An innovative approach to traditional aikido emphasizing strategic positioning and the non-confrontational application of techniques

  • ZONE 2.0

Stanley Pranin: Basics are templates... Now innovate!

This essential basic aikido technique often involves putting pressure against your opponent's elbow thus requiring the use of physical strength. Here is an alternative.

A Message from Stanley Pranin

In the three years since the release of the original "Zone Theory of Aikido" course, I have continued exploring and refining the principles and techniques I initially proposed. I have tested these practices in my home dojo and at half a dozen seminars in the USA and abroad since then. I wanted further validation that these concepts and techniques work reliably even against a resisting opponent.

For that reason, I have sought out the strongest individuals among the practitioners I have encountered, and encouraged them to exert full strength when attacking. To my surprise -- and, I must admit, relief! -- the techniques presented in the "Zone Theory of Aikido" have worked consistently against physically imposing opponents simply because I have learned how to take uke's balance first before attempting to apply a technique. These experiences have bolstered my confidence that these approaches are not misplaced and worth pursuing further.

This iteration of the "Zone Theory of Aikido" -- 2.0 -- consists of entirely new instructional footage divided into 35 videos lessons. I have been able to simplify and refine many aspects of the original course material. Moreover, I have arrived at new insights during the last three years and built upon the earlier theoretical and practical framework. I feel I can articulate more clearly what principles are at play and what goes on in a mechanical sense when techniques are executed in the manner described in the Zone Theory Course.

Stanley Pranin's challenge to aikido practitioners everywhere...

1. Does it occur to you that it is appropriate to constantly reevaluate the techniques you have been taught to identify vulnerabilities and seek to refine them?

Aikido practice in dojos tends to be ritualistic. A dojo culture develops and a pecking order is established. The validity of techniques are often accepted on faith and students feel unqualified or hesitant to voice concerns over potential weaknesses and the lack of effectiveness of what they are learning. They continue to practice in the same manner for years without deviation and the congeniality of the dojo environment allows this pattern to persist. This may be great for health, the development of a sense of community, and a general "feel good" atmosphere, but it is hardly "martial". For some people, this is not a problem. For me, it is.

2. Have you ever reflected on the interplay between the persons applying and receiving techniques to grasp the nature of the roles of each?

It is commonly thought that the first phase of a technique is for the purpose of blending with an attacker to then throw or subdue him in the final phase. The problem occurs when the attacker retains his balance up to the point of the application of the lock or throw. At this point, your opponent, if still balanced, is in a position to offer resistance or counter your action. In the "Zone Theory of Aikido" course, I stress the importance of using the initial point of contact to quickly unbalance the attacker to ensure success in the final stage. Aikido techniques are extremely effective when applied against an attacker whose structure has been compromised.

3. What do you do when training with a partner who is physically powerful and capable of resisting your every attempt to throw?

Some individuals are blessed with great physical strength, whether endowed genetically or as a result of physical training. So what do you do during aikido practice when you encounter someone like that? Are they the gentle giant type who are happy to cooperate, or hell-raisers bent on making you look bad? It's usually one or the other.

So what would your reaction be if I suggested that it is quite possible to learn to deal with both types of "monster" by adopting a new strategy and mindset? Really believe it's impossible? You're thinking about the problem in the wrong way. I'll give you a hint... everyone -- big or small-- is subject to the effects of gravity! I go into this subject in great depth in the "Zone Theory of Aikido".

4. If you are training with the expectation of improving your chance of surviving a life-or-death encounter, you'll need to spend serious time in the dojo and in life in focused training. You will need to study not only aikido techniques, but also strategic thinking and internalize this mindset such that it becomes instinctive. You will need to avail yourself of every tool at your disposal to better your odds.

Examples of what I'm alluding to above are tactics such as the use of atemi and kiai -- combative strikes and shouts -- to overcome resistance and pave the way to a successful execution of techniques. In many aikido schools, atemi and kiai are seldom practiced and are regarded as unnecessary and violent. The reality is that the founder of aikido used these martial tools throughout his career as an essential part of his teaching and practice. To adopt a contrary viewpoint is merely to display a lack of knowledge of aikido's technical evolution and to depart from the founding principles of aikido.

5. If you're like most practitioners, you probably don't know much about the art and practice of Morihei Ueshiba, aikido's founder. Do you know that, perhaps surprisingly, there is an abundance of surviving technical documentation that allows us to reconstruct and reexamine his techniques and strategies in a meaningful way? Are they worth studying?

