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Judging the National Massage Championships: safeguarding standards and embracing diversity

By Earle Abrahamson, MTI Chair

National Massage Championships 1

I was recently asked to judge the National Massage Championships at London Olympia, the inaugural event of this kind in the UK.

When approached to serve as a judge I was sceptical about expectations, standards and the purpose of such a championship.

After meeting my fellow judges, it was refreshing to learn that we all share the same views and that each one of us is passionate about promoting massage therapy and raising standards across different genres and disciplines in massage and bodywork.

For me personally, the championships provided an opportunity to develop an open mind to what massage is and has become to different practitioners. The championships provided the opportunity to showcase differences in philosophies, practices, and environments.

The judging criteria were somewhat difficult to work with, as opinions between judges differed. This encouraged judges to engage with discussions around purpose, value, impact and effect of massage practises. What, for example, constitutes the ideal massage session? Is ambiance important? How does the therapist use body dynamics to enhance the delivery? What role does functional anatomy play in the development and application of soft tissue therapies? How do standards of practice and training differ and compare? These questions weren’t necessarily answered, but they do encourage a different way of thinking about practice and practical applications of techniques.

National Massage Championships 2

The championships incorporated different categories that often encouraged the practitioner to integrate Eastern and Western techniques as well as moving from table to chair related massage work. The event attracted a large international audience who shared their work and experiences. It became apparent that some of the treatments bordered on the entertainment aspect of therapies often involving body balance and acrobatics, while others focussed more on traditional treatments using oils and body flow to influence the treatment outcomes.

As we move towards a professional framework for massage practice, so to do we need to be mindful of how massage is practised and what constitutes acceptable massage therapy. It is clear that standards of practice differ yet share a similarity in attempting to promote healthcare that supports wellness and the promotion of active living. These championships served signpost differences and commonalities in practice and approach.

As a professional organisation, MTI, works to develop practitioners that not only adhere to a robust code of conduct, but further encourages members to share their experiences and develop new ways of working. Perhaps we are all judges, in that we compare our skills with those of others and collectively learn to develop metrics to assess the standards we work towards.

Hopefully, we can learn together, work together and celebrate the diversity within our broad field of practise.

Photos courtesy of the National Massage Championships

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