Moshe Pinhas Feldenkrais was born in May 1904 in what is today the Ukranian Republic. At the tender age of 14, he set of from home and walked to what was then known as the British Mandate of Palestine and would later become Israel. When there he completed his schooling and supported himself by tutoring. He also spent time working as a cartographer and joined self defense groups. He developed his own techniques of defense by observing peoples natural responses to attack, and then refining these natural movements into defensively effective techniques. This was no abstract matter for Feldenkrais, violence was common in the Mandate and his peers frequently died as a result. In 1929 he injured his left knee while playing soccer and while recuperating he published books on autosuggestion and Ju Jitsu.
In 1930 Feldenkrais traveled to Paris and was schooled in mechanical and electrical engineering. He also met the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano. Kano was intrigued by the techniques Feldenkrais had developed in the Mandate and made special provisions to teach him Judo. After attaining his doctorate, he worked in the lab of Joliet Curie, and constructed the machines that helped make Curies breakthrough in nuclear science possible. On the eve of the Nazi invasion in 1940, Feldenkrais fled for England. During the journey, where he pushed his ill wife in a barrow, his old knee injury became painful and jepardised their lives. He eventually did make England, and when the authorities understood his background, they set him the work of developing electronic anti submarine technology. During his work on this project, moving around the submarines kept aggravating the injury. It was during this time he questioned to himself, why! Why, during his time of greatest need, and such duress, would it be that after many years of functioning well, his knee injury came back. It was this questioning that set him on a lifelong path that explored the connection between movement and consciousness.
In developing his work Moshe Feldenkrais studied, among other things, anatomy, physiology, child development, movement science, evolution, psychology, a number of Eastern awareness practices and other somatic approaches.
Dr. Feldenkrais authored a number of seminal books on movement, learning, human consciousness and somatic experience. He taught in Israel and many countries in Europe through the 1960s and 1970s and in North America through the 1970s and 1980s. He trained his first group of teachers in Tel Aviv in the early 1970s. This was followed by two groups in the USA – one group in San Francisco, California and another in Amherst, Massachusetts. During the Amhurst training, Feldenkrais became ill and the training was completed by some of those he had already trained.
In his life Dr. Feldenkrais worked with all kinds of people with an enormous range of learning needs -from many infants with Cerebral Palsy to leading performers such as the violinist, the late Yehudi Menuhin. Israels first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion sought help for debilitating back pain and was famously pain free after a month of lessons with Feldenkrais. He was a collaborator with thinkers such as anthropologist Margaret Mead, neuroscientist Karl Pribram and explorers of the psychophysical Jean Houston and Robert Masters.
His scope of thinking and the pragmatic application of ideas, was a truly remarkable accomplishment and placed Feldenkrais decades ahead of his time. A true pioneer of neuroplasticity, his work continues to benefit people from all walks of life to lead better lives.
Motivated by the value of what they had learned, this small group of people formed practitioner associations and training programs that evolved into guilds that are now in many countries across the world. It was a process driven by a great respect for what they had learned and genuine wish to see the method benefit the world as widely as possible. Training programs are 4 year courses, with emphasis placed heavily on experiential learning and practitioners qualify ready to administer lessons.
"Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life"
- Moshe Feldenkrais
"What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains.
What I'm after is to restore each person to their human dignity"
- Moshe Feldenkrais