Aikido vs Judo

Aikido and Judo are two Japanese martial arts that both stemmed from jujutsu. There are some key differences between the two martial arts which we are going to look at in this article.

Some of you might not have even heard of aikido as it is much less popular than judo and jiu-jitsu outside of Japan. So, we are going to explain briefly about each martial art and then look at the differences and similarities.

When taking up a martial art, one aspect that people look at closely is whether it is good for self-defense or not. We will answer the all-important question of which is better to protect yourself.

Let’s get stuck into this aikido vs judo deep-dive.

What is Aikido?

If you’ve watched Netflix’s Money Heist (La casa de Papel) you might be asking yourself can I defend myself like the professor by learning aikido. Well, let’s take a look at the roots of this martial art to see how it works.

Aikido as a martial art was founded by Morihei Ueshiba in the late 1920s and it is based on the older martial arts that he had studied in his life.

Ueshiba studied Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu under Takeda Sokaku who had revived this martial art and this was what helped to form the basics of aikido.

Aikido is a non-violent martial art as the aim is to learn how to defend yourself whilst making sure the attacker doesn’t get injured. 

Aikido is referred to as “the way of unifying life energy” or “the way of harmonious spirit”. In Japanese, this is broken down via three kanji characters as you can see with their meanings below.

  • 合 – ai – harmony or unifying
  • 気 – ki – energy or spirit
  • 道 – dō – way or path

This is a very brief introduction to what is aikido, to learn more about this Japanese martial art you can click that link.

What is Judo?

Judo was founded earlier than aikido by a man named Kano Jigoro. Like aikido, judo also stems from jiu-jitsu, and early on it was sometimes referred to as Kano Jujutsu or Kano Ryu due to its founder’s name.

In Japanese judo stands for “gentle way” and has a more philosophical approach than jujutsu. Judo is a grappling martial art with the aim to throw your opponent and then ultimately pin them into submission.

There are many reasons why judo has become so popular around the world and in Japan. The Tokyo police force helped with this in Japan as they made it the primary martial art for all its officers.

Aikido and Judo differences

By reading these descriptions of either martial art, you’ve probably started to gather some of the differences. We’re going to list the key differences between judo and aikido, and go into some more detail about each of these.

Judo is a competitive sport, aikido is primarily for self-defense

If you’ve ever watched the Olympics, you would’ve seen that judo is one of the competitive martial art events. Aikido, however, isn’t a sport in the typical sense as it doesn’t have official rules and rankings like judo have.

Judo became an Olympic sport back in 1960 and the first time it appeared in the games was at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was the fourth martial art in the Olympics after wrestling, fencing, and boxing.

As mentioned, aikido is a martial art that was created to defend from attackers, but not to retaliate. This is one of the reasons why it is great for self-defense.

Judo is more popular around the world

Although aikido is practiced in more than 100 countries, judo is hands down the more popular of the two.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) is active in 199 countries and has more than 50 million judokas around the world. Yes, that’s right 50 million people practice judo in the world, that’s how popular it is.

It is hard to know how many people practice aikido as it isn’t stated on the International Aikido Federation’s website. One source stated that 1.5 million people was the correct number, but this was from 2006.

Techniques involved

Even though both aikido and judo stem from jiu-jitsu, the techniques chosen for each one are quite different. Both judo and aikido involve throwing and joint locks, but these are the only similarities when it comes to technique.

In judo, you are performing throws and joint locks to force your opponent into submission. But, in aikido after a throw, you wouldn’t then try to pin the aggressor into submission.

Aikido involves a lot of blocking whilst judo has a lot of grappling and even choke locks along with the joint locks we mentioned.

Judo requires more physical demand on the body

As judo is an offensive martial art rather than defensive, you need to have good stamina and strength. Generally, the stronger you are, the better you’ll be. As it can be hard to perform a judo throw if you don’t have the required strength.

If you don’t have the physical strength yet for judo then aikido is a great fit as you are learning the defensive aspect that can also be useful in judo.

Aikido is good for all age ranges

As aikido isn’t a grappling martial art it only involves physical contact when an attacker goes to strike. You will find people in their 80s or older that still practice aikido. This is more in a philosophical way rather than for self-defense though.

It is also good for children, although there are benefits to kids learning martial arts that involve more physical contact.

Older people might not want to practice judo as they do risk injury with it being an aggressive martial art, not defensive.

Aikido can be learned at home

Aikido can be learned at home to some degree. You can learn the movements and practice the blocking techniques by yourself. 

Whereas, with judo, you will need a sparring partner to properly practice to progress.

You can find judo grappling dummies to buy online to practice with at home, but it’s not the same as being in a dojo.

Aikido and Judo similarities

Most articles that look at aikido vs judo look at the differences only, but we think it’s important to know the similarities too.

Both are Japanese martial arts

As stated earlier in this article, both aikido and judo are Japanese martial arts. This is a small similarity as many other martial arts originated in Japan.

Both derived from jujutsu

Aikido and judo were both born from jujutsu practitioners. The founders took styles from jiu-jitsu and created two different martial arts in judo and aikido.

Also, even though one is for defending, judo and aikido both use throws and joint locks in the basics of the art.

Is Aikido or Judo better for self-defense?

One of the most common questions asked when discussing martial arts is whether it is good for self-defense. That’s why we’re going to look at which of the two, aikido or judo, is better for self-defense.

If a street fight broke out, then some martial artists would argue that aikido is best for self-defense as that is its main aim. You learn how to deal with attacks whether it is with a weapon or part of the aggressor’s body.

But, what aikido doesn’t teach you is how to then counter-attack, something that is taught in judo.

In a real-life situation, I would prefer to have the knowledge of a judoka than an aikido practitioner. You would be able to defend, but also have the know-how of how to force your opponent onto the ground and into submission. That is the ultimate aim if a fight was to occur as you want to completely disable them from another attack.

As we mentioned before, the philosophy of aikido is not to cause injury to the attacker, but just to defend.

Another point is the fact that you need to build up more strength if you take part in judo. This is a big advantage when it comes to fights in the modern-day.

There is an interesting video on the YouTube channel Martial Arts Journey which shows an aikido vs judo sparring session. There were some rules in place for this video, like no strikes, which wouldn’t happen in a real-life situation.

Still, it demonstrates how aikido is a defensive martial art as there were times when Rokas could’ve grappled on the ground. He didn’t as that isn’t part of aikido’s philosophy and training.

Aikido vs Judo Summary

Now that you’ve seen both the similarities and differences between judo and aikido, we hope you understand them both better. If you’re looking to start either, this guide has shown you the benefits of both martial arts.

The fact that judo is an offensive martial art may make it more attractive to new practitioners, but self-defense is also important in the modern-day.

Judo is more popular around the world so it might be easier to find a dojo to learn outside of Japan rather than aikido.


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