Learning Massage Through Videos

People have been making videos or movies demonstrating massage techniques and manoeuvre since the advent of portable cameras.  Early videos were made mainly to document workshops or classes by legendary instructors. For example, in YouTube there are several video footages from 1970s showing Dr. Ida Rolf talking and demonstrating Structural Integration.
Since the advent of home videos or VHS in the late 1970s, initially videos were made mainly just as a demonstration. It probably started in the early 1980s. There were various video tapes produced with the target audience of general public, mainly general routine, such as Swedish massage, Healing Massage, Massage for relaxation, Massage for couples etc.
Late 1980s begin the release of videos that were more technical for massage professionals, they mainly focussed on sports massage. Notably, Therapeutic Massage for Sports and Fitness by Rich Phaigh (1988). Another series that appeared in 1992-1993 are Clinical Sports Massage by Benny Vaughn. Here massage videos are not just showing techniques for relaxation, but more specific for massage professions, and particular techniques, e.g. massage to enhance sports performance. Due to the expense of filming (before the advent of desktop video publishing), there were only a few videos on these specific massage topics, and they were fairly short in length, usually about 30-45 minutes each.
In 1995 several videos for massage professionals started to be produced, notably Step by Step Tuina by Maria Mercati in the UK, Ralph Stephens’ Therapeutic Massage in the US.
The Video Atlas of Human Anatomy by Robert Acland was released in 1996. This is one of the first 3-D live look at human anatomy: bones & muscles. The amazing picture enhanced the learning experience of anatomy. This was quickly adopted by many schools, books & videos.
In the late 1990s to 2000, there were more videos produced specific for massage professionals and became popular at that time. This also coincided with the wide availability various massage modalities. These techniques used to be taught restricted in some schools, now they are becoming more available for general massage practitioners. For example, Deep Tissue & Neuromuscular Therapy by Real Bodywork,  Erik Dalton’s Myoskeletal Alignment Technique, Tom Myers’ Anatomy Trains videos, Art Riggs’ Deep Tissue & Myofascial Release.
Videos in DVD format start to appear in mid-2000. Initially videos from VHS were converted to digital format. However, now most new videos were made in digital format.
Real Bodywork produced its first massage video on Deep tissue and Neuromuscular Therapy as a response to the request of their students as a way to remember the information that was being taught in a 100 hour NMT class.  The information in these DVDs is great, and they even made muscles out of clay and had some computer graphics. The first videos were also a bit shorter, usually about 75 minutes. This is in contrast with recent DVDs that are more animated with 3D models, and filmed digitally in wide screen format to fit modern TVs. Recent DVDs are usually over 2 hours and sometimes approach 4 hours in length. Sean said that each title took 300-400 hours to create.
Many DVDs are now available bringing techniques that have traditionally been taught to physical therapists or osteopaths as in-house training, such as craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, nerve mobilization, positional release and orthopaedic assessment techniques. Nowadays we are fortunate that we can find most of the modalities available on DVDs.
Sean Riehl, the president and founder of Real Bodywork, believes that learning techniques through a DVD is a much better way as compared to a book because you can actually see the instructor doing the moves. In a book all you have are static images and descriptions which can sometimes hard to follow or imagine. Of course, a book can offer a lot more encyclopaedic information, but yet when it comes to learning a technique; it really helps to see the instructor doing the moves because a lot of information that is not spoken is transmitted when you watch someone who is masterful practice their craft.
Viewing the muscular and bone structure involved while the instructor is demonstrating on a client makes learning more interesting and easy to grasp. The “x-ray eye” allows us to see the muscle groups involved while the practitioner is massaging. Instructors used different ways to convey this information. For example, in the early days, an artist drew the muscles on the skin of a model to depict the muscles involved in massage. This actually works quite well, another trick is having the model wearing a body suit that has muscles drawn to it. This is less successful. The availability of modern computer graphics now enabled us to see clearly the muscles and skeletal parts involved in a particular movement.
