Reflections from competing at the World Championship of Massage
Jessica Jarabek placed 5th overall in the sports category at the World Championship of Massage in June
August 10, 2022 By Jessica Jarabek
In the 2022 World Championship of Massage, there were 230 participants from 43 countries. Within each of the eight disciplines only one person emerges victorious (in each category), which means there is a greater chance you or your “favorite therapist” may have not come first. This got me thinking about the systemic nervous system and how I can help myself and others rise above the emotional response of winning or losing and see a path to success.
At the end of the competition I had to ask myself “what went well?” and “what could I improve on?” These are great starting points to identify weaker areas or techniques that need further practice so they can be executed with the least effort possible so that the work will be elegant, graceful and will highlight and produce exceptional results. There will always be winners and losers, but it’s important that, no matter your competition outcome is, you become a learner!
I have two favorite expressions: “If you aren’t winning, you are learning” and “F.A.I.L. = First Attempt In Learning.”
The message in both quotes is clear—you always learn something! In having this adaptive growth mindset, therapist can turn almost every session into a learning opportunity. When it’s time to look at a whole year or years of preparation, you have the learning points from every certification and treatment session to help you improve.
But as all therapists will tell you, the process and progress made throughout the years of learning is a much better future performance indicator than any single competition result or outcome can be. In other words, it’s less about what you achieved, and more about how you did it (the process).
I welcome competitive situations. They help me put my best foot forward. I call on my greatest strengths when I face competition. I realize my true potential when I compete. I avoid shying away from a fellow contender. When I test my limits, I become stronger. When I am competing, my level of awareness increases significantly. I pay attention to the cues of my competitor and am aware of every move they make. Keeping abreast of their actions helps me plan my strategy for success. Competition allows me to think on my feet. I can make good decisions quickly when I place myself in competitive situations.
After a stonking weekend of massaging, with so many events coming to a climax, it is worth remembering the importance of the lull after the storm. For the winners the thrill of victory. But for everyone else – they will be feeling a different emotion – possibly the disappointment of defeat?
After big competitions, a phase of restoration is important. Mental and physical effort, commitment and energy will have been spent at a cost. The body is not a machine that you can expect to just keep working away without a drop in performance. We are multi-dimensional beings, where the emotional strain interacts with the physical strain. But the need for mental recovery is just as relevant as physical.
The recovery will feel different whether victorious or defeated, but actually the constructive steps to aid restoration are very similar. Here’s five ways I like to invest in full recovery:
- Prioritize a hot de-brief to capture the thoughts, realizations, lessons in the moments when your memory of the events are clearest. Make some notes or reflect with a coach or psychologist. Parking your thoughts will allow you to switch off quicker and more completely.
- Create the conditions for the body to fully physically recover. So take those lie-ins, have an afternoon sleep where you fancy it to actively step down.
- If you have trouble ‘slowing down’, then find a recreational pursuit that isn’t too physically demanding, preferably fun, but prioritize doing something that’s different from what you’ve just come from.
- Invest in activities that occupy your time in a productive but unfocussed way, such as going for a walk, reading a book, doing puzzles. This keeps the brain and body busy but in a freer way.
- Balance time recovering on your own and connecting with friends and family to recharge your batteries in different ways, to benefit from the quiet time, but also benefit from the social support.
“Hibernation is a covert preparation for a more overt action.”
On Friday the 17th there was a hybrid online competition for those who couldn’t attend in person. For the other therapist who were interested there was an intense one day Masters class the same day on Three Dimensional Massage Techniques and Leverage Flows taught by two amazing masters in their own right:
Teacher: Joe Lavin, is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Educator of Infant Massage, NCBTMB Nationally (US) Approved Massage Instructor, Certified Phenomenal Touch Practitioner®, Certified Ashiatsu Deep Feet Bar Therapy Practitioner®, Certified Sarga Practitioner®, Certified Reiki Master & Teacher as well as being certified in IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization) and Contemporary Cupping Methods.
