Who actually ‘owns the rights’ to massage?
What a strange question! But, let’s try to come up with an answer. As you will see, there are all kinds of entities who could stake their claims to massage. Here is a list of 14 of them.
- Can professional massage therapists claim it through their licenses?
- Or is it the regulatory agencies that pass laws that affect those therapists?
- What about the red-light districts all over the world that advertise massage in most major cities on the planet – can they stake a claim to it?
- How about all the billions of mothers who stroke and massage their babies and children lovingly? Can they claim it as theirs?
- Or maybe the countless native healers, shamans, and medicine people who have used massage in some form or another for thousands of years?
- Maybe all the village therapists here in Thailand who learned the craft from their mother, aunt, or grandma, and who have never seen a massage school from the inside.
- Or could it be that all the couples of the world who stroke and massage their partners lovingly as part of their relationship can stake a claim here?
- Then again, maybe all the official massage schools are the stakeholders. They set the curriculum and design the teaching and the mechanics of the craft.
- Or could it be the scientists who validate all the claims of massage benefits as either scientifically correct or condemn them as quackery?
- Maybe the professional associations have a claim here. They can decide who is a bonafide therapist (like in the case of national certification in the US), who can give out continuing education credits, and fix someone’s official massage status depending on their membership level.
- Possibly the copyrights and patent registration agencies have a claim on massage as well. They have their say on what name you can use for your massage therapy or massage book and which ones are illegal to use.
- In some countries, like in the UK, it’s the insurance agencies who decide if your training and your qualifications measure up to their standards before they insure you so that you can practice. Clearly, they are asserting their ‘right’ to decide what massage is.
- As of the year 2020, mayors, governors, and other government agencies get to decide if you can practice massage, and where and how, and if massage is something essential or not. So they claim some rights or ‘ownership’ stake, it seems.
- UNESCO recognized Thai Massage as a unique cultural heritage of Thailand. Does this make Thailand the owner of it?
Hmm, who really does ‘own’ massage now? You might have thought that this should be a simple issue, but massage therapy seems to be part of life in lots of ways all over the world.
‘Ownership’ can be a strange thing
Every now and then people get together and draw a line in the sand somewhere on the planet. Then they build fences and walls, station men with guns there, call it a ‘border’, and don’t let anyone come in unless they follow their rules and can show the right papers.
Then sometimes they all start disagreeing about those borders, and then lines get redrawn somehow and everybody needs new papers to cross the new lines in the sand.
Nomadic people always had a hard time with this concept. While the lines are where they are, people often get really uptight about them.
Sometimes massage therapy can be a confusing as well
- Who decides if a particular modality is done correctly?
- Who is the real and legitimate founder (that’s a subject of discussion with Thai Massage)?
- Who is a copycat or an impostor?
- Who is a professional therapist and who is not – is it just a matter of a piece of paper?
- Who is following the tradition properly and who breaks the rules?
- Who has the right to make rules?
- Who is the latest massage guru?
- Which modality is best (how many modalities are there anyway?)
- Under whose jurisdiction does a particular kind of therapy fall?
- Are unlicensed therapists in other countries professionals or not?
So who ‘owns the rights’ to massage?
Well, it seems like there are more questions than answers. Sometimes life is like that. You try to pin something down to a simple answer, and you end up with more questions than you had bargained for, and a one-and-only answer is more elusive than ever.
On the bright side, this might be instrumental for keeping our minds open, honing our acceptance and tolerance skills, and opening our eyes to the many ways how massage is practiced all over the world.
It might be beneficial to learn about and acknowledge cultural differences, and appreciate the role that massage plays in so many areas of life. Maybe that’s where our answer lies instead of coming up with a new ‘ownership’ rule.
Interestingly, Thai Massage therapy brings up many of these issues since it comes from Asia and is practiced in ways that often do not conform to our western mode of thinking. This makes it a fascinating case study for the questions mentioned in this article.
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage therapy for 2 decades and he is the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.