Aikido vs Judo – What are the Differences? Which is Best for Self Defense?

Among all the martial art forms that gained popularity in the West through the 70s and the 80s, Aikido has to be the least popular one. 

If you talk to parents who are looking to enroll their kids in a martial arts school, you’ll hear them talk about Taekwondo or Karate or Kung-Fu or even Judo.

But people rarely talk about Aikido. 

That’s surprising because it originates from Jiu Jitsu, which is considered to be the parent of most modern martial arts. 

It shares a lot of similarities with Judo and BJJ as well, both of which are extremely popular today. Both professionals even look alike wearing their GI’s. But they are not, they are very very different.

Why then does Aikido not get the share of attention it deserves? 

How does it compare to Judo? Which one of these two martial arts are likely to get you out of trouble in a real life self-defense street fight scenario?

Let’s find out.

Aikido vs Judo – Let’s Go!

Many people are just getting started and are wondering not only which one is better for sport, but which is more effective for self defense and which is more popular so that they can choose which martial art is best.

Below you can check out just what exactly each fighting style is about, how they are are similar, how they are different and which is for you.

What is Aikido?

akido vs judo for self defense

Aikido is a Japanese martial art that originated from Jiu Jitsu. It was created by Morihei Ueshiba primarily as a self-defense technique that focused on trying to use your enemy’s momentum against them in a way that would protect yourself.

That sounds strange, doesn’t it? 

It also somehow creates an impression that Aikido wouldn’t be as effective as other martial arts for self-defense. 

That’s far from the truth. In fact, Aikido is hands down, one of the most effective martial arts for self-defense.

The idea of defending yourself while causing the least amount of damage to the opponent probably stems from the religious and spiritual influences that Ueshiba had in the later years.  

We’ll touch on this in a bit. 

Just like Judo, Aikido focusses on utilizing the opponent’s energy and momentum to your advantage, by manipulating them into throws, pins and submissions. 

Imagine a person running at you with a samurai sword or weapon.. What would you do? Well this is exactly what Aikido teaches you. How to disarm them and get them to the ground as quickly as possible.

What is Judo?

judo vs akido

Judo is a Japanese martial art that was developed by Kano Jigoro, an ardent Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in the late 1800s. 

It draws heavily from traditional Jiu Jitsu and clubs it with more efficient moves that use fluid movements over force. 

Sounds just like Aikido, doesn’t it? 

That’s because both these martial arts are very identical in their moves and techniques. 

Judo focusses on throwing the opponent to the ground and pinning them immobile or forcing them into submission. 

The term Judo loosely translates into ‘Supple art’. But it’s rarely soft or supple, especially if you are practicing against a much bigger opponent. 

A lot of Judo practitioners end up injured or with deformities like the dreaded ‘Cauliflower ear’, which makes parents consider safer alternatives like Aikido. 

How is Aikido Different from Judo? What Exactly are the Differences?

Despite the many similarities, both these martial arts are as different as chalk and cheese when it comes to execution.

Aikido is all about deflection, evasion and manipulation. The idea behind the martial art is that anybody, irrespective of age, physical conditioning and sex, can practice and excel at it. 

In fact, Aikido is one of the only martial arts that can be mastered without gaining physical strength. 

Judo on the other hand requires a fair amount of physical strength as you will be throwing much larger opponents to the ground and making dramatic, offensive moves.

That’s not the only difference though.

Here are some others. 

Aikido for self-defense, Judo for sport

One of the best ways to explain the differences in the two martial arts is that if you are looking to learn self-defense, go for Aikido. On the other hand, if you are interested in a sport, go for Judo. It is a standardized Olympic sport with millions of practitioners, established rules and multiple styles. The techniques of Aikido on the other hand will be best suited for hand-to-hand combat without using too much force or energy. 

Aikido may be more suited in specific scenarios

The art of bringing down and restraining an opponent when possible may be more suited than Judo in specific applications. For example, if you are a cop or a nurse, that throw and pin might prove to be invaluable. 

Aikido can be practiced by anyone

Right from children, to teenagers, to adults, to even seniors, it’s never too late to learn Aikido. In fact, the ‘Gentle Art’ translation suits it a lot more than it suits Judo. 

Judo is much better physical exercise

As you gain more expertise with Aikido, the easier it becomes and lesser the physical strength you need to execute the moves. Judo on the other hand is a vigorous workout every time you step on the mat. It involves both aerobic and aerobic exercise and is a great way to stay fit. 

Judo toughens you up, physically and mentally

Many seasoned MMA fighters have their origins in Judo. It is such a demanding martial art that it tends to create hardcore fighters who are as tough as they get. 

Which is best for self-defense Judo or Aikido?

judo vs akido for self defense

There are many views on which martial art is best for defending yourself in a real street fight, but if we look at the techniques that are taught in each martial arts some would say that Aikido is best for self defense based on application of the techniques in different situations in which they are taught

The reason for this is because Aikido is a fighting style that is based purely on how to defend yourself and the techniques that are taught are also designed solely to protect yourself from attacks.

On the other hand defending yourself with Judo I would say is far superior over Aikido because of real world application in today’s world. The reason for this is that Judo likes to focus on a few techniques that could really submit an enemy.

Techniques such as groundwork, grappling, and wrestling are strategies that one could use to really put a beating on their enemy. This is not the case for Aikido. Aikido is focused more on ways that in today’s world are very limited.

Can think of it like this, Aikido teaches you to protect yourself from someone running at you with their fist up, cocked and ready to swing straight at your face. An Aikido master will easily take this person and flip them into tomorrow whether they are running at you. but in all reality when does this really happen today? People nowadays know how to fight and nobody really runs at you with their fist up in the air.

Today people are a little bit more knowledgable and this is why learning how to grapple and wrestle is very important. This is why Judo is more effective for self defense.

We have spoken to many professional fighters who feel that Judo holds the edge purely because of the physical conditioning and real world contact wrestling that it gives you. Something that’s lacking in Aikido. 

The only real way to find out though is to pin a professional Judo and Akido fighter against each other in a street fight and see who wins.

What do you think? Do you think Judo or Aikido is more deadly when it comes to defending yourself and taking down opponents in street fights?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

Why is Aikido not in MMA or UFC?

Aikido, especially in the form that it is being taught around the world currently, is not a combat sport.

In the early days, maybe there was an equal focus on striking as much as it was on blocking and defense. 

But in a brutal and bloody sport like Mixed Martial arts, it just doesn’t fit. 

Moreover, the core philosophy of this martial art doesn’t blend too well with MMA. 

To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.’ ― Morihei Ueshiba


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