For the second time in as many months, I have been contacted by a Feldenkrais practitioner who has begun teaching a Feldenkrais training outside the auspices of any of the “official” organizations. To a certain extent, this is not a new phenomenon. The first time I met someone conducting “off the grid” Feldenkrais trainings was over 10 years ago and that person had been training for many years. I’m sure there have been many others that I do not know about.
What is new, I believe, is that the people are starting their own trainings earlier in their careers, choosing not to spend decades waiting for someone else to give them permission or certify them. The practitioners that I have spoken to are starting small. Each of them is only working with a handful of people. And they are doing so within their practices. For example, the students not only have training days and meetings but also watch and interact with the practitioner while he or she is seeing clients.
This very much reminds me of how Moshe Feldenkrais conducted his trainings with his original thirteen students in Israel. Bernard Lake did an interview with Ruthy Alon in February 1998 and this is how she described it:
“When Moshe did the first training…he took 13 people. He taught us one hour a day, six days a week, 10 months a year for 3 years, and he lived his life, he had his practice, we could see his practice and see what happened to the people who came to him. We could see the people who came to him 20 times, what is the history, how he approached it, what he answered them at specific times, and we could have some kind of concept of what the practice is about. I saw Moshe as a practitioner and not as a trainer.
Here is a BernardLakeRuthyAlonInterview and the full text is below.
That sounds wonderful, does it not? The process described by Ruthy is much different than that of most Feldenkrais trainings conducted today.
It’s unfortunate that I am not able to tell you more about the new trainings. The two practitioners that I spoke to are not interested in going public. I certainly understand. But as more people open up and connect I will put the information out there for you to consider.
cheers – Ryan
Update: January 3rd, 2020. Below is the full text of Bernard’s full interview with Ruthy Alon. I have taken it from an old Feldigest post that was saved on my computer.
Date: Tue, 05 May 1998 18:13:52 -0700
From: Bernard Lake
Subject: Ruthy Alon interview
I recently taped a conversation with Ruthy, a good friend and former educational director of my FTP, with her permission to use it here. The purpose was to discuss recent trends in the Feld. community with special reference to many aspects of trainings and the background impact on present and future standards. It is no secret that there have been problems arising. The issues need ventilation and fuller discussion among the whole community. Present structures have reinforced happenstance and are becoming writ in bureaucratic fiat. Other alternatives need to be continuously canvassed if the method is to gain the recognition it deserves. It can only achieve this if the whole community is dedicated to this end. Ultimately, it is the social penetration that will make or break Feld. acceptance. Ruthy acknowledges the importance of those in the field. The training stream has had the lion’s share of attention. It is time for the stakeholders , the graduates to contribute from their wide ranging experiences and so lift the continuing education profile. Ruthy’s views deserve attention. As one of the Moshe’s originals she has the breadth of perspectives and with her ever innovative and enquiring mind, , her gentle but very astute assessments make compelling reading.
BERNARD LAKE interview with Ruthy Alon
16 Feb 98
B: I would like to welcome you back to Sydney where you first came to my knowledge in 1986 to act as the concertmaster for the IME training, and you have been back again?
R: I have. There was an advanced training course.
B: So you have had an opportunity over the last 12 years to dip into Sydney and into the rest of Australia and see what is going on with the Feldenkrais movement here. The question is – what changes, if any, have you noticed and what would you like to comment on?
R: There is a special quality here in Australia that I love, some integrity about the freedom and independence and commitment to honesty, and very good skills. I had a lot of pleasure to see the graduates getting more powerful – all of them. I can see the satisfaction from their work. In the training you just see their doubts and after that you see the fruit of it. It is really good.
B: Ruthy, I suppose you have not had the opportunity to see people with hands on outside of trainings in the local context. I don’t know how many FI’s, if any, you have had from local people to make some judgment about practical skills and how ±hey are developing.
R: In the advanced trainings I can see some of it and some I got the feel in my body. Yes – I did.
B: How do you feel about Australia’s position vis-a-vis the rest of the world – I mean Australians typically tend to achieve but they do tend to play down their own achievements. We have lost a lot of the inferiority complex we used to have, on the other hand, we can also be grandiose about achievements. How do you Bee us in relation to the rest of the world?
