every single ABT question and still pass. Call the NCBTMB if you don't believe me! Spend your time studying the information that you learned and know it well, rather than trying to cram a lot of material into your head that you may find irrelevant to your practice.

Don't get me wrong, I am a big supporter of the NCE. If you graduate with a degree in massage, take the NCE whether you think you need it or not. You will be glad that you did, particularly if you ever decide to move to a state that requires it for licensure.

If you practice any form of ABT, such as shiatsu, acupressure or tuina, I recommend you take the more appropriate ABT exam offered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The NCCAOM has been the benchmark in Asian medicine for almost 20 years; their acupuncture certification is already being used in 42 states for licensure.

The benefits for doing so are numerous. Diplomate ABT (NCCAOM) is the highest certification available in the field of ABT, clearly distinguishing the education and standards as separate from massage. If you practice any form of ABT, I believe that this is the single most important action you can take to support your personal growth, your profession and the field of ABT as a whole.

So if you are determined to forge ahead and learn "just what you need to pass the exam," here are my suggestions, followed by a five-month game plan to learn some basics.

Admit That You May Be Afraid

Many people suffer from exam anxiety. Most of the time it's not rational. I don't remember ever failing an exam in my life, but I still suffer from exam fear.

If you feel the same way, get someone to work on your Kidney meridian to help you calm your fears. The Kidneys in Chinese medicine relate to the Water element, which relates to fear.

Lie face down. Ask your partner to hold the Kidney shu points bilaterally. (Bl 23, located 1.5 cun/anatomical Chinese inches from the space below L 2.) With their free hand, have them thumb-press up from your sole along the medial posterior aspect of your leg slowly. Ask them to finish by rubbing the lower back vigorously, then gently holding the area beside the lumbar vertebrae bilaterally with their palms.

Form a Study Group

All of my students who form study groups do well on their exams. Start five months ahead of time if you need to cover a lot of material that you haven't already learned thoroughly in your course of study.

Commit to meeting one time a week and stick to it. Divide the list of topics to cover evenly over the time you have left before the exam. (See below for a suggested basic outline.)

Rotate among the people in the group presenting a topic each week. For example, one person on the list presents the basic yin/yang theory with relative associations the first time you meet. Use handouts, drawings and any other materials you can think of to make it interesting and fun. Laugh as much as possible as that helps to open your Heart/Mind and you will remember things longer. If you like the people you are studying with, it also has a similar good effect on your memory, as this all relates to the Fire element.

Start each meeting by quizzing each other on material that you went over last time. When you ask a question that draws a blank, give someone time to pull it out of his or her memory reserves. If they still can't get it, when you finally tell them the answer, they will tend to remember it longer.

Here is a 20-week game plan for covering basic ABT theory:

Week 1: Yin/yang: Basic theory and relative associations such as night/day and cold/hot. Make sure not to use a book that teaches macrobiotic principles as they reverse yin/yang associations to make it "easier" for Westerners!

Week 2: 8 Principles: System of using yin/yang to further differentiate pathology.

Week 3: 5 Elements: Basic theory and associations for each element. For example, Fire relates to heat, vitality, passion, Heart/ Small Intestine, Triple Heater/ Pericardium, bitter taste, the vessels, laughter, joy, etc.

Week 4: Lung meridian: 3-5am, chest to hands; functions along with Metal element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 5: Large Intestine meridian: 5-7am; hands to head; functions along with Metal element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 6: Stomach meridian: 7-9 am; head to feet; functions along with Earth element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 7: Spleen meridian: 9-11 am; feet to chest; functions along with Earth element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 8: Heart meridian: 11-1 pm; chest to hands; functions along with Fire element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 9: Small Intestine meridian: 1-3 pm; hands to head; functions along with Fire element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 10: Bladder meridian: 3-5 pm; head to feet; functions along with Water element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 11: Kidney meridian: 5-7 pm; feet to chest; functions along with Water element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 12: Pericardium meridian: 7-9 pm; chest to hands; functions along with Fire element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 13: Triple Heater meridian: 9-11 pm; hands to head; functions along with Fire element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 14: Gall Bladder meridian: 11-1 am; head to feet; functions along with Wood element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 15: Liver meridian: 1-3 am; feet to chest (meets back up to the Lung meridian); functions along with Wood element associations; know source, luo, mu and shu points.

Week 16: 8 Extraordinary vessels: Functions, locations and nature contrasted to 12-primary meridians.

Week 17: Ren Mai (CV) and Du Mai (GV): pathways and functions.

Week 18: Functions and locations of major points: GB 20, Yintang, GB 21, Lu 1, LI 4, TH 5, Pc 6.

Week 19: Functions and locations of major points: Ren 17, Ren 12, Ren 6, Bl 13, Bl 15, Bl 18, Bl 20, Bl 23.

Week 20: Functions and locations of major points: Bl 40, St 36, Sp 6, St 40, Lv 3.

Home Stretch

The night before and day of the exam, get plenty of rest and relax. My clients swear that they do better on exams if they have a shiatsu session the night before. There are points and meridians that can be worked on specifically for clear thinking and grounding, allowing you to access the information that you studied so hard.

Eat a warm, nutritious breakfast.

When you sit down to take the exam, even before you look at anything, make charts of all of the elements, meridians and times. You then have something to refer to if you blank out during the exam from overload.

Skip over questions you don't know and go back to them later. You may find that another question will spark your memory and you will get that question. When you finish the exam, go over it again for careless errors.

If you follow these steps and prepare methodically, you have nothing to worry about come exam time. But remember, if you pass the NCE, it's a national certification in massage and bodywork, not specific to Asian Bodywork Therapy such as shiatsu or acupressure. Advertise your credentials proudly, accurately and ethically!


Author's note: For a more detailed study guide, see the chapter by Barbra Esher and John Johnston in the new edition of Tappan's Healing Massage Techniques, due out at the end of this year.


Click here for previous articles by Barbra Esher, AOBTA CI. Dipl. ABT & Ac. (NCCAOM), LAc.

 

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