How Traditional Is Thai Massage?

Published: Mar 11, 2020 | Revised: Oct 16, 2023
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

How Traditional Is Thai Massage?

The face of Traditional Thai Massage is changing rapidly. What was once called Authentic Thai Massage takes new directions in the form of integrations, hybrids and blends with other traditional massages and bodywork, or with modern Western bodywork modalities.

It happens in Thailand and in the rest of the world. The main characteristic of globalization is that it’s all-pervasive: nobody, nothing, nowhere is immune.

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When times and things change, such as traditions, customs, morals and culture, there’s always a part of the population that resists those changes. There are several reasons to that, such as fear of the new, fear of not being able to adapt, or simply because “the old” was pretty fine as it was.

That what-is-new, the changes, often exaggerate the new directions taken. It’s necessarily a fierce attack on old ways. To give an idea of what I mean with this, think of recent phenomena like, for instance, Rock & Roll, the Hippie movement, the Sexual revolution, the New Age and Neo-Tantra movement, and such.

What we usually see is that the “traditionalists” will counter-attack, fighting to keep things as they are, or if already changed, trying to go back to what-was. It’s the eternal clash between conservative and progressive forces.

This phenomenon is also called Hegelian dialectics (named after the 19th century German philosopher Hegel) which says that the current state of affairs (thesis) and its inevitable challenge (the antithesis) is finally resolved at a higher, new level of truth (synthesis).

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Of course, we witness the same with Thai Massage. The old ways of practicing and teaching Thai Massage are attacked relentlessly by a significant number of therapists and teachers, and, on the other hand, there are many who want to keep things “pure,” traditional, and authentic.

It leads to exaggerations at both sides, sensitiveness and touchiness, sometimes to complete ridiculousness, at times funny, at times sad, but in the end it cannot be otherwise than that a “new” kind of “traditional” Thai Massage will come up as a result of this battle.

Currently, I can only state that we are in the midst of significant changes, things are very interesting to observe, and I’m very curious what will emerge out of this in the years to come.

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