Valencia, July 2020
It’s taken me 10 years, uncountable sleepless nights and several times of completely losing my voice, to decide and write this text. A mix between hope (that someday it would all end in a positive way) and conviction (that if certain facts were known it would have caused a stir) kept me from communicating what I was learning/discovering during my years as a member of the WABA(1) Board.
As Harold Dull left his physical body in 2019, and seeing the official story that is being told over the past 13 years, time has come for me to share an untold part of those years, from my personal point of view.
As Senator George Graham Vest said in 1891, “history is written by the victors and framed according to the prejudices and bias existing on their side.”
Luckily time and fate put everything and everyone in the place they deserve and belong to. This text is my little grain of sand to help in this process.
After reaching the awareness that there is no such thing as “common sense”, or a widely shared sense of ethics and justice, I have decided to list a series of facts (proven by documents in my possession) and leave you the freedom to draw your conclusions.
My aim is to bring light where it’s needed.
My gratitude to Harold Dull remains untouched. May he find peace where he is now.
1999: Being an active Shiatsu practitioner since 1998 I take my first watsu course in Italy.
2001-2002: Watsu Practitioner training in Italy and at the Watsu Center in Harbin Hot Springs (USA) with Harold Dull co-teaching with Linda de Lehman or Minakshi and Alexis Lee.
2002: Qualified as Watsu Practitioner.
2003: Watsu Assistant Training Course with Michele Chelenza at Harbin Hot Springs. Qualified as Assistant.
2003: Watsu Instructor Training Course with Michele Chelenza at Harbin Hot Springs. Qualified as Watsu Basic Instructor.
2005: Approved as Watsu 1 Instructor.
2007: Approved as Watsu 2 Instructor.
2009: Appointed member of the WABA board of directors.
2010: I ask Harold Dull to support my request to be approved as Watsu 3 Instructor.
2011: Approved as Watsu 3 Instructor.
From the information obtained it can be deduced that Harold Dull signed a personal agreement with the school Watsu Italia, giving them the right to adopt their own procedures and curriculum thus allegedly creating an exception in the standards adopted worldwide.
The WABA Board signs an agreement with Harold and Pavana Dull where WABA will provide advisory services to the Dulls operating the Registry. In exchange the Dulls will pay 25% of the Registry incomes to WABA, to fund its activities.
I am voted on the WABA Board with Harold Dull as President, his wife Pavana as Treasurer. Another member of the Board and myself request WABA’s by-laws, procedures and current financial balance. I never receive one of those.
As soon as I am a member of the Board I realize WABA is an association of just 7 people (those in the Board) and not a member’s association. Every time I paid my WABA fees as Watsu Practitioner or as an Instructor thinking I was a member of a worldwide association, I was mistaken! That fee did not make me a member of WABA, it was just a registry fee.
Italian colleagues inform me that some associates of the school Watsu Italia seem to have achieved certifications as Instructors without fulfilling the requirements as stated in WABA’s worldwide standards. This is creating turmoil among other aspiring instructors and in the local community of Practitioners. I ask the WABA Board how this could happen, because I believe that, if a procedure fails, we need to change it in order to avoid future mistakes.
From the information obtained at that time, it seems that WABA Board discovers that the school Watsu Italia is operating free from WABA’s supervision and adopting their own training and certification programs which amend the worldwide one. Among other amendments to the worldwide curriculum, Watsu Italia’s students did not need to take and pass the Assistant Training Course (*) prior to taking the Instructor Training. I start thinking that in the “worldwide watsu family” not everybody is equal.
(*) In figures, at that time, for a European resident, taking the ATC meant an investment of ~ 2500 USD (course fee plus travel and accommodation costs to go take the course in the USA). Not counting the loss of income for having to take 5 or 6 days off from work.
When the WABA board is informed about the existence of a personal agreement between Harold Dull and the school Watsu Italia, some disagree with it. Yet the agreement cannot be stopped.
Having fulfilled all the requirements to be qualified as a Watsu 3 Instructor I decide to apply for approval to teach that level. Between the reluctance I intuit from Harold to support my candidacy and the meetings that will be cancelled at the last minute, I have to wait 13 months before my application eventually gets voted.
WABA is moving towards becoming a Members association. Some of the candidates don’t receive all the emails and are left out of the game. I call to respect the due procedures and claim that the entire election is done again from scratch, applying due diligence. In the end, nothing is done and the whole project is ditched.
A motion in the Board proposes a Watsu 1 Instructor as a Watsu 2 Instructor.
- This person is not sponsored by his Watsu 2 Coach Advisor as it normally should;
- He was added to the registry as a Watsu 1 Instructor only 3 months before;
- He was never approved as a Watsu 1 Instructor by the WABA Board;
- He did not log the required Watsu 2 co-teachings prior to the final exam.
After some investigation, it turns out he actually failed his Watsu 2 Instructor exam. His Coach Advisor thinks he is not ready to teach that level and his performance “was not an example of experience - or the level of teaching - required for Watsu 1, let alone Watsu 2”.
