Friday, 6 February 2015

Learning Thai Massage from Ajarn Pichest Boonthume


As a Thai Massage instructor, I like to keep my skills fresh by going to Thailand every year or two to learn from other teachers. In the past seven years I have studied with almost every big school and then some lesser known but perhaps more gifted teachers.

Among all of them, one stood out the most. His name is Pichest Boonthume. It 's hard to understand Pichest from a Western mind frame. If one goes with occidental ideas, one is unlikely ever to learn anything. One of the reasons for that is that Pichest teaches in an ancient world style.

That means there are no fancy printed workbooks, no certification (he couldn’t care less), no accreditation and no set course content. You don’t have to do anything in class. If you just want to sit down and watch or even sleep through class, it is ok!

What might be even more irritating to a first timer at Pichest's is that half the day is spent in chanting what seems like meaningless Buddhist prayers and listening to his complaints about the loss of morality in this age especially in Thailand with rising consumerism and laissez-faire relationships. All this delivered in appalling English.

Then to make matters even worse Pichest may pull out a pack of Krungthip cigarettes and light them in class and take a deep and satisfying drag.

One may wonder then what is the big deal about Ajahn Pichest. Why is it despite all these factors every serious practitioner of Thai massage has passed through his hands.

Why is that despite having all these limitations there might be more than 40 eager students in his small temple/classroom in the season?

The answer is simple. Pichest helps you unlearn everything you know, or think you know about Thai Massage. Which means out of the window goes all the unnecessary movements flourishes, sequences, techniques, passive yoga stretches and other typical fluff and bluff one may have learned at some of the more well known Thai massage schools in Chiang Mai.

A week with Pichest can be hard for some Thai Massage students. Particularly those who have just done a course where they paid 30000 baht and spent four weeks in a Thai massage school. Then you meet this man who turns your world around by proving to you that what you have been doing and what you paid for is quite meaningless and perhaps even dangerous.

However, those who have practiced Thai Massage for some years in the style that is taught in the more famous Massage schools will appreciate Pichest better. They understand instantly how they have been torturing themselves and their clients with unnecessary movements, sequences and techniques. They feel the pain in their thumbs and the ache in their knees. They know they are doing something wrong, but they can’t get a fix on it. Then they meet Pichest and see the simple effectiveness of his work, the ease and grace that flows with it and they are hooked.

Pichest’s massage style will free a Thai Massage practitioner from techniques and bring them back into feeling. With Master Pichest, feeling is supreme, and he will teach you to look for connections and to see the body as a whole. He will teach you how to use the gravity and weight as your friend and give your thumbs and hands a break.

He will teach that physical therapy needs feeling and not techniques. It needs observation and not sequences or more cool looking stretches.

If you plan to go and study with Ajarn Pichest, then give it time and patience. Leave preconceived western ideas of what is a good teacher at home and sit with humility. Observe carefully and try not to think too much. Instead, try to feel and, if possible, get him to work on you. You won’t regret it, and your understanding of Thai massage will change forever. It might even prolong your massage career. Most of all when you ask a question don’t say the word “I think”!


How to reach Ajarn Pichest from Chiang Mai


By bike:


As you drive down on 108 highway with the airport runway on your right, you may need to drive about 15 minutes till you see a large TOA sign. Keep on for another short distance and the lookout for New Life Baptist Church on the left or Ban Waen on the right (see picture).
Landmark and directions to Pichest's house
Ban Waen

Immediately after Ban Waen, there is a small turn on the left (see picture).
Turning to Pichest's House

Take that left and go down about 100 meters past some houses and then some paddy fields on the left.
Paddy fields on the way to Pichest's House
Paddy fields on the way to Pichest's House


Past the paddy field, the road will bend and on the bend you will see Pichest’s House.
Pichest's House
Pichest"s House

By Taxi


Take a yellow Sangtheuw from the South Gate in Chiang Mai. During the day, they are parked next to the gate on the outer road along the moat. Sit on the right side so you can watch out for Ban Waen. When you see it, press the buzzer and get off.
The driver will take about 20 baht. Now locate the turn to the left and walk down till you see Pichest’s house.

Fee: 

Normally about 800 baht a day. You don’t need to call ahead as some people may tell you. Pichest has a very informal class style, and there are no limits to how many people can come to the class. So don’t waste his and your time, calling and irritating him with formality and directions.

Protocols: 

You can drop in informally to see a class, and no payment is required. However if you do intend to take a week's class, then you should come with the money in an envelope, some flowers, fruit and some incense. You can buy this as a standard offering bundle from market opposite the south gate before you take your taxi. This needs to be offered to the deities on the right of the shrine in their respective offering bowls.

Best Time to visit: 

Peak summer which is the least touristy season in Thailand is the best time. There are not more than six people in a class, and you have a better chance of some work getting done on you by the Master himself. Watch out!  His work can be intense also the mosquitoes in the heat of summer can be challenging while doing Thai Massage but who said learning from a master was easy.