Teacher: Tracey Windmill, who is a Licensed Massage Therapist, NCBTMB Nationally (US) Approved Massage Instructor, Master Practitioner and Certified Teacher of Phenomenal Touch®, Certified Sarga Practitioner®, and holds a Degree in Naturopathic Medicine.
This course was extremely informative and has completely changed my life and they way I treat by using the integrations of multi-dimensional techniques and leveraged flows as another amazing “tool in my tool belt”. With emphasis on correct body mechanics for the practitioner, the combination of elegant and graceful work taught allow you to work with your clients in a powerful and more effective way. I highly recommend time with either of these master teachers as they will help you transform your massage sessions into unforgettable massage experiences for your clients that can dramatically increase their therapeutic outcomes. Working on clients using specific combination of deep tissue techniques and dynamic stretching will leave your clients wanting to book a massage with you again and again.
Then there were two days (18-19th) of physically participating in a full on competition showcasing all different types of skill and abilities in massage. For me the first day of massage performance was good but not good enough. Being in a group of three and not having one person show up definitely threw me for a loop and I had to be the first participant to go! I had a couple of minor mistakes in the middle part of my session and didn’t bring the best of my full abilities and expertise that I would have liked. I was a little bit disappointed but happy I had finished, I had a really good go at it.
I cried a lot that night knowing I had come so far only to be disappointed in what had happened. It was a steep learning curve for me, but that’s the point of this whole conference: to learn, be challenged and grow. This is what really sets apart the amateurs from the professionals. I’ve learned that there are the official rules then there are other little rules and things you learn by actually being there competing. Its not just you and a patient in a room like a regular day, its all of that and 40+ other people in the same room perhaps taking pictures or videos of the unique talent happening and everyone’s watching everything you’re doing every second.
To be the winner you must be 100% calm, confident and in control with the executions of what you’re doing. I like to think that if you’re not a little nervous, you’re not ready. I was definitely nervous that day, I just had to get all my butterflies flying in the same direction at the same time.
On the second day I had to dig deep inside myself, did some meditation and gave myself a little pep talk thinking “Hey, I do hot yoga, I can do anything!”. I was more prepared the second day and couldn’t wait to go. My amazing sponsors from Rhino Work Wear had custom made me perfectly stunning uniforms which felt like a big hug when wearing them that gave me the extra boost of strength I certainly needed. My linens were immaculately set, my oil bottle and pillow blocks prepped, then I took a deep breath and just gave it my all. I turned out some fun techniques I didn’t even know I had in me to do, but honestly when you’re feeling those fascial planes you just learn to go with it. All I remember is finishing and turning to the judges with my heart full and eyes almost in tears again (but this time of happiness) and thanking them so much for giving me a second chance to really show what I could do. I had nothing to loose and everything to gain to just show my stuff, and I did! I left it all there on the table to be judged against all the other amazing talent showcased.
I’m still not sure if it was the longest or the shortest 65 minutes of my life? All I know is that my mind was firing on all cylinders with every fiber in my body ready to act within moments of action and it was honestly the most intense and calm massage I’ve ever given, nothing else mattered to me in those moments accept remembering to breathe, smile and listen to the body… after all I truly was in my natural element.
Reflection of winning – What happened afterwards?
Since participating in the World Championships in Massage and placing 5th overall in the sports category out of 42 other outstanding therapists, I thought it would be good to reflect on my experience, triumph and what happened afterwards. I asked myself the following brief question and made a few comments on my feelings and thoughts.
How does it feel to be a first time participant and come so close?
