September 5, 2022

Aikido vs MMA: Differences & Effectiveness

Two entirely different martial art forms. Two entirely different purposes. Two completely different philosophies. Let’s look at them, shall we? 

There are tons of differences between these two martial art forms. While Aikido is a philosophy centring around self-defense, MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is a ruthless combat sport which seeks out the most effective way to fight. Aikido believes in the philosophy of non-violence and compassion even towards your opponent, whereas MMA is much more ruthless and doesn’t hold back towards the opponent. 

Both have a very few surface similarities though. Neither of them is a martial art, but a modified form of different martial arts. During a practice session, an opponent has to tap to acknowledge the fighter’s dominance. Until he/she doesn’t do that, the fighter is free to apply more pressure. 

With that said, let’s look at both of them in detail:

Brief History


Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba, also referred to as Ōsensei or the Great Teacher by many. He infused the techniques of several martial art forms and blended them into developing a new art form, Aikido. The primary influences in Aikido’s techniques come from Jiu-jitsu as well as kenjutsu (the art of swordsmanship). 

He was also deeply affected by Onisaburo Deguchi, a spiritual leader, and which shows in the various philosophies of Aikido. Ueshiba believed in extending love and compassion towards the attacker as well and believed that martial arts should be learnt so that an attack can be redirected harmlessly. 

two Aikido Fighters


In ancient China and Greece, there were instances of fighting styles which were a combination of boxing and wrestling techniques which can be called as the earliest forms of MMA. Several mixed fighting techniques were seen all around the world in various countries in the 20th century. 

The various Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and vale tudo events in Brazil, beginning in the early 20th century, led to the movement which eventually led to the development of MMA. The MMA term was officially used in relation to UFC 1 in 1993. As time passed, the popularity of the competition skyrocketed, and with it rose the popularity of mixed martial arts. 



The techniques in these two art forms are as different as they can be. While the majority of the techniques in Aikido are defensive, MMA relies heavily on offensive moves. The only little similarity they share is in the fact that they’re both derived by the amalgamation of different martial art forms. 


There are plenty of differences between these two because of the entirely different set of philosophies and motives for fighting. Here are the major differences:


MMA takes use of strikes from Muay Thai, boxing as well as kickboxing. There are strikes straight to the face (jabs, hooks, uppercut, rear leg push-kick etc), straight towards the abdominal area using knees etc. Your fist, your knees, your elbows, your legs: every part can be used to strike as long as it is effective. 

Whereas Aikido has a lesser emphasis on strikes as it usually tries to be the defender instead of being the offender. There are a few suwaisho (relaxed arm) striking methods which can be pretty effective, as well as a few munetsuki (fist strike to the torso) strikes which are used in Aikido. 


Taken primarily from wrestling and judo, clinching techniques are often executed in MMA and are used to decrease the intensity of the opponent’s strikes, and are also helpful for takedowns. There are different ways of clinch holds: by a pummel clinch or wrestler’s tie-up or Muay Thai Plum. 

Aikido, on the other hand, doesn’t use any clinching techniques whatsoever. 


All the takedown moves in MMA are taken from wrestling. The attacker brings the opponent off-balance, bringing them down and landing over them. There’s a double leg-takedown and a leg trip takedown technique in MMA. 

In Aikido, throws are used in a lot of techniques. All the throws are initiated by unbalancing the opponent and using their momentum against them. There’s iriminage (throw executed from irimi), kokyunage (breath throw), kotegaeshi (throw by turning the wrist), nikyo (pinning by wrist lock) and shihonage (a four directional throw). 


Once an opponent is on the ground, the fighter on the top can strike the head of the opponent using elbows and fists, and the defender can defend or attack. There are offense strikes by fists and elbows as well as defense strikes using fists and elbows. 

There aren’t many techniques of ground fighting in Aikido but it does have some grappling techniques, all done while standing. 

Submission holds

Submission holds, tests the limit of joint and tendons’ strength. There are also strangle holds and chokes which apply pressure on the vulnerable neck region till the point where either the opponent accepts defeat or they’re rendered unconscious. If the opponent can’t tolerate the pain by holds and chokes, they have to tap to accept defeat. There’s triangle choke, rear-naked choke, straight armbar and kimura (armlock). 

Aikido, on the other hand, has wrist locks, arm locks, elbow locks etc. which aren’t, but can be, used for submission holds. 

Mixed martial artists fighting - kicking

Which is Better for a Street Fight?

