What’s in a name? The Rolfing Trademark – Acknowledgment beyond Tradition
Here goes. I’m jumping into the shark tank!
So, a bit ago I was privy to an email that was sent by a student of Structural Integration (let’s name them “Nat” to protect the innocent) to one of my SI students. I don’t know completely the reason Nat reached out my student; it might have been to get a sense of our SI training and ‘size us up’ so to speak.
In the email, Nat mentioned how they were studying to be a Rolfer™ in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was instantly intrigued as there is no Rolfing training here (as of May 2018).
What struck me more was the rest of the email text. Nat proceeded to mention how they were studying from a practitioner who did not attend the Rolf Institute and is not a Rolfing instructor. But Nat considered themselves to be studying the “pure Ida Rolf ‘recipe’ that is taught at the Guild.” This, unfortunately, is not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment from people who have not studied at The Rolf Institute. Before I go further, I want to be clear about which “shark tank” I’m actually jumping into. This is not about Rolfing® vs. the Guild or Rolfers vs. everyone else. This is about respect for a trademark vs. non-respect for a trademark which is often disguised as traditionalism.
My first thought reading the email was, “Wow. So many lessons to be learned.”
It’s important to understand a tiny bit of history before I go further. Early in the history of Structural Integration, two main teachers (Emmet Hutchins and Peter Melchior) broke off from the Rolf Institute to form their own school, the Guild for Structural Integration. They have both passed away and I never met them. I did meet Peter Melchior’s daughter once. As I’ve been told, they were amazing teachers and I’m sure we have lost two true masters of the craft.
Since then, other people who have taught (or have been students) at the Rolf Institute have gone on to form their own schools.
I won’t go into the whole entire timeline because frankly I don’t know it completely, but I will suggest the book “Rolfing and Physical Reality” by Ida Rolf if you want to get a sense of her early history.
In fact, the purpose of this article is to state that the whole entire history of how the “cell divided” is not as important as people may think. I’ll repeat this in different terms and address it to the Nats of the world: It doesn’t matter what you believe as far as who’s the “real Rolfer” or who was gifted to carry on the “pure recipe.” And here’s why: At some point in history The Rolf Institute trademarked the terms Rolfing® and Certified Rolfer™. The Rolf Institute then became the only organization who could use the terms or grant license to the use of those terms.
At that precise moment the entire debate of who is a “real Rolfer” or what was “pure” ceased to be defined solely by the lineage of the craft (I’m the real Rolfer because I studied under so and so….NO I’M THE REAL ROLFER!). This is because U.S. Trademark Law now comes into play. I sure hope Nat is reading this and they understand. The fact that The Rolf Institute has been granted a trademark leaves the debate of who is “real” and who is not “real” back in the past.
At this point, it’s probably important for me to describe my lineage and my path. I studied at the Rolf Institute in 2007-2008 in Boulder, Colorado, and Brazil, under amazing teachers like Jan Sultan, Monica Caspari, and Kevin McCoy. I went back to the Rolf Institute in 2015 to train as a Certified Advanced Rolfer™ with two masters, Russell Stolzoff and Ray McCall. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything else. As I mentioned, the term Certified Rolfer™ is a trademark and requires an annual license fee to be paid which I gladly pay every year.
Afterwards, I created my own school of Structural Integration, the Morales Method® Academy of Structural Integration. My school and my teachings are a branch directly from the teachings at The Rolf Institute. I went off in my own direction and teach Structural Integration from a different approach. I share my lineage and history in my program, called MMASI.
It would be silly and immature to call what we do at MMASI “real Rolfing” or even to extract the “pure recipe” from another training (yes, I do know it) and trumpet what I teach as the “pure recipe.” In fact, I like to describe the differences between what I teach and what I was taught because I feel it’s important for everyone to understand the distinctions. In our philosophy, evolution is welcomed and we feel it makes progress possible. Enough of MMASI though, let’s go back to the main reason for this article.
Rather than attempt to reach one person (and possibly a person who has already swallowed their dogma—hook, line, and sinker), I am writing this to reach a larger audience. May I give those who believe one method of SI is “purer” or “better” than another a bit of advice: Focus on studying the craft of Structural Integration instead of trying to measure your studies (and quite possibly yourself) against Rolfing or other forms of SI.
What’s the obsession over Rolfing anyway? Be happy in your studies. I’m sure you’re learning great stuff, but don’t call what you’re doing Rolfing unless you’ve graduated from The Rolf Institute. It’s not a good look.
One more thing. Nat mentioned in the email that these “real Rolfers” (who are training Nat) have received Cease and Desist letters from the Rolf Institute which they “immediately make into paper airplanes and score 3-point garbage can shots.” Apparently, this group does not adhere to, or respect, U.S. Trademark Law.
Wow. So many lessons to be learned.