It’s natural to be confused between these two magnificent martial art forms which seem so similar from the outside. Well, Aikido and Wing Chun are similar in many ways. For one, they’re both soft martial arts. Both use the opponent’s energy and use it against them. Both have circular movements to redirect the force of the opponent.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have differences. Wing Chun is a relatively aggressive fighting style. While Aikido strives to not harm the defender as well as the attacker, Wing Chun tries to bring down the enemy as quickly and with as much lethality as possible.
And not just that, their philosophies, fighting styles, techniques have several differences too. And we’re going to look at them one by one in detail in the upcoming sections. Without any further ado, let’s get down to it.
A culmination of various martial art forms from Aiki-jūjutsu to Judo, Aikido was founded in the early twentieth century by Morihei Ueshiba. His philosophical and religious influences largely seeped into the principles of Aikido.
Ueshiba believed in showing love and compassion towards everyone, even your attacker. And that is precisely why an ideal result of a fight, according to Aikido, is when both the defender and the attacker is unharmed.
Ueshiba was largely inspired by the founder of Ōmoto-kyō, Onisaburo Deguchi, several of whose connections became the students of Ueshiba and helped spread Aikido in their unique style.
Wing Chun has been passed on orally, generation after generation, because of which there’s no distinct verified account of its origin.
There are several stories and theories about its origin but they’re just that. Theories. Wing Chun was first documented in the 19th century during the lifetime of the master Leung Jan. It has been made popular because of Bruce Lee or the blockbuster Ip Man series.
There are several legends which are more popular and mainstream, like the Ng Mui legend, or the more recent Redboat Opera Company theory. According to the Ng Mui legend, an abbess by the name of Ng Mui taught this martial art form to her student Yim Wing Chun (the martial art has been named after her) to defend herself.
The primary similarity in both these martial art forms is their basic principle based on which they seek to dominate over the opponent. Both train the students to move efficiently and use body mass instead of only muscles to incapacitate your opponent.
Both the martial arts try to defend their centreline while moving or executing a technique. Both use circular movements to deflect the strikes of the opponent. Both strive to use the opponent’s energy against them itself.
Apart from similarity in some of the most basic principles, they’re both quite different. Aikido has a lot lesser emphasis on striking and, more often than not, waits for the opponent to strike first. Wing Chun, on the other hand, is much more aggressive, violent, and focuses a lot more on striking.
While Aikido tries to incapacitate the attacker without harming them through grappling, joint locks, and throws, Wing Chun aims to defeat the enemy as swiftly and efficiently as possible through hard low kicks, knee, and elbow attacks.
Plenty of blocking moves are also used for attacks in Wing Chun. Blocks are referred to as sao and there’s a variety of blocking techniques in Wing Chun. Some of them are Biu Sau (or thrusting fingers; can also be used as a striking move), Bong Sau (or wing hand), Tan Sau (palm up block), Wu Sau (guarding hand), Huen Sau (circling hand), etc.
The majority of techniques in Aikido are blocking or redirecting ones. The opponent’s strikes are redirected to the will of the defender against them.
There are plenty of throws like irimi nage (entering throw), kaiten nage (wheel throw), and kokyu nage (breath throw), several joint locks like ikkyo (elbow control), sankyo (wrist control), and gokyo (elbow control) in Aikido.
There are multiple striking techniques in Wing Chun. The most common technique used by Wing Chun practitioners in fights is a quick punch or strike and retracting it immediately.
Most of the techniques are very close range in Wing Chun (that’s true for Aikido as well) and they apply brutal power to the opponent to bring them down.
There are punches, chops, hooks, elbow strikes, and a whole bunch of attacking techniques in Wing Chun. There’s Pai Jarn (horizontal elbow strike), Fak Sau (side chop), the L-hook, Lin Wan Kuen (chain punch), and many more.
Aikido has lesser striking techniques relative to the blocking techniques. The strikes are divided into munetsuki (fist to torso striking techniques) and swaisho (relaxed hand striking techniques). Some of the attacks include ushiro-ate (rear strikes), gedan-ate (low strikes), shomen-ate (forward head strike), etc.
Which is More Effective in a Street Fight?
Wing Chun. It’s efficient, it’s violent, it’s brutal, it doesn’t hold back and hence is ideal for a street fight.
Aikido is a pretty passive martial art form as it rarely strikes first, tries not to harm the enemy, and uses the opponent’s energy against them.
While this can be a good strategy for self-defense, it’s not going to be practical to do so in a street fight as the opponents wouldn’t have any such obligations and would try to attack in every possible way.
Contrast that to Wing Chun, which is aggressive and tries to defeat the opponent as quickly as possible. The techniques are built to work in high-pressure situations and the combination of timing, flow, angles work in the favour of the fighter. Much of Wing Chun is close range and rapid strikes seek to incapacitate the opponent swiftly.
Aikido has several techniques that train against multiple attackers via the randori techniques. Then there’s defense techniques against different weapons like swords (tachi dori), staff (jodori), and knives (tanto dori). This is very useful in real-life fights.
While there are no specific techniques against multiple opponents in Wing Chun, there are defense techniques against weapons like swords here. The trapping techniques and striking at close range strategy is very effective and lethal.
Which is Better for Self Defense?
Aikido. Its primary objective is keeping you away from harm’s way and it develops your instincts and character in a way that you avoid trouble at every stage.
Aikido seeks to put yourself out of any trouble whatsoever and therefore, the various techniques have been designed in such a way that you don’t get hurt in any way. The variety of techniques improve your balance and sense of control over yourself and the opponent with time which helps in real-life scenarios.
Wing Chun is relatively more aggressive and emphasizes striking your opponent rapidly and efficiently to end a fight. It lacks grappling moves though, which is usually necessary for ground fighting.
Also, the movement and swiftness and quick footwork, which is a critical part of Aikido, are missing in Wing Chun which keeps the fighters relatively stationary.
Wing Chun is more of a fighting style than philosophy. It consists of various techniques that help you in taking your opponent down swiftly by maintaining your balance and unbalancing your opponent. This means there’s a lesser emphasis on developing awareness, mental strength, and instincts.
Aikido puts a lot of emphasis on self-awareness, on the development of mental strength and character, and honing your instinctual capabilities.
With time, an Aikido practitioner automatically begins avoiding any sort of trouble in every aspect of life, be it personal or professional. And which is why it’s a great martial art form for self-defense for any individual.
Which is Easier to Learn?
Wing Chun. It takes relatively less time to learn the most advanced techniques (around 5-10 years) relative to Aikido which require at the very least 10 years to get the last and most advanced black belt level.
Also, Aikido levels are more complex and intricate and require more time to learn. Plus, the trainers promote the students to the next level only when they have the right mindset and attitude for this martial art form.
Which One Should You Choose?
It can be quite a dilemma when it comes to choosing a particular martial art form. For this, the best solution is to ask yourself.
What do you expect to obtain from the martial art? Is it a career? Is it an aggressive fighting style? Is it a self-defense strategy? When you decide what your priorities and tastes are, only then will you be able to make a rational and better decision.
Aikido will provide you with a better mentality, an effective self-defense strategy, and consequently, a better (and content) life. If that’s something you’d want, Aikido would be a better option.
But if you want to learn an efficient and brutal fighting style in a short time, Wing Chun would serve as a better option. It has tournaments (though relatively less than other martial arts) through which you can make a career out of it.