a community of practitioners
I think the word Passion is important when it comes to excelling at anything. That and time.
I have been giving my sibling massages since middle or high school. Given a former friend massages in high school; also my ex boyfriend. All out of boredom and wanted to do something. My ex had told me that I was hitting some of the pressure points in his back, then later told me he had mentioned I should become a massage therapist.
Years later, I attend a massage program because of the benefits and what I wanted to do as a whole (teach, start my own business, flexible hours and medical field). Not once thinking about the past and how it made me feel. As the program went on and we began on the lab/hands-on work, both my teachers have told me I am a natural. Toward the ending of my studies I massaged another student who was doing the work for 3 years (went back to school so he could pass the NCE) who told me that I had a touch, I just to work more on technique.
After I completed my school work and graduated, I started my job at Massage Envy. Less than a year of doing this work, clients would ask me, "How long have you been doing this?" I would mention "6/7 months"...."just under a year." Then they would go on to tell me they thought I was in the field for at least 5 years. Coworkers (at the time) also said the same thing.
So in my defense, I believe for some it's a gift to help them prosper. For others, a skill. But for me I would also like to say it's both. (Not to toot my own horn). While in school, I was thinking about specializing in Neuromuscular Therapy. Funny thing is, I am NOW, 3 years later, signed up for a class to start my specialization. I wanted to wait a while, try some other things, and to take a break from any schooling that focused on what I REALLY wanted to do. After reading up on some modalities, my choices of specializations are Neuromuscular Therapy, CranioSacral, Reiki, and possibly Thai Massage. If anything I would want to do Thai Massage on the table instead of the floor. (New York actually have a special class/program for table Thai Massage that I am looking forward to taking in the future.)
I feel it's both. There is a gift to touch... those that have it have a much easier time learning the skill. Those who have a gift for it are also better at assessment, and bypassing some of the garbage we are taught to get to the core of the problem. There is skill involved, and you can teach certain things. You can teach assessment like putting together a puzzle, but the intuition, that comes with the gift. Some gifts take time to "wake up". There are things I couldn't do with massage in my 20's because of where I was in my head. Now I'm in my late 40's and they're easy. It wasn't a skill I had to learn, it was a place I had to be in my own head and heart. Not everyone who has a love of giving massage needs to be a professional. The pressure of making a living at something can really take the joy out of it.