I love to introduce the Feldenkrais Method® into my teaching. My first Awareness Through Movement® classes were, in fact, taught at the dojo where I have practiced Aikido for 24 years and have been teaching for 15 years. In the 13 years since I began my Feldenkrais® training, I have observed that my personal practice has been clearly enhanced and my Aikido instruction has been enriched. I am 58 years old, and I know the Feldenkrais Method has allowed me to keep practicing Aikido in a very full manner. My technique continues to improve, my Ukemi (the ability to respond to the technique without harm) gets smoother. I continue to take break-falls and do Suwari Waza (knee-walking).
I would like to talk about two specific ideas that I believe have allowed this.
First, the ability to ‘move from your center in all directions’ is of the essence in martial arts and is a major theme in the Feldenkrais Method. Moshe Feldenkrais was a Judo practitioner, and many of the lessons he developed are consistent with the spirit of martial arts.
For example, there is a lesson called the pelvic clock. In its simplest form the student, while lying on the back, pays attention to his/her ability to make a circle with the pelvis around the numbers of an imagined clock face. By exploring this circle, usually one discovers some numbers are more accessible than others. So what is this about? It is about the ability to move in all directions — but on a much smaller scale. Like the clock lesson, other lessons investigate themes that clarify and improve one’s ability to move; not only in one way but in several ways.
The second idea is more concerned with taking Ukemi. My favorite examples are the wrist ‘stretches’ usually done during warm-ups. They prepare the Uke (partner taking Ukemi) for receiving these very wrist techniques during practice. I tell everybody that the idea is not just to stretch the wrists- but to imagine they are receiving this technique and allowing it go thru the body. “So rather than stretch-stretch-streeeeetch, notice how the force on the wrist goes to the elbow–and the shoulder–let your shoulder blade move! And what effect does this have on your back?”
So perhaps when strong wrist technique is applied, the movement and energy will transmit down to the center, where in fact Nage (partner) is aiming, and the poor wrist will be saved. By receiving and transmitting the technique through the body, Uke can truly learn to fall without harm because the whole self will be contributing and no one single joint will be over-worked.
Leslie Wilder has been a mover since her dancing days. This has led her into physical therapy, working with children, her Aikido practice, in which she has earned 4th Dan, and of course her Feldenkrais practice. She runs the Feldenkrais Center of Park Slope with a partner in Brooklyn, New York, and can be reached at email@example.com.