Dr. Moshe Pinhas Feldenkrais (May 6, 1904 - July 1, 1984) was the founder of the Feldenkrais Method® of movement education designed to improve human functioning by increasing self-awareness in movement.
Feldenkrais was born on May 6, 1904 in the Ukrainian town of Slavuta. In 1918, at the age of 13, he left his family to emigrate to Palestine, the land of his Jewish ancestry, where he worked, completed his high-school diploma, and studied self-defense, including Jiu jitsu. A soccer injury he incurred in 1929 would later figure into the development of his method.
During the period of 1930-1940, he lived in France where he earned his engineering degree from the Ecole des Travaux Publics des Paris, and later his Doctor of Science in physics at the Sorbonne. During this time he worked as a research assistant to nuclear chemist and Nobel Prize Laureate Frederic Joliot-Curie at the Radium Institute. In 1933, he met Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, and began studying Judo. He earned his 2nd degree black belt in 1938.
Feldenkrais fled to Britain just as the Germans were about to arrive in Paris in 1940. Until 1946, he was a science officer in the Admiralty working on anti-submarine warfare. He also taught self-defense techniques to his fellow servicemen. On slippery submarine decks, he re-aggravated his knee injury. The degree of medical advancement at the time would have almost certainly meant that any surgury would result in a disappointing degree of functional impairment. This prompted him to intently explore and develop self-rehabilitation techniques which later evolved into the method. His discoveries led him to begin sharing with others (including colleague J. D. Bernal) through lectures, experimental classes, and one-on-one work with a few.
After leaving the Admiralty, he lived and worked in private industry in London. His self-rehabilitation enabled him to continue his Judo practice. From his position on the international Judo committee he began to scientifically study Judo, incorporating the knowledge he gained through his self-rehabilitation. In 1949 he published the first book on the method, Body and Mature Behavior. During this period he studied the work of Gurdjieff, F. Matthias Alexander, and William Bates. He also traveled to Switzerland to study with Heinrich Jacoby.
In 1951, he returned to the recently formed, modern state of Israel. After directing the Israeli Army Department of Electronics for several years, in 1954 he settled in Tel Aviv where he begain to teach his method full-time. In 1957, he gave lessons in the method to David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel.
Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s he presented the method throughout Europe and in the North America (including a workshop at Esalen). He also began to train teachers in the method so they could, in-turn, present the work to others. He trained the first group of 12 teachers in the method from 1969-1971 in Tel Aviv. Over the course of four summers from 1975-1978, he trained 65 teachers in San Francisco. In 1980, 235 students began his teacher-training course in Amherst, Massachusetts, but unfortunately, he was not able to continue with them through the end due to illness in 1981.
Feldenkrais died on July 1, 1984.
"Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself."
"If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want."
"Without movement life is unthinkable."
"What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I'm after is to restore each person to their human dignity."
"..make the impossible possible, the possible easy, and the easy elegant."
"I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning. A brain without a body could not think..."
"...self-knowledge through awareness is the goal of reeducation. As we become aware of what we are doing in fact, and not what we say or think we are doing, the way to improvement is wide open to us."
"Find your true weakness and surrender to it. Therein lies the path to genius. Most people spend their lives using their strengths to overcome or cover up their weaknesses. Those few who use their strengths to incorporate their weaknesses, who don't divide themselves, those people are very rare. In any generation there are a few and they lead their generation."
Books about the Feldenkrais Method®
Body and Mature Behavior: A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation and Learning. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1949; New York: International Universities Press, 1950 (softcover edition, out of print); Tel-Aviv: Alef Ltd., 1966, 1980, 1988 (hardcover edition).
Awareness Through Movement: Health Exercises for Personal Growth. New York/London: Harper & Row 1972, 1977; Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1972, 1977 (hardcover edition, out of print); Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1972, 1977; San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1990 (softcover edition).
The Case of Nora: Body Awareness as Healing Therapy. New York/London: Harper & Row, 1977 (out of print).
The Elusive Obvious. Cupertino, California: Meta Publications, 1981.
The Master Moves. Cupertino, California: Meta Publications, 1984, (softcover edition.)
The Potent Self. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. Harper Collins, New York, 1992, (softcover edition.)
50 Lessons by Dr. Feldenkrais. Noah Eshkol. Tel-Aviv, Israel: Alef Publishers, 1980 (written in Movement Notation).
Books about Judo
Practical Unarmed Combat. London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1941. Revised edition 1944, 1967 (out of print).
Judo: The Art of Defense and Attack. New York and London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1944, 1967 (out of print).
Higher Judo (Groundwork). New York and London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1952 (out of print). Xerox copy available from Feldenkrais Resources.
Articles and Transcribed Lectures
"A Non-Specific Treatment." The Feldenkrais Journal, No. 6, 1991. (Lecture from 1975 Training Program, edited by Mark Reese.)
"Awareness Through Movement." Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators. John E. Jones and J. William Pfeiffer (eds.). La Jolla, CA: University Associates, 1975.
"Bodily Expression." Somatics, Vol. 6, No. 4, Spring/Summer 1988. (Translated from the French by Thomas Hanna.)
"Bodily Expression (Conclusion)." Somatics, Vol. 7, No. 1, Autumn/Winter 1988-89.
"Learn to Learn." Booklet. Washington D.C.: ATM Recordings, 1980.
"On Health." Dromenon, Vol. 2, No. 2, August/September 1979.
"On the Primacy of Hearing." Somatics, Vol. 1, No. 1, Autumn 1976.
"Man and the World." Somatics, Vol. 2, No. 2, Spring 1979. Reprinted in Explorers of Humankind, Thomas Hanna (ed.). San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.
"Mind and Body." Two lectures in Systematics: The Journal of the Institute for the Comparative Study of History, Philosophy and the Sciences, Vol. 2, No. 1, June 1964. Reprinted in Your Body Works, Gerald Kogan (ed.). Berkeley: Transformations, 1980.
"Self-Fulfillment Through Organic Learning." Journal of Holistic Health, Vol. 7, 1982. (Lecture delivered at the Mandala Conference, San Diego, 1981, edited by Mark Reese.)