Dan Regan, LAC, is a lifelong Martial Artist, Acupuncturist and Herbalist who is licensed in New York and California. Dan is an instructor in several Martial Arts including Jeet Kune Do, Kali, Wing chun Silat, Mixed Martial Arts, Xingyi and Bagua. His Martial Arts training and injuries led him to discover the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine after he sustained a neck injury in the late 1990’s after sparring in MMA and BJJ class, which left him with little use of his left hand. He had what was called “drop hand” due to the injury sustained in a neck crank and could not hold items in his hand, open doors, or lids on containers.
After trying traditional Western medicine and physical therapy, he ended up trying Acupuncture as a last resort after he was told he needs surgery on his neck. After several attempts and different acupuncture doctors, Dan found a method that helped him regain his strength in the hand and arm, and relieve the pain in his neck. Later in life when working in landscaping in the hot New York summers, and teaching fighting at night for many years, he wanted to go to college to learn a trade that wasn’t so rough on his body. That “Acupuncture stuff “always intrigued him, so he started a journey into community college and then onto Acupuncture school where he achieved his Master Degree in Acupuncture and a second Masters in Herbal Medicine, and the rest is history. Dan has had the pleasure of working on both coasts in Los Angeles and New York treating patients from all walks of life including Celebrities, Professional Fighters, Athletes ,Lawyers, Doctors, Landscapers, Construction laborers, soccer moms, and more.
This vast experience has helped him develop his own approach to healing. Dan includes his Martial Arts training and past experience working as a Physical Therapy Aide along with his skills learned in his Traditional Chinese Medicine when treating patients in his clinic. Dan has quite a following and has been featured in such Magazines as Tai Chi Kung Fu Magazine, Voyage LA, and a host of other media outlets. Dan has a tremendous amount of life experience having gone through alot of injuries and emotional trauma himself, and this helps him really understand what his patients are dealing with as opposed to a Doctor who has just read about these things in books at school. He is known for a practical approach to care, combining Eastern and Western medicine methods.
In the July Acupuncturist of the Month interview, we sit down with Dan and discuss the connection between the martial arts and the practice of acupuncture, business advice, overcoming obstacles, how he’s handling the COVID-19 situation, and much more! Read the full interview with Dan Regan, L.AC below.
Welcome Daniel Regan, L.Ac! Thank you for sitting down with us for Acupuncturist of the Month!
So, how long have you been practicing acupuncture for?
About 16 years.
What inspired you to become an acupuncturist?
I have done martial arts most my life, and some of my teachers were acupuncturists or knew acupuncturists, and would give me herbs or send me for treatments when injured. I had an incident with a neck injury in mixed martial arts back in the 90’s. I had drop hand, and could not carry anything; couldn’t even hold a cup of water. I was told I needed surgery, and I felt I was too young for that so I sought out acupuncture and went through several Western Medicine Doctors and acupuncturists before I found an acupuncture method that helped me along with physical therapy.
I didn’t get surgery, and was able to continue working and training till this day. I had a landscaping business during the day in NY, and had a Martial Arts school with a partner at night. I was killing myself with labor in the heat during the summer days, and training so hard at night. I was looking into changing careers with no college background, and no real skills other than labor jobs. I was always intrigued with how those needles helped me, and I decided to look into school. Here we are a few decades later.
We notice that in addition to acupuncture, you also teach classes for martial arts certification and self-defense! How did you get into the martial arts?
Growing up in NY I was introduced to martial arts by my father who brought me to train at a school with him when I was around 5 years old. He didn’t stick with it long, because we had 9 kids in my family and my father was always working. I stopped also, but had gotten back into it during high school in between other team sports I played. Then later in life, after a few years out of High School, I started training seriously around 1991. I grew up with a rough crowd, and was an athlete so we were always seeing or having fights on the field or court or on the street in the bar scene, and the arts were always a way to train and better protect myself.
I also worked in some rough neighborhoods in the 90’s in Brooklyn and Queens. I was mugged and cut with a knife once, and that’s when I took my training a lot more seriously. Later, when training in a school (4 nights a week for decades), I matured and found it was better to fight in a school where it was a safe environment being competitive with your classmates to develop the skills and confidence to walk away from most street situations.
We were doing MMA way before it was popular, and between that and being influenced by Bruce Lee as a kid and studying his art Jeet Kune do and the weapon-based arts I studied, I just got hooked on studying many arts, and being proficient in all ranges of fighting. My training was something that started as a way to develop skills to save me in a street altercation, and ended up becoming this lifelong journey where I have learned from people all over the world, and have trained and become friends with many of my idols. It’s been an incredible journey. At this point in life, I don’t think I could separate martial arts from me as a person. The arts influence everything I do throughout my day and my life.
Do you find there to be any connection between the discipline of martial arts and the practice of acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine?
The concept of yin and yang is big in both, and both are built on deep theory. Each art in the martial arts has its own theories and principles to combat as does each method of acupuncture on how to treat etc. Technique are secondary in both, most important is theory. You can have greatest technique in the world, but if you apply it incorrectly it won’t work; the theory gives you the how and why to do things in both the combat arts and the medicine. The discipline needed to become good is common in both. Actually, they have a lot in common.
