Mia has been acclaimed worldwide as the standard bearer for the applications and philosophy of Dr. Feldenkrais’ Mind Body Studies. Mia holds a black belt in Judo, which she received in the Kodokan, Tokyo, in 1970. Mia Segal was Dr. Feldenkrais’ first assistant, collaborator and associate for sixteen years, after which together, they trained students worldwide.
Of Mia, Feldenkrais said: “With you, I have reached summits that alone, I could not reach. The best lessons I ever gave, were inspired by your encouraging gaze”. Mia is known for her unequalled mastery of the work and as a superb teacher. The unique design of her programs is testimony to her vast experience and leadership in teaching this method. She is committed to ensure that this work continues in the essential and powerful form it was given to her by Dr. Feldenkrais during their many years of collaboration and friendship.
I first met Mia Segal in 2010 in Bad Tolz, Germany. There we established a friendship that has lasted for the last 12 years.
The intersecting work of Mia Segal, Moshe Feldenkrais, and Haruchika Noguchi, and its continuation through the work of Toshi Tanaka and Jose Maria Carvalho has been the target of continuous research for the last 2 years in a joint effort between Juliano Vendemiatti and Robin Pringle.
Naturally, questions and discoveries have risen once we invested in exploring this subject.
Excerpt from Interview with Mia Segal by Thomas Hanna, originally published in Somatics Magazine (Autumn/Winter 1985E86).
Mia Segal was Dr. Feldenkrais’s first assistant, collaborator, and associate for sixteen years, after which they trained students worldwide. Of Mia, Feldenkrais said: “With you, I have reached summits that alone, I could not reach. The best lessons I ever gave, were inspired by your encouraging gaze.”
Mia is known for her unequalled mastery of the work and as a suberb teacher. The unique design of her programs is testimony to her vast experience and leadership in teaching this method. She is committed to ensure that this work continues in the essential and powerful form it was given to her by Dr. Feldenkrais during their many years of collaboration and friendship. Mia has been acclaimed worldwide as the standard bearer for the applications and philosophy of the Feldenkrais Method™. Mia has a black belt in Judo, which she received in the Kodokan, Tokyo, in 1970.
SOMATICS: Moshe often spoke of someone he had met in Japan who was a special kind of healer. Who was he?
SEGAL: He referred to the amazing Dr. Haruchika Noguchi. I had heard that Noguchi was a great healer and even considered to be a magician. One day I decided to go and see him: “Is he really as great as they all say?” I took a taxi to his place. I arrived at a most beautiful house situated on a little hill surrounded by big trees. It actually looked like a small shrine with a small river under part of the house.
When I arrived it looked like some kind of festival was going on inside. People were wearing festive kimonos and were going into the house. I hesitated, but then decided to go in. I went upstairs and entered into a huge hall. All the sliding walls, so typical of Japanese houses, were open, and the effect was one of living in the trees. I asked someone what was the occasion and he said they were celebrating the wedding of one of the staff.
And then I asked a guest, “Where is Dr. Noguchi?” It was as though I had asked, “Where is God?” He pointed to a short man, dressed in a classic kimono and holding a huge brandy glass. He was talking to two men and pointing at me. They started to walk towards me. When they came closer he said to the two men “You see this lady. She works with people, just like me, and she makes them better, just like I do.”
SOMATICS: Did Dr. Noguchi expect you?
SEGAL: No, he didn’t know anything about me, and therefore, I was taken aback. “I am not so sure I do exactly what you do,” I said.
“Do you treat the body or the spirit?” he asked. “How can you separate them?” I said. And Noguchi turned to the men and said, “You see, I told you ”
He wanted to know whether I worked with groups or individuals. “With both,” I said. “Would you like to come and see a group work, on this coming Friday?” asked Noguchi. “How big is the group?” I asked. “Between 4 and 6,000,” he said. And he was right. Because when I arrived at the Olympic Basketball Stadium it seemed to be full.
Noguchi was standing in the center of the court talking into a microphone and at one point, he said, “Now come down and let’s do Katsugen undō” (meaning regenerating energy, a technique of Seitai, his work.
