Moshe Pinhas Feldenkrais was born on May 6, 1904 in Slavuta, in what is now the Ukrainian Republic. When he was a young boy, his family moved to the nearby town of Korets. In 1912 his family moved to Baranovich in what is now Belarus. While Baranowitsch experienced many battles of the First World War, Feldenkrais received his bar mitzvah, completed high school for two years and received training in the Hebrew language and Zionist philosophy.
In 1918 Feldenkrais went on a six-month trip to Palestine alone. Upon arriving in 1919, Feldenkrais worked as a manual worker until he returned to high school in 1923 to earn a diploma. While attending school, he earned his living by tutoring. After graduating in 1925, he worked for the British surveying office as a cartographer.
Feldenkrais was involved in Jewish self-defense groups, and after learning Jiujitsu, he developed his own self-defense techniques. In 1929 he injured his left knee during a soccer game. During his convalescence he wrote Autosuggestion (1930), a translation from English into Hebrew of Charles Brooks' work on Coué's system of autosuggestion, along with two chapters that he wrote himself. He next published Jujitsu (1931), a book on self-defense.
In 1930 Feldenkrais went to Paris and enrolled at an engineering school, the Ecole des Travaux Publics des Paris. He completed his studies in 1933 with a focus on mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. After he met Jigaro Kano, the founder of judo, in 1933, Feldenkrais began teaching Jiujitsu again and began his training in judo.
In 1933 he began to work as a research assistant under Frederic Joliot-Curie at the Radium Institute, while he was studying engineering at the Sorbonne. From 1935-1937 he worked in the Arcueil-Cachan laboratories, building a Van de Graaf generator that was used for nuclear fission experiments.
In 1935 he published a revised French edition of his Hebrew jujitsu book entitled La Défense du Faible Contre L'Agresseur and in 1938 the ABC du Judo. In 1936 he received his black judo belt and in 1938 the 2nd Feldenkrais married Yona Rubenstein in 1938.