I have not rushed in to writing my first blog about the World Massage Championships (WMC) that took place last month in Copenhagen. Like many of my colleagues I have been asking myself about the impact that these competitions could have on our industry, positive, negative, harmful or uplifting, in order for me to back them we must come out the better for it.
I am not convinced they are 100% good for the profession but, I am more pro-event now than I was before, if anything the competitions have given me an appreciation for all the different forms of manual therapy, 'massage', that unknowingly I was ignorant of before.
I was one of the judges in the Western Freestyle Section of the WMC and along with two other judges we had the tough job of rating 74 participants over two days, it was hard, but both Jill and Angelica were amazing, we were all working from the same hymn sheet and although we were not in 100% agreement (as it should be) there was a distinct commonality between all three of our approaches and what we deemed 'a good performance'.
I have been asked 'how can you evaluate the performance of each of the therapists?' My response, the same way I have been evaluating my students for the past 15 years when taking their exams, the same way I can tell the difference between a really good dancer versus a moderately good one. (I spent the first 20+ years of my life training as a dancer, understanding movement is second nature to me). It is like anything that you invest your time in, with practice and experience you become more attuned to the skill. As a teacher, examiner, practitioner, having fulfilled these roles for most of my life I can see what a therapist is feeling and how they're responding to it, there are subtle indicators that tell you if they're making a connection with what they are feeling, are they present or are they mindlessly performing. This is the art of being a teacher, a judge, the same thing happens in the Olympics, when the judges rate the gymnasts on their apparatuses, they recognize the higher level of skill just from observation.
I can only speak for the group I was involved with, I had two experts with me, as a collective group we made fair calls based on the criteria that was set out before us. We conferred with one another at the end of each session, we were often in agreement without having spoken to one another during the process. This is important, it removes any prejudices from the equation and it demonstrates that quality does shine through to a practiced eye.
So what was it that caused us to pay particular attention to certain therapists? Was it the innovation or was it the process by which they achieved it? I will write more about this in future, but for now I want to highlight that as long as the judging is made up of those who have experience, those who have a well practiced eye for recognizing what meets an eloquent delivery that has both skill and innovation, then I will trust the process.