In what ways has martial arts shaped you as a healthcare provider?
I have had so many injuries from mixed martial arts and combat arts that I know what many my patients are dealing with in relation to pain. I haven’t just read it in a book or taken a course, I have many injuries I have been treated for in both Western and Eastern care settings going through good and bad treatments myself so I think that helps me in treating others.
In relation to treating stress and depression, the martial arts helped me through extremely stressful times. I had lost many friends at a young age to early deaths, whether murdered, car accidents, drugs, etc. The combat arts and healing arts have always been a part of my personal solution to life obstacles we face. Again, I have experience in many things I see in clinic so my personal experience helps a lot.
What are your specialties in acupuncture?
Sports Medicine, anxiety, depression, injuries
How does the treatment of sports injuries with TCM & acupuncture differ from traditional treatment?
My way of treating is using both east and west as they are very similar, and then they branch off in different directions. They are similar in looking at a patients’ anatomy for imbalances, orthopedic testing, and muscle origin and insertion. They differ when treating root causes, imbalances in the body, and constitution where Traditional Chinese medicine goes on its own path. I combine the methods.
What is one thing about acupuncture & oriental medicine, that to this day, still amazes you?
How well it works. I have gotten such great results in certain cases where the patient had tried everything else, and just a few needles and some basic things have made huge impact. In relation to the whole of Oriental Medicine it is amazing how vast and complete the system is. With massage, acupuncture, herbs, diet, meditation, qi gong etc., it is amazing how much knowledge has been accumulated in the system.
On your journey to become an acupuncturist, what obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
School was extremely hard, I was never a great student in High School or college yet you needed a 3.0 just to stay in school in acupuncture studies. I do not like to learn in a way where material is just shoved at you in volume, and you can’t really absorb it; you just need to be good at passing test. I like to learn a craft and be good at it, so learning how to study fast and passing tests was a skill in its own right.
Then on top of that, I was working full-time during acupuncture studies and had rent and bills so of course that made things very hard. In NY where I went to school you can take acupuncture and herbs together for a degree in Oriental Medicine or you can get more deep studies in each and take them as separate degrees. I started with both and it was just too much while working full-time, remembering herbs and names was such a pain. I dropped the herbal studies in my second year, and studied acupuncture, which included way more exposure to different acupuncture methods, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French etc., so it was a lot of great stuff.
I graduated with my Masters in that, then went back and got a second Masters in Herbal studies. I was able to put more time in each to get a better understanding by studying them separately. As I mentioned, I was not good at massive amounts of material and memorization for passing tests, so had to find my own path in school that worked best for me. In life it is strange, there are some people who will never believe in what you do, won’t try it, and will not listen to logic. This holds true for many things in life.
I used to take it personally when people would downplay our profession, and now after many years’ experience, I know what I do. I know how important we are to the medical community, worked with many doctors, and have gained respect along the way. So, I don’t have to prove that our medicine is valid, the proof is in the pudding. Doctors have formed the Medical Acupuncture Society, and use it to treat patients. Physical therapists are dipping into our profession in one way or another. Whether it be using therapists, taking gua sha and renaming it ASTYM, or taking acupuncture protocols for pain and calling it “Dry Needling”. Everyone is jumping on what we offer, and finding ways to pretend it’s “different”. I don’t take this stuff personally anymore, and am glad I have gotten over that obstacle.
Looking back, what advice would you have given to the younger version of yourself, who was just getting started in this profession?
Business is business, it doesn’t matter how good you are at something, if you need to keep doors open you need to understand business. You go to school seeing all these students getting big ego’s, and thinking they are good when they treat in busy student clinics. They think they will be this successful out of school yet they do not realize that the schools dump tons of money in marketing, and build a brand in addition to a good budget for staff.
For most students, that is what they need, they need to be humble and understand they are opening a business. I already knew this because I had a business in the past. I was never looking to get rich from doing acupuncture. For me, personally, I would advise my younger self to go do an internship with a mentor, rather than rush to open a practice. I opened too fast on my own and had to learn by making many mistakes. Looking back, if I had had a mentor, things would have been a lot less stressful.
Running a practice is not a simple or easy task – what do you feel was the biggest challenge in getting your practice up and running?
Having business capital, finding my comfortable price point, and educating people on the medicine in general. Many people didn’t believe in it or have any idea how it worked where I grew up. All of those things were very challenging. It’s also hard to know your worth when you graduate. Yes, school is long and hard, but your experience is little. I see students coming out of school charging ridiculous prices, and others undervaluing themselves years into practice; finding a price point is always hard. You have to decide if you want to help a few or many people. Do you prefer a high price point for treating only select people, or do you want everyone to have access to you with a lower price point?
What keeps an acupuncture practice going?
