Bigger Isn’t Always BetterBy Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB
Over Labor Day weekend, I was delighted to have an opportunity to visit with some old friends and acquaintances at the AOBTA National Convention in Boston. The American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) is a nonprofit, professional membership organization representing instructors, practitioners, schools, programs and students of Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT).
ABT may be described as any form of therapeutic bodywork with its theoretical roots in Chinese medicine theory. Acupressure, amma, chi nei tsang, jin shin do, medical qigong, nuad bo rarn (Thai), shiatsu and tuina are a short selection of ABT modalities.
I am not an ABT practitioner myself, but I've long had an appreciation - if not a full understanding - of the efficacy of these therapies. The benefits of ABT, according to the AOBTA Web site (http://www.aobta.org
), include relief of aches and pains, decreased stress levels, and increased relaxation and better sleep. It goes on to say that most clients report a marked decrease in symptoms, improved emotional balance and better overall health with regular treatment. Since these benefits sound a lot like ones that my clients enjoy from the work I do, I frequently have included ABT in the umbrella realm of "massage and bodywork."
I am very aware, however, that many ABT practitioners rankle at falling under any sort of a "massage" umbrella. As a matter of fact, many of you long-time regular readers will have read one of the very first columnists I recruited for the first issue of Massage Today, Barbara Esher, who wrote in the her initial column, "If you put massage and ABT curricula side by side, the only places they would overlap are anatomy, physiology, ethics and CPR, leaving the remaining 400 hours to deal with entirely different techniques, treatment principles and practice. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) administers our national board exam. For all intents and purposes, Asian Bodywork Therapies (ABT) are not massage; they fall under the umbrella of Asian medicine."
My intent in this article is not to compare and contrast the similarities or differences of various forms of manual therapy, but to state that the AOBTA runs a magnificent convention! I am much more used to the mega conventions in massage therapy, such as the annual AMTA national convention and the annual convention of the Florida State Massage Therapy Association, both of which regularly draw more than 1,000 attendees. By contrast, the AOBTA annual convention drew only a fraction of those numbers, but did draw almost 10 percent of its entire membership to its annual convention! To do that, the AMTA would have to draw almost 6,000 people to its convention.
While small in attendees, the AOBTA convention was large in opportunity. I was most impressed by the consistent high quality of offerings available to attendees. Foremost of these was the choice of international lecturer and AIDS researcher, Candice Pert as keynote speaker. If that wasn't enough, the attendees enjoyed multiple continuing education opportunities from a lineup of renowned educators. The association began their convention with a "Re-Visioning Day" designed to facilitate an exchange of ideas from all AOBTA members to create a new vision and improve business focus and marketing strategies. I spoke to many attendees, including several of the 12 founding members of AOBTA who were present at the convention, and one was pleased to share with me that it was the first time they could remember that everything was being done right - no "tweaks" needed! From my observer's viewpoint, they were exactly correct.
I ended my AOBTA visit with a delightful exchange of ideas with incoming president and former AOBTA membership chair, Maria Spuller. She asked me to share some of her thoughts with Massage Today readers, and I am delighted to do so. She indicated that many massage therapists have had some training in ABT principles and practices, even if limited to a few hours of education in introduction to shiatsu. She knows that many have found incorporating shiatsu principles into their massage practices to be beneficial. She asked me to encourage all the many massage therapists with a passion for getting more benefit from ABT methods to: (1) start receiving ABT regularly themselves; (2) get more approved education in ABT; and (3) make the best use of this new experience and knowledge by taking advantage of the many membership and supporting categories of AOBTA membership.
She concluded by giving me a big smile and saying, "Come play with us!" If you have even the slightest interest in shiatsu or other Asian Bodywork Therapies, I think that's a great idea! I hope you take her up on her invitation.
Thanks for listening!