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December 9

David Kaetz Reviews Jiu-Jitsu and Self Defense

Moshe Feldenkrais's first method of Self Defense

Many thanks to Moti Nativ and Al Wadleigh for their re-publication of Feldenkrais’ illustrated guide to unarmed combat, Jui-Jitsu and Self Defense (1930). This is a no-nonsense little volume: urgent and straightforward, all practice and no theory. Without saying as much, the book also reminds us of the perilous circumstances with which Moshe Feldenkrais was confronted early in life (pogroms, war, revolution, more pogroms). What comes across is the motivation and intensity he brought to the most obvious task at hand, namely, survival—his own and that of his people.

Dr. Feldenkrais working with a child

© International Feldenkrais® Federation Archive.

We jump ahead a half-century to the Amherst training. Over that time Tel Aviv, once a tent city in the sand dunes, had become a metropolis. Meanwhile, the world Moshe knew as a child had been annihilated with unimaginable cruelty. In a photo taken in Amherst by his friend Michael Wolgensinger,* we see a very focussed, white-haired gentleman, with great delicacy in his fingertips, lifting the spine of a small child into extension. Feeling the love and attention in this photo, and at the same time the clear and determined ferocity of the dark-haired warrior demonstrating choke-holds on his sparring partners in Jui-Jitsu and Self Defense, one has the sense of being invited to witness a miracle.

Moshe Feldenkrais demonstrating a flat-handed blow

From Jiu-Jitsu and Self Defense by Moshe Feldenkrais

Whatever Moshe learned through martial arts training—not to mention street fighting—about the way people act and are acted upon in the field of gravity—under conditions of utter unpredictability and breakneck speed—is also there in the slow and tender flow of love through his presence with this child. The invisible yet fundamental link between these two expressions of intensity, together with the vastness of their difference, stand on their own as a teaching. They tell the story of a man becoming, before our eyes, all that he is, integrating power and compassion, and offering something new to the world. “Look,” he is saying to us with his life, “This can be done.”

© David Kaetz 2021, Nov 11, 2021 at 17:38:19

About David Kaetz

David Kaetz is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm. Based on the west coast of Canada, David leads workshops worldwide on the interface of Feldenkrais and music. His academic background (before Feldenkrais) includes religious studies, Near Eastern languages, history, education, and music therapy. He is the author of Listening with Your Whole Body, Making Connections, and The Ezekiel Code.


Click here to see David's books.

Author-David-Kaetz

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