Aikido vs. Hapkido: Which is More Effective?

Many people have heard of Aikido, but Hapkido is a lot less known. They have similar names, but is one more effective than another? Let’s look at Aikido vs. Hapkido:

Here’s what I know from knowing a little about both:
Hapkido is more effective than Aikido. Hapkido focuses on teaching you how to defend yourself but, it also offers a full repertoire of techniques when it comes to attacking your opponent. Aikido, by comparison, is more focused on avoiding conflict and living harmoniously.

By that’s just one man’s opinion, and I make that statement having trained in Aikido, but not in Hapkido.

So in this article, we’ll get to know both a lot better. We’ll explore the tools and techniques, and see how I reached my conclusion.

Let’s dive right in by considering why Hapkido is better.

Which is better: Hapkido or Aikido?

Aikido is better if you’re looking for a holistic martial art that’s about mental, physical, and spiritual development. But, while self-defense skills will come from both, Hapkido is more focused on building the ability to defend oneself.

Aikido has a lofty philosophy.

In an ideal world, it’s the better choice because it’s about not harming others. In fact, you shouldn’t harm them, even if they harmed you. It’s about defending yourself in such a way that you don’t hurt your opponent.

An Aikidoka is not expected to initiate a fight or to have the intention of wanting to “neutralize” an opponent! Even in a conflict, they’re expected to show compassion and work to ensure that there’s peace.

That’s a tall order in the real world. The reality is that there are a lot of undesirable people who enjoy beating other people up.

This is why I choose Hapkido.

It has no such “unrealistic” requirement. In the heat of a street fight, where one’s life may be at stake, the idea that one shouldn’t harm another really needs to go out the window.

If it’s kill or be killed, you need the skills to kill.

In Hapkido, you’re actually more offensive (and not merely defensive as in Aikido), and there are more techniques that will give you an edge.

You’re more proactive (more in control) instead of passively waiting to respond to the attacker’s moves.

Hapkido offers a variety of kicking styles (which are not used in Aikido) and even the use of ropes and swords as weapons. Just as in Aikido, Hapkido also entails learning how to harness an attacker’s energy against them, which is the essence of Aikido.

But, it offers more such as hand strikes, elbow, and arm locks.

Is Hapkido good for self-defense?

Hapkido is good for self-defense because you’re taught how to flow with the attacker’s energy, deflect it, and subdue them. You’re trained on using circular motions, foot sweeps, punches, and kicks to protect yourself.

Hapkido is a Korean martial art form that’s similar to Aikido.

Both share the same characters, which means “the way of harmonious spirit” and stress how to deflect the opponent’s energy. It’s believed that both may have had a common ancestry. It’s important to know that Aikido was developed in feudal Japan.

Let’s explore why Hapkido is effective.

You’re also taught how to attack. It’s not a passive art. So, it’s a mix of offensive and defensive techniques. In fact, you’re also taught how to use a few weapons and how to defend yourself if an attacker is using weapons.

Some practitioners praise Hapkido because, to them, it’s a lot closer to street fighting. It offers a fuller repertoire of techniques, and it’s okay to take down and hurt the attacker.

Hapkido, when learned in a good school, offers a training regime that’s similar to what MMA fighters undergo. You’re exposed to kickboxing, how to fall effectively, how to manipulate joints, throwing, and grappling. You’ll be drilled regularly in scenarios that approximate real-life encounters.

You’ll probably be interested in how effective Aikido is for self-defense. And after all, I’m really not trying to bash Aikido. In fact, I really like it.

In a recent article of mine, I dive a lot deeper into Aikido specifically including some of the easiest techniques to master.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Aikido an effective martial art?

Yes, Aikido is an effective martial art. It is especially effective because it’s not dependent on size or strength. It’s based on joint locks and throwing techniques that can help you subdue someone heavier and more powerful than you are.

You’re able to do this because you can tap into the flow of their incoming energy, deflect it, and then use it against them.

How? Street-fights often occur at breakneck speeds. The “street fighter” is often rash and overconfident.

This can be their undoing when they face a trained Aikidoka (a practitioner of Aikido), who has experienced hundreds of scenarios where they’re being attacked.

They could use a hip-throw to tap into the attacker’s oncoming force and have the person on the ground in no time. In many cases, in fact, in most cases, people don’t know how to break a fall.

So, even though the Aikido has not even attacked the person, they may not be able to stand up, or even when they do, they may realize that they’ve broken a bone or have a serious bruise!

One of the questions that often comes up is how effective is Aikido when compared to BJJ.

Luckily, I do an in-depth comparison of both in a recent article of mine.

In the article, I looked at the difference between both martial arts, whether BJJ is effective for self-defense, can Aikido be used for self-defense, whether BJJ is only useful if you get knocked down on the ground, and finally, I suggested which one is better.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How does Hapkido differ from Aikido?

