Who actually “owns” 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 11 of them.
Do the professional massage therapists own it through their licenses?
Or is it the regulatory agencies who pass laws that affect those therapists?
What about the red light districts all over the world who advertise massage in most major cities on the planet – they could not possibly own it?
How about all the billions of mothers who stroke and massage their babies and children lovingly? Do they own it?
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 owners. 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 patents registration agencies have a claim on massage as well. They have their say what name you can use for your massage therapy or massage book and which ones are illegal to use.
Hmm, who really does own massage now? I thought that 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, 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. Often while the lines are where they are, people get really uptight about them.
Sometimes massage therapy can be a little confusing as well
- Who invented a particular modality?
- Who is the real and legitimate founder?
- Who is a copycat?
- Who is a professional therapist and who is not?
- Who is following the tradition properly and who breaks the rules?
- Who can make rules anyway?
- 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 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 the 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, opening our eyes to the many ways that massage is practiced all over the world.
We can 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.
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage therapy for 18 years and he is the creator of 20 Thai Massage online video training courses.