“So what does this mean, practically?” you ask as visions of co-opting my friendship into long hours of forced massage labor dance through your head. Easy now, cowboy! Read on…
Here is what a 60-hour massage certificate REALLY means:
1. It means we have been taught and have practiced all 134 moves of the full ITM Thai Massage, and have been approved by a supervisor watching us perform half the moves for two hours under official conditions. (The full massage takes FOUR hours, so you are expected to pick and choose from the booklet in future massages you give!)
2. Though we “learned” these 134 moves, our 60-hour diploma means we need a TON more practice before we can confidently give Thai massage. A ton more practice means years and years. Not only are we still figuring out hand grips, body positions, communication with clients, and pacing, but it will take heaps of time before we memorize a routine and don’t need to keep the manual open.
3. Our diploma means that we now have vastly expanded our understanding of how the human body works, thanks to morning Tai Chi/ Qi Gong/ Yoga, thanks to our lessons and the manual with its anatomical diagrams, and thanks to manhandling each other and being manhandled in turn for six hours each day.
We also learned a holy prayer which we chanted each morning and afternoon, that is wonderful for centering the self and thanking our universe and our teachers.
In total, I feel much more connected with humanity than before our massage course, and I am now much more aware of how to physically, spiritually, and emotionally connect further. Good stuff!
4. As a somewhat argh-ish corollary to all the body work we’ve done, our 60 hours of training also means that our knees and backs are really sore right now. We still haven’t mastered the art of hoisting our partners’ bodies up using ergonomic alignment, and the deep-knee bends we’ve done all day for two weeks have taken their toll.
Because of Thais’ different life experiences dictated by culture (ex: frequent massages and stretching, squat toilets, etc.), the bodies of our Thai teachers are stronger and more flexible in different ways than ours, meaning that sometimes they guided us to postures that made us hurt.
5. Our ITM diploma means that I finally realized, thanks to position #131, “Thai Toilet” that for the past four months, I have been using hole-in-the-ground squat toilets incompetently wrong. This explains a whoooole lot. This new-found knowledge of the actual way to squat in Thailand bodes very well for my future Thai toilet happiness.
6. Our diploma means that we participated in about four hundred group photos as the entire school piled their cameras up front for the staff to click-click away on. See the photo of the photographers, left… So very “meta”!
7. Our diploma means that we now know, from walking around the ITM neighborhood, that a lot of dogs here wear coats. (Proof in the photo, above.)
8. Our time in at ITM means we learned the location of five really freaking delicious 20-Baht (75 cent) eateries, particularly the chicken, rice, cucumber, and ginger sauce stand, and the yogurt-fruit-shake guy. Yum!
9. Our 60 hours of study at ITM means we met FANTASTIC people from around the world, who will be in our hearts forever. It also means that we all shared a fascinating, enlightening, and wonderful two weeks together. Hooray for massage class, and hugs to all!
I could have continued for innumerable more weeks at ITM, and other Level 2 folks are going on to Level 4 or even Level 11, but it’s time for me to move on. Two weeks was the perfect amount of time for what I’m looking for.
Massage will never be my official career, because it’s just not. That honor goes to teaching, plus writing, plus other mystery careers that are yet to be determined.
That said, I will continue to practice Thai massage with my trusty ITM handbooks, because it’s fascinating. Since this type of massage is such an intense experience, I will have to choose my victims– er, volunteers– with care, and will need to warn them ahead of time to scream if I accidentally break their spines.
So onward we go to the next thing! Once again, the structure in my life has dissolved away, and I can now keep crazy hours again, follow my heart and nothing else, and hop to and fro from town to town with abandon. This makes me happy!
Tomorrow is the Thai King’s birthday, so all us ITM folks will meet to watch the fireworks and festivities and to have a generally lovely time. (The French former baker is furious that the Starbucks is our meeting point, but he will just have to deal.)
Sunday night, a new friend and I will head by 14-hour train to Bangkok, where I will apply for my Ghana visa. From there, the ocean awaits.
Hooray, ITM, for a wonderful experience! You’ve given me new skills, new friends, new understandings, and a warm home to nest in for the longest I’ve stayed anywhere in four months. Thank you!* So far, this article has been read by ... fans. Share it around! *