Warning: If you do not have a sense of humor, STOP READING this Thai Massage article right now!! You have been warned! Read at your own risk.
Recently I checked out the website of a major US Thai Massage association (I won’t name them here) to find out what it takes to publish an article on their site.
I enjoy writing articles about Thai Massage and have written over a hundred of them in the last 15 years or so.
I publish them on three of my own healing arts websites. They also have been republished by hundreds of other websites.
After practicing and teaching Thai Massage in Thailand and other countries for 16 years and running a large online Thai Massage training school, I have lots of interesting topics to share.
Western massage associations and their rules
But back to the website of the Thai Massage association. Their rules state that the article cannot appear anywhere else and that they have the rights to the article.
I have to submit proof who I have studied Thai Massage with, plus I have to submit evidence that I had a certain amount of study and practice hours, and at least one of my massage teachers has to be approved by them as a qualified teacher by their standards.
Wow, I almost fell off my chair when I read that and decided to pursue different venues. Too much trouble in my opinion.
But it is their site and their rules, and they can make up whatever rules they like. I have no issue with that at all.
You see, I live in Thailand, and we don’t have so many rules here. Even if there would be all kinds of complicated rules, nobody would bother to follow them anyway.
The Thai way of looking at Thai Massage
The Thais call it sabai sabai or maipenrai, roughly meaning “take it easy”, “it’s cool man”, everything is a-okay, or ”no worries mate” if you live in Australia. I find that much easier to live with, but that’s just my personal perspective.
Western therapists apply different standards in Thailand
But here is the funny thing: If those same rule-obsessed Westerners come to Thailand, suddenly everything changes. They ask their favorite Thai massage therapist where she learned all this good stuff.
When she tells them that she learned it from her grandma, the westerner will nod appreciatively and admire grandma’s skills.
Unorthodox Thai Massage teachers even by Thai standards
My most influential Thai Massage teacher is quite a genius. He is intuitive, somewhat psychic, highly creative, and all around very good at what he does. But he is also quite odd, at least from the western perspective.
Class is supposed to start at 9 am, but might actually start at 9.30 or 10 am or whenever he feels like. Then the teacher will chant mantras for another half hour and then proceed to dispense his wisdom via extended talks.
When all is said and done, he will take a cigarette break right in the classroom, and then demonstrate the massage therapy techniques. He will keep smoking and even take naps right in the classroom whenever he feels like it.
But whatever you think, he is one of the best Thai Massage teachers and many students come back year after year to study with him. Well, there are a few who freak out and can’t handle it. Their loss.
As a matter of fact, I have had three such unorthodox Thai Massage teachers. That was before Thai Massage schools became a big business in Thailand and adapted to more western standards to accommodate their clientele.
Western rules cannot be applied in the rest of the world
This ain’t the US of A here, it’s a different world. If you try to apply your standards of how you think things should be, you will be in trouble. Things here are the way they are here and not how they are elsewhere.
What was that saying again? “When in Thailand do as the Thais“. But I think the Romans have a trademark on that saying.
So those rule obsessed Westerners have no problem with their grandma-taught therapist and their chain smoking and story telling master teacher in Thailand (and don’t get me wrong, he really is a master teacher).
The reverse scenario
But now let’s turn the tables. Let’s say I show up in the West and tell people that I can do a great Thai Massage because my grandma taught me well.
What will happen next is that they will call the police on me and throw me in the prison cell block which is reserved for those who dare touch anyone without the proper documentation, licencing, training, CEUs, ethics courses, disclaimers, insurance, and various paid up professional association fees on the state and national level (did I forget anything?)
Even if I do manage to set up a Thai Massage class in the West (which of course I am well qualified to teach), and I show up an hour late, tell lots of wise stories (at the expense of teaching time), puff cigarettes in the classroom and nap once in a while, I would get thrown out of the facility, all students would demand their money back, and they would sue me for tactile malpractice (a serious offense).
So as you can see, there is a quite a double standard in the Thai Massage world. But variety is the spice of life, and I stay safely on my side of the fence here in Thailand. Maybe you should visit too. It’s actually quite fun!
P.S. If you want to see what I do here in Thailand, what my style of Thai Massage looks like, and if you want to get updates on all kinds of cool Thai Massage information, plus six free introductory Thai Massage videos, CLICK HERE
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 16 years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org