“If You Use Force, You loose Force!” -Grandmaster Sam Tam

Interview with  d’Anna Grimau for Sitges Eco (MAY 2023)

Steven Blair (London, February 17, 1965) has been practising acupuncture for 23 years and has had his practice in Sitges for 14 years. Since he was a child, he has been attracted to martial arts and the Orient. As a young man, he followed this attraction by reading Eastern philosophy with Tao Te Ching and Confucius as his main references. Before embarking on his path in acupuncture, he studied contemporary art photography. This was after working at a law firm in London, a job he loved because at 16 he discovered that courts were a reflection of life. For a year, he also worked in similar roles as a Law Clerk in Sydney, the capital of Australia.

How did you train to become an acupuncturist?

I initially studied Oriental medicine at the University of Westminster in London for 4 years. In London, I met my wife, who is Japanese, and we had the opportunity to go to study acupuncture for a year in Japan. Luckily, by chance or fate, I was introduced to Edward Obaidey. He is English and has a clinic in the Japanese capital Tokyo, where he offered me an internship. I immediately felt a deep connection with him and his way of working. I went to Japan for a year initially and ended up staying for 8. I made a living as an English teacher while delving deeper into acupuncture. It was a very intense time during which our son was also born.

What is acupuncture? How would you define it?

That’s a good question. I ask myself that constantly. The Chinese character for acupuncture is an image of a metal weapon and an open mouth that suggests a person screaming in pain. It has a mark above the mouth that indicates it will prevent the person from screaming. So an acupuncture needle literally means: “ a weapon used to stop the pain”

It seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it?

Yes, if we look at it that way, it’s quite natural to be afraid of needles. Of course, this doesn’t mean that acupuncture is painful. Not at all. My patients know because they feel me more than the needles. Pain is felt depending on the level of the practitioner: that is, the needle hurts if it is placed in the wrong spot. So it depends on the acupuncturist’s skill.

What else can you tell us about acupuncture needles?

Some needles don’t penetrate, so an acupuncture needle is not necessarily a sharp object. The important thing is that the stimulus has to be much better than the disease itself: it’s not good to treat someone who has a trauma with a very strong technique because it will worsen the pain and isn’t any different from the trauma itself. The intensity of the treatment must be adjusted to each person’s energetic needs.

And how do you know what each person needs?

The acupuncture session starts before the physical part. I analyze the person’s energy to see what they are like and what they need. And I do it by looking at their constitution, eyes, lips, nose, ears…Your case is very clear: those who eat well, I can see it in the size of your nostrils which indicates that your intestines are large. Meat is important in your diet. Your lips are fleshy, which means you have enough blood for good digestion. I also detect a lot through your pulse.

What can you detect at the pulse?

At the pulse, I can detect the quality of the energy. As I insert the needles, I regularly take the pulse to determine the response. The pulse allows me to measure the true energy of the heart, which is very important to see what depth of acupuncture treatment is needed. All of this gives me clues to determine which meridian to treat and with what the intensity of the treatment should be. 

How does acupuncture work?

This is the golden question. I’ll try to answer it as best as possible. First, we are energetic beings and then physical. The body always follows the energy. So when the energy changes, the body follows it and changes too. For example, when you go on vacation, your energy has already been there for a while as you planned the trip. The physical body follows the energy that was already present at the vacation destination weeks before. Therefore, if our energy is blocked, our body is also blocked. I know it’s a bit strange to talk about energy because it can seem mystical or spiritual.

However,  energy is fundamental, right?

Yes, because it is part of the process towards good health because it precedes what can be seen. If I start talking about something that we cannot see but try to make it seem tangible, it can sound strange. But the truth is that the meridian system can be conceived as a division of the subconscious or conscious being, or as the division between the physical and the non-physical. If you take the idea of what I am saying, you can understand that any change in the meridian system through touch, moxibustion, or an acupuncture needle will initiate an energetic change. And the physical body will follow. I know what the response will be because the quality of the pulse will change during the session and then the symptoms should improve.

What do you see most often in your practice?

Most people have blocked energy and emotional blockages. Over the years, I have also observed that older people have greater resilience. I have 80-year-old patients who have much more energy than many 40-year-olds. The elderly respond very well to acupuncture, as do children and young people. In contrast, middle-aged individuals find it more difficult because they have too much energy in their heads, thinking. They are stressed, and this does not allow their emotional and physical parts to be expressed effectively. More women than men come to my practice because they are braver and more accustomed to preserving energy. Usually, the woman comes first, and then her partner comes to the practice.

What makes a good acupuncturist?

A good acupuncturist should be like an empty cup, open to receiving new information and understanding the philosophy of this technique: emptying energy to fill with energy, like Qi Gong. If you want to be honest, you must be willing to learn from your patients. That’s why I feel so much love for anyone who comes to my clinic, a deep love from the heart because my patients give me so much and I learn so much from them that I can only feel gratitude towards them. The same goes for my students. If you want to learn and improve in acupuncture, you have to feel love for your patients. There is an invisible energy between you and the patient that is really what moves there. It’s very subtle. From my teacher Edward Obaidey, I learned this subtlety.

Do you have a favourite quote?

One from my great Tai Chi master in Tokyo, Sam Tam, who is now 82 years old: “If you use force, you lose force.” He refers to the application of Tai Chi as a martial art. I consider it very appropriate in the field of acupuncture because Westerners tend to want to give a solution to a problem without really looking at its root. In fact, the origin of the problem could be the use of force. So we would go back to what I said before about energy. You shouldn’t attach yourself to energy but rather enjoy the physical presence of others, nourish your health, and live life to the fullest.

What brought you to Sitges?

When we lived in Tokyo, there were many outdoor festivals that reminded me a bit of Barcelona. I knew the city quite well because I had a good friend there. In 2007, I made a trip to check out my options: first London, then Barcelona, and finally Sitges. And here, I had very good feelings that are difficult to put into words. I am very happy to have come here.



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