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Nadeau Shihan, 7th Dan, trained in Japan with O Sensei in the 1960s. He has been teaching Aikido since 1965. He runs two dojo: Aikido of Mountain View, and City Aikido in San Francisco. His students have included several of my favorite Aikido authors: George Leonard, Wendy Palmer, and Richard Strozzi-Heckler Sensei. He is a founder and division head (Division 3) of the California Aikido Association. It is an honor to have him come to work with us.
I had the privilege of training with Nadeau Shihan last year, before I'd even tested for 6th kyu, and very much enjoy and "get" his approach to teaching. I'm really looking forward to training with him again, now that I have a tiny bit more experience and perspective.
This year, Friday evening will be a question and answer session. We've been invited to submit questions. I thought it might be interesting to share my questions here. If you want the answers, come to the seminar. Not that all, or any, of these will be asked, of course. Lots of people will be asking questions. This is just my unfiltered list - the things I wonder about.*
Your Experience of Aikido
Q: What brought you to Aikido?
Q: Is there something in your background that made you particularly receptive to, or inquisitive about, what has been available for you in Aikido?
Q: Did you find support and validation in Aikido for who you were already, or did Aikido change you?
Q: Is there something you wish you'd discovered or realized earlier in your Aikido training that would've helped you grow or learn? Or something you actually did discover or realize, that fundamentally changed your approach or understanding?
Or perhaps is there something you hope your students can grasp (or let go of), that would help them? Is there something you see your students struggling with, that you wish they could just *get* more easily?
Q: Are there activities you find to be complementary to your Aikido practice? (Meditation, gardening, ...) Would you recommend them to others, or does everyone have to find their own way?
Q: In your experience of the larger "I" knowing who you are (such as why you love "junk," or love movement), were those sudden realizations, that you immediately saw ("Aha!) to be true? Or did you go through a lot of seeking and questioning before you discovered what was so for you?
Q: Do you continue to make discoveries about yourself through your practice of Aikido? How has that changed over time?
Q: What kind of change of consciousness, or development of consciousness, is possible through Aikido? What might that look like, in people's lives? In a community? In the world?
Q: How does Aikido work? How much is mechanics, psychology, emotion, spiritual, energetic? Or do those characterizations even make sense in the context of Aikido?
The Art of Aikido
Q: If Aikido is a way of helping to bring peace and happiness to the world, what is the process by which you see that happening?
Q: How has Aikido changed since you first came to it? Has it expanded and strengthened? Or lost focus, gone off the tracks, or become diluted?
Q: What are your hopes for the future of Aikido, and how might that future come about?
Teaching, Sensei, and Students
Q: Do you see a correlation between the reasons people come to Aikido, and their likelihood to stay with the practice? Or maybe, does it matter why people walk through the door of the dojo, or just that they do?
Q: What do you see as the best way to teach Aikido? Does the teacher convey knowledge directly, simply demonstrate, or support the student somehow in making discoveries on their own?
Q: What do you see as a Sensei's place in a student's life? Instructor of practical skills? Role model? Spiritual guide? Counselor? Parental figure? Friend?
Q: What do you hope your students (or students of Aikido in general) will get from practicing Aikido?
Q: What do you hope your students (or students of Aikido in general) might contribute to Aikido?
Your Experience of O Sensei
Q: How would you characterize your relationship with O Sensei?
Q: Did O Sensei make requests of you (and of others, if you know), like "Go back to the U.S. and teach this"? Was he teaching his students to teach, necessarily?
Q: You have said that O Sensei had a process by which he could quickly jump into a bigger / higher level of himself. Could you tell us about the nature of that process? (Was it a physical practice? Meditation or prayer?)
Q: Do you think that Aikido today is (or is becoming) what O Sensei envisioned for it? Is it growing and spreading as he'd hoped? Affecting humanity as he'd intended? Better / worse / different?
Q: If you could spend an evening talking with O Sensei now, what would ask him? Or tell him?
In thinking about these questions, it struck me that the world might be a much different place for many, many people, had a certain young Robert Nadeau not somehow connected with Aikido. Just another example of how one pebble can make waves affecting an entire ocean.
----- *It occurred to me the day after posting these questions (and sending them off to Sensei) that I'd be interested in hearing others' answers to them as well. If you teach Aikido, or have just practiced for a long time (however you define that), please feel free to copy some or all of my questions, and answer them on your own blog or Web site. I'd appreciate a mention, and please let me know where I can go to read your answers. Thanks!