“We have forgotten that the first maxim covered life as well as sport judo and few of us seem to have ever learned the meaning of the second (which means simply love).”
-Robert W. Smith
The Feldenkrais Method was born out of a childlike curiosity that all of us possess–even if it lies dormant beneath layers of assimilation to our fast-paced culture. Its founder, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, exemplified the same fiercely independent way of thinking that we see in all great scientists, musicians, artists, writers, dancers and athletes—indeed, anyone who values exploration, uncertainty and playfulness. It is also the same sort of mindset that we see in infants, toddlers and young children and that we ourselves embody in our more spontaneous, less defensive and perhaps more vulnerable moments.
Born in Ukraine in 1904, Feldenkrais traveled on foot and alone to Tel Aviv at the age of fourteen. Years later he attended the Sorbonne in Paris where he eventually received his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering under the tutelage of Frederic Joliot-Curie, the 1935 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry.
While at the Sorbonne, Feldenkrais met Jigoro Kano, the distinguished Japanese physicist and founder of Judo. At its highest levels judo remains an art dominated by those most willing to let go of hard defensiveness so that they can listen more acutely with their bodies. Persistent letting go leads to inevitable losses, but eventual gains in self-knowledge and skill. In this regard, judo, which means, “the gentle way,” can be considered the art of cultivating sense-ability. Robert W. Smith writes, “Kano envisaged judo as an educative process for the masses of all countries…
“He developed this into a system of physical and ethical education. His strategy embraced two ideas: 1) maximum efficiency with minimum effort, and 2) mutual welfare. We have forgotten that the first maxim covered life as well as sport judo and few of us seem to have ever learned the meaning of the second (which means simply love).”
After his fortuitous meeting with Kano, Feldenkrais, who was already a high level martial artist, immersed himself in the study of judo, and quickly rose in the European ranks. Seeing judo’s vast potential to further each individual’s growth and development he attempted to spread the art through both his teaching and writing–eventually authoring several pioneering works related either directly or indirectly to the subject. Human development through exploring movement, or what he called, “awareness through movement,” was to become a major theme in Feldenkrais’ later work.