Health Traditions with Bruce Bentley, Bruce Bentley and Shirley Gabriel, Profile

Bruce Bentley and Shirley Gabriel, Profile

Bruce BentleyOn his way to study traditional Chinese medicine in Taiwan, in 1976, Bruce stopped over in Thailand for a couple of months and chanced upon seeing Traditional Thai Massage being practiced under the eaves of a temple in North Eastern Thailand. He learned that Thai traditional medical practices were falling victim to modern social changes and a honeymoon period with modern medicine. At the time, it seemed they may die out altogether. He then decided he would return in the future and collect what could be gathered.

Onto the next leg of his studies, Bruce lived in Taiwan for the next five years and completed a five-year Doctors program, conducted in Chinese language at the Chinese Acupuncture Hospital.

On his return to Australia, Bruce began private practice and was invited by many schools to teach. He also finished a degree in Sociology and Philosophy and went on to complete an Honours degree in the Sociology of Health and Illness. His thesis examined the unequal distribution of health in Australia, based on socio-economic factors. The thesis was titled “How holistic is Alternative Medicine’ – which was a critical analysis of how alternative medicine tends to consider individual factors of health but often fails to relate this to other reasons for illness which can be difficult for the individual to change. Other subsequent formal studies included Western Medical Sciences, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Clinical Nutrition, a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Chinese Herbal Medicine) and a Masters Degree in Health Studies, with his thesis titled "Cupping as Therapeutic Technology". During 2002, Bruce was employed by the Victorian State Government (Australia) to conduct a full time research project titled "Folk Medical Practices in the Vietnamese Community".

Shirley GabrielWhat Bruce has developed with Health traditions is a platform to present many practices that needed a hand to survive. Thus we present unique and world firsts. Since Bruce began his cupping workshops for example, cupping has seen a massive resurgence of interest in this practice. He is presently engaged in writing a series of books on cupping and his chapter called Cupping's Folk Heriatge: people and practice can be found in Ilkay's Chirali's third edition of Cupping Therapy (Churchill Livingstone). Bruce also lectures in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Western Sydney

SHIRLEY GABRIEL is a Thai and therapeutic massage therapist, who has also completed all of the Health Traditions courses. She teaches in the Modern Cupping Workshop and instructs in our courses on traditional Thai massage.

On Cupping

CuppingBruce Bentley first learnt traditional Chinese cupping as part of his internships at hospitals and clinics in Taiwan from 1976 -1981. This was followed by his thesis for a Masters Degree in Health Studies titled ‘Cupping as Therapeutic Technology’ and his first research trip to Vietnam. In 1996, he was invited to China, where a special course on cupping was presented to him by chief physicians at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. To investigate other cupping practices in China, Bruce also studied at the Tibetan Medicine Hospital in Lhasa, Tibet, and at the Uighur Traditional Medicine Hospital in Urumqi, Xinjiang Province. The following year he visited the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra to observe how the massage therapists there employ cupping to treat sports injuries and enhance performance. Midway through 1998, Bruce spent three months in Europe and North Africa. The first month was devoted to archival research at the Welcome Institute for the History of Medicine (the world’s premier library and research centre for medical history), London, and the Department for the History of Medicine at Rome University. For the remaining two months he travelled to Sicily, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia learning local cupping traditions. Bruce has also returned to study cupping in Vietnam and for the month of July 2008 he researched cupping practices in Cambodia. Following invitations from University departments of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the USA and Canada, together with requests from enthusiastic practitioners, Bruce began teaching his cupping workshops in the USA in 2008.  Bruce and Shirley have also deveoped Modern Cupping. Our workshop after many trials, deals with new treatments, previously not found in traditional practices including the Neck, Shoulder and Back treatment, the Arm and Hand Rehabilitation Programme, the Cupping Detoxification System, the Foot Treatment and the Cellulite, Stretch Marks and Scar Clearing System.While teaching in the USA for two months in 2010, Bruce also researched cupping at the New York Academy of Medicine and at the National Museum of the American indian (Washington DC) and interviewed Navajo people in Arizona about their cupping practices.

On Traditional Thai Massage

Traditional Thai MassageWhen Bruce first saw Traditional Thai Massage in Thailand, in 1976, he began gathering as much practical and theoretical information as he could, because at the time TTM was disappearing from the Thai scene. He has returned to Thailand 13 times, totaling around two and a half years of research and has studied in all parts of the country. In 1992, Bruce founded the Australian School of Traditional Thai Massage and the breadth of the studies presented, has seen the ASTTM become the only school outside Thailand to be recommended by the Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical Association, headquarters of Thai medicine and massage for the past three centuries. This recommendation is especially significant because there are many studies in our programs that are no longer taught or have faded from practice in Thailand.

On Gua Sha

Bruce has studied with expert gua sha therapists including Dr Lee, the gua sha specialist at the Shanghai Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Mr Trang Le, who as a young boy in Vietnam was apprenticed to a wandering Buddhist monk and instructed in a rare lineage of medicine known as the Buddhist Wandering Monk Medical Tradition. Bruce spent a weekly four hour class over twelve months with Mr Le as his only student. The latter instruction included exceptional information on gua sha practices. In 2002, Bruce was also employed as a full-time researcher for the Victorian state government (Australia) to conduct an in-depth research and write-up his results in a 180 page submission on "Folk Medical Practices in the Vietnamese Community". Once more, further excellent and otherwise difficult to obtain information, especially on gua sha (known in the Vietnamese community as cao gio) was obtained.