By Hillary Arrieta, LMT
Since 2016, there has been an eyebrow-raising movement in Europe; the International Massage Association held its first national championship, and we all watched with many questions about what has led to the creation of competitive, performative massaging for others to judge. A worldwide "look at me lawn" for circus tricks and performance art...or massage therapy? I'm writing this because I've been conflicted about this event and need it explained.
I went into a career in massage therapy for several reasons. Those who know my story know that I have anxiety and found the massage and spa environment the perfect place for me early in my adult life. The wellness space is a sanctuary for those working hard to find a sense of well-being.
Over the past 20 years, I've dedicated myself to this vocation. The massage therapy industry allowed me to have my own business, write a book, and lead others in this beautiful work I hope is plain to see that I'm passionate about.
According to Texas laws, the state where I'm licensed, "Massage therapy" means the manipulation of soft tissue by hand or through a mechanical or electrical apparatus for the purpose of body massage and includes effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (percussion), compression, vibration, friction, nerve strokes, and Swedish gymnastics. The terms "massage," "therapeutic massage," "massage technology," "myotherapy," "body massage," "body rub," or any derivation of those terms are synonyms for "massage therapy."
Side note: If I had my way, I'd expand this to include using the feet since Texas is leading the way in Westernized Ashiatsu-style barefoot massage. Go Center for Barefoot Massage! Woot! ;)
It goes on to say that massage is a healthcare service if it's done for therapeutic purposes.
WOOF! This document needs work.
Because we can't universally agree that massage therapy is therapeutic by design is precisely why we are now seeing the American version of this competition popping up. I'm just a dinosaur here, but what happened to our priorities? We need help to provide massage students with quality education. We need help educating the public about professional massage therapy's therapeutic benefits. We need states like California to acknowledge the need for professional exams and instill values of integrity into the massage industry.
Watching a man do a headstand on his client in a public arena with onlookers clapping makes me cringe. I did some digging to find out who benefits from this competition, hoping I could get behind it for helping a worthy cause like the massage therapy foundation, but am I missing something? I found an entrance fee of over $200 and things that serve the ego more than the betterment of our craft.
I'm asking those who have drunk the Kool-Aid here to explain this event because I'm lost.
Dallas Massage Blog is a written journal about Massage Therapy, Wellness, and Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage in the Dallas, Texas area.