I am blessed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame after decades of my career in massage therapy. So cool … since getting my Hawaii license way back in 1977 and training students since 1982.
I feel very honored and appreciated to be recognized after all of these years in the massage industry! I feel very humbled at having finally earned my status amongst such pioneers as Milton Trager, Randolf Stone (Polarity Therapy), and many other knowledgeable mentors …. WOW! Even more in years gone past! I often teach my students about these pioneers, not to mention that I have been hugely inspired by them over the years! Now I too am a part of massage history.
The Massage Festival’s mission statement is: To honor those who built the bridges for our profession, to educate the general public about massage, to educate therapists
about different types of massage and to have fun. (An ongoing mission … Love the have fun part). It has been fun, and rewarding beyond measure. But truly it has been decades of hard work and education about the benefits and validity of massage as a respectable vocation.
I remember clearly the days when I told people what I did for work, and their eyebrows raised while their mouths snickered as they muttered, “massage … hmmmm!!” But that was back during the 1970s when I would drive around the Big Island of Hawaii, delivering ‘holistic’ magazines and news, and full of endless energy and inspiration … This was way before computers, but well after the mana, wisdom and ways of the traditional Hawaiian elders who often knew healing like the back of their hands. But that’s another story!
Meanwhile, my students and I were interviewed in New Zealand by our local newspaper when they heard the news, and it was very humbling indeed. This is what the Gisborne Herald reporter published:
Nancy Kahalewai plans to write an Owner’s Guide to the Human Body one day as part of her retirement plan . . . I look at her youthful, peaceful face thinking ‘‘well, that’s a wee way off’’ but she assures me it is sooner than later.
The EIT Tairawhiti massage tutor, who come here from Hawaii, is about to be inducted into the World Massage Hall of Fame for 2013, one of the highest of honours in international massage circles.
The accolade is in recognition of her pioneering work over a period of nearly 40 years during which time she founded two schools of massage in Hawaii, directed the Hawaiian Kona Ironman Triathlon and Volcano Marathon massage teams, published four books on massage and was certified in 1994 with the United States National Certification Board of Massage. Nancy was also instrumental in Hawaii legislation in the US to clean up the image of massage and separate it from an association with “escort” work.
The practice of massage therapy has come a long way in the past three to four decades. Not long ago, the profession was regarded as “fringe” and she well remembers back in 1982 when the director of the medical team for the Volcano Ironman was very dismissive and sceptical of her presence at the event’s finish line massage tent . . . but she has an even more vivid memory of that same doctor, 10 years later, lining up after the marathon for a massage from her team. She greeted him warmly . . . no doubt with a touch of irony in her smile. That was before the physiological benefits of massage therapy were known and accepted, she says.
Nancy discovered massage as an art student in her second year at a university in California. She loved working with her hands and with clay but after a friend took her to a reflexologist for a foot massage, she couldn’t get enough of it, went back three times and decided to swap clay for the human body.
“Clay didn’t ever say much in return for all the work you put into it, but the feedback after giving a massage was so rewarding and so much more fun. I was a young hippy, 19, open, receptive, a people person . . . so after finishing my first degree, I moved to Hawaii — with the help of a generous inheritance — and began to study for a second degree in liberal arts including human anatomy, literature and the care and prevention of sports injuries.
“There was no school of massage on Hawaii Island in the 1970s so I earned my licence in 1977 after working at a community health centre and for a chiropractor.” In 1977 Nancy married a Hawaiian man and soon after started her own massage business and then eventually established two schools of massage at a time when the market was calling out for such qualifications. This was during the late 1970s at the height of the Hawaiian renaissance of language, art, music, dance and spiritualism . . . and Nancy lovingly embraced the aloha spirit, culture and philosophy.
She has been deeply influenced by Hawaiian elders and practitioners of the ancient art of lomilomi, traditional Hawaiian massage. In her book, Hawaiian Lomilomi, Big Island Massage, it is clear she reveres these elders and refers to them as aunties and uncles — they hold a similar place in Hawaiian society as Maori kaumatua here, she says. She believes the essence of a person is pure and spiritual.
“We are born with a bowl of radiant light and it is the things we do in our lives sometimes that obliterate that light,’’ she says, . . . but that is another story.
Nancy moved to New Zealand in 2008 after touring the country in 2005 to promote her book on Hawaiian lomilomi and conduct massage workshops. Among the group she brought with her from Hawaii was one of her beloved mentors Aunty Mahealani Kuamo‘o-Henry, an elder deeply versed in lomilomi and Hawaiian culture and spirituality.
In the following years to come, she was offered a teaching job and later became a NZ Resident.
“I have never felt like an outsider . . . perhaps it’s the indigenous peoples and waka-seafaring tradition that Maori share with Hawaiians.”
The multi-talented Nancy has also published 9 books through her POD publishing house Island Moonlight including a recent work, Growing up a Chatham Islander, written by Nuhaka author Val Mete.
Nancy began teaching at EIT Tairawhiti in spring, 2008. She was persuaded to take on the role by Norman Weiss, who founded the massage programme at Tairawhiti Polytechnic in 2003, and was keen to step back from teaching to run his own private business.
She teaches the Certificate of Sport and Health Massage, Level 4, a 17-week programme of practical skills, anatomy and physiology, and professional studies which leads on to the diploma-level qualification delivered in Hawke’s Bay. “I love teaching, especially anatomy, looking under the skin at how the body is put together and how it works,” she says. “But the fun part is empowering the students to take charge of their own wellbeing and also manage their financial abundance. It’s very rewarding to be a qualified massage therapist and be paid $40+ an hour . . . and to have someone thank you for it.”
Nancy’s students, aged 17 to 52, range from school-leavers to adults who are studying for the first time since their teens. The young ones are planning to work as massage therapists on cruise ships and “see the world” while the older members of the class want to gain a qualification to set up in private practice, improve their existing skills, practise massage as part of their hauora work, or just be able to bring relaxation and stress relief to their family and friends. All talk of Nancy as an inspired teacher with huge enthusiasm who adapts her techniques to suit her students. The students are soon to test their skills in the public arena at The Gisborne Herald quarter marathon and the Lake Waikaremoana Multi-sport Event where they will be offering pre- and post-event treatments.
DDI : 06 869 0602 / Mobile: 021 151 3940
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