The gist of a lesson

The gist of a tale is simply the essence of the story, the point it’s put together to make.

But what about the gist of a Feldenkrais® lesson? And how do you get a grasp of it?

Answering that question — experientially, by way of delving into, discerning, and discovering — supplied the substance of our most recent segment of the fifth Amsterdam Int’l Feldenkrais® Teacher Training. (If you’re keeping count, this was the tenth AIFTT V installment and also the beginning of the fourth — and final — year of this program.)

For the two weeks the trainees were asked, directly and indirectly, to consider the crux of a lesson, be it a hands-on Functional Integration® session or a verbally guided Awareness Through Movement® class. Grasping the gist of the lesson is more than the entirety of its elements, more than the total of techniques and tactics used, more than the scenario or plot summary.

Consider how a necklace is more than whatever gems, shells, pearls, or beads we see and how they also hide what keeps them connected and is responsible for them being a necklace. As Heinz von Foerster said, the sum of the relationships of the whole is greater than the sum of the relationships of the parts. Becoming a Functional Integrator and an ATM® teacher means passing from pondering the particulars to employing a pattern language and shifting from focusing on fragments to following the flow.

Here are some ways this cybernetic stance served as the core of the curriculum:


Working in trios, the trainees improved their ability to elicit a student’s embodied understanding of standing. Considering this notion in a Feldenkraisian manner, we first identified the whole-body patterns associated with the standing, playful, and hanging leg, then investigated when and how to help students reinforce, refine, or reconfigure them.





In his weekend workshop — a project of the Nederlands Feldenkrais® Vereniging and the training — about the martial arts and Moshe’s method, Motiv Nativ connected ATM lessons to physical combat skills. He gave the participants (whose numbers included the AIFTT V trainees, staff, and faculty), vivid experiences of our capacity to move as well as we can.






The day after, Moti joined the training to debrief the workshop, illustrating how the principles of coordinated action — founded from the fighting arts — help us identify the heart of a lesson. Each example of what holds a lesson together clarifies the pattern that connects the elements of the lesson to its central idea and the idea, in turn, to the martial arts of daily life.







Finally, the trainees got a chance to “grok” a lesson in a most unusual way. We watched fantastic French Feldenkrais teacher* Stéphanie Menase’s charming and enlightening Fifteen minutes of Feldenkrais** video. In it, Stéphanie provides a creative rendition of an individual session that she’d given an elderly student. She talks us through what we’re seeing, using subtitles to reveal her thinking process while recreating the FI® lesson with an 11 inch (25 cm) plush Sigmund Freud doll.





*I’m most grateful to you, Stéphanie, for sharing the video with me. More importantly, I so appreciate the work you put into creating it and for your generosity in giving me permission to share it with others. THANK YOU so much!

**Si vous souhaitez regarder la vidéo en français, cliquez ici. (Alors que vous savez à l’avance, il est sous-titré en anglais.)


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