Weekly Local Biography

  Roy Jarvie

By: Elle Faraday

A routine visit to his local GP almost left Roy Jarvie crippled for life. New Zealand born Roy moved to Australia in 1987 to set up a new life. He had been suffering from a bad back since injuring himself at work and despite being in agonising pain, he would not visit a chiropractor. “I didn’t want anyone touching my bone as I knew this would cause more harm than good.”

Roy lights a fire to prepare for a footfire massage on a fellow student.

Eventually, in 2002, the pain became unbearable and his doctor referred him to a chiropractor after all. “After I specifically told the chiropractor not to manipulate any of my bones, he tricked me and managed to crack four vertebrae causing long-term damage.” Roy had walked into the surgery and ended up needing aid to get himself home. He was unable to drive and in even more pain than he was before.
Despite trusting Western medicine all his life, the experience left Roy doubting the medical profession and he started on a quest to find some form of alternative treatment. He knew that he wasn’t necessarily going to find what he needed in Australia, so he spoke to his boss who gave him 10 weeks off work so that he could fully recover. Shortly after this recovery period began, he visited an exhibition in Melbourne which was focused on Asian medical practices. “It was here where I had my first experience with a traditional Thai Massage.”
One massage was all it took for Roy to become hooked. “I immediately felt the benefits and knew that this was the way forward for me. I packed my bags and headed out to Thailand in search of a massage school that I had found on the internet.” Unfortunately, within a week he realised that the school wasn’t providing what he thought it would and, bitterly disappointed, he realised that he would have to give up on his mission and return home.
His journey, however, took an unexpected twist one day as he came across a Thai massage school with a difference. He decided to take a closer look and after being very impressed with what he saw, he enrolled on the course.
“The School of Massage for Health” is run by a lady called Picnic who has earned the title of ‘master’ and is also the chairlady of the Chiang Mai Massage Schools Association. Roy was immediately inspired by her. “The original Thai massage was brought over to Thailand from Tibet over 2500 years ago. Picnic and her team teach us all of the intricacies of this traditional method as well as local northern massages and how to massage royalty.” Unfortunately, the traditional northern style of massage is a dying art and many of the local villagers will take their skills to their graves. Roy doesn’t want to see this happen and told me, “Picnic is taking students round to villages and letting them experience this northern massage. Then she gives us a choice as to whether we learn it or not. I want to learn everything so that it can be passed on from generation to generation.”
The massage school is a truly unique experience. He explained that it is like working alongside close members of your family. “I am very close to all of the other students and teachers. We have worked together every day for weeks and experienced so much together.” Not only has he made some very good friends, he has also nearly made a full recovery - something he never thought he would be able to do. “I first turned up to the school with very little feeling in my side from where the vertebrae were cracked and although it does still tingle, I will be leaving feeling like a new person. I can move freely, have the subtly of someone half my age and generally fell healthier than I have done in years.”
To date, Roy has studied with Picnic for over 330 hours (the entire course is approximately 360 hours) and although he will never reach the same ‘master’ status as her, he hopes to one day become an advanced teacher and give others the opportunity to learn and love this skill as he has and does. “I will never be able to be a master as only Thai people can gain this title. I am hoping that I have gained enough confidence in my ability and knowledge of the practice to begin teaching when I get home.” This will only be possible with the help of Picnic and the other teachers. “This is without doubt the best school in Chiang Mai. It is the principal of every other of the 13 schools in the province, so if I am going to learn all there is to know about the art of massage, I am in the right place.”
Roy is very much hoping to take what he has learned back to Australia where he will aim to employ it into the sports arena. His intention is to promote the Thai massage as a preventative for sports injuries. “If I massage sports players before they go on the field, they will be fully warmed up and therefore very supple and less prone to injury. Half the number of injuries could be prevented by simply warming and freeing up the ligaments.” Learning Thai massage has completely turned his life around and given him a new focus.
Roy is going back to Australia this month to try and set up his Thai massage company, but will never cut his ties with Thailand. He will be returning on a regular basis to study more techniques under the masters. He is well aware that Western medicine has its benefits, but he is not prepared to rule out any other kind of healing. The Thai massage is the only thing which has allowed him to become fully mobile again. Without it, he may have been crippled for life.
The School of Massage for Health can be found at 10/1 Chareonsuk Road, T. Chang Puek, Muang District, Chiang Mai, 50300 or by telephoning 0 5340 4028. More information can be found on their website: http://www.northernthailand.com/thai-massage