Hamid has been blessed to study the traditional Northern Thailand art of Tok Sen with Arjan Lee, Pichest’s daughter-in-law. Tok Sen, which uses a mallet and hammer to essentially tap along the sen (energy lines) is so unlike other styles of massage that many people’s initial reaction is one of confusion. Some wonder how getting hit by a hammer and chisel feels good or how this technique can be beneficial. Through this short post Hamid hopes to answer a few of these questions. But first, a video of Hamid receiving Tok Sen from his teacher.
What is Tok Sen
Tok Sen literally means “tapping” the “sen.” In Thailand, the word “sen” refers to energy lines running through the body. Those familiar with yoga and Ayurveda refer to energy lines as “nadi” and the concepts are similar. Three of the main sen are identical to the three main nadi, but this initial overlap quickly dissipates when one moves past the spine to the other energy lines where the sen and nadi are not the same. Similarly, in Chinese medicine, the energy lines are referred to as “meridians.” Again, while there are similarities between the sen and meridians, they are not the same.
In traditional Thai massage, the sen are worked with various compression techniques by the practitioner–for example, sitting on clients, walking on them, or pressing with hands, feet, thumbs, elbows, forearms, etc.. These are the main methods of moving energy through Thai massage–warming, then working deeply along the sen to free blockages. Sometimes, stretching may be used when helpful for treating blockages on the sen.
Some people call Thai massage “the lazy man’s yoga,” but this name is not well-deserved. Thai massage is not yoga and stretching in Thai massage is not the focus. In fact, Hamid has received dozens of Thai massages from all manner of practitioners in Thailand and being stretched was the exception. Most massages contained no stretching or assisted yoga-like postures.
Tok Sen is simply another manner of compressing and working the energy lines (sen) only instead of a practitioner using body parts, tools are used. The Tok Sen tools are used to tap along the energy lines in a way that is not possible to emulate using manual techniques.
The Tok Sen Tools
The standard set of Tok Sen tools includes a hammer-like striker and a peg. The best Tok Sen tools are made from a specific tree that grows in Northern Thailand (though the tree is now very hard to find). The tools must be made from a tree that has been struck by lightning. They are then engraved and blessed in an elaborate ceremony. Sesame oil is applied to the tools regularly to keep the wood conditioned and to prevent cracking.
Hamid owns two sets of Tok Sen tools. One set is very special and made from the rare lightening-struck tree. It was then engraved and blessed by Pichest, Hamid’s teacher. Such sets are both hard to find and extremely expensive if you can find them, perhaps costing as much as 3500 Thai Baht in Thailand. Hamid’s other set of Tok Sen tools is for self practice and cost about 280 Thai Baht. The wood is not rare or lightning-struck and the hammer has a thin rubber coating to make the sound less abrasive. In the United States, it’s nearly impossible to obtain an authentic set of Tok Sen tools, though some poor quality sets are available online for unfathomable sums of money.
A Tok Sen Massage
A full Tok Sen massage can take up to 2 hours. The usual practice starts with the client laying either face down or up. It can be performed on a traditional Thai Massage mattress or a massage table, depending on the client’s preference. The energy lines are then tapped from top to bottom, with attention paid to the areas with the most severe blockages. After each side is done, the client may be asked to assume other positions such as side lying and seated to allow access to more difficult to reach sen. The rhythmic tapping sound is considered a form of sound therapy and often causes clients to fall into a deep state of relaxation or even fall asleep.
There are numerous different techniques for manipulating the tok sen tools. Balms and creams may be used on bare skin to allow sliding of the peg. When done correctly, tok sen does not cause any pain or bruising. The peg is the primary device for working the sen, with the mallet/hammer providing vibration. This action frees up the flow of energy (lom) along the sen in much the same way as traditional Thai massage. In western parlance and anatomy, the tapping also can be viewed as a way to loosen fascia. The loosening of fascia has numerous health benefits documented by western medical research. Tok Sen may also be incorporated into a traditional Thai Massage when certain areas require deep attention.
Hamid provides Thai Massage and Tok Sen in Arizona. Mobile massages can be scheduled throughout the entire Phoenix area, including Scottsdale and Tempe as well as the following areas of Northern Arizona: Prescott, Sedona, Cottonwood, Cornville, Jerome, and Flagstaff.