From Teacher to Friend: Jerry Karzen talks about Moshe and the Method
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
by: Ira Feinstein, MFA

Section: Practitioner Spotlight




Ira Feinstein: How did you find out about Feldenkrais?

Jerry Karzen: One day I was walking around San Francisco, and I saw people rolling around on the floor. ATM® classes were being taught, with Feldenkrais’ permission, by people who had attended his workshops at Berkeley and the Esalen Institute. I tried it out and found it very intriguing. I continued attending the classes weekly for a year. 

IF: What kept you coming back?

JK: I always felt good afterward. If my shoulder bothered me before class, it no longer bothered me afterward--even when the movements didn’t appear to relate to my shoulder. This intrigued me: that it wasn’t a direct approach.

IF: What were you doing at that time of your life?

JK: At that time, not very much. Previously, I had been working as an epidemiologist for the World Health Organization (WHO), focusing on eradicating smallpox in West Africa. I was running out of money and about to accept another job with WHO, this time a six-month project in Bangladesh. Around this time, I heard about the upcoming training in San Francisco and was informed that it would include a hands-on component. I thought this would be great because wherever I went in the world, I would be able to help people and make a living. I decided to see if I could get some money together to attend and was able to borrow enough from my brother and a friend.

IF: What was your experience
of the training?

JK: What was important to me, which I realized afterward, was that I wanted to know how Feldenkrais thought about things. For me, I thought that if I understood what he was trying to do, I would know where to put my hands and what to feel for. So, that's been my modus operandi since way back. 

I liked how Feldenkrais taught, in the sense that it was not linear. He made you think by putting things together in a very interesting way. I'd say it is similar to a Bach Toccata and Fugue, where you have a line running along, and then another line running along, and then another, and then eventually they start interweaving and coming together. I found that way of teaching delightful. I try to use it myself as best I can in training programs. 

The training was intense because it was three summers, either eleven or 
twelve weeks long, with an optional fourth year that was the sort of a practicum. At the end of the eighth or ninth week, I would really start to get going. I'm one of those people where the experience builds up and builds up and builds up, but a lot of the time half the class wasn't there by then--it was just too much for people--but I liked the intensity of it. In some ways, I think it is a shame that the trainings aren’t still structured this way because when you do ATM lessons only on weekends or for a week here and a week there and spread it out like that, you don't get the intensity of the learning. Eventually, you stop thinking about what you are doing: your body gets it, your emotions get it, and it's a transformative experience in a different way. After a while, you're just lying on the floor doing the ATMs or touching people and just sensing, and you're getting into the experience. It's like going to the beach: after a while, you can just feel the waves and feel the water and feel the sun and feel the wind blowing, and you get a real sensorial experience.

IF: What was your path post-graduation?

JK: After graduation, I started a practice in San Francisco. Then people began urging me to go to Israel and work as Feldenkrais’ secretary because my relationship with Moshe was different than most of the others in the training. You might say we were friends. One thing led to another, and I ended up spending time with him in Tel Aviv off and on for a few years. Eventually, he told me that I had to stop visiting him and start a practice.

At first, starting a practice was a bit difficult for me. I was actually pushing away people. I would say, “Oh, you are healthy enough,” or “you don't need this or that.” Then, I realized that I was losing clients. A couple of women were very kind to me and helped me along. One worked as a psychiatrist, the other was a psychologist, and they gave me space in their office. They explained to me that I needed to ask people if they wanted to come back, offer them a time. Moshe never asked people when they wanted their next appointment; they always wanted another appointment with him. Within a few days of their “counseling,” I went from having three or four people a week to having twenty people a week. I had a regular practice for some years, giving around twenty FI® lessons a week. 

IF: What led you to end that practice?

JK: People wanted Moshe to teach another training program. I wrote him a letter saying I would organize one for him if he wanted. So, I went on to organize the Amherst training.

IF: What do you think transformed your relationship with Feldenkrais from a student into a friend?

JK: I don't know. I think if I had to answer, maybe Kismet or God decided that I was supposed to help the Method expand into the world, that I was supposed to help Moshe do it. It's funny, Anat Baniel said that it was like the two of us should get married, because we were like lovers in a way. 

My father was a Russian Jew, as was Moshe, and I felt very comfortable with him. I think he felt very comfortable with me. And he never had a child. I think I was kind of like a young son in some ways. And, he knew that I didn't want anything from him. I wanted to help him in whatever way I could. I wanted to make his life easier. He realized quickly my ability to organize things. For example, there was a workshop at Mann Ranch, and I suggested to Moshe that we record it and make a book out of it. That book became The Master Moves. When he invited me to come to Israel and be his secretary, I found an old manuscript just lying there. I asked him what it was. He said, “I wrote it, but I can't put it together.” Then he just dropped it on the floor. The thing had four different numbering systems to it.

I said, “Let me see. Maybe I can put it together.” It took me a couple of weeks. I put papers all over the walls, and eventually, I discovered its order, and that is how The Potent Self was completed.

IF: As friends, what did you two do for fun?

JK: It depended on where we were. When we were together in Tel Aviv, he was working mostly, but he liked having dinner with friends, visiting with people, things like that. When he was at the San Francisco training, we went to the movies sometimes. We liked eating out a lot. Moshe enjoyed different kinds of cuisine, so I took him to Korean restaurants and Japanese restaurants, and other such places. We had competitions about who could eat the weirdest food. Moshe won, of course. Once, he ate the eye and the cheek of a fish. That was just too much for me.

IF: You got to watch him work for so many years. Did you see the work evolve over that time?

JK: To be honest, I don't think that I knew what he was doing when I was a student. It was only after I finished the training and started working with people myself that I began to understand and appreciate his work. Then, when I went back to Israel, I could appreciate a little more of what he was doing.

