Why is Feldenkrais® not better known?

Oh- look! There’s a new Pilates Academy just next door. It opened last week. It’s trending here in Vietnam right now, with new places opening, well, every week. Also, there’s equally many new Yoga, Fitness, Primal Movement, Functional Workout, … places. Movement learning is trending right now.

But why is there no new Feldenkrais Academy opening next door, you may ask? Given that Feldenkrais lessons are so marvellous, unique, wonderful, intelligent, helpful, relevant, amazing and necessary? Simple! Because the trademark owners made pretty well sure that this is not happening.

Firstly, most of Moshé Feldenkrais’s original teachings are not in public domain, and the trademark owners are set to prevent Moshé Feldenkrais’s legacy to become public domain—they don’t want it to be accessible by the general public. Furthermore, the few who are allowed to purchase copies of original materials need to enter strict license agreements:

Secondly, people who have graduated from the trademark associate’s so called “Feldenkrais Professional Training Programs” are not allowed to sub-license the Feldenkrais trademarks, service marks and certification marks, such as

  • Feldenkrais,
  • Feldenkrais Method,
  • Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher,
  • Functional Integration or FI,
  • Awareness Through Movement or ATM, …

That is they are not allowed to design and run their own “Feldenkrais” teacher trainings and are not allowed to grant their aspiring graduates the right to use the trademarks for their own teaching businesses. People can freely use nouns like Music, Rock Climbing, Yoga, Dance, Tai Chi and Pilates, but not Feldenkrais.

For business growth these are significant limitations. These kind of teaching businesses depend on teacher trainings for growth. But this is restricted by design and thus there cannot be significant growth for businesses that use the trademarks for Feldenkrais, or rely on Moshé Feldenkrais’s original materials as their study content. And if things don’t change then this is why it’s highly unlikely that you will ever see yet another new Feldenkrais Academy pop up in your neighbourhood.

Now- I’ve just returned from teaching a wonderful two days workshop. And I have once again refreshed my memory on how marvellous, unique, wonderful, intelligent, helpful, relevant, amazing and necessary my work is. And once again some of my students asked me, “Where can I learn more? Where can I study this to become certified?” I often receive emails and DMs asking the same questions. And my answer is always the same, “I don’t know. There’s no good answer.”

First of all, what I teach might somewhat be inspired by the work of Moshé Feldenkrais from 50, 60, 70 years ago… but what I teach is my own work, my own discoveries, my own thinking and my own style. As for teacher training, I have not created my own, yet.

Secondly, as this answer hardly satisfies, I might add to my reply, “There’s a Guild accredited Feldenkrais Professional Training Program in Shanghai that uses the trademarks.” I know the organising personell in Shanghai, they are great, I like them very much. And there’s some trainings in Europe, too. But you need to look them up yourself. Maybe you want to contact the organisers and see if this is something that you might like to pursue. I might add, “Think of why you want to study this. If it’s for personal reasons, you might find less restrictive courses, that will not process you to fit into a hierarchy, and yet satisfy your needs. And if it’s for professional reasons, you might want to think about how you will make money in the future with the tight license agreements, not being allowed to sub-license the trademarks for your own teacher trainings, and not being allowed to share original teachings.”

The legacy of Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais seems to have spawned two distinct pathways:

A. The trademarks and original materials path

This is a very restrictive path with a well defined, almost ridiculously steep hierarchy that allows students to purchase and privately study the original materials, and use the trademarks within the tight End User License Agreements and Ethical Guidelines. In case of grave violations you will be sued.

Almost 20 years ago I myself stepped onto this path so that I had access to a systematic presentation of Moshé Feldenkrais’s work, and was able to learn from people who already had decades of experience teaching Moshé Feldenkrais’s original materials. However, I have the impression that Feldenkrais today has little to do with how it was 50, 60, 70 years ago. The way of teaching nowadays seems to be very different, the students look very different, and the hands-on work looks very different as well.

I would even go so far as to say that “Functional Integration” is not a fitting term anymore. It’s not the highly creative, lively, assertive movement interaction you can see in original videos of Moshé Feldenkrais— but it’s a well defined, to large extends standardised, very quiet, soothing, Gamma-brainwave inducing slow moving and caressing that helps us to deal with the overwhelming problems we face in today’s world. I would suggest the term “Hypnotic Muscle Rebalancing” instead of “Functional Integration”… and let clients choose for themselves which expression of Feldenkrais they want to work with… but that’s not something that could be discussed within the trademarked system.

B. The matured path

Some of Moshé Feldenkrais’s most talented students decided that they are mature and strong enough to create their own pathways, businesses and teacher trainings. They didn’t want (or couldn’t bring themselves) to fit into the steep hierarchy of the Feldenkrais Guild with its many and strict restrictions. They wanted to grow, probably out of necessity… they outgrew their old shell.

Unfortunately, when they went on their own paths they all created their own brand-names and trademarks. The names of their businesses have nothing in common with each other. So, again, here too, nothing that could ever be as recognisable as a Pilates Academy or Yoga Academy.

But well, if you (for example) see a studio with a brand name like Vertical Academy and inside of it a climbing wall, and bunch of fit looking people with ropes around their waists, you can almost instantly guess what is done and taught in that place.

Maybe, one day that might be the same for studios and academies that teach their own teacher training, courses, lessons and movement sequences… which might have been—to some extend—inspired by the pioneering genius of Moshé Feldenkrais. If you see a studio with a sign saying, for example, Somatics Academy or Ability Acquisition Academy and inside of it you see plenty of floor space with loosely placed, comfortable looking wide mats, some wooden stools and a bunch of books, maybe you can almost instantly guess what is done and taught in that place.