by Sam Molitas, Owner and Principle Therapist at Maui’s Best Massage
My massage journey started around 2004 in my hometown of Chicago. At the time, I was a pretty hard-core student of the martial art of Aikido. In fact, I was enrolled in an intense “live-in apprentice” program at the Aikido school I trained at. As part of the apprenticeship I was required to attend all classes and functions that the dojo offered. In addition to working full-time as a delivery driver, I spent at least 30-40 hours each week at the dojo training in Aikido, Zen meditation, and helping out with various other activities to ensure the dojo ran smoothly. For instance, I was charged with preparing and cleaning the dojo at the beginning and end of classes, and helping to lead warm-ups. An important and typical duty was being a practice dummy for the instructors as they showed and taught techniques. Aikido is typically thought of as a “peaceful” art, but the way we practiced was very “martial,” and as the practice dummy I was thrown and slammed hard into the green tatami mats thousands upon thousands of times. All the while, the training atmosphere towards me as an apprentice was almost like Boot Camp… hard, harsh, and unforgiving. Needless to say, the regimen was mentally, emotionally, and of course, very physically demanding. I think I even had a dislocated rib for several months but I didn’t want to say anything, less I be considered “weak.” That rib only got fixed when I took a fall incorrectly, where the angle and sudden force of my body hitting the mat popped the rib back into place. One time I even received a dozen stitches on my forehead and behind my ear after getting hit twice in the head with a bokken, a wooden training “sword.” I suppose that’s a story for another time, however.
Fortunately for me, an Aikido student began attending classes who was also going through massage school. He needed a body to practice on, I said “Hell, YES,” and he only asked me for $20 per hour-long massage. For a solid 4 or 5 months, those massages were the absolute highlight of my week. If things were especially rough for me on the mat, I would try to receive a massage more than once a week, but due to time and energy constraints, those occasions were rare.
After a month of receiving a weekly massage and experiencing first-hand the benefits of it, thoughts of entering the massage profession kept creeping up. I would think to myself, “Wow, massage is so awesome! I am getting such benefit from these sessions, maybe *I* might want to learn how to do it and give back!” And from somewhere deep inside me, an Answer would always bubble up: “Hell. NO. In order to do massage, you’re going to have to actually *touch* people.” And at that time in my life, the thought of touching others in that way made me shudder. Maybe because I was literally and figuratively being thrown around so much, I just didn’t have the bandwidth to hold that sort of space for others, but at the time that was my reaction whenever I considered becoming a massage therapist.
As I progressed further in my apprenticeship, I somehow managed to carve out time to go on dates again. One time, a woman I was seeing asked me to give her a back massage. Inwardly I groaned to myself, as it was late in the evening, and after a full day of work and then getting thrown around at the dojo, the last thing I wanted to do was more “work.” I reluctantly did it, however, because I wanted her to like me. 🙂
I remember feeling awkward as I began massaging her back. I tried to impress her, and did my best to remember the massage techniques that I liked and worked well on me and then do the same on her. After a few minutes of my totally amateurish massage, something magical happened: a connection on a level I had never experienced before.
My hands were on her mid-back, and beneath them I felt… something… a tenseness? a stuckness? I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath, and just held my hands there… and a few seconds later, she took in a deep breath and sighed, and then I sighed… we both sighed… and I felt the tense muscles under my hands relax completely, and her entire body melted into the couch.
I don’t remember much of the massage after that moment. Truth be told, I don’t even remember her name anymore. We soon realized we weren’t the right fit for each other and parted amicably. To this day, while I may have forgotten her name, I have never forgotten that moment we shared. And from then on, whenever the thought of becoming a massage therapist came up, the Answer from inside was always and unequivocally, “Yes. Of course.”
A few months later, my Aikido apprenticeship came to an end, and I was enrolled in massage school not too long after that.
Ten years later, here I am on Maui doing what I love and sharing my craft with all of you! Thanks for reading. See you on the table!