6 Questions to Robert Schleip

1. When and how did you decide to become a bodyworker?
In my twenties I was studying psychology at Heidelberg University, being fascinated by the way how mind, body and emotions interact. At that time Gestalt Therapy, Primal Scream, Transactional Analysis, Reichian Therapy and Encounter Groups were very popular. However, I became more and more impressed with the great impact of therapeutic approaches like Rolfing or Feldenkrais which addressed the body directly. Finally I received my first Rolfing series at the age of 23. It had such deep effects on my posture as well as my mental and emotional makeup, that I wanted to learn about that profound therapy as much as possible.
2. What do you find most exciting about bodywork therapy?
The exploration of the dynamics of the bodywide fascial network. Approximately 7 years ago, after over a decade of teaching Rolfing, I entered the field of academic science. First as an avid spectator and interrogator. However soon I immersed myself like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with total awe and wonder, even experimenting some laboratory tests with animal’s fascia in my home kitchen. Little did I know that this would lead to a fascinating and dynamic development, that now I only have 1 day left per week for my clinical bodywork practice, and being busy with laboratory and academic science developments during the remaining week. The scientific exploration of fascia as the ‘Cinderella tissue of orthopaedics’, coming from a bodyworker’s perspective, has proven to be such a goldmine, that it is immensely exciting to be part of the current scene of international ‘fascianados’ which are hunting and collaborating in this new field of fascia research.
3. What is your favourite bodywork book?
Sandra Blakeslee’s ‘The Body has a Mind of Its Own’ , being pretty equal in my esteem to Dean Juhan’s ‘Job’s body’.
4. What is the most challenging part of your work?
Having to learn to say ‘no’ . The increasing popularity of fascia research and our little group at Ulm university has resulted in much more collaboration requests than I can possibly handle.
5. What advise you can give to fresh massage therapists who wish to make a career out of it?
Don’t limit your curiosity. Join or start a collaborative study group in your area. Or start a Journal Club, where you discuss one or two important scientific papers per month. Invite other experts in your field to speak in your town, thereby learning a lot from them and also establishing yourself or your little group as an exchange knob for collaboration and new developments. At least once a year, go to an international conference in your field or a related field, best together with one or two colleagues, and afterwards dedicate a time to summarize your most important insights from that event to a group of local colleagues.
6. How do you see the future of massage therapy?
It is time we step forward from the current landscape of bodywork ‘schools’, which are oriented around a charismatic founder, and each has a vested interest in training students only the basic (and necessarily limited) viewpoints of that school, moreover attempt to selectively find scientific ‘evidence’ to support their theoretical assumptions as well as self confirming the relative superiority of their modality. While resembling the early developmental stages of many sciences several hundred years ago, this social and economic situation does not foster critical questioning and collaborative developments of new theoretical questions as well as practical approaches. Therefore more and more professional practitioners are currently taking on a more ‘rational’ attitude, and focusing less on (semi) spiritual concepts. They take on clinical reasoning and a more scientific approach of diagnosis and treatment. This is of course a very valuable and also necessary development. However, in my observation, it is often the less intellectual oriented practitioners that have the most refined touch skills, mindful presence, empathic intuition and therefore frequently deliver the most profound effects in their works. It would be a pity, if the increasing intellectualization of massage therapy results in massage practitioners that are more mechanistic, having similar personality like the typical white coat medical doctors who are full of knowledge, yet lack the ability to listen and to connect with their patients.
Robert Schleip PhD, is an International Rolfing Instructor and Fascial Anatomy Teacher. Robert has been an enthusiastic certified Rolfer since 1978. He holds on M.A. degree in psychology and is a Certified Feldenkrais Teacher since 1988. He earned his PhD with honours in 2006 at the age of 52, and shortly thereafter established the Fascia Research Project at Ulm University and has a lab of his own. He was the co-initiator and organizer of the first Fascia Research Congress at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA in 2007. See Robert’s website www.somatics.de