IKRA Massage Academy Academic Director talks to 105.1 Mike FM about the growth of the massage industry and the new oncology massage program.
Marie : Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, j’ai en studio Anthony Pantazopoulos, vous venez juste d’entendre le message de IKRA. Welcome Anthony !
Anthony: Welcome. Thank you so much, Marie. It’s a pleasure to be back.
Marie: Alright. You know, I spoke a little bit about some of the additions because you’re growing and you’re offering such an important addition that you added now. So I’m going to start right away with that addition. What are you offering now that that can help a cancer?
Anthony: Great question. So we’re starting a new program. It’s an advanced program and it’s– yeah, we call it French “masso-oncology”, so oncology massage and it’s not just for cancer patients, it’s also for those– for palliative care. Those suffering from all kinds of pathologies or terminal illness, and it’s such a popular program, people want to help others, people who are suffering with terminal illness or cancer. Massage what it does for them, it gives them the opportunity to reconnect with their bodies, have an hour of respite from their suffering, from their pain, from their situation. And, you know, we’re like accompaniers, accompagnement or support for the nurses and the doctors who treat people suffering from these illnesses.
Marie: Ok. For my audience to understand, (1:27 inaudible) the other interviews I did with Anthony, IKRA is a center that specializes in massage therapy. That’s it ?
Anthony : Yeah, it’s a school. We train people to be certified massage therapists. Massage therapists certified to work in Quebec as massage therapists. We started with one school, now we have four in placement. We have four locations now. Our closest competitor just closed their school in Montreal, so we opened up a fourth location on Saint Hubert in Jean-Talon. So, it’s one minute from metro Jean-Talon.
Marie: And that’s where the classes are given.
Anthony: That’s the fourth location, right. It’s a school. We have four locations. The main campus is in Verdun, that’s where we started. But now we’ve got West Island and Dollar-des-Ormaux. We’ve got Villeray on Crémazie street, and we’ve got the new location on Saint Hubert street, right outside of my metro Jean-Talon.
Marie: OK. What are the characteristics we are looking for? to create un super massothérapeute ? You know, what characteristics do I need to have?
Anthony: You know, you gotta want to help people. I mean it’s the most important thing. You have to have compassion. We had an open house last weekend and you know, I usually start my open houses by telling people who are interested in massage, and it’s such an honor and a pleasure to meet them because to be a massage therapist because you have a desire, compassion, to help people, to help them get through their stress, their suffering and so on and so forth. So I think the most important quality is caring and compassion. And then, you know, we’re there to train the physical aspect, to bring you up to speed, the professionalism, how you present yourself, the techniques, working on pathologies and so on and so forth.
Marie: Alright. Is there an age limit for me to become a student?
Anthony: The youngest student is usually like– we don’t go younger than 17, usually a 17, you need your parents signature authorization, but we’ve had students all the way up to 72 years old.
Marie: Well no, I take myself as an example, if I wanted to take it?
Anthony : You know what ? Come one down, free courses for you.
Marie: Mon Dieu !
Anthony: I’ll train you myself.
Marie: I’ll tell you what, if I can massage myself afterwards while I have the—because I tell you what, I have had a very good experience with massage therapy.I’m a big big believer in it. I’m glad to see that it’s flourishing. People are understanding l’importance de se faire masser. In ancient culturesles massothérapeutes s’étaient respectés autant que des docteurs, in ancient cultures, a reason for that. Me what have I found, no matter which massage therapy system I choose, my circulation responds “Boom! », and I feel the difference right away.
Anthony : Oh yeah I’m sure about that. I mean you’re working on so many different levels. The lymphatic system, the circulatory system. You’re working also emotionally, you know there are people haven’t been touched in years, and just getting that human contact with somebody makes all the difference. Like right now in Montreal, there’s a 333% increase in the demand for massages. It’s huge ever since COVID, and I think one of the driving factors is the lack of human contact. We went through a difficult time the past two or three years and people just need to reconnect with their bodies with another human being. So I think that’s one of the driving factors, but you’re right, it works on so many different levels.
