Distinguish yourself from the competition

Art Riggs“The key to success is to distinguish yourself from the competition by doing something rather than trying to do the same thing as everyone else but just better—better is a pretty subjective word. This can take shape in a lot of ways including who you are with your nature, or by doing techniques that are different from the run of the mill work.”

- Art Riggs

Described by Lisa Mertz in Massage Therapy Journal (mtj) as, “one of the most awesome bodywork teachers in our profession,” Art Riggs is an educator everyone involved in the massage therapy profession can learn from. He’s been a presenter at several of our Tools for Touch (TFT) CE Webinars including the March 5th broadcast.

During his TFT webinar presentation titled, Escape from Cookie Cutter Routines: A Thoughtful Approach to an Effective Integrative Deep Tissue Massage, Art emphasizes that there’s no need to stay on auto-pilot or stick to a mold given you in your early training. As Art puts it, “Too many massages are just choreographed routines that bore both client and ourselves as we go on automatic pilot and stifle our creativity. Distinguishing ourselves from the masses rather than trying to just be better can mean the difference between a good massage and a great massage … and a steady repeat client.”

Art is an educator who has dedicated himself to sharing his knowledge and wisdom of the body – and he delivers his vast storehouse of clinical massage references with his own unique blend of humor and personal anecdotes. Here are excerpts from a recent interview with him:

Your teaching style and philosophy get rave reviews.  Why?

When I teach, I try to let people work intuitively. If you understand how a shoulder works, no matter what problem a person brings in, you’re going to know how to create a better balance in the shoulder. That’s why I go into the anatomy of it and different positioning. There are an awful lot of positioning options. People run into problems in their body not in the neutral positions, but rather throughout their range of motion.  Most of the techniques dealing with various issues try to put the client body into a stretch so that as you work, you get a release of tight tissue rather than working in the neutral short position.

Tell us about the difference between deep tissue massage and the more relaxing forms of massage.  How do you know what’s best?  Do clients know what’s best for them?

This is a huge subject and in some ways upsetting. I see a polarization between so called relaxation and therapeutic massage as classes move towards a more clinical and therapeutic approach, and more continuing education hours are required.

I almost sense condescension from serious therapists who brag that they no longer do relaxation massage.  Actually a lot of pain studies are more and more pointing to the central nervous system as a primary participant in the perception of pain. Very serious benefits can come from the relaxation of the sympathetic nervous system. My theory is that good bodywork needn’t choose between these poles. You wouldn’t want to work too deeply for a whole hour or more because it can overwhelm the system, but many relaxation based therapists lose clients because they don’t know how to solve the invariable problems that clients bring in, and deep work is often the best way to accomplish this by freeing adhesions.

Art, how did you get started with massage and body work?

I worked hard and played hard with athletics my whole life – I had a pretty beat up body. About twenty-five years ago, I received my first massage.  I had never had any bodywork at all. It made such a profound change in my body and since I was at the crossroads career-wise at the time, I said why don’t I go into this professionally? It was actually a bit frightening since I had more of a scientific background in academics.

What sports were you doing?

Well I played almost all sports, but at the time I got injured I was putting most of my eggs in the running basket. I had run a 100-mile race and was running 100 miles a week, hence the problems.  Actually my knees were also beat up from prior football injuries and from years and years of heavy-duty marathons and ultra marathons.

So, that rocky road of injuries finally led you to your first massage and bodywork experience?

I didn’t realize how stiff I was, or how inflexible because that wasn’t a factor in running.  But once I felt the changes in my body from the massage work, it was profound. I said ‘wow’, what if I could be helping other people in this way?  So I took a gamble and I’m definitely glad I did.

Your massage and bodywork ‘epiphany’ addressed real-life physical issues. But you obviously found it intellectually intriguing as well.

Yes, we all want to do something meaningful, and I felt that if I could be giving the gift that I received from that bodywork to people, then I would feel like I was doing something important with my life.

What advice would you give to massage therapists who have recently started their practice?

Everyone has their own personality that will present obstacles to success and likewise, serve to their advantage, so there are no universal rules.

The main thing would be to realize that it takes several years to have a full practice. Don’t rush to judge yourself by how busy you are.  I know great therapists who aren’t busy because of their business or lack of marketing skills and vice versa.  Keep trying to grow, take classes, relate to other therapists not as competitors, and learn to express who you are as a therapist rather than trying to fit into a mold given you in your early training. Get your hands on as many people as possible early on!

Learn more about and tune into Art’s March 5th TFT webinar by registering here.

Don’t wait too long as the price of this all-day webinar, which includes six presentations, each one 90 minutes with a total of 9 CE hours available,  including live video demonstrations, quizzes and CE certificates, will jump from $99 to $149 on April 1, 2013.

Healthy regards,

Sherry Donovan, Producer, Tools for Touch™ CE Webinars and the rest of the production crew