Moshe Feldenkrais was a very brilliant and original character with an interesting bio that is worth a brief review, even at the risk of guru worship. Born in 1904 in Russia, he moved to Israel by himself at age fifteen. In 1930 he moved to France and completed degrees as an engineer and physicist, and worked as an assistant with Nobel Prize winner Frederic Joliot-Curie. He studied martial arts with Jigano Kano, the founder of judo, and later became a European judo champion.
In 1929 he suffered serious injuries to his knees that caused doctors to recommend some fairly drastic surgery. Feldenkrais rejected the surgery and instead embarked on a detailed investigation into whether he could solve his knee problems by moving them in subtly different ways. His experiment succeeded and caused to him to become curious about the potential for physical and personal improvement that lay in changing the way we coordinate and use our bodies.
Over many decades Feldenkrais began developing and refining his method, based on an extensive study of human development as it relates to movement. Drawing on his previous background as a physicist, engineer and martial artist, he educated himself in a wide variety of other disciplines related to movement and personal development such as neurophysiology, dynamic systems theory, robotics, psychology, motor learning theory, evolution, and childhood development. By the 1950s he was teaching movement classes on a regular basis, and at one point taught Israeli Prime Minister David ben Gurion to do a headstand.
During the 1970s Feldenkrais developed a four-year program to train students in how to teach his Method. Since his death in 1984, advances in neuroscience have largely confirmed the amazing accuracy of many of his theories, particularly his ideas about neuroplasticity and how movement, sensation, thinking and feeling are organized by the “self image.” For example in the 1980s, after completely revolutionizing the science related to infant motor development, Dr. Esther Thelen was astounded to realize that her “new” ideas about how humans learn movement had already been embodied in the Feldenkrais Method. She subsequently enrolled in a training to become a practitioner. It is not an exaggeration to say that Feldenkrais was way ahead of his time. Many other leading current experts in neuroscience are fans of the Feldenkrais Method, including Norman Doidge, Alain Berthoz, Oliver Sacks, and Michael Merzenich.