Between November 2013 and March 2014, three MBS Trainers are leading a series of Introduction to MBS workshops in Munich, Germany. Here, the three trainers, Ingo Herbst, Elke Bruce-Boye, and Angelika Kitt, speak about their own experiences with Feldenkrais and Mind Body Studies and reflect on why and how they’ve put together this workshop series.
What originally drew you to learning about Feldenkrais and MBS?
[ANGELIKA] I started to learn this work in 1983. I was fascinated when I heard about Feldenkrais through several different people. One of them was an actor and a friend of mine. He had a teacher who taught Feldenkrais to actors, and my friend was really excited about it, so I became curious. Then, another person mentioned it to me, saying, “We do movements in thinking, and we clarify the movement through thinking.” I found this interesting, because at this time I did Karate-do and in each kata (or form), you see how your opponent starts the movement and you think his movement, and then you do your movement in this same way.
I also had a colleague, a psychologist, and after we had team meetings in the evenings, he always had to rush off so quickly. One day I said, “Wow, you are busy!” He explained, “Oh, I have to go to my Feldenkrais class.” So, I was interested. I tried it out, and one day while I was lying on the floor during a class, suddenly, the feeling came over me that this was my work. I did my training first with Gaby Yaron and then with other teachers.
Always, I would hear about Mia, and so I was quite curious. In 1988, after my first training, I went to learn from Mia. I’ve done this work since that time. I did different advanced trainings and also organized a training with Gaby Yaron, but always I had Mia in my background. So, some years ago I came back here again to continue learning with her and MBS.
[ELKE] When I first found Feldenkrais, it was 1988. Over the next two years, I attended classes regularly in Munich. It was in 1990, while I was living in Japan and practicing Aikido, that I suddenly had a clear and very concrete idea that I wanted to do the Feldenkrais training. Since then, I’ve always studied with Mia: first the foundation and then advanced trainings over the years, and finally the trainer training in Bad Toelz in 2006. That (trainer training) was a small group with a lot of work in groups of three, observing and talking about what you could see. That was really a wonderful experience. I went to the training with Mia in 1993 in Holland and I was fascinated by her clarity. Her precision, depth of understanding, and presence in the room is like that of a Japanese master. In fact, she lived in Japan and practiced both Judo and traditional ‘No’ theater. That quality of hers has always suited me very well.
I hadn’t originally planned to work with Feldenkrais, but then in the third year of my training, someone came up to me in my neighborhood. She said, “Oh, you are doing Feldenkrais! Can I invite you to use my room one night and do Feldenkrais there?” So, then I started, and I am still teaching there and have my praxis in that part of Munich. In addition, now I teach various classes and workshops in a company, for the employers. I also have my own little dojo with Aikido classes for children.
[INGO] With me, my way actually started with the study of psychology in university over several years. I stopped it, though, because for me it was too theoretical, too “heady,” you could say. People were talking intelligently, but without having a connection to themselves, so that’s why I was looking for something involving the body and feelings. In 1983, I learned a kind of bodywork that’s called rebalancing. It’s deep bodywork, like Rolfing. I learned it in the USA, and in those days we were very intense and we always went to the limit. I used all the power I had to do this kind of massage, and we went into all our emotions. It was kind of wild. But, from that I did learn to develop my intuition and to trust my hands. It was a kind of bodywork in which they integrated many different approaches, and one day, a teacher did some kind of Feldenkrais with us, just a movement, an ATM. That day, I knew that it was what I was looking for.
As I was already studying rebalancing, I continued trying that out for several years, giving sessions to people, which wasn’t so easy financially. Also, in Germany, it’s important to have some kind of profession, legally, some official paper, and so I went on to learn physiotherapy as well, even though I already knew that I was going to become a Feldenkrais teacher. During my physiotherapy training, I went to Feldenkrais workshops and I learned on my own, going through Moshe’s books.
In 1992, I was ready to do a training. I knew someone in Munich who had done both a Guild training and a training with Mia. He told me, “Go to Mia.” That’s how I ended up in Holland, doing the same training as Elke. Ever since then, Mia has been my source of the work. I am happy doing it, and I think I will do it until the end of my life! It’s an ongoing type of learning and with it, I can connect my thinking and feeling and acting and moving. It kind of brings together what I had sensed in the early days in university, of not feeling integrated.
What about MBS most interests you?