Marie : Oh no, it helped me, I saw the difference right away, and I told you the story of a friend friend of mine. I’m not gonna say the name. Very well known, very very rich, known in Quebec and she said to me “Marie, if you can do just one thing, you know between hair, manicures, hit the gym, whatever, she says to me: arrange for at least one message per week. She had a masseur who came every day. Because she could afford it too, we’ll agree, but she told me at least a week.
Anthony : I’m not surprised. But I had a spa before, and we had clients who came twice a week. So, that’s normal. But me, when I started 25 years ago, I started in massage. The world was not so open to massage. I’m the health director…What kind of massage are you doing?
Marie: Yeah, yeah.
Anthony: Right? And it was always that stigma, up to, I would say 5-10 years ago, I mean, if you’re a Greek or one of these other immigrant groups, it was very difficult to get into the massage world. I was like, we’re the only Greeks at that time. Yeah, now, I mean, each group I have all kinds of immigrants doing massage, the whole stigma has changed. More people are open to it. They recognize the benefits for stress relief, for accompanying somebody with pain, like for example the cancer massage or palliative massage, that’s helping people so much, so more and more people are open to it, doctors are recommending it, physiotherapists and clinician, all kinds of clinics like chiropractors will have a massage therapist on board.
Marie: Well why is there a demand?
Anthony: It’s a huge demand, and growing so fast. It’s incredible.
Marie: OK, so someone who wants to enroll in your school, compassion is the first characteristic, on board. Well said– young men. How do we manage? How long does it take to complete the course?
Anthony : Good question. There are different levels. There is the first level to work in Quebec, it takes a course of 400 hours. So, a 400 hour course will get you certified to massage people in spas, massage clinics, for stress, relaxation. But for people who really want to work with a physiotherapist or a practitioner in a more clinical environment, it takes more courses like physiotherapy, we are looking at about 1000 hours of training. On the basic 400 hours and not 600 hours of training. There are people who will do the basic 400 hours and they will take a course more like oncological massage. They want to work with people who suffer from cancer, for example. So there are all kinds of other courses to take in the future, but we start with the basic course.
Marie : OK, when you say it takes 400 hours, do I do that in your school ?
Anhony: Yeah, good question. So you’re gonna be doing half the program is online, for theory courses. So we have zoom courses with the teacher, and you’re doing like anatomy, physiology, human relations courses online on zoom, from the comfort of your own home. And then, after you finish that, you’ll either come in and do those courses afterwards, or concurrently. For example, we have different programs set-up, we have courses over 5 months, that’s three courses a week. So they’ll do all the theory courses first, and then they’ll come and do another two and a half months of practical courses. We have another course like in Villeray, where there’s two days a week theory and two days a week practical. So il y a différentes options. On a des cours à temps partiel, so 5 mois des cours en 4 mois.
Marie: wait a minute, I can be certified and start building my own business or go out there and work at other clinics after 5 months?
Anthony: After 5 months, three days a week of training, if you’re with our school?
Anthony: Why do I say our school, because directly recognized by the federation of Quebec Massage Therapists, and if you’re with the Federation, then 400 hours is sufficient. There are some schools that are not with the Federation, and they cannot work after 400 hours, they need 1000. But if you’re with us, 400 hours, you’re right at work.
Marie: Wow! =
Anthony: Yeah, it’s incredible.
Marie: DO you do any teaching?
Anthony: I personally don’t. I’m just too busy. I’m directing—I got 4 schools to direct.
Marie: You manage them now.
Anthony: I used to. I used to teach some of the advanced courses like the kinesitherapy and the sport’s massage. It’s tough being a director and a teacher, because you’re wearing too different hats. And it’s tough for students to distinguish that.
Marie: But you supervise your teachers?
Anthony: Oh I have no choice. Yeah, of course. Yeah, of course. Yeah. Yeah. I supervise the teachers, I’m running the schools, and it’s a lot of fun.
Marie: OK, we’ll get a quick break. We’re at the bottom of the hour. It is now 10:30. When I come back, we’re going to ask Anthony about—parcequ’il nomme, right ? We have all these labels and different massages, what do the differences entail? That’s what’s beautiful in Quebec, it’s that we have so many opportunities to train and then develop, then get training and then build a career that we like because you have to enjoy what you’re doing in life, and I assume that to be a massage therapist.