Like a big wave they all got up and moved to the stadium ground. I watched as they began to move. Gradually the movements got bigger, their bodies became freer. And at the end, they did things that they could not do before. After awhile, he said, “Now stop” They did one more abrupt movement. Then they stopped and then returned to their seats. When I was leaving, there was Noguchi at the gate. “How did you like it?” he asked. “I would like to see some more,” I answered. He agreed immediately and gave me a date, but not a time. “It is all day,” he said. Again I found myself at this beautiful shrine\like room. People were sitting quietly waiting their turn, many of them doing Katsugen undō movements. Classical music was playing. It was interesting that he used Western classical music. Later, he would explain to me that he considered Western classical music to help the flow of ki, vital energy. In the entrance I had to stand on two wooden boards, look up, look down and around. The boards registered the changing pressure of my feet. This gave Noguchi all the information he needed. In one part of that room sat Noguchi himself on a little raised floor, a mat in front of him, and there lay the patient. He saw me and invited me to sit next to him. I watched all that day how his hand moved along spines—gentle, intelligent, and confident, adjusting and guiding. From that day on I came once a week. We exchanged “lessons.”
SOMATICS: Was he out of a tradition of healing?
SEGAL: He believed that everyone has ki, which is vital energy that flows through our bodies. In his lectures and demonstrations he was guiding people to discover that power in themselves and then realize that they can also transfer it to each other. And this power is healing. Noguchi used to give, once a month, a workshop for all his students starting on Friday and ending on Monday, nonstop, day and night. My Japanese was not good enough to follow it all. Therefore I had time to watch him. I noticed that one of his eyes was closed and only one side of his mouth moved while he was talking. A while later, I was wondering if it was my imagination or that this time it was the opposite eye and side of his mouth that was moving. So, just to make sure, I wrote it on a piece of paper: “It is the right side.” And indeed, after awhile, it was the left.
He took small breaks every four or five hours. And in those breaks he would invite me to his little room where he would stop to rest a bit and drink a glass of brandy. He would then ask me if I had any questions. In one of the breaks I gathered the courage to say, “Excuse me, but as I watch you lecturing I noticed that your face was moving only on the right side while the left one looked slightly paralyzed. However, later on, it looked to me to be the opposite side. Did I imagine it?” He replied, “How do you think I can teach for two days and two nights without sleeping? Every time, half of my brain is asleep.”
When Moshe came I took him to meet Noguchi. He was interested and impressed. Noguchi received him with great respect. They exchanged lessons. And Moshe demonstrated an ATM lesson to a group of 300 selected people. It was a basic ATM, the one that since then, we call the Noguchi lesson. I still have photographs taken at the time. Dr. Noguchi invited Moshe to teach his pupils, and Moshe did—all three hundred of them. With Dr. Noguchi looking on nearby, Moshe gave a demonstration of Functional Integration and also of ATM.
Moshe had them work on one side and then told them to imagine the movement on the other side. After the demonstration, we went to Dr. Noguchi’s room. Moshe wanted to know his reaction to the ATM demonstration. Dr. Noguchi stated, “It was interesting, especially the part where you told them to imagine the movement on the other side. That was new to me. As for Functional Integration, there is no difference between what you do and what I do, except that I give them the food and leave it next to them; you feed them and digest it for them.” That was the most revealing insight. His lessons were very short and his pupils had to assume responsibility for further improvement.
On the twentieth of each month, Dr. Noguchi would give a big party. He invited “the cream of the Japanese culture.” It was held in his magnificent private home. There would be an elaborate buffet followed by a cultural event: poetry or a musical performance. This was held in his own recording hall and every concert was recorded and added to his huge collection.
This was in another big hall. There were thousands of records on shelves from floor to ceiling and sound equipment ranging from the earliest gramophone to the latest recording apparatus. They were arranged along all the walls from floor to ceiling. I once asked him about a certain record, only to have him climb to the top of the shelf, faster than you can imagine, quickly find the record, climb down, and give it to me.
His movements were unique, different from my singing teacher, who seemed to float like the wind with no visible movement or change in the body, or Moshe’s graceful tiger walk, or my judo teacher’s leopard walk; Dr. Noguchi could swiftly turn effortlessly in any direction at any speed.
SOMATICS: He was an expert in movement. Did you learn anything from him that you have used?
SEGAL: Yes. I continued to go to all his classes. When the day’s work was finished, I would stay longer and we would exchange “lessons.” His comment to Moshe about “feeding students and digesting the food for them” had quite an impact on me. I decided not “to digest” in the future but to have students ponder about the unexplained parts of a lesson. And I did cut my lessons shorter after that.