Aikido and Taekwondo: both are martial art forms practiced in several locations around the world. Both words end with do (Aiki-do and Taekwon-do) which means a philosophy or a way of life. And with that, their similarities end. These two martial art forms are as different as they get.
Aikido has its origins in Japan whereas Taekwondo originated from the South Korean region. Taekwondo is a hard martial art form consisting primarily of kicks and blocks while Aikido is considered a soft martial art that focuses on redirecting the opponent’s energy and using it against them.
And not just that, there are several differences between these two martial art forms. We’ll look at them in detail in the following sections: their histories, their techniques, and their applications in practical situations.
Founded by Morihei Ueshiba, Aikido was developed purely as a self-defense technique. Ueshiba took inspiration from different martial art forms he’d learned over time. Of these, the chief influence was Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu. Other than that, he also took elements of judo, Tenjin Shin’yō-ryū, and Gotōha Yagyū Shingan-ryū.
Ueshiba was also inspired by the spiritual master, Onisaburo Deguchi, and he incorporated several of his philosophies into Aikido. And that is why Aikido stresses so much upon the development of character and seeks to spread love and harmony with the surroundings.
Shortly after the second world war, new martial art schools began to open all around by trainers with a background in Chinese or Japanese martial art forms.
With time, the need to develop a martial art form that encompassed the Korean fighting style arose. Finally, Choi Hong Hi advocated using the term Taekwondo instead of Tae Soo Do (which was being used till then by many).
It was promoted by the Korean government and the different training centers in Korea. First, the South Korean military adopted it, then Kukkiwon was established as the national academy for Taekwondo by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. In 2000, it was included in the Olympics which further increased its popularity.
These two fighting styles have hardly anything in common. A few techniques of Aikido which are a part of Taekwondo aren’t ever taught. And the few techniques in Aikido that have come from Taekwondo are never focused upon. Basically, they go in entirely separate directions.
The primary difference between these two is that while Taekwondo is a striking art where the first actively attacks the opponent (and that’s why it’s also called a hard martial art form), Aikido primarily consists of throws and grabs and locks (and why it’s called a soft martial art form).
While Taekwondo deals with unarmed striking, Aikido also trains with weapons like staff and knives. Taekwondo mostly has kicks, to the upper parts of the body, whereas Aikido deals with arms and wrist locks, twisting, twirling, and throwing.
These differences, to a lot extent, can be attributed to the competitiveness found in each. Because Aikido is strictly non-competitive (and also because of its philosophy), it’s more passive, more focused on mastering the different aspects.
On the other hand, Taekwondo (because of its competitive nature) is more aggressive, more focused on developing more and more efficient techniques.
Taekwondo consists of various attacking techniques, both by hand and legs. While kicks are generally preferred, hand strikes are also used as an alternative especially in close range.
The hand strikes are primarily of two types: jireugi (or striking with closed hand) which includes fore fist, hammer fist, back fist, etc, and chigi (or striking with an open hand) which includes knife hand, tiger claw, eagle strike, etc.
There are different types of kicks in Taekwondo, all of which can be performed via either leg and can be executed in different styles (like jump kick, spin kick, etc). Some of the most common kicks are ap chagi (front kick), dollyeo chagi (roundhouse kick), yeop chagi (side kick), etc.
There are several attacking techniques in Aikido as well. They are primarily of two types: swaisho (or striking techniques with a relaxed hand) and munetsuki (or striking techniques with the fist to the torso).
Some of the most common attacks are Shomen Uchi (strike to the forehead), Yokomen Uchi (strike to the side of neck), Shomen Tsuki (punch to solar plexus), etc.
There are several blocking techniques or makgi in Taekwondo for different types of attacks. Some basic blocks are Wae Sun Palmok (or single forearm block), Chookya Makgi (or rising block), Ulgul Makgi (or upper block), etc.