They most emphatically are! Morihei Ueshiba's approach to aikido has been largely neglected, or discarded as antiquated and thus irrelevant. This is yet another indication of the general ignorance of aikido's fascinating history. I can assure you that the surviving books and photos of Morihei's art contain a treasure trove of techniques and insights that, if studied carefully, will yield tremendous dividends in your personal training. Morihei Ueshiba is ever present and a constant reference source in the "Zone Theory of Aikido".

Contents of the "Zone Theory of Aikido 2.0" that will lead you to re-evaluate your practice and views of aikido...

  • Principles of unbalancing explained with numerous examples
  • How to manage distance and initial contact with an opponent
  • A new alternative to the traditional ikkyo and its inherent vulnerabilities
  • Dealing effectively with a powerful opponent with advance knowledge of your technique
  • Employing the "confusion principle" to gain a strategic advantage
  • Neutralizing physical strength through positioning and non-resistance
  • Learn an aikido that improves with time and that can be practiced through advanced age
  • How to apply "body locks" to subdue an attack while avoiding training injuries
  • Forgotten technical and strategic insights from Morihei Ueshiba's 1938 "Budo" manual

35 Video Lessons

Contents and Video Times

Mobile Responsive Interface

Benefits of Stretching – 5:39

Katatedori Sankyo Omote – 8:50

Sincerity in Training – 7:36

Controling at the Moment of Contact – 4:23

Katatedori Shihonage – 5:18

Strategic Positioning / Nage as Initiator – 8:33

Introduction to the Zone Theory – 5:03

Katatedori Yonkyo Omote – 7:23

Suwariwaza Kokyuho – 6:15

Katadori Kokyunage – 4:59

Morotedori Kokyuho 4:12

Suwariwaza Kokyuho II – 3:51

Katadori Kokyunage II – 7:43

Morotedori Kokyuho II – 8:14

Suwariwaza Kokyuho III – 12:37

Katadori Shihonage Omote – 1:28

Morotedori Kokyuho III – 19:17

Suwariwaza Kokyuho IV – 2:33

Katatedori Ikkyo Omote – 7:07

Munetsuki Kaitennage – 8:10

Suwariwaza Kokyuho V – 1:01

Katatedori Ikkyo Omote II – 9:19

Safely Entering Your Opponent's Territory – 5:16

Tai no Henko – 4:46

Katatedori Iriminage – 6:12

Safety in Aikido Practice – 5:51

Tai no Henko / The Mechanics of Things -15:50

Katatedori Iriminage II – 8:04

Shomenuchi Iriminage – 15:43

Tracing O-Sensei's Technical Evolution – 5:55

Katatedori Kokyunage Oyowaza – 4:06

Shomenuchi Sankyo Omote – 3:10

Train Incident in Japan – 2:59

Katatedori Nikyo Omote – 3:16

Shomenuchi Shihonage – 5:59

Testimonials about the "Zone Theory of Aikido" from course participants...

I have to admit that I've seen Stanley's posting on his Zone Theory, but I've never taken the time to watch any of the clips. Until now. What is amazing to me about this is that in my classes I've been working the exact concept unbeknownst to me. Mr. Pranin is dead on with this in my opinion (not that my opinion matters). What's really amazing to me is he states that he hated ikkyo and I've complained for years that I hated ikkyo from this grab too! Always struggled with it...until I changed how I did it. Granted, I do ikkyo differently, but the PRINCIPLE is the same. Please don't pay attention to the technique itself in this clip... LISTEN to what he is saying and WATCH what he's doing. I personally feel that what he is demonstrating and discussing is the very nature of the secret of aikido and what makes it so powerful. One final thing here: I love how Stanley refers to this as "theory". To me this is very indicative of a humble nature and spirit."

A.M., Canada

I've watched nine lessons already. Really great stuff! I appreciate that no one lesson is longer than about 10 minutes. Gets right to the point. Great explanations!


I am watching "my" Zone Theory of Aïkido Course and I have found it very clear and helpful. I have only 27 years of regular practice as a teacher and all this material is for me a booster in my daily practice. Thank you very much for your Aïkido instruction!

P.D., France

Thanks so much!!I LOVED the course. Truly refreshed and refired some aspects of my aikido. I'm new at it, and some of your principles really helped me a great deal. I used the dead zone with a senior at our school yesterday morning by bringing his arm way back to the zone you mentioned and applied a kotegaeshi... He was mystified and we tried it several times. He loved it too!


I would like to thank you, for a very interesting and inspiring seminar. Your techniques and style are a breath of fresh air. The way you do things a little differently, but still faithful to the style, is very, very nice. Thank you.

R.K., Sweden

And before I forget, the Zone Theory is awesome! I don't know if you came up with it yourself, but it is literally a new dimension for martial aikido!

A.Y., India

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