WTF?!? A massage championship?!?

A massage competition?!? What the...??

“But massage is not a competition!!!” you say.

And I agree.

In fact, when I started creating the first European Massage Championship with my associate in 2018, I had interviewed him and the title was: “Massage is not a competition”. When I interviewed Jeppe Tengbjerg, from the International Massage Association in 2019 and asked him: “Can you really judge a massage?” his answer was a resounding “Of course!”.

So HOW do we judge a massage and especially, WHY do we judge a massage? 

Let me tell you how, first.

How do we judge a massage

“Every massage has objective and subjective elements to it.”

When you go to massage school, your teachers show you what to do. They show you the right way and wrong way to massage. Of course, each massage therapist goes on to develop her own technique over time. But a lot of what the teacher showed her is still remembered. That does NOT mean there is only one right way to do a Lomi Lomi, or a Thai massage. Of course. 

But there are certainly a lot of things not to do. Some of us may forget, or not know. Some of us have perfect posture, some of us realize we are hurting our knees, or back, over time. Some of us, dare i say it, may cut corners, over time. And after all, our teachers are not omniscient. 

Every massage has objective and subjective elements to it. 

The objective ones are the ones that great teachers taught us. The subjective ones are comprised of 2 things: what the massage therapist has in her heart, and how the client has experienced the massage. In the championship, we mostly judge the objective parts, and that includes: 

  • Technique/dexterity
  • Ergonomics
  • Massage Flow
  • Innovation
  • Interaction with the receiver (before/during/after)
  • Work Environment, table preparation
  • Quality of products used
  • Proper use of tools

 

The subjective part: while it is virtually impossible to assess what a massage therapist has in her heart, we can certainly ask the client what he felt. How the experience was. Was there any pain (good pain? bad pain?). Did he feel safe, was he properly informed, etc. 

So all these elements are factored, and assessed by the judges – all experienced therapists, school teachers, association executives. 

So there you have it, that is how we judge a massage. 

Now, to the bigger question: why do a massage championship? 

Why judge a massage and do a championship?

“By creating a championship, we create an environment where quality is defined, encouraged, and rewarded”

It is simple: by creating a championship, we create an environment where quality is defined, encouraged, and rewarded. And by doing so not only do we help great massage therapists get exposure, we are shedding light on the very elements of what a great massage and great massage therapist is. There are few places where this is done in a consistent, organized and well-intentioned way. By creating a massage championship, we help people, the professionals as well as the public, focus on what is important. And at the European Massage Championship we brought that notion to the extreme with our medal for “empathy”. Again, we do not pretend to know what lies in the heart of all the massage therapists who are there. What we do, by giving out that medal, is restating how important empathy is – and to never forget that a massage is and will always be a subtle mix of technique and intention.  

“A massage is and will always be a subtle mix of technique and intention

In the end, the massage championships are not just a place where people compete; in fact, for some, the medals are secondary. If a massage therapist comes for the medals only, she is mistaken. These events are wonderful for learning. For meeting other therapists, networking, creating new partnerships, and for friendship. In 2019, those who won were not separated from the rest, they were celebrated! When I realized we had managed to create a space for massage therapists to strive and to contribute, in our way, to advancing their careers, I knew we had done a good job. Some have gone on to teach in various schools around the world. Some have increased their prices and make a better living. Some have joined forces and created new massage centers. And some have simply gone home, having learned, and lived a beautiful experience which they will cherish the rest of their lives. And me too. 

 

Julien Elis
New Massage Association – President
Proud organizer of the European Massage Championship