Anthony : Oh yeah. I mean, you’ll be surprised who take massage courses. We’ve had doctors take massage courses, engineers, it’s incredible. Or physiotherapists—
Marie: Changing careers- I love it.
Anthony: Or supplementing a career, like some people say you know, I’ve always wanted to study massage you. So you know what? I’m gonna keep my career but I’m going to do it part time with my friends and family on the weekends for example.
Marie: Alright, alright. Your new addition for oncology patients. For those that don’t feel well and I just want to say something here because you used the word pallative, I can only imagine–, because you know what? (11:19 inaudible), right? We’re all gonna take the exit door one day. Sometimes it’s quick and you’re gone, you don’t even realize what happened. But most of the time, you know you’re gonna be aware and you’re gonna have to shift your thinking and your lifestyle to prepare yourself to go through that exit door. I can’t imagine anything more wonderful that having somebody come and give me a massage and help me through that pain and make me feel for that moment better.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s there’s a lot of people with huge hearts who want to work in that domain. It’s not an easy domain to get into. You have to learn a lot of different specific aspects, you might have to adapt the massage. And someone with the 400 hour course cannot go into that domain. I’ll give you an example, when you’re learning in that program, you’re gonna be learning about the different types of pathologies such as cancer, leukemia, Parkinson’s, different physiological effects, physiological effects, to say pathologie, and something very interesting is the medications. All the medications associated and they are prescribed, you have to understand how that works. And the reason being is when you’re giving a massage, say somebody’s on a lot of painkillers, for example, and you’re giving them massage and say, oh, I don’t feel anything, I need you to go harder. You can’t. You go hard, you could hurt the person. So you’re learning all different types of techniques that are adapted for certain pathologies, certain people. You’re there to accompany the nurses and the doctors who are treating the patient. For us as a client, we’re not treating anybody, we’re there to help and support the treatment protocol. We gotta make sure we do it in a way that does not hinder the treatment protocol. So there’s a lot to learn, but it’s such a rewarding path to take.
Marie: Oh no, I imagine, you know, you go home after work and you brought a smile and you made somebody in that situation, even for that one hour, feel better. What an amazing spirit contribution.
Anthony: And it’s not just adults. You’re working on children. There’s a lot of children are suffering too. So it’s, yeah, there’s foundations, there’s a palliative homes, there’s hospital clinics and hospital environments that you’re working with.
Marie: And you form these experts?
Anthony: We form them, yeah. I’m working in town with a—a friend of mine has a school in Laurentian Masso-tech. She’s a wonderful lady, and we came together, you know, why don’t we offer this in Montreal? So we’re offering the program now in Montreal and it’s an interesting setup. It’s set up once a month. And it’s gonna be given at a hotel to be determined over 10 months. And why we do that ? Is because there’s people from all over Quebec who’ll be converging much all to take this course. There’s such a huge demand for this course.
Anthony: The demand from both sides, for people who want to take the person and the world of palliative care and masso-oncology are so open to massage therapist coming in and helping them out.
Marie: Oh man! Masso-oncology. I learn something every day, young man. I learn something every day. OK. I grew up during the times you referred to, where “oh, massage!”
Marie: See, well, and I remember Swedish, we all heard about the Swedish massage. And basically, “you want a regular massage or you want a Swedish massage?”
Marie: And the Swedish massage was supposed to be the one that was heavier, that hurt or something.
Anthony: Yeah. OK, I’ll give you a little bit of a bit of background. When I started 25 years ago, I started a tuina massage, it is a Chinese massage. OK, and Chinese massage is based a bit, like acupuncture, acupuncture points. And so I started in Chinese massage. It was many years later that I studied Swedish massage. And from there I studied—
Marie: What’s the difference?
