Krav Maga and Aikido, two very popular martial art forms, might seem quite similar on the surface level to many but are very different from each other. Both are techniques taught primarily to defend the learner, and hence there are no organised competitions, but that’s it.
Their main difference stems from their underlying philosophies. While Krav Maga, which is a more recent technique, is a street-fighting art form for defending yourself without any regard for your perpetrator, Aikido firmly believes in non-violence, and hence tries to prevent causing any harm to the aggressor whatsoever, while also defending yourself.
With that being said, let’s look at both the martial art forms in detail: their histories, the techniques involved, the differences and more.
During the 1930s, in Israel, as anti-semitic riots were increasing in frequency and were becoming a major threat to the Jews everywhere, Imre Lichtenfeld became the leader of a group of boxers and wrestlers who fought against the anti-semitic socialists, to defend their Jewish neighborhoods. A boxer, wrestler and gymnast himself, Lichtenfeld quickly discovered that competitive fighting was barely enough to survive on the streets.
This motivated him to hone his fighting skills and techniques, which eventually led to the birth of Krav Maga. He derived techniques from judo, boxing, aikido, wrestling, and karate, and used them to develop an entirely different martial art form. After training several defense forces in combat training, he became the chief instructor in IDF and developed and refined the techniques.
He gave over his Krav Maga training center to his primary student Eli Avikzar, the first black belt in Krav Maga, and also a black belt in Aikido. Avizkar incorporated several traditional martial art form techniques into Krav Maga, further developing it.
Today, Krav Maga and variations inspired by it, are used by Israeli defense forces, intelligence and law enforcement organizations. The martial art is taught internationally by various organizations. There are two different types of the art form, one used by the Israeli security forces while the other used by civilians.
Aikido was developed in the 1920s and 1930s by Morihei Ueshiba, called by many of his students as Ōsensei or the great teacher. The martial art form was a synthesis of several traditional martial arts forms, combined with Ueshiba’s philosophical beliefs.
While Aikido takes inspiration from several martial art forms like Tenjin Shin’yō-ryū, Gotōha Yagyū Shingan-ryū, judo etc, its core techniques are derived from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu. Several of the technicalities in Aikido also come from kenjutsu or the art of swordsmanship.
Ueshiba was heavily affected by Onisaburo Deguchi, the leader of the religion Ōmoto-kyō which emphasizes on attaining perfection (utopia) in one’s life. This shows in Aikido and the way it is taught. Ueshiba believed in the philosophy of showing love and empathy even to those who seek to harm you. This is precisely why Aikido teaches the art of defending without harming the attacker in any way.
Today, several styles of Aikido are taught throughout the world and have their separate organizations in Japan.
Similarities in Techniques
While there are hardly any direct links between Aikido and Krav Maga, both of them were developed to defend yourself from the attacker. Both encourage prevention of physical encounters in the first place. Techniques which are similar in both the art forms are:
Kotegashi– Meaning “reversed wrist”, this is an effective wrist turn (or lock), through which you can throw or control the attacker. This technique is applied in a standing position, and by grabbing and twisting the attacker’s hand in a non-natural manner.
Sankyo– Sankyo, or “the third technique”, is a joint locking technique which involves a wrist twist while controlling the whole body of the attacker. This results in the attacker being pinned down.
Iriminage– It means “entering body throw”, and is a very beautiful technique. In the technique, the defender connects and absorbs the energy of the attacker’s forward blow, and while continuing the flow of the thrust, adds his/her force to it, consequently putting the attacker off balance.
Differences in Techniques
The two fighting techniques have very different underlying philosophies. While Krav Maga is a fighting technique which is aggressive and rapid and used for harming your opponent in such a way so that they’re never able to harm you again, Aikido is a “do” or a way of life (or a philosophy) which aims to develop the character of the person learning this martial art and help them in becoming a better version of themselves.
The techniques in Krav Maga are more raw and chaotic, while Aikido is more organized, disciplined and technical. The former emphasizes finding anything hard or sharp near you so that your attacks can be as lethal as possible. The most vulnerable areas of the body are targeted to cause maximum damage. Whereas the latter focuses on moving your body swiftly to use the energy and momentum of the attacker against them, in a way that is as harmless as possible. It focuses on pacifying the attacker, while also not injuring them.
Which is More Effective?
From a purely learning perspective, Aikido is a much better martial art form than Krav Maga, as it makes a person more receptive to other things. A person trained in Aikido can learn other fighting techniques with relative ease compared to someone who excels in other martial art forms. It also incorporates respect for all human beings and teaches peace and harmony.
On the contrary, if we see it from the viewpoint of which is more effective as a fighting technique, Krav Maga has the upper hand. It’s insanely practical and uses all the resources at your disposal to fight and defend yourself. And this is also the reason why the Israeli army is one of the most efficient armies in the world.
Which is Better for a Street Fight?
After all, it was developed for street fighting in the first place. And that’s the reason why there aren’t many rules, only techniques that give you an advantage in any type of conditions. This is why quick reaction defense, counter-attacking, aggressive maneuvers etc are employed.
Unlike Aikido, Krav Maga recommends striking the enemy till the point he/she is either physically immobilized or dead. In a situation of kill or get killed, Krav Maga is a superior fighting technique compared to Aikido.
Which is Better for Self-defense?
Both the martial art forms were developed primarily for defense, and which is better for self-defense, depends from person to person. Still, if one were to compare from a broader viewpoint, Krav Maga comes out to be the better one of the two. It’s because Aikido’s philosophy isn’t always applicable in real-life situations.
Let’s imagine a situation where a group of muggers or a small mob of people attacks you. Merely trying to incapacitate them while also trying not to harm them wouldn’t work in most of the cases. On the other hand, Krav Maga’s techniques put your safety at the topmost priority and teach techniques which make sure you save yourself without any inhibitions whatsoever.
Which is Easier to Learn?
Another subjective question which varies from person to person. Someone doing great in Krav Maga might not do so well in Aikido and vice versa. It depends upon the temperament and nature of the pupil.
Aikido requires a lot of discipline and finesse and every movement and technique matters while learning it. It has a more holistic approach to learning and tries to develop numerous virtues in a person like kindness, wisdom, patience, justice, morality etc.
On the other hand, Krav Maga is less disciplined and organized, and it’s because of your survival mattering over everything else. It focuses more on developing your reaction time, your speed, your awareness and mental stability. It evolves with the situation at hand and is very dynamic and efficient.
Which One Should You Choose?
It entirely depends on what you desire to take away.
If you purely want to learn a fighting technique which helps you in do or die situations, Krav Maga is the one you should go for. It hones your survival instincts and trains you to be as efficient and lethal as possible in a threatening situation.
But, if you want to develop yourself as a human being, be a better version of yourself, learn to respect other lives, and bring balance and harmony in your life, then you must choose Aikido. It opens up a completely new world to the person and trains him/her to work his mind and body in a seamlessly balanced way.