R: I don’t know anything about inferiority here. I think they are so good and they keep it quiet so nobody will bother them. The only thing I can say is that in the other parts of the world in the Feldenkrais community, people are very aware of their advance, like they count the days. If they are 5 years after the training they want to begin to apply to become assistants. They are aware of the ladder of progression and here they are kind of sleepy. I see wonderful practitioners and there is not much awareness about taking the position of the next generation teachers.
B: I think that brings up a very interesting point as to how many trainers, how many trainings can there possibly be under the current circumstances? What sets of circumstances are needed for the method to percolate into the wider community?
R: The way the concept is now, the trainings can be very, very big. Even in Australia there was one with 120 people – the biggest ever training outside of what Feldenkrais did. So with this bigness concept nobody thinks they can encompass such a thing. But the way I look at it now, when Moshe did the first training, when he came to the point and he was ready to share his insight and his skills with other people, he took 13 people. Some other people wanted to join and he said there was no more place around the table. He taught us one hour a day, six days a week, 10 months a year for 3 years, and he lived his life, he had his practice, we could see his practice and see what happened to the people who came to him. He never called them clients, he insisted to call them pupils. I don’t know why – this is another issue and I will talk about it later. We could see the people who came to him 20 times, what is the history, how he approached it, what he answered them at specific times, and we could have some kind of concept of what the practice is about. I saw Moshe as a practitioner and not as a trainer.
B: Yes, well that’s wonderful
R: Now when he went to America he did not have much time. He agreed to do the most he could do to put himself on the map of the consciousness, and in Amherst he took 220 people. He took some 200 and then he added more to the second year. 220 people – it was a hall you couldn’t see the end of it when people were lying down. He got sick in the middle of that training and we were the ones who continued it – 9 teachers – every one of us taught one day. Now 80% of these trainees don’t practice Feldenkrais. I also saw that it promoted in Moshe a tone that was totally different. He became the speaker …. (gestures and draws up)
B: Verbose? Grandiose?
R: Yes, he was talking and didn’t start any FI. People thought that’s how it needs to be – 2 years without FI. You remember what happened in the first Sydney training – I started the understanding of not only manoeuvres but the touching, feeling, and then the TAB was so shocked they withdrew the accreditation from the training. That wasn’t the only reason but they also mentioned that. I fought for that. I explained to them you cannot teach FI to a group when you cannot see what they do with it. It needs to be a feedback thing. You need to not only see but need to feel the hands and they need to feel your hands many many many times to learn that. My opinion is that Moshe was very worried about that and I would not discard the idea that he became sick because of that. He did not know how these people are going to bring this method to the world and it would not be what he meant. So,maybe now is the time to come back to the model that is healthier and more skillful.
If people will take small groups there will be place for many people to become teachers and they will grow through teaching. I believe that the teaching is one way of beginning the growth, not only of the student but also of the teacher. They call lead their healthy life, not be on airplanes all the time and they will have practice. This is the main thing – the students can see the practice.
B: Ruthy, you know from the rather privileged position of being on a TAB I have become quite concerned about the schism – the split – between the kind of training path and the path of practitioners in general communities. If it continues in the present way my belief is it will lead to a two-tier type of Feldenkrais situation where you either get on the training course path or you can become a practitioner. If single minded applications like this continue, then there is no opportunity for you to make a shift. What you have just said is a way of incorporating continuing education for everybody at local levels and still have opportunities for international get-togethers or national get-togethers from time to time.
R: Exactly, and not only the training needs to lean on the field, on what is in the field. – I do believe the centre of gravity needs to be in the field. As it is now all the criteria are geared to see how much the person spends time in the arena of trainings and the trainings are in the highest prestige of the profession. But after all, where knowledge is accumulated and further advanced is when people who do their work day after day for 10 years or so – then they have work to share. So it’s not only in trainings where you take new people and teach from the beginning every time. Of course the trainings are getting better and they are doing very good pioneering work and clarification, but we still need to put more weight and appreciation on what happens in the field.
B: Both need feedback from each other. The training, after all, is a preparation for people who say they are committed to the method, and you can only take so much in in the 4 years of training, then you must go out and find how to use the method within the greater substance of living and so there should be, I feel, a much closer relationship as you were indicating (with continuing interaction between “the field” and “the training” ).