Anthony: Alright. So Swedish massage are more biomechanical, comes from a Western perspective. So we’re looking at the muscles, the origins of this insertions. And the Chinese massage, you are looking meridians and points, which is, from a Western perspective, is very different. But everybody asked me, well, if you started with Chinese massage, why are you teaching Swedish massage? I’ll tell you why. We start the base with Swedish massage, because we believe that’s the best base to get in Quebec. Get your base and Swedish massage and from there, Bradshaw, if you want to do Shias, you can do Shias. You want to do Chinese massage, that’s fine. Kinesitherapy which is more advanced. Masso-oncology… But get your base because it’s the massage that’s the most in demand in North America.
Marie: Kine, can you explain that one?
Anthony: Kinesitherapy is basically advanced Swedish massage, so we go a little deeper now. So you’ve got your base in Swedish massage, you’ve learned the muscles, the origins and insertions, you know how to massage somebody. Now you wanna get a little deeper and deal with pathologies. We don’t diagnose, we don’t treat, but we help. So if somebody comes in with carpal tunnel syndrome or archilles tendon tear or, I don’t know, (16:47 inaudible) or lumbago.
Marie: That must be big for athletes.
Anthony: Huge. So there’s a there’s a link with this more sports massage in the kinesitherapy. And those who do the kinesitherapy program, or the sports massage program, will be higher to work with clinics with chiropractors and physiotherapists. They’ll know the language, they’ll know the techniques specific for athletes, and so on and so forth.
Marie: How do we do if I want —that’s what I was recommended.
Anthony: For sure.
Marie: When there were injuries.
Anthony : Yes exactly.
Marie: And he would go actually to a sports clinic.
Anthony: Right. And there’s quite a few around Montreal. And they’ve got well trained people and a lot of my students work there, work in these sports clinics.
Marie: Alright! Oh man! I remember once I went for my knee. And I kept saying to the guy, can’t you do my neck and shoulders? And he would look at me and go, lady!
Anthony: But you know what the funny thing is, this is what I would say because I studied Chinese massage. Sometimes you’ll have a problem with your knee, but it’s coming from your neck and shoulder. That’s what the Chinese would say. And that’s why I’ll tell everybody when they study biomechanical massage like Swedish and kinesitherapy, if you have a chance and the opportunity, do a shiatsu course, do a Chinese massage course, it’ll be a great compliment to your biomechanical—
Marie: Do you give those?
Anthony: We do. We do. And you know, now that like I said, one of our competitors closed, we have a lot of teachers calling us up saying, hey can we do a shiatsu course at your school? can we do this and that? I’m looking at the different teachers and I’m going to start bringing on new courses on board and we’ll see in the future.
Marie: OK. Now, I’m gonna throw another thing at you. And again, forgive my naiveté, OK? We’ve seen in movies, and maybe read it in a book where an oriental massage, where the girl walks on your back.. Is that a real thing?
Anthony: In Asia? Yes. Oh yes! In Quebec, you cannot do that. You can hurt somebody, right. We don’t want anybody to be hurt. So we won’t allow that in Quebec.
Marie: But there’s a method to their madness when they do it in the Orient.
Anthony: Right, well, you’re looking at somebody who weighs maybe 90 pouns . So if you’re weighing 90 pounds, I’m big guy, I’m over 200 pounds, it’s not gonna hurt me. But if I’m gonna step on somebody who’s 100 pounds, 150 pounds, that would probably kill them. You know I take a chance because if you step on the spine, you could hurt somebody. But I have a friend who studied in Thailand and when he’s massaging he’ll get up and massage the person, he doesn’t do that in Quebec. But he would tell me he would get up and use his knees to press down in the back of their thighs. I mean it’s– But we don’t do that.
Marie: Non, non il faut savoir faire.
Anthony : It’s a bit, it’s a bit too intimate as well.
Marie: I think I saw that at the James Bond movie where she hangs on– They hang on to a rack on top.
Anthony: A rack or a rope, and they just step on the person.
Marie: And they just sit on your back. Tiny, little skinny, beautiful things. I wish! I weigh three times that. Never mind stepping on your back. You’ll never get up again. Anyway, I’m just saying here.
Anthony: It’s always fun when I come here.
