Aikido Training at Red Tail Ridge

In Zero Degree Aikido training, small, natural movements synergize to large effect.

Recently, I had the chance to teach aikido at Red Tail Ridge, a natural horsemanship farm in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Lee Ann Lutz, owner of Red Tail Ridge, trained in aikido in college and when we talked about what I’ve done with it since, she wanted me to teach a class there.

I know of a horseman and author, Mark Rashid, who trains horses and riders using aikido principles, but, to be clear, I’ve never met him and I don’t know how he teaches what he does. I’m not a horseman, either. I only teach martial arts. So please don’t mistake this for his program. We are not related.

I teach aikido with a method called Zero Degree™, applying Moshe Feldenkrais’ neuro-muscular education concepts to the aikido I learned with Minoru Mochizuki in the early 1990s. Zero Degree highlights and wakens the universal human reflexes behind the natural but seemingly complex movements of aikido, judo, karate, jujutsu and Japanese sword. Mochizuki sensei taught all these arts more or less together at his yoseikan dojo with a natural, relaxed bearing that could switch among arts without having to change his basic self organization. Through the natural human functions of standing and walking, Zero Degree presents the roots of all martial arts and the keys to cultivating each.

It’s a lot to cover in five hours, much less condensed into one, so I show tiny things that add up to unpredicted synergy.

The Earth lesson in Zero Degree examines the natural reflexes of upright standing and balance, fight-or-flight reflexes and releasing chronic stress.
In the Water lesson, we examine the effects of very light knee-to-knee contact on joint and nervous system function. Partner is Bill Lutz, public school athletics director and coach.


A little practice in thrusting with a sword…
…can easily be cultivated into something that looks rather complex.


It’s really just walking and using the arms…
…like swords, to cut an attacker down.

The class covers a lot of ground and changes fundamental experience in a memorable way, connected through empowering physiology and unusual knowledge.

People say, “It looks like you’re not even doing anything, but people fall down.”

And I’m not doing much, really, just showing how the human body and nervous system work. Deep training in aikido is arduous. Zero Degree is simply an introduction, allowing me to teach things that will be useful every day for the rest of the learners’ lives, for self defense as well as normal living. If they choose to go further with training, Zero Degree remains a constant reference for stable advancement.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the Red Tail Ridge training and the horses kept quiet, so I think we were successful.

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