Harold Dull advocates for approving this Instructor. I strongly oppose, but knowing that ¾ of the Board are dependent on Harold Dull’s good will to prosper in their teaching at Harbin Hot Springs, I am not surprised when the Board finally gives this Instructor authorisation to teach Watsu 2.
To sum it all up: a trainee that failed his exam achieves his certification anyway. My trust in WABA and its Registry as a Certification Body is broken.
2010 – …
In the following years, as it can be seen from the WABA registry, more people appear in it as Instructors without having fulfilled the requirements. Some were not even Practitioners when they took the Instructor Training Course. Others seem to have never taken the Instructor Training Course. It becomes evident that being listed on the Registry is not a guarantee of quality, training and skills. Its credibility and value is jeopardized by the amount of exceptions populating it and the lack of consistency in its operation.
The Board of WABA receives a complaint from a student about one renowned instructor. The complaint is never passed on to the Ethical committee and the issue is forgotten.
I feel, and it’s my personal opinion, that the Board is not complying with its responsibility and purpose of “overseeing aquatic bodywork training and certification programs and their ethical application” and worst, the way I see it, there is no ability and/or will to do it. It could be intuited that there may be conflicting personal interests and power games that are in the way.
I realize it's been 2 years since I am in the Board of WABA and we never voted to approve the yearly fiscal balance, which I believe is a legal requirement. I officially ask why, and request to see the accountancy. Pavana Dull says the balances have been submitted to the IRS. I ask how it can be, without my knowing that the Board has approved them. I begin to be very worried if this could prove to be an irregularity.
It has been 13 months since I moved the first files to get my authorization as a Watsu 3 instructor. Finally my request is voted and approved unanimously.
2011, end of April
I keep asking for an explanation regarding the WABA balances.
I get no reply on this matter. My relationship with Harold Dull is heavily affected by the differences we have on this and several other issues in the management of WABA. Harold Dull comes to take a stand against me.
2011 – today
Seeing that in my personal opinion the Registry is no longer a guarantee of the training of those appearing in it, and the requirements are not systematically respected, I decide to stop supporting this system and involving in it my students and colleagues. It’s not clear to me that WABA is “overseeing aquatic bodywork training and certification programs and their ethical application” and worse, I have seen that’s not the priority. I feel the “Worldwide Watsu Family” is a family in which I don’t recognize myself: a place where, depending who you work with, you may take advantages of shortcuts in the training and other benefits, or, on the contrary, have to stick to the “worldwide” curriculum to the last letter. Not to mention my doubts about how ethics issues are dealt with. All this according to my point of view and my personal experience.
A letter from WABA Italy on behalf of Harold Dull informs me of possible legal actions. I propose Harold Dull to work together to reconcile our differences instead of enriching our lawyers. We start discussing the terms of a possible agreement.
One of my closest colleagues in Spain starts her own Training Institute. In the following months she disseminates several incorrect and biased information about our team and her former participation in it.
After 1 ½ year of fruitless negotiations I communicate Harold Dull my bottom-line: I want my students, colleagues and school to benefit from the same conditions he has granted to other schools through private agreements. He denies the existence of such agreements. I have in my hand a copy of one of those agreements signed by him. Seeing that he keeps denying the reality I am forced to accept the evidence that any conversation is useless and that he has no real interest in any reconciliation whatsoever.
Harold Dull sends all Instructors an email saying his lawyers have advised him against setting up a lawsuit against me. Presumably, as he cannot fight in court, he calls the watsu community to help in bringing back in his registry the students that have studied with our school. I feel a regrettable public slandering and mobbing is under way against our team, our students and those practitioners who studied with us, without allowing us the right to reply. This hurts. Me, my colleagues but most of all, innocent students and the entire aquatic community are exposed to useless suffering.
Harold Dull calls a meeting of the Board sending the convocation to an old, inactive email address, although it’s 2 years he is emailing me on the new address for all the other communications. I learned later on that WABA is dissolved and that a new organization with the same name will be established in Switzerland.
The current organization does not turn out to be what I could wish for.
Fifteen among the most active watsu practitioners of our entourage gather in Valencia, Spain, to share their experience and vision for the future. The will to be coherent with that energy of openness and love we share in the waters lead to the unanimous decision to start a process of transformation.
We are grateful to Harold Dull for bringing us watsu. We honour him and all those on our path: from our master instructors, to our most humble students (who are the true best teachers!). We collect the legacy of those who have been our mentors and commit to continue developing this form of body-work; a process that we've carried out for the past 15 years and has brought us to have our own exclusive teaching style and to change and improve the majority of movements of “classic” watsu. What we practice and teach today deserves its own name, to acknowledge the differences from its origin and the path our School has taken.
Thank you for having taken the time to read me.
NOTES: (1) WABA: a self proclaimed Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association. When I was part of its board it counted 7 members.