Thai massage is an important rite of passage for any Muay Thai boxer. When training hard and fast, you need a hard and fast way to deal with the tight sore bits, and in my opinion the way is massage, if you can get through one that is.
I’m a huge fan of massage and it is one of the many reasons why I live in Thailand. They love it here and it’s socially acceptable. You don’t get raised eyebrows or seedy men calling asking for extras (some of my experiences in the UK).
As a practitioner, I know regular massage can deliver many benefits in addition to relaxation of body and mind. These are a couple I believe to be important;
- Massage helps with tight overused muscles, by breaking down the myofibril tissue that gets torn while exercising, to replenish and build new, stronger muscle tissue.
- It stimulates lymphatic drainage, which is our body’s natural defence system. When you exercise your immune system is lowered, which is also why a good diet and post training fluids are important.
Here is a comprehensive article from the Wall Street Journal published in March this year regarding massage:
Coming back to Thai massage, a real Thai massage, not one of these mushy ones from the beach, you should feel like you’ve done 5 rounds with a great big Russian (Not a very small person who gets immense pleasure from kneeling on your back while discussing what they ate for lunch on their mobile phone.)
I’ve had many different massages but today’s was special. Let me share with you my experience with a very small, extremely flexible and feisty Thai woman.
I’ll begin with the highlights of my two-hour massage at the temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat. I say ‘high’ light. The only high I reached was through my yogic deep breathing to help me endure the excruciating pain.
I was prodded, pulled and yanked into all kinds of positions. The woman had a deep satisfaction for cracking my fingers, doing it four times and pulling them as though she wouldn’t be completely happy until they were no longer connected to my body.
The pinnacle of the experience was when she put her knee in my hamstring and said “oh so strong”, and then put her elbow in my hip and bum while rubbing my IT band (that tight part on the outside of your leg). I felt like I could really take off then – either that or cry and run away, (if I could get up which I doubted at this point).
In walks her daughter and she insists I say hello, still with her knee in my hamstring. I gasped a “swadee ka” and they descend into laughter. I’m not sure why, it happens often with Thai’s laughing at us awkward, big foreigners. Then the daughter gets on and I have a tag team situation going on with my hamstrings. “I know this will do me good, I know this will do me good”.
I mention that my neck hurts and the mum gets out a wooden instrument with tiger balm on, she’s going up my neck and it is out–of-this-world-nice (a few days later more laughter as it dawns on me my neck looks like it’s had some love bite action)
So, these were the points I remember between almost blacking and blissing out.
I stood up and felt as though I had a new body, with my calves, hamstrings and back all lovely and loose again. The muscle tissue was nicely broken down and ready to be built up with more hard and fast training.
I paid 240 Thai Baht (that’s about £5), and I reflect that these massages are the best money I spend in Thailand. That and sticky rice obviously. I would advise anyone training and especially fighting to invest in regular massage.
Quote from UK fighter Mike Long
“It made me feel nimble like a ninja.
Nothing better after some intense training to lie on a bed and get walked over, really loosens you up and takes all the muscle stress away. I haven’t had a massage for 4 months now with training everyday and it feels like I am carrying the Himalayas on my back”
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