Marie: No, but it’s because I believe in it so much, and I’m glad there’s a demand, puis if you’re thinking of changing careers, if you have that compassion and you wanna work, that course now, the oncology massages, it will take 10 months, you said.
Anthony: 9 months, 9-10 months is once a month. There’s two aspects of the course. If somebody wants the attestion, it’s 225 hours. They’ll be doing some clinical stages on cancer patients. If somebody wants the diplomas, it’s an extra 75 hours and then they’ll decide if they want to work more on cancer in the hospital setting or do they want to start working with palliative care specifically. And they have a choice. If they want to work with children, with adults.
Marie: Do you teach with children also?
Anthony: Yes, that’s in that program.
Anthony: So basically in the extra 75 hours then you’ll go and work in stash setting for children if that’s you wanna do so.
Marie: OK. I’m a big fan of reflexology.
Anthony: Oh yes!
Marie: I love reflexology. I’ve had reflexology with the– I call them Doctor Wing, Chinese way, and I’ve had reflexology from a young lady who took a course, I don’t know where it was like night and day. Why?
Anthony: Well, you know, listen, I was very good at massage. So I had a spa and people come and I try to, like, have people get massages from other therapists and they go, no, I want Anthony, I want Anthony. Anthony. I became very good at massage. So the reason I got very good is because I was a man in massage, 25 years ago, there wasn’t a man starting in massage. And I had to prove myself. And I just loved it. I fell in love with it. So what I would do is I would go around Montreal and give massages to people who were experts in the fields for free. So I can give you a free massages to get feedback from you. And I did that so often, at the same time I have cracked a vertebrae in my neck playing football. I got injured and I was suffering so much. So I would see so many different therapists. When you’re and when you’re getting a massage, you’re also picking up techniques you’re feeling how they’re working on you. So I got very good at massage. So what I’m trying to say is you’re gonna meet somebody that’s very good and somebody who’s average. And so, you know, what was the name? Mr. Wing?
Marie: No, doctor Wing is the—
Anthony: Yeah, he’s probably somebody who studied 20 years in China, he must be amazing.
Marie: And not only that, he uses techniques passed down from great grandfather, to grandfather–,
Anthony: Yeah, that’s the best.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s the best. We try to do the same. You know, we have teachers from all over. Most of my teachers have over 20-30 years experience in massage. They have like maybe 10 different type of their belts. And so they’ll come in and they’ll teach from their from their breath of experience.
Marie: What happened with me was I got a spinal injury where—I learned that because of the injury. And that popped out.
Anthony: Oh! Did that hurt any of your disk?
Marie: Oh, it was unbelievable. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t. They told me you’ll need surgery. And then somebody said to me, try this gentleman. He doesn’t bang his drum. He doesn’t have advertise, nothing. He has a very unique clientele. I have to get reference. They had to call ahead to tell him that I would call. And he came over and he had his own chair. He came with a nurse who would translate for him, because he doesn’t speak the language.
Anthony: Wow. Interesting.
Marie: Yeah. And he had his own chair and it was a bizarre thing. Not big or bulky. You just straddled it and the way you could lean over. Because she had told him the problem that I had. He massaged me 1/2 on the third visit, his nurse said to me, ”would you like to hold my hand or to bite into something?” She even had like you see in the movies, because Doctor Wing will now put back. And I thought, I’m either never going to walk again. No, because when you hear that right, I mean, you’re messing with my spine. Right. And others told me, white medicine told me I need surgery. Right. Anyway, Long story short, I’m here. I’m walking. And went back to ballet for years.
Anthony: Yeah. Yeah. Well the same thing happened to me. I mean, I started massage because I met an acupuncturist who helped me tremendously.
Marie: You see?
Anthony: And I said you know what? I believe in this stuff, it helped me. So then I said I want to help other people. And that’s where I started.
Marie: And I’ll tell you, she was right about the pain. They told me take a deep breath exhale, and while I was exhaling, he popped it back in.
Anthony: As massage therapist, we don’t manipulate the spine in that regard, we got chiropractors for that. But yeah, you got these people from from Asia.
