This is a position paper of sorts. It is not finished and I will likely edit it after publishing. It is of the type that I usually write for myself and keep for myself on my computer. I have many others rolling around in my head. And at least a dozen, perhaps more, unfinished but ready to take form. Some I will post here. Some I will post elsewhere and give you the link if you are interested. If not, that’s fine too.
I am becoming more and more convinced that the only way that Feldenkrais work can reach more people and do so at an increasing velocity is to enrich more practitioners. To get more practitioners into “the game.” The issue is not simply certification trainings are very expensive and do not prepare students to practice. Yes, that is a big problem. But even those who become successful practitioners and remain within the Guild system face the problem of the glass ceiling. In the Guild system, there simply are no opportunities for practitioners to develop into independent “agents” who can organically grow their practices into mentoring, training and developing their own center of gravity. They cannot “train.” The service marked legalistic system favors the status quo. And the status quo is 70 or so people having a complete stranglehold on the right to conduct trainings. It is rather shocking if you take the time to think about it. How many hundreds, if not thousands, of people are not developing their work into mature, independent organizations because they are told – might even believe – that what they are doing is “not Feldenkrais®”?
feldenkrais or Feldenkrais®?
What is Feldenkrais®? Feldenkrais®, legally defined, is that which is taught by “Guild Certified” trainers who own the trademarked terms. Seriously. Feldenkrais® is Feldenkrais® because of ownership of trademarked terms. Many who teach Feldenkrais® try to make a case that they were somehow blessed or certified by Moshe Feldenkrais. The reality of the situation is quite different. The entire categorization system of “trainer” and “assistant trainer” and the like was super imposed, one might say forced, onto Moshe’s work after his death. Many people do not have a problem with this. They say, “Well, we have to call ourselves something,” or “We need some type of public identity do we not?” And perhaps they are right. However, does one need a public identity controlled by lawyers? Does one need a public identity that cuts practitioner out – be definition – from the benefitting from and doing the work. More on this later.
I should add that according to Feldenkrais®, Moshe’s original students who worked with him for years, even decades, well, they are not really doing Feldenkrais®. Why? Technically, it is because they do not own the service marks. And those of you who are (slowly, but surely) mentoring new students in the work, conducting your own small trainings and otherwise, engaged in your own deep, organic, experiential learning that IS feldenkrais…well, sorry, you are not doing Feldenkrais® either. But take heart, you are in good company. Mia Segal is not “certified.” But Moshe seemed to think quite highly of her and worked with her for many, many years. Anat Baniel? Oh no, she is not certified either. Yochanan Rywerant? He died. But he was another one who worked with Moshe for decades. I guess that poor bastard wasn’t doing Feldenkrais either. And neither are you, if you don’t pay your money to the guild and are doing something unholy like teaching yourself and others how to do the work. And as you have seen me write ad nauseam – my apologies for writing it again – Moshe Feldenkrais was not certified either. That ignorant bastard.
But there are larger issues
I suppose that what I am writing above could be termed as legal, moral and philosophical issues. Can an experiential, organic system based on human experience be encapsulated within a legal, semantic, word-based system? The answer is a simple no. Your practice and your life are not encapsulated within what a lawyer hired by the guild tells you it is, nor what the Guild’s rules tells you that it is. Is it true that your work is “not Feldenkrais” because you have not paid the guild or cannot pay the guild, for use of its service marks? No. That is simply not the case. But the issues are larger. Another concern is economic.
My concern is that practitioners do not have an organization specifically geared towards them and their need. Practitioners need access (with or without a guild) to technology (service marks, email lists, independent training processes) that build up their own ability to profit from the work and to continue to develop their independence. It seems to me that with training, teaching, releasing products and other reputation and economic-enhancing activities the method itself will begin to have a container (so to speak) rich enough to get it out into the world.
Or not. Perhaps any organization created to do that would just become corrupt.
Again, just some thoughts. Take them or leave them as you choose.