Moshe Feldenkrais

Moshe Feldenkrais (Doctor of Science, Sorbonne) was an engineer, physicist, inventor, martial artist and student of human development.

About Moshe Feldenkrais

He was born in 1904 in what is now the Ukrainian Republic but emigrated to Palestine as a young man. He attended the Sorbonne, where he earned his Bsc in engineering and then his doctorate. He worked in the Joliot Curie laboratory during the 1930’s. While in Paris he also came into contact with Jigoro Kano, the Japanese martial artist who developed Judo. This became one of the enduring passions of his life – he was a founder of the Ju Jitsu Club of Paris as well as one of the first Europeans to earn a black belt in Judo. His two books on Judo are still sought after.

As the beginning of the Second World War, Feldenkrais fled to Britain where he worked on anti-submarine research for the Admiralty. It was there, in the 1940’s, that he began to develop his method: a knee injury, and uncertain prospects from surgery, pushed Feldenkrais into what became a life-long exploration of the relationship between movement and consciousness.

In developing his work Feldenkrais drew from a rich variety of sources. He studied with F M Alexander, the originator of the Alexander Technique, and though the two men eventually quarreled, Alexander’s influence on Feldenkrais was enormous. In his book Body and Mature Behaviour, Feldenkrais developed Alexander’s ideas and set them in an evolutionary and neurological context. But perhaps as result of the self-directed education of his youth, he had an inordinate appetite for learning and studied – among other things – anatomy, physiology, child development and psychology; his experience both learning and teaching Judo also led him to a number of Eastern awareness practices and other somatic approaches. The Feldenkrais Method, then, is a synthesis of these wide-ranging explorations, firmly grounded in the experimental ethos of Western science.

During the 1950’s Feldenkrais finally left his career in physics to pursue the much less certain path of creating his own discipline. He had returned to what was then the state of Israel, to Tel Aviv. At first he worked by himself, teaching group classes and working with individuals with every imaginable difficulty. As his reputation grew, he trained his first group of assistants. In the late 70’s he began teaching in America where he trained another larger group and began one more training programme; this was completed by his assistants as his health deteriorated. He died in 1984. Today the Feldenkrais Method has spread globally with nearly 5000 practitioners world wide.