Thursday, December 10, 2020

A True Secret Is Still A Secret Even When It Is Revealed To All

feldenkrais-ip |  He based this work on a behavioral study of human beings that gave rise to the concept of using unconscious or instinctive responses for self-preservation. In other words, he wanted to design a self-defense system for the Haganah, based on “a movement someone would do without thinking.”7 

Feldenkrais mentioned this concept in the introduction to his translation of Emile Coué’s book,  Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion. Feldenkrais’ background as a survivor gave him a unique perspective on the practical use of judo in an emergency situation, outside the dojo. At the time, it was a rare judoka who thought about the use of judo for self-defense.8  We see Moshe’s interest in survival throughout his development of the Feldenkrais Method. As he said years later, “The most drastic test of a movement is self-preservation.”9 

From  a close reading of Better Judo we will also get a preview of Feldenkrais’ intellectualism. “In those days judo/jujutsu was an art of self-defense. Thanks to Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais it gained a scientific and more sophisticated facet. The Japanese art was increasingly seen as a science of combat practiced by intellectuals, university students, scholars…Moshe played a pivotal role in this evolution [of judo] from a utilitarian practice to a scientific one.”10  [Fig 1] Feldenkrais became involved with judo when he met its founder Professor Jigoro Kano in Paris in September of 1933. This was not merely a meeting between two giants; it was an event that would lead to a dramatic change in the direction and trajectory of Feldenkrais’ thinking. In his famous 1977 interview about martial arts, Moshe recalled that Kano had said to him that judo is “the efficient use of the mind over the body.”11  

At the time, Moshe had thought that this was a funny way to describe a martial art. During their initial meeting, Moshe was introduced to the concept of seiryoku zenyo (minimum efort, maximum eficiency). Kano challenged Moshe with a judo choking technique. Moshe attempted to free himself using the technique that had always worked for him, but this time it did not help him. As Kano described in his diary: “I grabbed him in a tight reverse cross with both hands and said, ‘Try to get out of this!’ He pushed my throat with his fist with all his might. He was quite strong, so my throat was in some pain, but I pressed on his carotid arteries on both sides with both hands so the blood could not get to his head, and he gave up.

Imagine a small Japanese man, at the age of 75, subduing a strong, young man of 29. This incident impressed Feldenkrais and changed his approach to the use of his own body.  [Fig 2] 

Feldenkrais began to study judo and in a relatively short time was promoted to black belt. More than a skillful practitioner of the art, he proved to be a unique judo teacher of the highest quality. Kano had a great deal of faith in Moshe.13  Supported by Kano’s authority, and through his own considerable abilities, Moshe became the leading judo teacher in France. Moshe’s influence on the development of the martial art in France was extraordinary, earning him the title “Pionnier du Judo en France.”14 As Moshe became more expert at judo, he learned from and cooperated with the judo master Mikinosuke Kawaishi. This partnership gave Feldenkrais the background to later write two judo books. He wrote in the forward of Higher Judo: “I wish to express my gratitude to my friend and teacher of many years, Mr. Mikinosuke Kawaishi, 7th Dan. The figures in the illustrations in this book represent him and myself.”15