R: Yes, now if somebody wants to become an assistant, then they need to accumulate such and such quota for assisting in training. They need to go different places; they need to leave their family; they need to leave their practice. It is really cutting it off from life and it doesn’t have to be like that. I envisage training very small – 15-20 people – and doing it beside somebody who has a practice, They can have practitioners to come to watch, sometimes contribute lessons or one of them be the official assistant. I also think it would be much more consistent and not such change of teachers right at the beginning, so fragmented end this is another thing that will promote learning.
B: Within, for instance, the training system of medicine when you come to the specialties, the only way to learn is in a small group – you don’t learn well when you are in a large group. I think obviously the same thing goes through all educational practice – the smaller the class the better the supervision of the teacher and the better the rapport of the students with the teacher and the greater willingness to learn.
R: Now in ATM, we can teach in a big group and one of the advantages is that nobody pinpoints you personally, not interfering with your process and the process gives enough ideas for everyone to check themselves and to find their own ways. But in FI it cannot be like that. Some trainers can show something brilliant and talk about it and then people go and they do something and the trainer really cannot supervise them adequately. Now, for instance, in my trainings from the third year, even from the second year, I stop giving the trainees the sessions the quota of the class FIs. I get visiting practitioners to give them those lessons, and my lesson with them is an hour of tutoring them how to work. I work on them a little bit, they work on me, I work on them, they work on somebody else, then I see and I comment – back and forth. This is their hour to learn how to work. Then I send them – a small crew – working together to clarify the lesson. Then, they need to go and teach other people what they’ve got. It needs to-be-intimate all the time – we cannot think in big groups. Actually look at the results, the results are saying it all, and this is something we never check .We check the applications for the training before, we make a big fuss about it during the training but we never check the outcome of the training what is the percentage of people who wanted to do it as a profession who really go on to do it as a profession. The name of the Method is not so great any more. Word of mouth is not getting new trainees in. From some trainings- sometimes people graduate but they are very pale in what they can do. There is a lot of information, enthusiasm, but what can they actually do? So we need to sit down end think, what is going to happen?
B: Well, Ruthy you hove always been a frontrunner as you were with touch, and I am delighted to hear about this change in the FI path. I think that is a fantastic method of creating experience in that intimate kind of surrounding with immediate feedback. I can think of no better way to teach FI, end obviously you have come to it through all your years of experience. We will come back to the big picture, but now 1et’s turn to your recent most successful weekend dealing with the situation of recoil on the one hand and bone support on the other – Intelligent bones and how to use them better – you brought up some absolutely fascinating material, particularly when you started to ask the questions about what is the Method, what is FI, what is intention, and so forth, and we would all appreciate to have more from you on those topics. What is the quintessential thing or things that are the nucleus of the Method, which we all know intuitively make it so different, but is so hard to verbalize
R. Well I think that it is using the mechanics of creating habits in order to expand the habits. Using the language of the organism to awaken it to use its faculty for striving for something better, something better all the time, which is the urge of creation, and we have many, many strategies for that .
B: Ruthy, that’s an ideal, and ideals aren’t always achieved, unfortunately. We all know situations where people finish up inadvertently with more pain or more stiffness and apparently some loss of understanding or no further understanding. From your great experience you could probably give tremendous insight to practitioners in the field about how to deal with various personality types. Obviously the whole situation is so complex that there is not going to be a simple answer. But there may be a set of possibilities that you could suggest in terms of ensuring that you have a more successful outcome for the person.
R: If we remember that it is about learning – we are not fixing them. It is about intriguing them, stimulating them to bring up in them something forgotten, something beyond their habitual perception – they don’t even remember that they have it – and we pace ourselves to that, which means also very gentle and many repetitions and not continue and not pushing and it will have to be very modest, very patient and remember this as we go, and also remember that we cannot reverse what God himself cannot reverse.
B: well, we have talked about the past, and we have talked very cogently I think about the present, the immediate sort of tinkering to the system that we need to re-jig it into something that is vital and organic. Would you like to put on a wizard’s cap, without attempting to predict the future – just, from the heart, how do you see the Method being best fostered in the future? How can we really bring this Method to the attention of most people and with what kind of spirit?