Class Structure:


9:00 AM Some informal chat as Pichest has a smoke
9:30 AM Chanting and Wai Kru
10:30 AM Pichest Talks Dharma
11:30 AM Pichest may demonstrate
1:00 PM Lunch (Provide by Pichest)
2:00 PM Practice with other students
4:00 PM class concludes with washing and chanting

Address: See Map


Phone: Don’t bother
Class days: Monday to Friday
Email: Doesn’t have one and even if he did he wouldn’t bother responding

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Preparing for your Thai Massage Course

Planning to learn Thai Massage? It helps to be prepared especially with functional anatomy.  Understanding functional anatomy of the human body will get you to appreciate how the body moves and what massage does for it. In a way learning functional anatomy lets you look under the skin to understand your work. To help you do this and so you maximize the learning in your course here is our list:
Resources for preparing for your Thai Massage course
  1. See Gunther Von Hagen’s enlightening series on movement, circulation, digestion.You can also see them on our site.
  2. Understand the anatomy of the spine. Here is great video on how the spine works and what happens with a spinal disc herniation
  3. Get a copy of Claire Davies “Self-Treatment Guide to Trigger point Therapy” and start working on your small aches and pains.
  4. Locate all of these muscles on a 3D software like Zygote or the Biodigital Human. Understand their insertion and origin.
  • Anterior tibialis
  • Peroneus group

  • Iliotibial band

  • Quadriceps 

  • Hamstrings
  • 
Adductors

  • Gluteus group: Maximus, Medius, Minimus

  • Tensor fascia Latae
  • Erector Spinae 

  • Psoas group

  • Shoulder Rotator cuff

  • Pectoral 

  • Levator scapula

  • Scalenes 

  • Sternocleidomastoid

Now you can make the most out of your Thai Massage course.

Getting your Thai Massage business on Google


Getting a successful Thai Massage practice in 21st century requires more than a pair of good hands. One of the key success factor in building a good Thai Massage practice is to navigate the online world of search engine optimization. You may have made a great website but if no one visits it might as well not be there and the money and effort you put in to it is a waste.

As Thai Massage Therapist you may have spent many years developing your skill as a practitioner but you may find that more commercial spas with less enthusiastic practitioners with less training seem to do better than you. This is the tragedy of internet age. However you don’t have to take this lying down there is easy way to get yourself on Google up there with everybody else. If you see the screenshot below you can see under the Google ads are several Thai Massage spas listed with their locations showing on a Google Map on the right side. You will observe that all of them have a Google Plus page and then some reviews.


Screenshot of Thai Massage Spas listed on Google


So here is the process for listing yourself on Google. It is easy and free.

  1. Get yourself a Google Account at www.google.com.
    Sign in to your Google Account
  2. Sign into your Google Account
  3. Go to https://www.google.com/business/
    Google Business for listing your Thai Massage Spa
  4. Click on “GET MY PAGE”
  5. Select your type of business. It is important that you specify this correctly. Generally massage therapists need to be either a store front or a service area. If you are therapist who does home calls or would like to keep your address private then “service area” is a better option. In some parts of Asia as a female Thai Therapist it might also be better to keep your location private as a service area to prevent unseemly customers walking in.
  6. You will now see a map with a search box on the top left. Enter the name of your business. Some options with business name and address might pop up on a drop down under the box. If none of them match your business then click on add your business now.
  7. You will now be asked to enter the name and address of your business. Google. You will be asked for a category. Thankfully Thai Massage Therapist happens to be business category in Google.

    Enter the address for your Thai Massage service in Google Plus
  8. Check the box “ I deliver goods and service to my customers at their location” if you wish to keep your address private..
  9. If you have chosen the option in Step 8 the Google will ask you to describe your service area. You may want to keep your service area broad but realistic.
    Define service area for your Thai Massage Spa in Google
  10. Google will ask you confirm the information. Click continue.
  11. Google will ask you to verify your address by sending a code by post to the address you have given. Click on mail me my code and wait for two week.
    Google Verification code for your massage business
  12. Within two weeks you should receive a postcard with a four digit number.
  13. Login to your Google plus page and it will prompt you to enter the verification pin that was sent by post to you. Enter your pin in the box given.
  14. Now your business will be listed as a Thai Massage Therapist in your local area. Any one searching on Google for that kind of business will find you as a red marker on Google maps or search.
  15. To get your listing in prime position you need to get your customers to give you some reviews. This should now become a practice once you conclude each Thai Massage session.   Get your client to do it for you on your computer in the front desk by asking them to login to their Gmail account and going to your Google plus page. You can also do this on a smart phone using Google maps
  16. Once you get more than 5 reviews you should start showing pretty well on local searches and clients should start rolling in.

Getting reviews however is a bit of a tricky thing because the Google systems makes it a bit complicated. I have created a one page step by step guide that can help guide your customers through the process.  There is one for doing it with a mobile and one for doing it with a computer. If you would like one customized for your massage business then write in to me.