Tapping Strokes (Tapotement)
Tapotement, or tapping, is a percussive technique used to produce stimulation, treating the body as though it is a drum. The movement is a steady, even beat that produces a flush to the skin, a feeling of well-being, and a sensation of renewed energy. There are many different forms of tapping that are created by different positions of the hands and fingers. Some of the most popular forms are hacking, cupping, slapping, tapping, and chopping. Always keep your hands loose from the wrist, including the fingers and thumbs, as shown in the example of chopping in FIGURE 5-2.
Practice for a moment relaxing your hands. Sit or stand and shake out your hands, letting them become loose. Your hands and wrists will flap back and forth, your fingers will hit each other, and your thumbs will do their own thing. Let your arms fall to the side and relax from the shoulders. Allow everything to become loose and free.
Next, practice drumming. Place your fingers on a hard surface, like a table, and start out slowly. Tap the table one finger at a time in progression, creating a smooth pattern. Let your fingers be easy and gentle as you move into a steady beat. You can use your thumbs to brace your hands as your fingers do the tapping. Pick up the pace; see how the table begins to talk back to you? When your fingers feel a slight pain, ease up the pressure but continue the beat.
Continue to experiment with tapping, making your own composition. The idea is to provide an even, comfortable experience that will stimulate while adding to the overall feeling of renewal. Tapping should not be so hard that it hurts! Rather than tapping harder, let the fingers all tap together; this will feel more intense.
Still on the hard surface, let your hands form the chopping position in FIGURE 5-2, but this time let your fingers remain loose. Chop your hands slowly on the table (not too hard or it will be painful) and pick up the pace as you become confident with this move.
Massage therapists must be ever conscious of their bodies. Proper positioning is crucial to your ability to work, as well as to the overall health of your joints, connective tissues, and the muscles in your hands. Practice keeping your arms and hands relaxed but not overly extended or flexed.
Practice drumming and chopping on your legs so you become comfortable with the feel. Use an open palm with your fingers slightly cupped and gently slap on your legs. Feel the slight vacuum caused by the curved palm. Now flatten your palm, straighten your fingers, and slap your legs. This feels different because the fingers do more of the slapping. Practice these two moves on your legs and find out what feels good and what is too much.
Lastly, close your hands into very loose fists and pound lightly on your legs. This pounding or hacking is good for very large muscles such as those on the thighs or the back (but not near the waistline). Try this on yourself: Using your loosely closed fist, pound on your thighs with the sides of your hands; then turn your fists and rapidly beat a staccato rhythm on your thighs. Feel how the different ways of pounding stimulate your leg muscles? In massage, we call this hacking. It also works well on hamstring muscles, found on the back of the thighs, as demonstrated in FIGURE 5-3.
Hacking the hamstring muscles.
Become aware of the different feelings these tapping techniques deliver. After trying them all out on yourself, practice on your massage partner. Ask for feedback, continuously checking the comfort level of your receiver.