The founder of Aikido, O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba generated over his lifetime four generations of pupils, who came to him in certain stages of his Aikido life. Master André Nocquet was part of the third generation and he became a pioneer, because he was the first western student of Aikido in Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido school. Sensei John Emmerson was pupil of André Nocquet from 1974 to 1999 and sees himself as an extension of that third generation.
O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba
Morihei Ueshiba or Ueshiba Morihei if spelled in the Japanese word order, was born on 14th December 1883 in the city of Tanabe in Japan.
He enjoyed a good education as an attentive student and was taught swimming and sumo by his father. His first contact with Budo was with Jujutsu and Kenjutsu, after which he volunteered for the army in 1903 to participate in the Russo-Japanese War. In 1907 he left the army and worked for some time on his father’s farm until 1912, when he took part in a settlement project on the island of Hokkaido. During this time he learned Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu from Takeda Sokaku, from whom he also received his teaching license. After the death of his father in 1920, Morihei Ueshiba’s thinking was strongly influenced by the Shinto teachings of Nao Deguchi. At this time he began to teach his first students in Daito Ryu and his own spiritual teachings privately in Ayabe. He began teaching more openly in Tokyo in the late 1920s, but withdrew to Iwama during the Second World War and decided to call his martial art “Aikido”. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour represented a major turning point in his thinking. He opened a dojo in Japan and began to open his school to Western students. His perspective was to create more peace in the world and to unite people through the path of harmony in Aikido.
After his death on 26th April 1969, his son Kishomaru took over his dojo and the management of the Aikikai, which has grown into a global organisation.
Master André Nocquet
André Auguste Nocquet was born on 30th July 1914 in Prahecq, France. He was subjected to bullying in his youth and decided never to have to experience that again through intensive fitness and martial arts training. He studied physiotherapy and gymnastics and learned jujutsu and later judo.
During the Second World War, he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunkirk, but managed to escape a few years later in 1943, and went on to join the French Resistance fighters. After the war he started to make Judo in France more well-known and expanded his own dojo in Bordeaux to around 300 pupils. He was also involved in teaching Judo and Jujutsu to the local police forces. From 1949, he started learning aikido under Minoru Mochizuki and a year later with Tadashi Abe. By 1955, Nocquet had acquired his 1st Dan Black Belt in Aikido as well as his 4th Dan in Judo, and such was his enthusiasm for Aikido, Master Abe recommended and persuaded him to go to Japan to study Aikido directly with O-Sensei Moriehi Ueshiba. Nocquet was the first non-Japanese live-in student (uchi-deshi) and he stayed there as Uchi-Deshi until the end of 1957 when he returned to France.
Upon his return, André Nocquet made it his life’s work to spread aikido and O-Sensei’s message, pioneering the development of Aikido in Europe. In 1971 he founded the European Aikido Union together with other European Aikido Instructors. He taught Aikido extensively across the whole of Europe and wrote several books and articles about Aikido including a focus on its spirial component.
Master André Nocquet, 8th Dan in Aikido, died on the 12th March 1999 and is buried in his home town of Prahecq.
Sensei John Emmerson
John Emmerson began judo training in his youth and was introduced to Aikido in 1964. After an extremely complicated leg fracture in judo, he was unable to walk for over a year and doctors discouraged him from ever practicing a martial art again. However, a student of Chiba Sensei motivated him to train in the non-competitive art of Aikido.
In the late 60s, he met Master Nocquet, who inspired him greatly and so he became Master Nocquet’s direct student travelling frequently to France and beyond to train with him. He also brought Master Nocquet to teach in the UK. Even though Master Nocquet passed away in 1999, John Emmerson still sees himself as his student with the task of preserving his Aikido and his teachings.