I still feel enormously proud of myself for being able to travel (after two years of restrictions with COVID) and physically participating in Denmark. I don’t think the feeling will ever go away. I was up against tough competition from other exemplary individuals and leading teams from other clinics, spas, organizations and nations. I don’t think I realized how big this was until I got there and it had sunk in. It’s just wonderful to be recognized for the efforts and milestones I was brave enough to make visible to everyone. I now feel more recognized in the massage community and I feel a sense of worth that has strengthened my professionalism. It has enriched my career that evidences my enthusiasm, commitment and dedication to learning even more about massage and the fascial effects of the body. By not actually winning a medal it has inspired me to continue my enthusiasm and move forward with my efforts that will hopefully bring further possibilities throughout my career and strengthen my skills for the future and next years of competitions. The diploma certification I received from this competition now has a place in my home that sits alongside my other national and international certificates. As I walk by I take a glance and think, “WOW, I actually did this.”
This diploma doesn’t just only celebrate what myself or a group of people have done, but the passionate efforts made towards innovation that impact on the education of others. I’m overwhelmed that I was narrowed down to the top of the field, it’s incredible and always will be to me. I put huge amounts of effort into developing my reputation, abilities, and my role as a therapist since 2004. Now moving forward my clinical team, patients and future goals will continue to benefit from all of this hard work which eventually will become stepping stones to move on to a new chapter. All of this was achieved because I am dedicated to the quality of my professionalism and my own education towards learning and growth for and within the massage community. What you put in you definitely do get in return and it resulted in this opportunity of a lifetime.
I also feel a sense of dignity where I must live up to my achievement. I feel I have more reason and impetus to continue my high quality efforts and endeavours. It’s like a pressure, a good pressure and feel I need to be more involved somehow. Plus I don’t know who I may be inspiring, so I need to maintain the stature of continuous high quality work.
It’s a little heartbreaking to be so close but at the same time, there’s more to massaging than the number you are on a piece of paper and I am really proud of what I did in Copenhagen. I put together one of the best massages of my life and it wasn’t enough for a medal but that doesn’t mean I’m not walking away really happy. I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life and competing for the first time at the 5th annual competition and getting fifth place is nothing to be ashamed of and I’m ecstatic to have met so many talented therapists from all over the world and made so many wonderful connections — that is priceless to me.
On one hand its hard to come 5th but on the other hand it’s good to be close to the best. You can look at the medals from there, you just can’t touch them. There is no consolation prize for fourth, fifth and so on and no consoling some therapist who wind up there, especially those who feel as if the world or at least the judges have conspired against them. Everyone truly is a winner at competitions like this and that’s really what’s important, making conversations, connections and networking with the best of the best from all around the globe. The world will be a better place with less tissue issues, so let’s get the awareness out there and participate in events such as this. Maybe even be founders of something completely new and pioneer the massage industry forward in ways we didn’t even know possible? Ie. Online education for a hands on profession.
I feel like I still have plenty of room to progress into a position that reflects my worth so to speak. I constantly think how I can stretch myself by continuously applying and challenging my strong core abilities. I suppose the feeling comes from the long years I have invested in myself to get where I am today. That might sound very pretentious but when you have been fully engaged and involved with your professional development from multiple avenues of education and apprenticeship as I have, you do hope for something with greater meaning. Yes, we don’t live to work, but work to live. However, to me a job is something you just do and a career is a job related to a specific area or a series of jobs relating to that specific area. It’s important to choose the right career and one that you enjoy doing as you’ll feel like you’re not working a day in your life (on occasions).
My competitive spirit serves me well in a variety of situations. I am competitive at work and in my personal life. I come out a better person when I compete, regardless of whether or not I am victorious. I learn valuable lessons and gain the experience needed to compete more effectively the next time around.
I work well under pressure. When I recognize the magnitude of a victory in front of me, I buckle down and focus. I avoid allowing the pressure of competition to make me flustered. I remain confident and calm as I approach my goal.
Today, I continue to build the courage to face competition head on. I may sometimes doubt my ability, but I am committed to putting those thoughts in the back of my mind.
I can’t give enough thanks to the International Massage Association for holding this event and bringing everyone together under one roof. I have so much gratitude for all the amazing therapists, judges and administration teams who helped make this one of the best experiences of my massage career. All the love and support I received from my family, friends and sponsors really made it that much more special for me. I definitely couldn’t have done it without them! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping this lifetime achievement come true.
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