Paul Rest -th Dan
I had read about Aikido and O Sensei in various New Age journals in America during the 1970’s. About 1976 I was introduced to Robert Nadeau Sensei through a mutual friend. We talked on the phone a number of times and he invited me to drive to San Francisco and check out a class, which I didn’t do. Then, some years later I met the late Dennis Tatoian Sensei. This was around 1983 through another mutual friend. At that time he had the famous “Quonset Hut” dojo outside Sebastopol, California. I didn’t follow-up from this meeting either. In 1990, I made a trip to Japan for my art business. My hosts took me to the Kumano region as a mini vacation. The trip included a visit to the sacred Nachi Falls, an area I later learned was very special to O Sensei. I now joke that because I drank the waters of the sacred waterfall during that visit, perhaps doing that was the final nudge needed to move me towards Aikido. What happened after I returned was my daughter, who was ten at the time, began taking kid’s classes at a local dojo (Centerfield Aikido). I stayed and observed classes while she trained. When she stopped after two years, I, with great trepidation, stepped on the mat for the first time as a student. This was in October of 1993. I trained there for three years and then switched dojos to Two Rock Aikido (Petaluma, California) with Richard Strozzi-Heckler Sensei. During the following years, I attended workshops with the Doshu (2004), and with other senior instructors, including a number of O Sensei’s direct students. In 2010 I interviewed John Stevens Sensei for a column I was writing on martial arts and martial artists. I felt a bond happening between us as a result of that interview. During the following years, Sensei and I kept in touch with each other as teacher and student (I attended his seminars when he was teaching here in the Bay Area), and as friends– we found had many interests in common including writing about Aikido, and Japanese Art (to name two). In 2015 I formally asked Stevens Sensei if I could become his student. The timing was auspicious as my long-time friend and teacher Bob Noha Sensei (Aikido of Petaluma) was moving in the same direction at the same time. I am very much at home with Classical Aikido in this my 25th year of the Art. It feels like I have a wonderful Aikido family I can train and grow with for at least another 25 years.