Thai Massage

Thai Massage

"Thai traditional massage can feel like a blend of Shiatsu, Yoga and professional wrestling!"
Shaun Boland

In Thailand there are several types of massage that you can go for:
  • Traditional
  • Aromatherapy / Herb
  • Oil
  • Foot
There are massage ‘spas’ all over Thailand, you can rarely travel far without being offered a foot massage or ‘shoulder rub’. Most hotels will have a massage room where you can choose from a relaxing deep oil massage or sensuous herb massage or the more ‘hands on’ traditional massage.

For the Nak Muay (fighter) I want to concentrate on two areas of massage:
  • Traditional Massage
  • Fighter massage


Kru Shaun performing traditional Nuad Boran techniques

As a tourist you can receive or train in traditional Thai massage also known as Nuad Boran. Most of the major schools for training are in Chiang Mai but the Wat Po, in Bangkok, houses the main massage school in Thailand and this has been a tradition for centuries.

Wat Po - Bangkok

Nuad Boran was actually developed by Buddhist monks in Thailand as a healing modality 2,500 years ago. It has its roots in a spiritual tradition, and its purpose is to heal a person physically, emotionally and spiritually.

It uses passive stretching and gentle pressure along the body’s energy lines to increase flexibility, relieve muscle and joint tension and balance the body’s energy systems. It is both deeply relaxing and energizing.

Thai massage takes place on a futon mat on the floor, and you wear loose fitting clothing. Some spas provide you with an outfit to wear. Others may ask you to wear something loose and comfortable, like sweat pants. You start by lying on your back, and the therapist uses gentle compression and stretching techniques to open up your body, beginning with you legs.

Some people say Thai massage is a little like doing yoga without any effort, because the therapist will push your body into various positions without any work on your part.

As a Muay Thai fighter this type of massage is most beneficial because it re-aligns your bones and joints and as stated earlier balances your energy systems.


Oil massage for the fighter is not your tourist style relaxing massage. It is used about an hour before the fight commences and helps to increase blood flow into the muscles thus preparing the fighters body for the event to come. The oil used for fighter massage is called Nam Man Muay and is more like a liniment.

Nam Man Muay

Thai boxing cream

There is also Thai boxing cream but I do not recommend this for massage, it is more concentrated and therefore is better suited as deep tissue massage for bruises and strains.

A fighter massage concentrates on the whole body and should take a good 30-45 minutes. It involves effleurage which is the stoking of the muscles using the flat or palm of the hand, and friction which is squeezing with the thumbs or making circular motions to increase the blood flow to the tissues. Both of these methods prepare the Nak Muay for combat.

Here are a few examples of massage during fighter preparation:

Oiling Up



Using traditional methods

Neck rub - using friction

Final rub down

Properly applied massage will benefit the Nak Muay both physically and psychologically.

The massage will improve both circulation and reflex and will accelerate the performance of the nervous system. The fighter will also become more relaxed prior to the fight and this reduces anxiety.

However the fighter massage does not stop in the dressing room. It is equally as important that the fighter receives massages between rounds. The legs need vigorous rubbing to stimulate the circulation and prevent muscle seizures, cramps. A method called petrissage which involves circular manipulation of the muscles using the thumbs and index fingers is also of great benefit between rounds. During the fight it is important that the massages are vigorous as too light a massage could relax the fighter too much.

Massaging the legs between rounds


  • You can train in traditional massage by attending professional teacher courses in Thailand, or you can do a 2-3 day introductory course.

  • is a good web-site to get impartial advice and recommendation of the variety of massage schools in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

  • Chao Phraya Muay Thai academy offer training in fighter massage. Email to arrange a course.

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snatch & the grey man