Aikido focuses more on redirecting blocks rather than blocking them so as to use the momentum against the opponent. Using the opponent’s energy, various techniques are applied like throws (irimi nage, koshi nage, kaiten nage, etc) and joint locks (ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, etc).
And not just that, the fighters are also taught how to defend themselves against knives (tanto dori), staff (jadori), multiple opponents (randori), and swords (tachi dori) in Aikido.
Which is More Effective in a Street Fight?
Taekwondo. Because of the constant sparring contests and physical and mental strength that the fighters acquire during their training.
Which martial art would work in a street fight according to you: one which is constantly fought in matches and therefore constantly evolves? Or one which is only practiced in the training centers and has no exposure whatsoever?
The answer (obviously) is the first one. Taekwondo has been used in armies, been constantly tested in competitive tournaments and it has only gotten more effective and efficient with time.
Compare that with Aikido which doesn’t have any mainstream competitive games whatsoever. The fighters only practice against non-resisting opponents, which isn’t really practical when compared to how Taekwondo fighters test their skills.
Taekwondo is a hard martial art and relatively more aggressive and that’s necessary for a street fight. You want to knock out your opponent as early in the fight as possible and having an arsenal of lethal, effective strikes gives the fighters an edge over their opponent any day.
Whereas Aikido tries incapacitating the opponent while not harming them which is not always an effective strategy, even more so in street fights. Aikido training does involve training against multiple attackers which is very useful in real-life situations.
Which is Better for Self Defense?
Aikido. Its primary emphasis on self-defense and focus on honing one’s instincts render it better.
Aikido emphasizes building your character, developing a sense of harmony with your surroundings, and being aware of things around you. This helps in almost every walk of life, from when you’re walking to when you take a new job, you become more receptive to danger and actively avoid them in the first place.
And if you’re avoiding danger in the first place, doesn’t that mean you’re defending yourself from potential harm? Also, Aikido requires lesser physical capabilities relatively which makes it a martial art which can be practiced by any one of any age which is not the case with Taekwondo as it requires optimal physical state.
Taekwondo’s focus lies in fighting techniques and the emphasis on developing mental strength is relatively less. But constant fighting contests make the fighters more confident and more efficient in situations of emergency. This gives them an edge over Aikido fighters during real fights as Aikido doesn’t have actual fighting sessions, only choreographed practice.
Aikido trains the students against multiple attackers through the randori techniques and not only that, it teaches defense against weapons as well. In Aikido, you’re trained so that your ego and anger is diminished as much as possible. What this means is that an Aikido fighter won’t fight to win in situations of danger, but rather how to defend and keep themselves from harm’s way.
Taekwondo training only has one-to-one fights and while that doesn’t mean that Taekwondo won’t work against multiple attackers, Aikido practitioners certainly have an advantage. Also, Taekwondo is fought entirely unarmed and there’s no training against weapons whatsoever.
Which is Easier to Learn?
Taekwondo. It takes relatively less time to get fully trained in the art of Taekwondo, plus Aikido is very complex in nature.
Aikido has some very complex techniques and the different fighting moves are taught at a relatively later stage of training. Also, the sensei focuses on the fighters having the right mindset, and only then do they promote their students.
Aikido takes 4 to 5 years to get their first black belt usually whereas Taekwondo takes almost 3 to 5 years.
Which one should you choose?
Either. Or both.
Taekwondo has some very effective fighting techniques which are helpful in any fight on any day. It’s more aggressive and requires good physical shape. Also, if you want to make a career out of fighting, Taekwondo is the one to go for.
But if you’re someone more interested in building your mental character, shed your follies like ego and anger, and be at peace with yourself and your surroundings while learning a pure self-defense fighting style, go with Aikido unhesitatingly.
Or better. Cross-train. Training in both disciplines provides you with the best of both. You’ll hone your instincts and be more receptive to everything via Aikido and you’ll have some very effective and lethal techniques via Taekwondo.