[ANGELIKA] What is fascinating to me is the combination of the “two legs” that the work stands on, metaphorically: we work with the movement and we work with the awareness. How to bring the two together and how they are related: this is the fascinating part to me. Surely, the body is nice to work with and you often feel good from doing this method, but the learning process is also an interesting part. When you think about a position and what to do in a movement, that is one leg. The other leg is, as Leora calls it, the “in-betweens”, or how you bring your awareness to that movement, and that’s an important part also.
In teaching group classes, I especially like to do demos with hands-on work, with all the special ways of perception – doing, feeling, seeing, touching – to bring together all the learning. That’s my interest.
[ELKE] For me, MBS and Feldenkrais fit so well with Aikido. I teach Aikido classes for children and Feldenkrais for adults. I’m Fifth Dan Aikikai Aikido and since 1986 I have had a personal relationship with my teacher, who lives in Japan and is 84 years old. Both Aikido and Feldenkrais are about improving yourself and about going into the unknown. They go very well together and I find each of them helps the other.
[INGO] In this method, we can work with touch, we can work with perception, we can work with language, words, and thinking, so doing this brings it all together, somehow. Bringing things together: for me, that’s the fascinating thing.
In contrast, I still remember some specific feelings from before I began with Feldenkrais. One was that I felt very instable in my body in standing, and very insecure in walking. I did this slalom movement and I didn’t feel grounded in my own body. With the rebalancing bodywork I had done previously, that already changed a lot, including at emotional levels, and it helped me learn how better to touch people. However, I was still missing something. Only when I started with Feldenkrais and MBS did I get a clearer understanding of myself and others. I began sensing more subtly, not only the extreme stimuli. And I began getting out of my habits. That’s a great thing for me, learning and teaching this makes me whole, somehow.
What gave you the idea to teach these introductory courses together?
[INGO] We all live in Munich and it’s nice to meet and to exchange. When we go to the Foundation training as Assistant Trainers, we find it so interesting to see how others are working. We sometimes also go to one another’s groups in Munch.
In thinking about how to spread information for the next Foundation training, we initially thought we could maybe organize a workshop with Mia, which is also wonderful. But she isn’t doing so many, so we thought we would jump in. People can come now in November, or in February, or in March, so there’s plenty of opportunity. They can come for any single workshop, or they can come for all three.
We take interested people from all over, and we can teach in English and in German, as is appropriate for the audience.
[ELKE] We all love the way of Mia and MBS’ teaching and want it to go on. The MBS Foundation is a very special training. It doesn’t waste time. It comes to the point and guides students very clearly and very deeply. It’s not about doing a lot of movements and becoming great at doing them. On one side, it is about movement, but on the other side, it’s about quality. It’s about looking at the quality of the movement and staying with some movements for a longer time. That way, you find out where you can, as Mia says, “shine the light” on something that you didn’t know before. It may just be a small piece, and then you have more space, more capacity, and it changes your quality of life. You become more sensitive. More awake. With wider horizons and a bigger self, a more expansive sense of self. That’s very special about MBS.
[ANGELIKA] Also, we want to offer to others what we like about this way of teaching. Passing it on to other people is the important part.
[INGO] I feel that I learn a lot from the three of us working together. Since being Assistant Trainers at the Foundation training, we go to one another’s’ courses and now we give courses together. I get to go over my own personal style as I see how someone else is doing it. And it’s also a good learning process; when we share and receive feedback from colleagues, we get a wider perspective and we become more grounded in the work. In the Feldenkrais world, there can be some competition and sensitivity around that, so another thing about this project that’s great for me is also that we’re friends, and we can go past that limited way of thinking.
[ELKE] It’s also nice to teach together now, because we’re different people with different personalities and so we can exchange, too. How we teach is a little different, but the background is Mia and MBS, so that brings us together.
[ANGELIKA] This is also the reason we give the workshop together. It’s like in a training. One person explains, and someone else shows a demo, or hands-on partner work. This is a nice way that MBS teaches from the beginning. It’s not separated, as if one thing is doing a movement on the floor and the doing something with the hands is something – it’s the same. It’s fascinating. And we (the trainers) can exchange in this way.
[INGO] And our students in Munich are also happy. They’ve known my teaching style for years, but now they’ve gotten to learn from Elke and they’ve loved it. And still, our source is the same – that’s the great thing.