MMA. Because of regular fights and an arsenal of techniques, MMA fighters are more confident and with a better mindset compared to Aikido practitioners who generally don’t practice against other fighters other than in their dojo


Because of fighters facing opponents with different styles every time, MMA fighters know which techniques to use in a particular situation and that helps in real life. There are a multitude of techniques, the best of them in fact, taken from several martial arts which are effective. Having a bunch of effective techniques? That’s all you need in a street fight, don’t you? 

Aikido, on the other hand, has some great techniques as well, but the lack of aggression and lack of adaptability puts it down in front of MMA. While you can deflect and defend yourself, they aren’t always the most practical thing to do in  brutal street fights. 

Confidence and versatility

Fighting against experienced opponents who are as good as you or better gives you a certain advantage in real-time situations. An MMA fighter knows how to strike punches and take one as well. And not just that, all the messy parts of a fight: MMA fighters deal with it all the time. All of this boosts their chances in an actual street fight. 

While Aikido is pretty versatile, the training doesn’t usually involve fighting against a variety of opponents. Plus Aikido’s inherently non-aggressive strategy might not work in every situation where violence becomes necessary.

Though, Aikido doesn’t have a set pace like MMA (they have to extend the fights, preserve their stamina to last longer) which is quite practical. 

Weapons and multiple opponents

This is an area where Aikido is much superior to MMA. In MMA, there are only one-to-one fights which take place with rules and regulations. It also doesn’t have anything to do with weapons and you’re, more likely than not, going to fight against armed opponents in a street fight. 

Whereas Aikido trains the fighters in how to fight against multiple opponents in the randori techniques. Weapons, like staff, sword and knife, are also used in training and defenses against them is practiced which gives quite an advantage in real-life street fights. 

Which is Better for Self Defense?

MMA. Because the fighters face a variety of opponents and learn a variety of practical techniques, which prepares them for any kind of fight on any day. 

Fighting style and frequency

One of the best things about MMA is that it has evolved, incorporating different fighting styles, facing a wide range of opponents all with unique fighting styles of their own, training for a variety of situations and pushing the overall limits. This helps in developing a very practical fighting strategy which is useful for defending yourself in day to day life. 

Contrast to that: Aikido. It hasn’t evolved or incorporated new techniques over years. And the only fights are between the Aikido practitioners themselves. This practice lowers the adaptability and diversity in fighting for Aikido practitioners. 


We must also keep in mind though, that self-defense is not just about having a pretty solid fighting style. 

Imagine this. What would you rather have: A great fighting style for a street fight? 

Or no fighting at all? 

If it’s the former you desire, then MMA provides you with that. But if it’s the latter which you find more sensible, Aikido can provide you with that. While MMA is strictly a physical combative sport, which purely seeks to develop your fighting skills, Aikido is a philosophy through and through. 

You build your character, your instincts in every walk of your life, from your relationships to your professional life to everything: it opens up new dimensions within you. You hone your reflexes, have a better sense of balance and overall have more awareness about your surroundings. 

Which is Easier to Learn?

MMA. Because of its more versatile nature and effectiveness. 

Aikido is a very complex martial art form with some quite sophisticated moves and it takes at the very least 10 years before you’re fairly proficient in Aikido. Then again, Aikido doesn’t require physical prowess which makes it easier to learn for younger and older people alike. 

Compared to that, MMA is far more practical. Most of the basic moves can be learnt in a year or so. And in 10 years (taking this duration for comparison’s sake), you’ll be an expert in MMA. Its moves are much simpler and relatively easier to learn. But it does require peak physical form in its students and thus, can not be practiced by people of every age group, unlike Aikido. 

Cost Comparison 


The monthly fee in an Aikido dojo lies anywhere between 40$ to 200$ per month. A beginner takes usually 4 to 5 years to earn their first black belt. That puts the full training fee in a range of 2000$ to 12000$. Of course, you can obtain further ranks after acquiring your first black belt. 


The average monthly cost for MMA training comes anywhere between 50$ to 200$. It usually takes 4 years for a fighter to be fairly proficient in MMA, and therefore the price range for MMA training comes out to be between 2500$ to 10000$ approximately. 

Which one should you choose?

It varies from person to person, depending upon what they want from the martial art form. 

Do you want a physically tough body? 

Do you want a no-holds-barred approach to fighting? 

Do you want to make fighting your career? 

Then, without a sliver of doubt, choose MMA over Aikido. But. 

Do you want to build your character, shedding human deficiencies like ego, over-aggressiveness, hatred? 

Do you want to build a harmonious relationship with the world around you? 

Do you want to learn a self defense technique which teaches you to even respect your attacker? 

Go for Aikido, without any hesitancy. 

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