Perhaps this physical activity was part of the reason I fell asleep on the massage table. In fact, the whole knife massage experience was more than I’d expected. When making an appointment, I was asked to send a recent photo of myself so they could find a suitable therapist according to the energy emanating off it. (Thanks to the apparent acceptance of modern technology, a digital photo works fine.)

Soon after arriving, Elsa showed me five meteorites sitting at the side of the room; practitioners believe the meteorites have healing powers for the body, mind and spirit, and place the knives next to them to recharge.

Then of course there were the knives, cold, rectangular, metal cleavers, which looked like they had been taken from a chef’s kitchen or a crime thriller. Practitioners must study hard and follow the teachings, otherwise the knives could be dangerous, said Hsiao. However, in the centre’s 40 years’ history, no client has ever been injured by knives, she said.

“At the beginning I was scared when I saw the knives, I thought it was dangerous,” client Chiu Mei-lan, 73, had earlier told me. “I was quite afraid, I said to the therapist, ‘don’t hit very hard, just lightly.’ It started to feel quite nice, so I said, ‘you can do it harder, that’s too light.’”

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