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Moshe Feldenkrais

Early Childhood

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was arguably the most influential figure in the creation and development of Israeli hand-to-hand combat disciplines. At the age of 14, he left his home in Belarus and immigrated to Israel (then Palestine) by himself, following a six-month journey mainly on foot. While living in Palestine, Feldenkrais and his friends attended some Ju-Jitsu classes provided by a German émigré trainer.29 However, Ju-Jitsu techniques turned out to be relatively ineffective when used in real combat situations.

Feldenkrais Attacked People

Feldenkrais realized that the basic concept and training method of self-defense must be different from those of martial arts, because in order to reach an effective level of martial arts long and continues training is required, while reality cannot allow this long process of qualification. Feldenkrais gathered a group of people attacked them with a knife and photographed their reaction. He found that "people retained their first move," and found out that if you really attack, "nobody stands there and gets the knife. He does something to protect himself. He doesn't attack you, but he substitutes an arm for the head, the throat," or "the back".

Feldenkrais Development

He developed a self-defense routine for any sort of attack, in which the first movement is not what you think people would do, but what they will actually do when they are frightened. Feldenkrais trained a group of people for three month, ceased training for one year, and checked their reactions after one year of no training. The results were amazing, most of the people performed the drills which were taught to them by Feldenkrais, automatically. Feldenkrais gathered a group of people and continued to work with them and develop this concept for about two more years. His work attracted the attention of the Hagana command which awarded him a three-year budget to train Hagana members

Ju-Jitsu and Self Defense

In 1930 Feldenkrais published a book named ‘Ju-Jitsu and Self Defense’ for teaching self-defense drills, which were based on the new principle he had identified known as ‘unconscious reaction’ (or ‘reflexive reaction’). This principle, which Feldenkrais went on to describe in a later publication, is based on the recognition that humans have pre-programmed reactions to menaces, which are performed unconsciously.

This insight led to the establishment of an improved fighting and training regimen and included elements that were later adopted by both Kapap and Krav-Maga. In 1931, Feldenkrais left Palestine for France out of fear that the British would arrest him because of his activities in the Hagana.

Feldenkrais in Europe

In France he earned his Doctor of Science in engineering, worked as a research assistant to nuclear chemist and Nobel Prize Frédéric Joliot-Curie at the Radium Institute. In September 1933, he met Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, the two have met many times Feldenkrais started to learn Judo, earned his 2nd Dan in 1938.

In 1940, Feldenkrais fled to Britain because of the Nazis, there he served as a science officer in the Admiralty.

Back to Israel

In 1951 he returned to Israel worked for a few year as a scientist and then retired to develop his world renowned Feldenkrais method.

He died in 1984 at age 80.33

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