Hapkido is a Korean martial art, whereas Aikido is Japanese. Hapkido is overall more aggressive with a greater focus on punching and kicking. Hapkido practitioners also use canes as weapons, whereas Aikido is designed to inflict minimal harm just enough to subdue an attacker.

There are a few differences between Hapkido and Aikido; even though, as we’ve seen in a preceding paragraph, they have some similarities.

Let’s explore the differences in greater detail. They include:

  1. Hapkido is a product of Korea, while Aikido was developed in Japan.
  2. Aikido is older, while Hapkido is a bit more recent.
  3. Aikido is “mild,” while Hapkido is “harsh.” The subsequent differences will shed more light on this difference.
  4. Aikido is more focused on defense. It’s about compassion, even when you are attacked. Hapkido has no place for such compassion. It’s a mix of defensive and offensive techniques.
  5. Aikido focuses on throwing techniques, while Hapkido’s focus is on strikes, kicks, punches, and joint locks.
  6. Aikido is more passive, while Hapkido evinces more aggression.
  7. Attacks in Aikido are often more stylized and softer, while they’re “harder” and less stylized in Hapkido.
  8. Techniques employed in Aikido are mainly used to subdue an opponent. There’s a blending in with their energy and then overcoming them without harming them. In Hapkido, the intent is to win, even if the opponent is crippled (or killed). Hapkido is thus more effective for self-defense, especially in highly dangerous scenarios.
  9. In Aikido, you’re taught to apply pain with some restraint, and strikes are discouraged. While in Hapkido, pressure points are taught, and pain is deliberately applied with maximum force. Strikes are encouraged.
  10. The Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, taught practitioners to focus on love, peace, harmony, and friendship, in addition to core Aikido techniques. Hapkido, on the other hand, was founded by Chong Yong-sool, and in addition to key Hapkido techniques, practitioners are taught to focus on faithfulness, austerity, discipline, and harmony.

How long does it take to master Hapkido or Aikido?

Both Aikido or Hapkido take an average of 1 year, training multiple times per week, to become proficient & have a basic understanding of techniques. They both use a ranking system with a Black Belt in Hapkido being possible in just 3 years, whereas Aikido typically takes at least 5 years to earn a Black Belt.

Of course, the time will vary from individual to individual.

I will also say that any school that promises a Black Belt in just 2-3 years is not a school I would attend. I just think training over a longer period of time is what really hones your skill.

And simply memorizing techniques does not make you a master.

But, if you’re consistent and can devote time to practicing under a trainer at a recognized center 2 or 3 times a week, you should be very good by your third year.

The colors of the belts worn by practitioners show their current status in the system. In both, as with most martial arts, the black belt is the highest. That takes more time to attain.

And let’s not forget that belts weren’t always used in Aikido, which is much older than Hapkido. Because of this, there is inconsistency with belt systems in Aikido, and they tend to be used more for children than adults.

But let’s look at the belt systems in both.

The Belt System in Aikido (at least the most widely recognized one)

  1. 6th kyu – white.
  2. 5th kyu – yellow.
  3. 4th kyu – orange.
  4. 3rd kyu – blue.
  5. 2nd kyu – brown.
  6. 1st dan – black.
  7. 2nd dan – black with thin gold stripe.
  8. 3rd dan – black with red stripe.

KYU — grades
DAN– Black belt holders

The Belt System in Hapkido

 Hapkido Rank  Time Required To Advance In Rank
 10th Gup White Belt  2 Months (36 Hours)
 9th Gup White Belt With Yellow Stripe  2 Months (36 Hours)
 8th Gup Yellow Belt  2 Months (36 Hours)
 7th Gup Yellow Belt With Green Stripe  2 Months (36 Hours)
 6th Gup Green Belt  2 Months (36 Hours)
 5th Gup Green Belt With Blue Stripe  3 Months (54 Hours)
 4th Gup Blue Belt  6 Months (108 Hours)
 3rd Gup Blue Belt With Red Stripe  6 Months (108 Hours)
 2nd Gup Red Belt  6 Months (108 Hours)
 1st Gup Red Belt With Black Stripe  9 Months (162 Hours)
 1st Dan (Il Dan) Black Belt  2 Years
 2nd Dan (Ee Dan) Black Belt  2 Years
 3rd Dan (Sam Dan) Black Belt  4 Years
 4th Dan (Sa Dan) Black Belt  4 Years
 5th Dan (Oh Dan) Black Belt  6 Years
 6th Dan (Yook Dan) Black Belt  6 Years
 7th Dan (Chil Dan) Black Belt

Source: International Hapkido Federation Headquarters

What do I think of Hapkido?


We’ve explored a lot in this article.

We looked at the differences between Hapkido and Aikido, whether Aikido is effective and how long it takes to learn each one. I also shared which one is the better option.

I feel that Hapkido is better for fighting and competition, at least if your goal is self-defense because it encompasses more techniques and it focuses on both defense and offense.

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