I try not to do it “all day everyday”. I don’t want to lose my desire or passion for it, so I teach Martial Arts as well. I see people just chasing the money working so hard, and actually end up hating the profession in a few years. I love the medicine and treating patients, and do not want to get burned out so I balance my time between this and martial arts. I think to keep a practice going, you need to have the passion. We all get burned a bit and sometimes may need a break, but I try really hard to avoid complete burnout. I try not to see a major volume of patients, and for me it is quality over quantity right now.
What makes you feel inspired about acupuncture?
How much there is to learn. It’s like Martial Arts, I still learn deeper things about something I learned 30 years ago in fighting, and there is always another layer and you always keep learning. The medicine is the same, you can think you know it then you learn a simple twist on something old, and it makes world of difference.
The Asian arts in general whether medicine or fighting is not linear like western thinking. You do not really learn A-Z then you are done, it’s more like learn A-Z then go back to A, and it changes a bit the second time around and then changes even more the third time around; it’s like learning in layers rather than linear. Asian arts are still very secretive, and most times the saying “those who know, don’t say” and “those who say, don’t know” rings very true.
Many people are super book smart, and think they know the medicine, but it has many layers that are all relative, and depends on how deep one wants to study as well as how much real-world experience one gets. In the Martial Arts, when you have a resisting opponent in front of you, the book smart stuff goes out the window. The same applies to the medicine, when a patient presents with multiple illness and multiple patterns, a lot of the book stuff goes out the window. What matters is how well you know your theory and principles, and how much real-world experience you have. I am always inspired to be better.
What has been the most rewarding moment so far in your career as an acupuncturist?
There are so many it is hard to say; the best feeling is when you help someone at the end of their rope and had given up, when you prevent surgeries people have been told they need, and helped someone beat an addiction. Additionally, the fun in treating some celebrity or athlete you grew up admiring, and then they are coming to you to help their problems, it is all exciting and rewarding.
We have all occasionally had a patient come into our practice who is upset, frustrated, and a little angry. Maybe it’s from work, being stuck in traffic, or life in general – we have all been there! What advice would you give to fellow acupuncture students and/or colleagues on how to deal with situations like these?
Really you are there to help them so you have to be mature enough to do so. You have to have life experiences that taught you humility. If you’re some kid straight out of school or someone who led a privileged life or someone wrapped up in their own problems at work, it will be much harder to understand the patient’s needs. You won’t have the skills required to help people when they come in stressed out, and hard to handle.
What are your favorite acupuncture points, and why?
I’m still learning so much so it is hard for me to say, it varies on what illness I am treating. I have not had a “favorite” overall.
Sometimes, the best resource for improving our skills is by learning from the other acupuncturists we meet along our professional journey. What is one thing you learned from a fellow acupuncturist or other holistic practitioner, that has helped you in your professional growth, or in your care for patients?
I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in this profession. I have seen huge ego’s, bad business, greed, and then on top of it all, I have seen great compassion, great healing, and solid business practices. I learned something from all acupuncturists I have worked for whether good or bad.
The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt had a significant impact on the acupuncture practice community and small businesses alike. As the economy progresses to reopening acupuncture offices and other businesses, how have you been handling the COVID-19 situation as an acupuncture practice owner and individual? What advice or wisdom would you like to share with other acupuncturists who are also navigating through these sensitive times?
If you do the right thing and treat patients right they will always be coming back throughout their life. If you chase money nobody will be there when you are going through a rough time. You can learn so much from your patients throughout the years. Many have gone through ups and downs with business and life that you can accumulate great wisdom from. If your cup is full, and you always want to be the one talking or be the big doctor, you may miss these gems of knowledge that can help you in bad times like these. I always listen, learn, and do right by the patients, and things always seem to work out.
Do you have any daily habits or rituals that keep you at your “best-self”, both as an acupuncture practitioner and person?
I’m a very balanced person. I train in my martial arts (www.Regansmartialarts.com), eat pretty healthy, and also enjoy a beer now and then. I try to stay true to my roots, and do not get fanatical or extreme in things like diet or mental training or thinking. I work hard at the things I study, and do for a living and I am at my best self just being me. I am comfortable in my skin, and have been through enough in life to appreciate every day and realize there will be good and bad days, if I am breathing at the end of the day, it is a good day 🙂 I see many acupuncturists who put up some image as some mystical healer or someone perfect. They can never live up to it or are just fooling themselves always in some internal struggle between reality, and this false character they portray for business. I stay at my “best self” by being me. I am far from perfect, and am a professional student. I let my patients know I do not have all the answers for everything, and we work together to heal their problems.
The kindest thing a patient said to you recently:
I have been through some personal things lately, losing loved ones etc., and a few patients have said some extremely kind stuff about me as a man and a human. That was very personal and I won’t share here, but it was very kind.
The funniest thing a patient said to you recently:
I can’t say here, but I hear some pretty crazy and funny personal stories daily from patients.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
To be able to download info from all the great teachers I have had. I have trained in the arts and in the medicine with so many people with incredible knowledge, and it would be awesome to have all of their skills!!
To learn more about Dan, check out both his martial arts and acupuncture websites here:
Martial Arts site: www.Regansmartialarts.com
Acupuncture site: www.Acu4pain.com
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