In August this year, the BBC aired Ancient art of knife massage helps Taiwanese stay sharp, as part of their extraordinary close-up series, on aspects of life in countries and cities around the world.
In Taiwan, an unusual kind of massage is given: Knife massage.
Watch the video clip and answer the questions below.
The activity of suitable for intermediate students.
1 What is the effect of knife massage on some people?
2 When and where did knife massage originate?
3 Why has knife massage become popular these days?
4 Knife massage is very good at relaxing toxins, so in what treatments is knife massage helpful?
5 What three routines do knife therapists have to keep to?
6 What is the training period for a knife therapist?
7 How are first-time customers calmed down?
8 What two everyday problems does the female customer have that make her tired and stressful?
To check your answers you can read the transcript below.
It looks horrifying but people who have tried Taiwan knife massages say it’s so relaxing that they can fall asleep to the experience. But don’t expect aromatherapy oils or relaxing music, here it’s just a customer, the therapist and two kitchen cleavers.
The knife massage is not some crazy idea thought up by Sadist. It actually dates back more than two thousand years to China, where they originated. Back then, people who suffered from so-called strange diseases, those that can’t be easily cured by traditional Chinese medicine, would seek the help from Douist and Buddhist monks or nuns, and they would massage them with knives.
Although it almost died out in 280, knife massage has had a revival in Taiwan in recent years. Knife therapists say it’s become more popular because of the increased stress in modern society. According to the World Doula Association, there are around 2009 therapists in Taiwan.
How does knife therapy help people? Why use knives?
Knife therapy is different from other types of massage which is shallow. Knife therapy is more penetrating. We use steel knives as a conduit of energy. This helps our muscles relax and helps stimulate the normal functioning of our blood circulation and metabolism. So it can help us sleep better and reduce our muscle soreness, and it’s very good at releasing toxins, so it’s also very helpful in our beauty care and weight loss.
What kind of qualifications do knife therapists have to have?
In the early days, more than 2,000 years ago, knife therapy was performed by monks and nuns in temples. Nowadays knife therapists must go through strict training. They have to eat vegetarian meals every day, meditate and practise knife therapy. The reason we eat vegetarian meals is because we want to get rid of the toxins in our body and use the best energy we have to help the customers do knife therapy to bring about the best results.
But don’t even think about trying this at home. These are not ordinary cleavers. Professional massage knives with dull edges that don’t cause cuts.
Knife therapist also must undergo half a year to three years of training. They focus on the body’s acupuncture points in …, the passages to which the energy travels throughout the body and they avoid hitting the bones. The knives are also blessed by Buddhist or Douist masters.
How do you get first-time customers to calm down?
People who come here for the first time are nervous, so in the beginning we massage them by hand to calm them down.
Has anyone ever been hurt by this?
No one’s ever been hurt. It’s very safe.
I’ve just had massage. It feels really good and very relaxing. The reason why I came here because I’m a housewife and taking care of my baby and all of the housework makes me feel really tired and also very stressful. I’ve tried many different massages and it doesn’t work, so I came here and now I feel really relaxing and it also boosts my immune system. Now I can sleep well.
I’m working in the high power high tech company, a lot of big pressures, I’ve got a high blood-pressure problem. The … will help me to lose my weight efficiently, it could thin my blood, go very smoothly all around the body.
Now the only way to know if it works is to give it a try. Now I never thought I would put myself on a chopping wood, but here we go. Now I’ve gone to a lot of massages before but never one with knives. I must admit after getting over the initial fear is rather relaxing. Unlike with any massages, I worry about how I’ll feel the next day. Still, I think I can get used to this.