Aikido and Judo, two beautiful martial art forms, share quite many similarities. For one, they both have descended from Jujutsu, and they both are “do” (Aiki-do and Ju-do), meaning they’re both ways of life. Both of them developed around the same time, and both promote peace, harmony and gentleness.
But some differences are there as well. For one, Judo is a combat sport and there are worldwide Judo tournaments where fighters try their hardest to win. Whereas Aikido is an entirely non-competitive practice and is used only for self defense.
Second, Judo is practiced only in one-to-one mode and you’re attacked only from the front. On the other hand, Aikido has no such inhibitions. Attacks can come from any direction, and there can be multiple attackers.
Without any delay, let’s look at these two brilliant martial art forms in detail:
Developed by Morihei Ueshiba, Aikido is a unique blend of fighting techniques and philosophical teachings. Primarily derived from a form of jujitsu, Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, Ueshiba also incorporated several techniques of other, older martial art forms into Aikido, which he’d studied and mastered over years.
Ueshiba’s philosophical leanings are quite visible in this martial art form. He was deeply affected by the teachings of the founder of Ōmoto-kyō religion, Onisaburo Deguchi.
The religion stresses on attaining perfection in one’s life. And this idea is apparent in Aikido’s philosophy of love and compassion for everyone. The best result of a fight, according to Aikido, is when not only the defendant is safe and sound, but also the attacker is unharmed.
Judo was founded by Kanō Jigorō, a highly knowledgeable educator. Ju-do word was formed by replacing the jutsu (which means an art) in ju-jutsu with do (meaning a way or a path). Born in an affluent family, and a victim of the bullying culture in schools, Kano sought out an instructor who could teach him Jujutsu.
After a long search, he finally found his first teacher in Fukuda Hachinosuke. A few teachers later, Kano founded his school where he taught jujutsu in a slightly modified way, what came to be known later as judo.
Judo combined the techniques of jujutsu with principles of Confucianism, emphasizing on efficiency over effort and stressing on mutual welfare and harmony.
Both the art forms emphasize grappling the opponent, and both of them strive to use leverage and try to use the opponent’s centre of balance against them only, to further subdue or choke them. In other words, the energy and momentum of the opponent are utilized, redirected and manipulated to your advantage in both these martial arts.
Also, the fighter in both the art forms have a similar stance: rear foot in line with the front one, and body turned off centre. Both the art forms use striking techniques primarily for calculating distance, for defense, distraction or to evade the enemy.
Judo is primarily a technique for ground-fighting, and the fighters try to put the other one down using chokes, joint locks etc. Whereas Aikido fighters are always in a standing position and whenever one manages to throw down the other person, the fight stops.
In Judo, the major joints (like shoulders, knees etc) are attacked as well as defended, using circular or triangular movements. And weapons don’t have a lot of use here, except for self-defense training. On the contrary, Aikido attacks the minor joints (like fingers, wrists etc) using triangular and circular attacking techniques.
Kuzushi vs Mizu Nagare
Kuzushi is the Japanese term for disturbing the balance of your opponent and is used in Judo. Here, you yourself create the imbalance in your opponent by pulling or pushing your opponent. And it’s relatively easier then to apply other techniques on the opponent.
Mizu Nagare is the unbalancing technique in Aikido. Here, you take what the opponent offers you and use it to create imbalance. This aligns with the philosophy of Aikido which emphasizes on using the energy of the opponent against him/her.
Ko Daore vs Sokumen Iriminage
In Ko Daore, the fighter pulls the opponent using their belt, creates Kuzushi, blocks their arm and takes them and their centre of gravity down. It’s a very effective way of taking down an opponent.
In Aikido, the fighter absorbs the attacker’s strike, using it to create Mizu Nagare, and then takes them down. You don’t grab the belt or gi or anything, you just strike with your arms.
Kotegaeshi means a wrist lock which is done by grabbing the arm of the opponent and twisting or bending it. This allows the fighter to gain a control over the opponent’s body which can be further used to throw him.
While the rules in a game of Judo don’t allow kotegaeshi, the technique is taught in self defense training. Now, there can be two throws executed: a distal and a medial throw.
While both the throws can be executed in either Judo or Aikido, medial throws are much more frequent in case of Judo. Whereas in Aikido, distal throws are much more common.
Which is More Effective?
Judo. It is relatively easier to learn, the fighting techniques are very simple yet practical, and the ground fighting strategies are quite effective in real life. .
Relative to Aikido, Judo is a more aggressive and practical martial art form. For eg, it doesn’t wait for the opponent to lash out for creating imbalance (Kuzushi) but rather it strikes first and doesn’t give the opponent a chance to strike in the first place.
Also, Aikido doesn’t have many defense techniques against kicks, especially lower ones which can be a major disadvantage during fights. Judo, on the other hand, emphasizes on ground fighting which can prove to be a great asset in many situations.
Aikido is more of a philosophy which teaches you how to be better, how to be more receptive, how to respect others (even when it’s an attacker or your opponent), how to be in harmony with the life forces around us, and builds your character. Judo is a philosophy at its core as well.
