Aikido, Judo, Jujitsu… New students are often curious about how these oriental martial arts differ from each other. The astronomical rise in the popularity of martial arts in the past few decades mean that more people than ever want to know and discover them.
The primary difference between Aikido and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is their reason to exist in the first place: Aikido is a do, meaning a way of life, a philosophy whereas Jiu-jitsu is a jitsu or a fighting style. Also, BJJ has several tournaments conducted all over the world while, on the other hand, Aikido is against competitions of any kind.
The early Jiu-Jitsu was the inspiration behind martial art forms like Judo and Aikido itself. While their roots intersect in Japan (even though Jiu-jitsu got a new life in Brazil), both are vastly different. Let’s look at those differences, one by one: their histories, their techniques and many other things.
Aikido was inspired by several martial arts, especially from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, but it began having a unique identity of its own because of its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, who was hugely influenced by Onisaburo Deguchi, the leader of the religion Ōmoto-kyō.
Ueshiba’s philosophical leanings are the reason perhaps why Aikido is the only truly peaceful martial art form. Ueshiba believed that the best result of a fight is when not only the defender is unharmed, but so is the attacker. And that is why most of the techniques in Aikido resolve around deflecting the strikes and using the opponent’s energy against them.
While the original Jiu-Jitsu is said to have originated in India before 2000 BC and from where it subsequently went to other countries, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu’s history began more recently.
The fighting style was reborn in Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda, who had modified Jiu-jitsu to accommodate street fighting styles (which increased its practicality) in it.
One of his students, Carlos Gracie, developed this further along with the members of his family, and they were the ones to promote the art form and make it as popular as it is now, being used as one of the primary fighting styles in UFC and several other tournaments.
Similarities in Techniques
While they’ve various differences, they do share some similarities in their most basic techniques. Both these martial art forms are grappling art forms, meaning they both use grabbing and seizing techniques and fight in close range. Both of them are self-defense techniques at their core.
Both the martial art forms seek to use the opponent’s energy against them itself. Apart from that, both Aikido and BJJ try to incapacitate the opponent by putting pressure on the joints in their body.
Differences in Techniques
Because of their respective purposes and philosophies, their fighting styles are quite different from each other. While Aikido is a martial art form for self-defense through and through, BJJ involves a lot of fighting (as well as defensive moves, of course).
Aikido primarily has attacks which deflect the opponent’s strikes, and the main focus is on redirecting the energy of the opponent, to use their momentum against them.
This aligns with the philosophy of Aikido. Also, Aikido is fought while standing on both feet, upright. For attack, there are grabs and strikes, while for defense, pins and throws are used.
Whereas BJJ focuses on subduing opponents by throwing, strangling and takedowns. The aggression level is relatively higher here, and there is a lot of ground fighting involved, ideally on the back of the opponent.
The primary target in BJJ is to disturb the balance of the opponent and make their position unstable and hence render them vulnerable to simultaneous attacks.
Both these martial arts are called “soft” because of their emphasis on techniques over strength. But undoubtedly, they both require physical prowess to some extent as well.
Jiu-Jitsu training mostly revolves around unbalancing the opponent. For this, the opponent’s momentum is used against them, exposed parts are struck, and any openings are used to create joint locks. Once the balance is disturbed, throws and takedowns follow.
Aikido, too, seeks to unbalance the opponent albeit in different manners. Unlike the aggressiveness so inherent in BJJ, Aikido uses flexibility, endurance and movements which are controlled and relaxed.
An Aikido student doesn’t just learn fighting techniques, but also focuses on meditation and bringing the mind and body together.
Also, BJJ is more effective in its training as the students get to use their training in different fights and see for themselves what it is that they should improve. Whereas, Aikido students only practice choreographed techniques that might not always be effective in an actual fight.
Aikido increases a student’s self-awareness so that he’s more receptive to things around him, which helps in fights. It trains fighters on how to avoid trouble, how to get in synchrony with the energy around them. It teaches one how to overcome ego, aggressiveness and other self-destructive qualities within oneself.
BJJ has a much more aggressive stance and it toughens up the fighters by training them to expect the unexpected. Regular sparrings mean that the students develop the quality of thinking instantly and responding according to that. And because of the continuous fighting, the muscles develop and internal as well as external balance increases.
Which is More Effective in a Street Fight?
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Because of the constant evolution over years and because of the frequent matches in the training centres, BJJ would have a huge edge over Aikido in a street fight.
Aggressiveness and Adaptability
In a street fight, where there are no limitations, BJJ training comes quite handy. It’s aggressive, which means you actively try to put your opponent down. Also, over several years of it being used in several tournaments, it has evolved, getting more and more effective and lethal. A student gets to develop more of a unique method for themself during the fighting contests they have during their training.