Cameras placed at the best angle allow us to see the technique demonstrated from the best possible viewing positions and you can view it again and again.
Instructors also come up with various ways to enhance the learning process. For example, Tom Myers in his Anatomy Trains techniques DVD showed the techniques as taught in a small class mentoring situation. Tom demonstrated a technique, and this is followed by the student. The comments from the clients, Tom’s corrections concerning application and the student’s body use, and the student’s responses, all become part of your learning process.
You can learn new techniques from watching and practising from videos, although you cannot feel the sense of touch from watching DVD, the experience can be made equivalent to a class/ workshop. You can gain new knowledge from renowned instructors. Although it is best to experience a hands-on workshop, when you have a limited budget, travelling to other towns can escalate the cost quickly. The best is to watch and practice it with a fellow therapist. You learn the same technique from a reputable instructor in your living room, at your own time. It is a reference that can be consulted at any the time. Seeing the techniques performed live is the key, more than a just a book with pictures.
Is it really possible to learn techniques from videos?
Erik Dalton wrote: “During the past 30 years in the touch-therapy business, I’ve personally witnessed that everyone learns uniquely and at different paces. Some possess an “innate kinaesthetic palpatory awareness,” while others prefer repetitive observation of the techniques to ensure their understanding of inherent subtleties. Regardless of individual differences in learning, it seems that when dealing with hands-on modalities, following along with a hands-on video (whether online or DVD) does more to enhance the learning experience than simply reading theory from a book or manual; although, both ingredients are essential to the successful outcome of any comprehensive home-study program.  “
Since 1999, Erik Dalton’s the Freedom From Pain Institute® has produced high-quality reading and video programs that provide a much-needed service to the community. Erik found that well-designed home-study programs often spark a passion that encourages therapists to further enhance their skills by attending live presentations—if their physical and/or financial condition permits.
However many still believe that massage or manual therapy can’t be learnt from watching videos, they argued that massage can only be learnt by hands-on workshops. The sceptics claim that manual therapists are not visual learners and lack the ability to observe and duplicate the instructors demonstrating techniques. The idea that therapists cannot view a hands-on manoeuvre and duplicate it may hold true for those students still in training who’ve not yet mastered basic hands-on skills and anatomical astuteness.
Whitney Lowe believes that when a therapist has mastered the basic techniques of massage, that individual should have gathered sufficient skills to further that learning through high quality instructional materials that are delivered in a wide variety of methods e.g.  video, or online.
Erik Dalton admitted that he has been a compulsive video-junkie for many years and host a collection of more than 300 VHS and DVDs from every country. Admittedly, some languages he does not understand, but visual learning from great hands-on practitioners in every field of bodywork truly inspires and challenges his quest for greater knowledge. Each morning while running on the treadmill, he grabs something newly purchased or perhaps watch one of his favourites. “Even if I’ve seen the video dozens of times, I’m always able to pick up some little titbits that pique my interest and boost my motivation to get into the therapy room and share what I’ve learned with my clients”.
What makes a good massage DVD?
Sean Riehl advises that a good massage DVD should be easy to understand and well organized. It should also quickly get to the point of the technique and offer information that the therapist can apply immediately in their practice. A good massage DVD should include some assessment along with treatment, so it not just a bunch of techniques by themselves, but an entire treatment protocol.
In addition, Whitney Lowe said that a good DVD should take into account contents that common practitioner would really want and need to see and hear.
Sean believes that the information is the important part, not the instructor. Instead of trying to trademark a type of massage, or create yet another name of a new modality, instructors should just focus on teaching students how to perform assessments on their clients and effective techniques to address what is going on. The assessment techniques are fairly standardised, and there are only so many ways to touch the body, and good bodywork does not need to be very complicated. New trademarked modalities are just a rehashing of techniques that people have even doing for years anyway. In Real Bodywork products, Sean tries to separate the DVD names based on how a type of massage works, or which condition it addresses.