Marie: 100 years of doing this! From great grandfathers to–. So I didn’t doubt them. I believed them. I saw him. He was a serious gentleman of a certain age, you know. It wasn’t the 20 year old who heard about his grandfather and to be quite honest, he– six months out of the year, he spends in China, he has a client, a very wealthy family, and he has been treating the whole family. They fly him down. And he has a family here in Quebec where the little boy was born with some problem in the leg. I forget now. And doctors again were saying he’ll need surgery, surgery, and he worked on the leg, and the leg started working and straightened out and everything.
Anthony: Wow, that’s amazing.
Marie: All techniques. All the ancient techniques, so massage, if you learn properly and that’s why we have Anthony here today, if you learn properly, is an ancient art.
Anthony: Oh yeah.
Marie: An ancient art.
Anthony: It was very popular with the Greeks and the Olympic athletes.
Marie: Yeah, yeah, that became more modern and we thought that was a bad thing to do individually. Yeah.
Anthony : Right.
Marie : All right, Ladies and gentlemen. A career that, funding, pays very well, a career where you help people, a career where what you are going to do is fellowship with your surroundings. And you’re not gonna be looking long to find the job.
Anthony: Oh no. Listen I’ve never seen such an increase demand for massage therapists. 25 years I’ve been in the business, I had a spa, we have every week spas all over Montreal posting on our website, asking for therapists. We have spas willing to give signing bonuses to students or pay program for their program for them to come work for them. There’s never been such a huge demand. So if you wanna get a job and change careers, it’s the perfect time to do so.
Marie: Or add to your career, like you said.
Anthony: Or add to—
Marie: If you’re semi retired or for whatever reason you have. You only do 20 hours a week, I mean, Hello.
Marie: Alright where do they contact? Where do I see to register?
Anthony: So the best thing is to call us at our main office in Dordogne, 514-507-7399.
Marie : Can you repeat that please sir?
Anthony: Everyone asks me, what does IKRA mean, it’s a kinetic study of applied rehabilitation.
Marie : Wow !
Anthony : So it’s an acronym.
Marie: Ok, ok. IKRAmassage.com. Question, can we register right away? at a certain date of the course start ?
Anthony : All the courses are starting the end of January. So it’s a new semester, so in the next two to three weeks. You could sign online, you could call us up, just sign up, just give us a deposit, we’ll get you prepared, we’ll get your books ordered and get you ready to start the course.
Marie: All right. Me, my dream now is to convince one of the best technicians in massages, who is Anthony, to find an hour.
Anthony : Anytime for you, Marie. Come on, you know that!
Marie : By the way, how long does it last, an average massage?
Anthony : Well usually it’s an hour or an hour and a half.
Anthony: But we have courses in chair massage where people learn how to do a half an hour chai massage.
Marie: Oh the neck and the head!
Anthony: Perfect. And the back and the arms. I can have somebody come here with a chair, give all your staff a nice 20 minute massage. And that’s on the house because I love you so much.
Anthony: Your fella Greek and you’re doing a great job.
Marie: Oh man! Listen, we apply dear huh? We apply, then that’s good. It is also a characteristic of Quebec, the jovial Quebecers, the laid back Quebec people. But when it applies…
Anthony : Oh yeah.
Marie: A québéquoise just won the world skiing on the week-end. And I saw this girl race down and I’m thinking, well let’s see there is no one who will beat the German, the Swiss, the Italian, guess what? La québéquoise just flew down that hill. I think she had her eyes closed because the speed she was going at. Oh my God. Then I said, “oh my beautiful little quebecoise, well done, well done ”
Anthony : We are lucky to be here. I mean they say why am I here ? Why do you stay in Quebec? It’s because the joy of living, the people, are more open, it’s more European. I adore.
Marie : No no. This is well said. 514-507-7399 or visit IKRAmassage.com. And I’m taking you up on that chair massage.
Anthony: Just do it.
Marie: And I hope you come on here again.
Anthony: Oh, for sure.
Marie: People love to listen to you. I got good good comments last time.
Anthony: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
Marie: And you’re very handsome, young man.
Anthony: Oh thank you!
Marie: Alright. Thank you for joining us. Mike FM.