About Ralph Strauch

photo of Ralph

I’ve taught the Feldenkrais Method® in Pacific Palisades, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, since 1983. Beyond my study with Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of the Method, my work has been influenced by various other streams of experience. A Ph.D. in Statistics from UC Berkeley led to my first career as a Senior Mathematician with the Rand Corporation, where my research focused human and organizational decisionmaking processes. I began exploring the relationship between body and mind through T’ai Chi, Aikido and related disciplines in the late 1960s, and developed a personal form of body/mind practice that I call refocusing in the mid-1970s.

My interest in issues related to choice and human experience has evolved throughout the course of my adult life. As a UC Berkeley graduate student in the 1960s I studied probability theory, statistical decision theory, and related fields. I was lucky enough to have a mentor who taught me to think of mathematical knowledge as something that grows out of an intuitive understanding of the problem being addressed, and the formal structure that knowledge eventually takes on as a way to record and communicate it that plays only a secondary role in its creation. That way of thinking has served me well in areas far afield from the mathematics where I first learned it.

After receiving my Ph.D. I was drawn to the Rand Corporation, a “think tank” working primarily for the US Air Force and Department of Defense, to work on issues of choice related to national security. My research interests at Rand eventually came to focus on the ways that military and other governmental organizations construct and respond to their perceptions of the choices facing them, I was particularly interested in the biases and distortions introduced by the analytic methodologies and decisionmaking tools that I was trained to apply. An example of the way I addressed these issues can be found in in my 1975 article on “‘Squishy’ Problems and Quantitative Methods.”

My interests in the martial arts of T’ai Chi and Aikido began as a separate track in my life. These internal arts can be seen as being more about awareness and the control of perception than about physical strength, speed, and skill as those attributes are normally conceived. I gradually came to see my martial arts practice as concerned with issues of choice similar to those I explored in my Rand research, but in the context of how individual human beings interact with the world rather than how larger organizations do it. This led me to meditative practices and Chinese philosophy, and the writings of Carlos Castenada. The western intellectual worldview which I held up until then could not adequately explain some of my new experiences so I was searching for a broader understanding.

A major shift in my understanding of how life works came though a practice I call refocusing, which a friend and I developed in the mid-1970s from our Aikido practice. I’ll write about refocusing in greater depth later on, but basically, it involves shifting your perception of physical interactions with the external world in ways that alter the outcome in unexpected ways. What initially seem to be physical limitations imposed by the situation turn out to really be caused by unconscious choices you make in response to the situation. What happens when someone holds you down in a chair, for example, is explored here.

These experiences completely altered my worldview. I could no longer accept the conventional explanation of a reality that sees experience as ultimately governed by known laws of physics. Instead, I was coming to understand “reality” as something much more malleable, strongly affected by the (largely unconscious) choices we make as we interact with the world. The ordinary reality that most of us encounter for most of our lives is not what’s really “out there.” Rather, it is the product of a collective learned agreement about how we perceive and interact with the world — a collective illusion we call reality.

Perhaps I like theoretical explanations because I’m a mathematician, or perhaps I became a mathematician because I like theoretical explanations. In either case, my need to understand my experiences led me to think theoretically about the nature of perception, reality, and the interactions between the two. My book, The Reality Illusion, describes my understanding at the time it was written in the early 1980s. My understanding has deepened and become richer, but I still agree with what I wrote then.

In 1980 I attended a workshop with Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of the Feldenkrais Method, and discovered that he had a marvelous set of tools with which to explore these questions. I began training with him three months later. I have worked as a Feldenkrais Practitioner since 1983, integrating what I learned from him with understanding gained from the experiences described above, and the ongoing experience I encountered along the way.

I’ve worked with thousands of people over that time, with a wide range of presenting issues and objectives. Some have had health-related issues, including muscular-skeletal problems such as back pain, neurological problems such as stroke or Cerebral Palsy, chronic pain, and in some cases, terminal illness. Others have wanted to enhance their abilities in some way — to improve their tennis or golf, to move more easily, or to perform better in their profession. Some needed help in dealing with the consequences of severe emotional trauma, including sexual, physical, or emotional abuse as a child or as an adult, or trauma stemming from combat experience, as a combatant or as a civilian. Others have simply wanted to know themselves more deeply, to become more of who they were under the learned veneer behind which we all hide. I’ve been able to help most of them, and in the process, I’ve learned as much from them as they’ve learned from me.

Along the way I’ve dabbled at writing another book, or books, updating and extending what I said in The Reality Illusion. My hard drive is littered with incomplete drafts that have never seen the light of day. I’m giving this blog format a try to see if it’s easier to put my ideas out a bit at a time, rather than trying to get them organized into book length format.

5 thoughts on “About Ralph Strauch”

  1. Ralph,
    Help me out with some physical advice. I had studied under an Alexander Technique teacher but she moved on to another country. I’ve read about Feldenkrais, but no one practices it in the Philippines. I have been studying Lui He Ba Fa, a Chinese internal martial arts that is longer( about 300+ moves), more complicated than Tai Chi but shares practically the same principles. I am 20 or more moves short of finishing Part One, but I notice that in the middle of the form,my back begins to ache progressively forcing me eventually to stop for a few minutes before I can resume. What do you suggest I do given your background on Tai Chi and Feldenkrais? I know I must explore/bring into awareness something but I don’t know where to start.

  2. Julius,

    It’s hard to give accurate advice based on a short description of a complex situation, so take this advice accordingly. It sound to me like you might be trying too hard. Perhaps you need to reduce the amount of effort you put into your practice, and focus more on noticing and observing what you are doing.

    I don’t know Lui He Ba Fa, so I’ll tell you a bit about how I approach teaching T’ai Chi. I don’t see learning T’ai Chi as being about learning to replicate the postures that the teacher does. It’s more about discovering natural trajectories that body moves through without effort. The stress that many teachers put on getting the details right is misplaced. The stress should be, instead, on allowing the ease and quality of movement to improve. As it does, the details will fall into place.

    My article onTraining the Whole Person explores this way of thinking about learning. You might find it useful.

    I hope this helps. Let me know how it works out for you.

    Ralph

  3. I recently saw a Feldenkrais practitioner for problem I’m having (with my back and hip) but he is leaving Miami for an extended trip. I’ve been searching online for other local practitioners in my area but can’t seem to find any.

    I came across your site, and was getting ready to order some tapes but thought I would get recommendation for which ones are best for my condition.

    Thanks.

  4. JC,

    The best place to look for a practitioner online is on the Feldenkrais Guild website at . As for my tapes, based on your short description of your problem I’d suggest tapes 614, 619, and 617 as a good place to start. You can find additional short descriptions of the tapes on the “ATM and RSI” page.

    Let me know if you have other questions.

    Ralph

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Perceiving and interacting with the world around you — a Feldenkrais perspective

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