Moshe Feldenkrais 1904-1984
The Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education was developed by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. Born in Russia, Feldenkrais immigrated to Israel at the age of thirteen. After receiving degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, he earned his D.Sc. in Physics at the Sorbonne in Paris. He subsequently worked for a number of years in the French nuclear research program with Joliet Curie.
Physically active, Feldenkrais played soccer and practiced the martial arts. He studied with Jigoro Kano, the originator of Judo, and in 1936 became one of the first Europeans to earn a black belt in that discipline.
A chronic knee injury prompted him to apply his knowledge of physics, body mechanics, neurology, learning theory and psychology to a new understanding of human function and maturation. His investigations resulted in the formulation of a unique synthesis of science and aesthetics, known as the Feldenkrais Method. Dr. Feldenkrais wrote five books about the method as well as four books on Judo.
He conducted three professional trainings during his life, one in Tel Aviv, Israel (1969-1971), one in San Francisco, CA, USA (1975-1978) and one in Amherst, MA, USA (1980-1983), training approximately 300 Feldenkrais® practitioners in total. Today, there is a thriving community of over 10,000 Feldenkrais practitioners worldwide.
More about Moshe Feldenkrais
Moshe Pinhas Feldenkrais was born on May 6, 1904, in Slavuta, in the present-day
Ukrainian Republic. When he was a small boy his family moved to the nearby town of Korets. By
1912 his family moved to Baranovich in what is, today, Belarus. While Baranovich endured
many World War I battles, Feldenkrais received his Bar Mitzvah, completed two years of high
school, and received an education in the Hebrew language and Zionist philosophy. In 1918
Feldenkrais left by himself on a six-month journey to Palestine.
After arriving in 1919, Feldenkrais worked as a laborer until 1923 when he returned to
high school to earn a diploma. While attending school he made a living by tutoring. After
graduating in 1925, he worked for the British survey office as a cartographer. Feldenkrais was
involved in Jewish self-defense groups, and after learning Jujitsu he devised his own self-defense
techniques. He hurt his left knee in a soccer match in 1929. While convalescing he wrote
Autosuggestion (1930), a translation from English to Hebrew of Charles Brooks’ work on Émile
Coué’s system of autosuggestion, together 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 in an engineering college, the École des
Travaux publics de Paris. He graduated in 1933 with specialties in mechanical and electrical
engineering. In 1933 after meeting Jigaro Kano, Judo’s founder, Feldenkrais began teaching
Jujitsu again, and started his training in Judo. In 1933 he began working as a research assistant
under Frédéric Joliot-Curie at the Radium Institute, while studying for his Ingénieur-Docteur
degree at the Sorbonne. From 1935-1937 he worked at the Arcueil-Cachan laboratories building a
Van de Graaf generator, which was used for atomic fission experiments. In 1935 he published a
revised, French edition of his Hebrew jujitsu book called, La défense du faible contre l’agresseur,
and in 1938 published ABC du Judo. He received his Judo black belt in 1936, and 2nd degree
rank in 1938. Feldenkrais married Yona Rubenstein in 1938. From 1939-1940 he worked under
Paul Langevin doing research on magnetics and ultra-sound.
Feldenkrais escaped to England in 1940, just as the Germans arrived in Paris. As a
scientific officer in the British Admiralty, he conducted anti-submarine research in Scotland from
1940-1945. While there he taught Judo and self-defense classes. In 1942 he published a selfdefense manual, Practical Unarmed Combat, and Judo. Feldenkrais began working with himself
to deal with knee troubles that had recurred during his escape from France, and while walking on
submarine decks. Feldenkrais gave a series of lectures about his new ideas, began to teach
experimental classes, and work privately with some colleagues.
In 1946 Feldenkrais left the Admiralty, moved to London, and worked as an inventor and
consultant in private industry. He took Judo classes at the London Budokwai, sat on the
international Judo committee, and scientifically analyzed Judo principles. He published his first
book on his Method, Body and Mature Behavior in 1949, and his last book on Judo, Higher Judo,
in 1952. During his London period he studied the work of George Gurdjieff, F. M. Alexander,
and William Bates, and went to Switzerland to study with Heinrich Jacoby.
Feldenkrais returned to Israel to direct the Israeli Army Department of Electronics, 1951 –
1953. Around 1954 he moved permanently to Tel Aviv and, for the first time, made his living
solely by teaching his Method. He worked sporadically on the manuscript of The Potent Self,
which he had begun in London.
Around 1955 he permanently located his Awareness through Movement classes to
a studio on Alexander Yanai Street in Tel Aviv. He gave Functional Integration lessons in the
apartment where his mother and brother lived. In early 1957 Feldenkrais began giving lessons to
Israeli Prime Minister, David ben Gurion.
In the late 1950’s Feldenkrais presented his work in Europe and the United States. In the
mid 1960s he published “Mind and Body” and “Bodily Expression.” In 1967, he published
Improving the Ability to Perform, titled Awareness through Movement in its 1972 English
language edition. In 1968, near his family’s apartment, he made a studio at 49 Nachmani Street as
the permanent site for his Functional Integration practice, and location for his first teachertraining program, 1969-1971, given to 12 students.
After giving month-long courses internationally, he taught a 65-student, teacher-training
program in San Francisco over four summers, 1975-1978. He published The Case of Nora in
1977, and The Elusive Obvious in 1981. He began the 235-student Amherst training in 1980, but
was only able to teach the first two summers of the four-year program. After becoming ill in the
fall 1981, he stopped teaching publicly. He died on July 1, 1984.
* I have done my best to verify dates, names, and places, though I cannot guarantee their
accuracy, due to limitations of information available and discrepancies between sources.
This document may not be altered or edited.
March 19, 2004