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Moshe Feldenkrais


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.

From 1939-1940 he worked under Paul Langevin and did research on magnetics and ultrasound. Feldenkrais fled to England in 1940, just as the Germans were arriving in Paris. As a scientific officer in the British Admiralty, he carried out anti-submarine research in Scotland from 1940-1945. There he taught judo and self-defense courses. In 1942 he published a manual on self-defense, Practical Unarmed Combat, and Judo. Feldenkrais began working with himself to deal with knee discomfort that had recurred during his escape from France and while walking on submarine decks.

Feldenkrais gave a series of lectures on his new ideas, began teaching experimental classes, and worked privately with a few colleagues. In 1946 Feldenkrais left the Admiralty, moved to London and worked as an inventor and consultant in the private sector. He took judo courses at the London Budokwai, sat on the international judo committee and scientifically analyzed the principles of judo. He published his first book on his method, Body and Mature Behavior, in 1949 and his last book on judo, Higher Judo, in 1952. While in London he studied the work of George Gurdjieff, FM Alexander and William Bates and left to Switzerland to study with Heinrich Jacoby. Feldenkrais returned to Israel to head the electronics department of the Israeli army from 1951 to 1953.

Around 1954 he finally moved to Tel Aviv and earned his living for the first time exclusively by teaching his method. He worked sporadically on the manuscript of The Potent Self, which he had started in London. Around 1955 he moved his Awareness through Movement® classes permanently to a studio on Alexander Yanai Street. In the apartment where his mother and brother lived, he gave lessons in functional integration. In early 1957, Feldenkrais began teaching Israeli Prime Minister David ben Gurion. In the late 1950s, Feldenkrais presented his work in Europe and the United States. He published Mind and Body and Body Expression in the mid-1960s. In 1967 he published Improving the Capability to Performance (in the 1972 English language edition under the title Awareness Through Movement).

In 1968 he set up a studio near his family's apartment at 49 Nachmani Street as a permanent location for his functional integration practice and as a location for his first teacher training program 1969-1971, which was offered to 12 students. After teaching month-long courses internationally, he taught a teacher training program in San Francisco for 65 students over four summers (1975-1978). He published The Case of Nora in 1977 and The Elusive Obvious in 1981. He began training 235 Amherst students in 1980 but was only able to teach the first two summers of the four-year program. After falling ill in the fall of 1981, he stopped teaching publicly.

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