But, in the modern context, it is much more of a sport than a way of life (unlike Aikido). And which is why trainers prioritize winning over philosophical lessons through various techniques.
Which is Better for Street Fighting?
Aikido effectively and efficiently uses your opponent’s moves against them. Plus, you’ll never fight one-to-one in a real-time situation (like in Judo), and hence Aikido gives you an edge by training against multiple assailants.
If we view it from the viewpoint of how the fighters are trained, Aikido is superior. It’s because the primary focus is on defending yourself, and evading the blows of the other. Plus, you also train against multiple assailants which also gives you an edge in real-time situations.
Contrary to it, Judo focuses more on how to win against your opponent by earning as many points as possible. This shifts the focus of the fighter towards fighting in a restricted way (fighting by the rules), which is not the best approach to have when we’re talking about real-life situations.
Techniques and Practicality
But when it comes to techniques, Judo has an edge over Aikido on many points. For one, Judo toughens you up physically (Aikido has much lesser emphasis on physical strength) and is relatively more aggressive, which gives you an advantage.
Also, Judo has some practical techniques like wrestling, grappling, groundwork strategies which help in putting the attacker down.
Which is Better for Self Defense?
Aikido. It’s because Aikido’s primary focus (other than developing your character) is self defense in every type of situation, and it teaches you the most efficient ways to channel your attacker’s energy against you.
As many say, Aikido for self-defense, and Judo for sports.
Why does Aikido have an advantage over Judo?
Aikido entirely revolves around defending yourself the best way you can, without harming yourself (and hopefully, without harming the attacker as well).
And not just physically, Aikido puts a lot of emphasis on mental health as well. The fighter must be able to keep calm and face the situation with a clear head, not losing himself/herself to overwhelming emotions, thus giving the opponent an advantage.
The focus is more on flexibility, and endurance, and the ability to relax oneself, rather than prioritising strength training. Aikido training involves the pupil being both the attacker (uke) and the defendant (tori) 50-50% of the time.
This ensures that the ego factor dissolves, and they are well versed in both attacking and defending. Then there’s taninzudori, or training to fight against multiple attackers, which helps in real-time situations.
How Judo can be more practical in some situations
Judo, on the other hand, has several restrictions in the form of rules. Also, the emphasis is given more to training for winning a game rather than actual fighting practice. There’s no weapon training, and striking techniques are not taught in Judo. Long story short, a lot of things which are taught in Judo might not be practical in the real world.
But. It focuses on physical training which can give you an advantage in a one-to-one fight. Moreover, several Judo techniques might prove more practical than Aikido like the ground fighting strategies, or wrestling, or choking the opponents. These are relatively easier to perform and more practical than throws or grip locks.
Which is Easier to Learn?
Judo. It was developed in a way which is easier for students to learn, and first incorporated several techniques which made learning easier and practical.
Judo requires vigorous amounts of training, both on a physical level as well as on a mental one. It prioritises fluidity and efficiency over brute force. But it was designed in such a way that learning it is, more or less, easier. Take, for example, the belt system, which was first made for judo to measure the level of training of a pupil.
In Judo, under part of gokyo, there are only 40 throws. As you progress, these increase in complexity, but at the end of the day, if you can execute these throws, you know the basics of Judo. Also, Judo was the first martial art to introduce randori, where you fight resisting opponents in a manner which is controlled and safe.
Whereas Aikido is a very complicated martial art form. And that is because it learns not only how to defend yourself, but also how to be a better human being in several aspects. It teaches mutual balance, harmony with external energy and inner peace along with many other things.
It also trains you to let go of your ego by positioning you as the defender as well as the attacker equally. Getting beaten and thrown without really putting up a fight is a humbling experience in itself, and it helps a person see the larger picture.
For Aikido, your per monthly fee can range anywhere between $40 to $200. The fees vary according to the pupil’s age, as it is easier to mould a person at a younger age. Institutions charge a lesser monthly fee if you join them for a longer duration. Also, if you choose to do volunteer work, your fee value decreases further. The training usually lasts 3 to 12 months, and can cost anywhere between $300 to $1500.
For Judo (which is taught by a much larger number of institutions and trainers compared to Aikido), the monthly fee can vary anywhere between $50 to $200, and a lot of times, much more than that as well!
It varies as per the reputation of the institution (or the trainer), the number of classes per week and other factors. The complete training usually lasts a year, and can cost around $300 to $2000..
Which one should you choose?
Depends on your priorities and preferences.
Do you want to get a shot at international championships? Do you want to make martial arts a part of your career? A martial art which also teaches you the concepts of unity and is very efficient? A martial art which is learned by a vast number of students worldwide? Then go for Judo without a sliver of doubt.
But. Do you want to learn the most non-violent of martial art forms (non-violence used with martial arts might seem ironic, but it’s not!)? Do you want to learn to defend yourself and, not just that, learn to be a better human being? A martial art that tells you not to harm even your opponent? A martial art that teaches you to rise above competitiveness, ego and violence? Choose Aikido in that case.