While, if we take Aikido, it is very non-aggressive. Also, it focuses primarily on deflecting and redirecting the attacker’s energy which isn’t always the most practical thing to do.
Besides, Aikido more or less has remained the same over the years since its development. And this shows in some of their moves which are not very effective. Because Aikido doesn’t have any real fights during training, the students more or less remain inexperienced.
Weapons and Multiple Attackers
Aikido actively prepares the fighters against multiple attackers via the randori techniques. It prepares them against strikes by different weapons like a staff or a knife, which is quite useful in real-life situations.
Now while a BJJ fighter, technically, can fight against multiple attackers at once, they’re not trained for it nor are they trained against strikes by weapons in their training sessions.
Which is Better for Self Defense?
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Because it’s filled with effective techniques and it prepares you for the most unexpected of situations.
BJJ is immensely practical: it’s movements and techniques have been tested over and over again, it was used in battles in ancient times, and it has seen evolution which has only increased its overall efficiency over several years. And which is why it hands you a big advantage over any opponent in any situation.
Aikido, while it gives you an advantage wherever you face any attacker, might not be the best option if there’s a skilled fighter against you. Deflecting and redirecting does not work in every case, sometimes, the need of the hour is to knock out the enemy as soon as possible.
Who would be a more confident fighter? Someone who faces different opponents regularly or someone who has only practised against non-resisting or slightly-resisting opponents throughout their training? The obvious answer is the former fighter. And that is one of the most vital areas where BJJ has an upper hand over Aikido.
Consistent fights and a variety of strategies increases the confidence of a fighter, boosts their morale. And when they find themselves in the need to defend themselves, they can do it with a lot more confidence and resolve. BJJ fighters get to test their techniques in actual fights which prepares them for the unlikeliest of the situations.
Whereas Aikido is mostly practised amongst different students and rarely tested in an actual match (as it goes against their principles of non-competitiveness) which renders them with lesser confidence compared to what BJJ fighters have.
Most of the techniques in Aikido are very linear: perform step 1, then step 2 and so on. If the opponent adapts to the situation, the Aikido techniques, more or less, become useless.
Which is More Popular?
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu owes a lot of its popularity to UFC where several fighters are trained in BJJ, which naturally makes the fans intrigued about this martial art. Apart from that, BJJ has several other tournaments which naturally creates more buzz around it.
Aikido, on the other hand, has no such competitive matches whatsoever. Plus, its non-aggressiveness is (erroneously) seen by many as weakness. These factors combined result in Aikido being much less popular relative to BJJ.
According to Google Trends, on a relative curve, BJJ has enjoyed a popularity which has mostly remained over 75% in the last two years. Compared to that, Aikido is quite unpopular, as its popularity has mostly remained under 25% and has only dipped over the past 5 years (data collected in the US).
Which is Easier to Learn?
Aikido. While both the arts take a long time to master, Aikido is quicker and relatively easier.
Aikido is a philosophy, a way of life and it takes years to learn and master it properly. The same can be said for BJJ as well, but most of the training in BJJ revolves around mastering various fighting techniques. That is not the case with Aikido, which seeks to grow your character from within and, which focuses a lot on that and not just the fighting techniques.
And yet, obtaining a BJJ black belt takes at least 5 more years than Aikido, which is why black belts in BJJ are considered the hardest to achieve and are highly respected.
Since Aikido is mostly about techniques and not physical prowess, it can be learnt by people of any age, regardless of their physical shape. Whereas BJJ requires fighters to have optimal physical capabilities.
There are various factors based on which different training centres set their prices: the number of training days in a week, age of the student, the duration of the contract, who the instructor is, the location of the centre and others.
A typical BJJ training can cost anywhere between $70 to $200 per month. Barring some exceptions, a full-fledged BJJ training takes usually 10 years to complete. So an approximate range for a complete BJJ training comes to be between $8000 to $24000.
It usually takes a student five years to earn their first black belt, which is considered the first mark of expertise. An Aikido training can cost you anything between $40 and $200. Therefore, the range comes out to be approximately between $2000 to $12000.
Which One Should you Choose?
If you’re looking purely for a fighting style which trains you to be a better fighter and prepares you for the worst of fights, go for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. It has more training centres, you’ll have great opponents to practice against. It has good prospects as well, and you can make a career out of it.
But in case you’re looking for something which develops your mind, your balance and your overall character along with self-defense, choose Aikido. It improves personal as well as other aspects of your life. It helps you grow as a human being, and you avoid trouble as an instinctual habit most of the time.
But the best choice would be to choose both. To cross-train. While BJJ would supply you with a variety of useful techniques and make you more adaptive and efficient, Aikido would help you let go of your ego, aggressiveness and make you more self-aware.
- Aikido vs Judo