Intro to the Essence of the Art of Aikido

Archived Classes

R. Moon – guided by Robert Nadeau – edited by Laurin Herr

In late 1971, I began training in the art of Aikido with Robert Nadeau. Some following Japanese tradition, call him ‘sensei’, meaning teacher. He said we were Americans, so, we just called him Bob.

Bob is a personal student of O sensei, the founder of the art. Since I first started studying Aikido, Bob taught it this way, “When you’re faced with a situation, the energy system responds to handle that situation.” Our life force, the positive or creative energy of our lives, responds to the need or demands of a situation. Harmonizing (AI) with this energy (KI) is the essence of Aikido.

* See Aikido Shihan Nadeau: Intro to the Essence of the Art of Aikido,

More videos of Bob are available on the moonsensei channel on youtube.

We are all constantly being affected by changing energy. This can be thought of as adrenaline, or an electro-chemical hormonal reaction. But let’s talk about it in a different way. Let’s describe this change as a ‘rush’ of energy.  Any stimulation, caused by this rush of energy, activates our response. Through this window, all the reactions that follow, including the body’s chemicals and the emotions we experience, are an aftereffect.  

How we think of ourselves, limits the channel through which energy flows into our system. As such, normally or habitually, we allow only a very controlled amount of energy into our systems, so we can ‘handle’ it, so we are comfortable. Our ‘Ki’ our life energy increases dramatically in an emergency. Actually, it happens to a small degree, in response to any stimulus. i.e. “When you’re faced with a situation, the energy system responds to handle that situation.” The ‘rush’ transforms how we experience ourselves. Bob describes this as a shift in identity or dimension or character. 

The ‘energy rush’, as it ‘increases’, whatever the cause, changes how we ‘feel’. This energy can be extremely empowering and that is its ‘intent’. It can enhance our capability and produce an exhilarating runners high type feeling. Performers, whether in sports or the arts describe a similar reaction.  Soldiers report, ‘never having felt so alive’, and sign up for a second tour. 

However, if for whatever reason we resist the flow of energy through our system, our reactions, what I label ‘reactivity’, can show up as fear, or aggression or as a ‘deer in the headlights’. We give our ‘reactivity’ a lot of names, depending on how we relate to the change. If we like it, we call it aliveness, excitement, fun, thrilling. If we don’t, we call it as anxiety, edginess, tension, stress, fear, anger, depression etc. 

We often mistakenly attribute the feelings of reactivity, to the stimulus of the energy rush. Awareness of the energy rush as primary, and of the ‘dimensional shift; it engenders, distinguishes and characterizes Bob’s transmission of O sensei’s art.  Recognizing an energy rush and adapting to it effectively changes our relationship with the energy, and with it our response to any situation. Harmonizing (AI) with this energy (KI) is at the heart of Aikido.

The Dimensional Shift

Bob often describes this dimensional shift as moving from a 1 x 1 to a 2 x 2. The numbers are arbitrary, but the concept continues through these dimensional shifts, i.e. 3 x 3, 4 x 4. The higher numbers represent, the increasing energy as we shift dimensions.  If we are resistant or fail to step up to the change in energy, the sense of pressure increases. A 1 x1 character cannot comfortably handle the energy of a 2 x 2 situation. 

If, when the energy rush increases we don’t adjust to allow it, we may feel something is wrong, or think the energy is wrong. It is not uncommon, under pressure, to react to this energy or what we identify as its source, as if it were attacking (us). Projected inward this can produce feelings of inadequacy.

If, the ‘rush’ is strong enough, people can experience it as overwhelm, or fear, or anger.  Sometimes we just go catatonic. Or, it can show up as what Bob so charmingly describes as, “monsters under the bed.” And, it can get very sick, extremely so in some cases. If we end up projecting that response outwardly, the reciprocating echoes usually produce negative effects.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, taught a transformative relationship to ‘Ki’, the rush of universal energy. He said, “I feel what you feel, that you call fear, but which I hear as a call to action.” Bob translated that saying, “Fear is the harbinger of power.” 

Aikido increases your capability, your ‘power’ to function in harmony with the energy’s original intention. I like to call it creativity. Bob described ‘opening and settling’ as the basic practice that allows harmonizing with an increasing flow of energy. When, rather than inhibiting or resisting, we align with the energy harmoniously, it becomes an ally. Once the channel is opened and the energy flows freely, positive creativity is a natural outcome. “Imagine, if all the energy, resources and creativity, that went into war and conflict and even arguments, had been directed, towards, art, commerce and education.”

O sensei showed this through the martial arts. I’m sure he wanted everyone to become good people, to be strong and develop the power to protect what’s good in the world. However, Bob has said O sensei was explicit about that he neither expected, nor wanted, everyone to become martial artists. He wanted people to experience the empowerment of the universal energy as creative force in their field or lineage. 

Though he was extraordinary, I think it is a mistake to deify O sensei. He taught that the power of Aikido was accessible to everyone. Bob said O sensei used to tell him, “Nadeau it’s so easy. If you catch on, you can do what I do in three months.” Maybe, we can’t all necessarily do exactly what he did. However, we can do what we can do if we understand the essence of what he was teaching. 

O sensei’s teachings enable everyone to open to, and harmonize with, the universal energy, enhancing their ability in whatever they do. Through the art he gave us, and practices of centering, grounding, flowing and blending, (allowing or opening to the energy), we can each begin to shift how we know ourselves. 

Though it requires strength and courage, we can practice the dimensional shift, of ‘opening and settling’ into the gift the energy offers. Each of us, martial artists or not, can bring something of the unique power O sensei showed us, creating an enhanced version of who we are. He offered the vision, through the power of harmony (AI) with energy (KI), ‘to allow everyone the completion of their bestowed mission’ and ‘create a beautiful world’.

“True budo is the loving protection of all beings with a spirit of reconciliation. Reconciliation means to allow the completion of everyone’s mission.

Willingly begin the cultivation of your spirit.

I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind. 

 This is Aikido.

R. Moon – guided by Robert Nadeau – edited by Laurin Herr