All images by Nicholas Calcott for Paris By Appointment Only
There are dying languages, endangered foods and vanishing artisanal techniques. But did you know that there were therapeutic ancient massages that needed saving too??
Always willing to rally for a good cause (what a martyr, I know) I headed out to the 14th arrondissement to find out more about Dâm Bop Tâm Quât, a rare and endangered Vietnamese healing massage that blends techniques from the North and South of the country.
A natural remedy for stress, nervous tension, sleep disorders and emotional imbalance for nearly 500 years, the deep relaxation massage consists of gentle kneading and tapping movements along the body’s energy meridians.
Taught exclusively from master to disciple or within the family, the method is practiced by a dwindling group of master masseurs who rarely leave the Vietnamese community.
Ousé-An, a cozy, two-room massage parlor in Paris, however, is breaking with tradition and keeping this ancient art alive by sharing it with stressed-out non-Vietnamese too. Just a 20 minute metro ride from the city center in a residential part of town, Ousé An is the sole Parisian address to offer Dâm Bop Tâm Quât as well as a smattering of other traditional Vietnamese massages and Asian energy exercises such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Tao Yin.
The owners of this delightful zen den, Tu Minh Tan and his Italian wife Perlita Ferri, met in Paris in the early 2000’s at a martial arts course that Minh Tan was teaching. Already an expert in martial arts and Chinese massage, he was finishing his grueling decade-long spiritual and technical apprenticeship with a Vietnamese massage master during their courtship. It wasn’t long before Ferri (thank you!!) convinced her husband to share his special skills with a larger audience.
“Before I only practiced within the Vietnamese community. Now thanks to Perlita, a bridge has been made so that others can discover the massage as well,” smiles Ming Tan.
I’m not going to try and recall the details of the massage I received, which was a ½ hour Vietnamese head massage, because I was semi-conscious state for most of it as Ferri gently tapped, kneaded, pressed and released along my neck, forehead, scalp, eyes, brows and jaw. But there was a moment towards the end when she pushed against the inside of my ears and unplugged my body from its energy supply, leaving my nerves tingly after the current was cut.
“We can liberate an incredible amount of tension by placing pressure on specific parts of the body,” she said with a smile, my limp body illustrating her point perfectly.
“No kidding,” I replied, as I grafted my body off the futon and floated weightlessly to the door.
Prices: 60 minutes : 60€; 90 minutes : 90€ : 120 minutes : 120€