‘Tok Sen’ is a style of traditional massage that uses a wooden wedge and hammer. Thailand. It’s not easy to find but there are a few places in Chiang Mai and other parts of the north where you can still find it.
This type of massage dates back many hundreds, perhaps thousands of years and originated in the Lan Na region of northern Thailand. The tradition is taught orally. It was supposed to have been originally prescribed as a way for wives to give their tired and aching husbands some relief after working all day in the fields. The tools for this practice are made from the wood of a tamarind tree after it has been struck by lightning. The wood is then blessed by a monk. All of this special treatment makes the tools better for removing negative energy from our bodies. Wedges and hammers vary in size and even come with buffered ends to make them quieter for night-time use.
The massage involves getting tapped with a wooden stick (like a pestle) which is hammered with a wooden mallet. The sound is a steady ‘tok tok tok’ and the tapping is done along meridian lines (called ‘sen’), hence the name ‘tok sen.’ One gets dressed in the same couple of cotton pants and shirts that you are provided with in the standard Thai massage.
The hammering force is fairly hard and the body gets a good jolt. A shock wave of energy radiates out from the point of the wedge. It’s occasionally lightly painful but in a good way. The masseuse/masseur follows meridians longitudinally up and down the back, continuing down a line along the buttocks and on to the back of the legs. The tapping ends on the soles of the feet. Then one turns over and the meridians along the upper legs, arms, and hands are treated. Interspersed with periods of ‘tokking’ may be some stretching and kneading in the Thai massage style.
It is finished off with sitting upright and getting a bit of tapping on the upper shoulders followed by standard hand kneading of shoulders, neck stretches, and a head massage.
The rate of hammering is about 2 beats per second. The rhythm is hypnotic and it’s not hard to follow along and get in synch in a kind of meditation. Promised benefits advertised are pain relief, improved blood circulation, removed energy blockages, and relief from sore tendons, pinched nerves, and numbness.
One place where you can get in Chiang Mai is Arokaya Massage, located right inside the temple grounds of Wat Mahawan on Taphae Road beside Soi 4, not far from the Taphae Gate. Their sign advertised ‘Tok Sen’ for only 200 baht (about $6 US). A more expensive spa that offers it is Fa Lanna Spa.
If you want to learn the art yourself, try getting some training at: http://www.thaitoksen.com/
You can read about my experience with it at this post: http://www.seasiamassageguide.com/2017/02/24/tok-sen-massage/