R: I feel that the important thing is to encourage the courage of practitioners. Because we have so much respect for the Method, because it is so really vast and intricate, we don’t allow ourselves to promote it as strongly as it needs. We need to be coming from a place that is very, very sure. It is part of our philosophical approach to not appear sure, yet it is this confidence that sometimes is needed. People who need help need to see an agent there, somebody who has the confidence. This is what Moshe once said – what makes the teacher a teacher is the fact that they are this of person in their life – that they are not compromising, and they are looking for what is better and at all the things that we are teaching. This work can be done only from an independent place – the joy is when you do it independently. Now the more we add bureaucracy and rules, people will shy away from it. I know that myself; I would rather teach advanced training where I can do what I want rather than teaching in trainings and with other people and all that. I will look for the path of my independence, and everyone will be like that. So can we allow more independence in the work itself; this will be a great encouragement, I believe, if people who are 10 years practitioners and they have assisted in some trainings or developed their own contribution and insight in one area and like to write about it and admit the requirements of becoming a trainer, and they will be given the permission to take their own group. It will be very exciting and very full of juice, allowing it to grow without needing to commit yourself from the beginning it will go only like this and like that. We cannot be specific when what we teach is trusting this fabric of negotiation that will bring up something which is unpredictable. We need to be congruent with what we teach and then the Method will really reach wider and wider.
B: Ruthy, that is fantastic. But in human history, people tend to be the progressive liberal or they tend to be conservative and looking always to preserving the status quo. Now there are elements in each of those stands which I feel best fit the picture and I personally believe that the Feldenkrais method, above all, gives a model that allows the best from each of those views to be held. However, as we know, there tends to be a see-saw, sometimes towards conservatism or vice versa. So have you got any views about the kind of ongoing conversations, the kind of ongoing mechanisms for flexibility that we can use within the community so that there is mutual respect and honor right through the community. Instead of having the hierarchical kind of system which has obviously developed, how can we use what you have given already in this interview?
R: I think that really the judgements that colleagues need to make about governance is a big limitation. If you knew that the atmosphere is of trust and everybody is welcoming new aspects, new ideas, you can go and you can present the Method not just for physical pains or movement but for activating your faculty for solving problems, for inventing solutions; it will be very exciting, it will be very exciting. It will take a long time until we will come be part of the establishment and I don’t know if we want it so very soon.
B: Do we want it at all? The fact is that establishments do tend to be conservative and do tend to be hierarchal.
It is the belief of many who are into future studies that these kinds of structures should become historical as quickly as possible, and that there are other systems now available for human beings to adopt. With knowledge and technology expanding as it is we have to become much more open-grained in terms of control and flexibility. I wrote my book “Come to Y(our) Senses” because it hit me suddenly – why not take Feldenkrais through all the senses and see what happens as a result of that investigation in terms of becoming more human, totally, and that’s just one aspect; there are so many aspects and I would love to see you put your energies – apart from what you are doing – into promoting this more open approach so that we take what Moshe gave us as a fundamental for a basic training, but melding it with the experience of life and practice subsequently, so that we, the inheritors, can honour the many changes of our own experience.
R: Bernard, this was the dream of Moshe. He said I use movement just as a medium for expanding human capacity. His dream was that his principles would be carried and explored and applied to all kinds of different areas. That’s beautiful.
B: Terrific. Again, I want to thank you on behalf of everybody because you are always an inspiration – it’s such a delight to see how fresh and joyful you manage to keep the spirit despite all the troubles that you have had in respect of the training programmes and so forth. It is just wonderful to feel such jeu d’esprit – that fire in you which is so vivid and so exemplary in terms of the Method.
R: Well I think I wouldn’t have done it if I were an animal. (Much laughter) Content to lick its paws, I do clash with the bureaucracies many many times.
B: But isn’t that wonderful that you have the strength to do it. Also I think bureaucracies collapse fastest with humour rather than direct assault. And you certainly have that .
R: Sure, sure. No, they are filled with only good intentions. It is just that they get in to the trap of illusion – trying to guarantee an elusive quality so they keep raising barriers. It’s a difficult path to tread. That’s how all spiritual insights turn into religions, not trusting that somebody else can have similar revelations and capacity to make the grade.
B: Quite a few of us have already noted the analogy of Feldenkrais as religion. Let’s keep it truly secular and universal. Thank you again, Ruthy Alon, for your wit and wisdom.