Robert Nadeau was 22 years old when he boarded a ship bound for Japan. His odyssey brought him face to face with the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, who would remain a constant source of inspiration and guidance to the young foreigner. A full-time aikido instructor in Northern California for over 30 years, Nadeau reminisces about his early days in budo and the evolution of his unique body and spiritual training methods.
Robert Nadeau, Shihan is a key figure in the growth and development of Aikido in America. He began his martial arts training in the 1950's, studying Judo, Karate and defensive tactics as a police officer in Redwood City, California and in the US Marine Corps. He also studied yoga and bodybuilding in the 1950's with Walt Baptiste in San Francisco.
In the 1960's he left police work and traveled to Japan to study as a personal student of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. During his years in Japan he received personal instruction from the founder in the spiritual, philosophical and energy aspects of Aikido.
He returned to America to teach, in the first of his three schools, in Mountain View, California. He also founded schools in San Francisco and San Jose. Starting in the 1970's his work brought Aikido concepts into the fields of psychology, bodywork, business, sports, art and many other areas. This included numerous seminars at the Esalen Institute and other personal growth centers across the country and abroad. His work is featured in more than a dozen books by well-known authors including: Michael Murphy (founder of Esalen), George Leonard and Dan Millman. On a trip to Japan in 1998, he was recognized by the founder's son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, for his contribution to the spiritual focus of Aikido.
He has trained or influenced several generations of Aikido teachers in America, Europe, Russia, Israel and New Zealand. His approach to martial arts training transcends technique to give students something applicable to daily life and to aid in self-transformation. He is particularly interested in the spiritual aspects of the art, using Aikido as a process of expanding consciousness.
Nadeau Shihan co-founded the Aikido Association of Northern California (AANC) and the California Aikido Association (CAA), which is affiliated with the Hombu Dojo, World Aikido Headquarters, Tokyo. He is currently ranked seventh dan and was awarded the title of Shihan (master teacher) by Moriteru Ueshiba, Grandson of the Founder. He teaches at City Aikido of San Francisco, Aikido of Mountain View and Aikido of San Jose. He also teaches seminars around the world. Check Nadeau Shihan's Events/Seminars page for a list of current seminars.http://www.cityaikido.com/nadeau.html
Nowadays when a student walks into an aikido dojo there are likely to be many black belts on the mat. However, when you began there were probably less than five dojos in all of California.
I’m not sure what was going on down south in Southern California, but as far as I know there was only one school in Northern California which was run by Robert Tann. I wasn’t very connected with the Los Angeles area to know what was going on, although I do remember meeting Francis Takahashi around early 1962.
I guess you didn’t train with Robert Tann very long before going to Japan…
No, not very long. I was grateful for the opportunity that he provided me to start training. He reminded me at his retirement dinner that it was at my insistence that he continued to operate a dojo and teach.
So you received your first dan rank in Japan?
You mentioned a very interesting episode where you had a dream in which a little old man with a white beard appeared and went to see a psychic about it…
It’s an oft told story. A family member said that she had met a fantastic psychic who could even name names. So I went to see this lady in San Jose and we got along really well. She said without any prompting, “You’re going to the Orient.” I said I was. “You’re going to meet a little old man with a white beard who is very powerful. He’s going to teach you many things. She said his name was MOR…. and at that time I interrupted her because I knew who she meant.
Did you fly to Japan?
No, I went by ship and it took about two weeks. There was time to become acclimatized. Fortunately, there were some Japanese workmen on the ship who taught me bad Japanese!
You mentioned that when you arrived in Japan you started studying several arts at once. Would you talk about that?
Yes, because back in the California I had been doing karate, judo, aikido plus teaching self-defense to the police. I figured I would just continue my studies in Japan and practice as much as I could. My intention was to go there and study everything. I loved being a student. I had no headaches, no body pressure, it was an environment that really suited me. So, when I arrived, I went to the Japan Karate Association, the Kodokan, and the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. After a while it was just the aikido that interested me. Slowly, I dropped out of the other arts. It could have turned out differently. Once, there was a well-known 7th dan judo teacher who saw me in the dressing room at the Kodokan—I had a lot of muscles then—and he said that with my body I should be a judo 3rd dan and invited me to train with him. Fortunately, I mentioned this to my Japanese family and they said, “Oh, no! We’ll find you a teacher,” and they tried to arrange lessons for me with a judo teacher at a university they were connected with. So if the 7th dan had taken me under his wing, I might have continued judo.Full article here: http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=252
Some video with Shihan Robert Nadeau: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Robert+Nadeau&search_type=&aq=f