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May 6, 1904
Slavuta, Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine)
|Died||July 1, 1984
Tel Aviv, Israel
|Fields||Psychology, Physics, Education|
|Known for||Founding the Feldenkrais method|
Moshé Pinchas Feldenkrais (Russian: Моше Пинхас Фельденкрайз, Hebrew: משה פנחס פלדנקרייז, May 6, 1904 – July 1, 1984) was an Israeli physicist and the founder of the Feldenkrais Method, designed to improve human functioning by increasing self-awareness through movement.
Feldenkrais was born in the Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine) city of Slavuta. In 1918, he left his family, then living in Baranovichi, Belarus, to emigrate to Palestine. There he worked as a laborer before obtaining his high-school diploma in 1925. After graduation, he worked as a cartographer for the British survey office. During his time in Palestine he began his studies of self-defense, including jiu jitsu. A soccer injury in 1929 would later figure into the development of his method.
During the 1930s, he lived in France where he earned his engineering degree from the École Spéciale des Travaux Publics, and later his Doctor of Science in engineering at the Sorbonne where Marie Curie was one of his teachers. During this time he worked as a research assistant to nuclear chemist and Nobel Prize laureate Frédéric Joliot-Curie at the Radium Institute. In 1933, he met Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, who encouraged him to continue his study of Asian martial arts. He became a close friend of Kano, and corresponded with him regularly. Kano chose him to be one of the doors through which the East attempts to meet the West. In 1936, he earned a black belt in judo, and later gained his 2nd degree black belt in 1938. He was a co-founding member of the Jiu Jitsu Club de France, one of the oldest Judo clubs in Europe, which still exists today. Frédéric, Irène Joliot-Curie, and Bertrand Goldschmidt took Judo lessons from him during their time together at the institute.
Just as the Germans were about to arrive in Paris in 1940, Feldenkrais fled to Britain with a jar of "heavy water" and a sheaf of research material with instructions to deliver them to the British Admiralty War Office. Until 1946, he was a science officer in the Admiralty working on Anti-submarine weaponry in Fairlie, Scotland. His work on improving sonar led to several patents. He also taught self-defense techniques to his fellow servicemen. On slippery submarine decks, he re-aggravated an old soccer knee injury. Refusing an operation, he was prompted to intently explore and develop self-rehabilitation and awareness techniques through self-observation 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 study judo scientifically, incorporating the knowledge he gained through his self-rehabilitation. In 1949, he published the first book on the Feldenkrais method, Body and Mature Behavior: A Study of Anxiety, Sex, Gravitation and Learning. During this period he studied the work of G.I. Gurdjieff, F. Matthias Alexander, Elsa Gindler and William Bates. He also traveled to Switzerland to study with Heinrich Jacoby.
In 1951, he returned to the recently formed Israel. After directing the Israeli Army Department of Electronics for several years, in 1954 he settled in Tel Aviv where he began to teach his method full-time. He began training Mia Segal as his assistant and his first student in 1957. In the same year, he gave lessons in the Feldenkrais method to David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel, enabling him to stand on his head in a yoga pose.
Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s he presented the Feldenkrais method throughout Europe and in North America (including an Awareness Through Movement program for human potential trainers including at Esalen Institute in 1972). 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 13 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 at Lone Mountain College under the auspices of the Humanistic Psychology Institute. In 1980, 235 students began his summer teacher-training course at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. After becoming ill in the fall of 1981, after teaching two of the planned four summers, he stopped teaching publicly. He died on July 1, 1984. There are well over 2000 practitioners of his method teaching throughout the world today.
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 Jiujitsu and Judo
- Jiu-jitsu. Paris: Étienne Chiron, 1934 (out of print).
- Manuel pratique du Jiu-jitsu: la défense du faible contre l'agresseur. Paris: Étienne Chiron, 1939 (out of print).
- ABC du Judo. Paris: Étienne Chiron, 1941 (out of print).
- 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.)
- About Moshé Feldenkrais and The Feldenkrais Method by Mark Reese
- A Concise Biography of Moshe Feldenkrais by Mark Reese
- Bibliography of the Feldenkrais Method compiled by Mark Reese
- Feldenkrais and Judo by Dennis Leri
- Some History from the Australian Feldenkrais Center
- Readings on the Feldenkrais Method Articles on the Method incl some rare ones