Once, I asked him how he arrived at the idea of a function. He said, “To be honest Jerry, I don't think I've been doing it more or less consistently except for the last seven years.”

I was in shock! He had been teaching ATM classes for about thirty years at this point; it was after the San Francisco training. There is a lesson on video where he's working with a guy named Ken Lane. I was watching while we were recording and I thought, He's killing this guy. It's terrible what Moshe's doing; he's hurting him. At the end of the lesson, Moshe walked up to the camera, looked directly into it and said, “This FI should be an example of how not to do Functional Integration®.” So, Moshe was great, but he made mistakes, too.

I am now eighty years old, and I think I'm finally maybe, maybe, maybe, getting to the point where I understand a little bit more of what I'm doing. When Moshe made me a trainer, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I played the Amherst tapes in their entirety for at least twelve training programs. I think it was the necessity of needing to explain what was going on in those videos to the students that helped me understand more about the Method. I feel badly in many ways that I was not as good of a trainer then. But, I think that sort of evolution is natural. 

I really like the Japanese painter Hokusai. He painted for years and years, but it wasn’t until Hokusai was in his late seventies that he felt like he was finally getting good at what he was doing. I feel like that now. I mean, I'm sure I 
gave some nice lessons in the past, but the work makes more sense to me now, and I think I can really do some nice work in the training programs. I was adequate years ago, but it takes time to really feel what you're sensing.

IF: I imagine that learning to sense is like learning another language. At first, you may need to translate everything back into English to really grasp it, but eventually, you can understand it without translating. Would you say that’s an accurate comparison?

JK: Generally, your sensing gets better and better, and the clarity of what the function is or what you could do with the person gets better, because you have a lot more experience, so it's kind of like that. I'll tell you another story that I tell at my
trainings. I was traveling with Moshe in 1981 when he helped a young boy named Jonathan learn how to crawl in one lesson. Moshe loved the lesson and spoke of it often during workshops. One afternoon, I was sitting with Mark Reese, and we were listening to Moshe explain Jonathan and Mark said to me, “We should really be recording this.”

And I said, “Yeah, I know we should, but do you know that this is the fifth time Moshe's explained it and each time each time he explains it differently?” 

Here’s the thing: sometimes you see in the moment, sometimes you see afterward what you were doing, and sometimes you have another clarification or insight much later. When Moshe was doing the lesson, I'm sure he wasn't thinking in words. He was just doing, doing what he sensed from so many years of touching people.

IF: Is the Method as a profession where you thought it would be at this point in time?

JK: Yes, in a lot of ways. There are a lot of people doing beautiful work and expounding the Method in wonderful ways. However, I fear that the
trainings aren’t adequate in a lot of ways. They need to change so that when people come out of the programs, they really have the capacity to do what needs to be done. A lot of people don't make a living from teaching the Method, and they don't know how to because they're not good at it for various kinds of reasons: is it the training programs or is it the people? These are questions that we've all been asking in the Feldenkrais world for the last forty years. 

IF: Since the beginning.

JK: It's going to continue to change. A lot depends on the person entering the training, what they bring to the program. If they bring something of themselves and certain kinds of experience, they get a lot more out of it. As I said, I had twenty people come a week, but how good of a practitioner I was, I don't know. I would hope that now after all these years that I'm better than I was years and years ago.

IF: Commitment to growth is something that's always impressed me about the people drawn to become practitioners. This community is rich with multi-talented and multi-dimensional people.

JK: The work demands that. In San Francisco, Feldenkrais gave an excellent lecture where he defined what Functional Integration is: it’s a mix of development, muscles, environment, and the skeleton. Feldenkrais explained that although we’re not experts in any of these fields, we need to know about them. Well, that's four major areas that he came up with! The development that we as human beings have gone through, all these various stages of how we use ourselves: homolaterally, contralaterally, bilaterally and how it's all in the nervous system. You have to be multifaceted to do this work.

Right now, our society is more focused than ever on being somatically aware. People want to explore the effects of trauma; maybe they've been abused, or not been treated well, and they want to heal from it. That’s all part of the work. That’s all part of Moshe’s legacy. And those of us who have chosen to go through a training 
have been blessed with the opportunity to share his contribution to humanity with as many people as we possibly can.

Jerry Karzen, GCFP, was born in Chicago, IL in 1937. He received his MA from the University of Illinois in 1962 and graduated from the San Francisco training in 1977. He became the first elected president of the Feldenkrais Guild® in 1979 and was personally made a trainer by Moshe in 1982. He has gone on to be the Educational Director
for over 40 trainings. Jerry lives in Hawaii and has one son, age 28. 
 
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Comments (6)
Marie Christine Monmignaut
6/23/2018 4:37:44 AM
I love this article. Thank you very much.


Claudia Suter
6/21/2018 5:51:33 PM
thank you Jerry for your wonderful work and this interview.


Megan Wright
6/19/2018 6:24:54 AM
What a great article. Jerry was Education Director for my training in Brisbane and we loved to hear his stories. I must say that I really enjoyed experiencing Feldenkrais teaching in the Amherst tapes. It was a marvellous experience of the intricate thought processes of a truly fascinating teacher. Jerry's commentary was great. He didn't interfere with our own experience, but added to it in ways that were sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, but always, to me anyway, revelatory. I am one of those people who never really developed a practise, having little confidence in my understanding and my ability to do FI. I'm not sure it was the training. In my case it was more to do with life circumstances. Perhaps people could receive some follow up in some way. I know we all had the opportunity to attend Advanced Trainings, and I did at first but for me it was far too expensive to fly 1500 kms to the nearest AT. It's so much easier now that we can do so much online, but I am afraid I will never really "get it". I have a plan! I am going to do the training again and it may not be until I am 80 but I am going to do it.


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