Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tuesday, May 9, Chapter 8: Feldenkrais® Work, as Science, Judo, Learning

When Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) was inventing his system of learning and improvement, he was a Doctor of Science. He was also the man picked by Kano, the originator of judo, to bring that form to Europe. He had wrecked his knees playing soccer, and in the forties was almost crippled. Going to the doctors of the time, he was told that if he was operated on, he would have a fifty-fifty chance of not being able to walk at all. Moshe said he could flip a coin for such odds and that, as a scientist, you don’t conduct experiments unless you have an eighty or ninety per cent chance of success.

So he set about learning how to heal himself, and in doing so, discovered that what was important wasn’t brand new knees, for his would always be severely damaged, but to learn to function at the highest possible level, given whatever conditions could not be changed, or could only partially be changed (most scoliosis, say). In thinking about and discovering how to improve function, he discovered that learning was an intrinsic process, that at the core of learning was awareness, and that by moving slowly and with awareness, we could not only learn to move in easier and more efficient and pleasant ways, but we would increase our capacities for awareness and thinking as well.

His system ended up being useful for children with cerebral palsy, for adults with strokes, for professional athletes, for people stressed and strained by working at computers, for carpenters and gardeners and yoga teachers who have strained themselves in their work, for professional dancers and musicians and artists who have begun to injure or limit themselves, to people with MS, Fibromyalgia, autism, ADD, and a host of other “incurable” ailments, to say nothing of just plain getting creaky and older and wishing to be able to move with more ease and grace the way we did when we were younger.

Science was always Feldenkrais’ outlook. This was an experiment in learning about ourselves. It was not a system of fixing ourselves, by doing things “right.” It was an opportunity to learn again as children do, trying this and that, “mistake” after “mistake” teaching them more and more until they happen on a useful mode and all of a sudden they know how to roll over or to crawl. It’s been discovered that there is no one path to learning to crawl, and that those children who try to most different ways along the way, learn the quickest.

Judo was also deeply informing, the idea of moving efficiently and wisely from the core of ourselves and keeping our heads mobile while we moved, to be able to look in all directions (to see an attacker in judo, to see what’s happening in the world for a child, to keep from getting stiff and stuck, for the rest of us). Moving from the core, sometimes called the hara, the spot just below and in from the belly button, this will connect us back to the ease of using our biggest muscles, which are in our middle, to do our biggest work. Easier to think about is that the pelvis is the centre of all easy and efficient action. And many people can relate to the pleasures that can come from that region, too.


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