Aikido vs. Judo: 9 Key Differences


Many know that both Judo and Aikido are offshoots of Jiu-Jitsu. So obviously, there will be some similarities. But Aikido is also known for being peaceful, so what are some of the differences between Aikido vs. Judo?

The biggest difference between Aikido and Judo is that Judo is more offensive while Aikido is more defensive. Judo often employs a variety of throws to get an opponent on the ground, whereas Aikido has more moves delivered from a standing position.

But that’s just a quick glimpse.

After all, since we know both come from Jiu-Jitsu, both do indeed use a lot of grappling techniques performed after taking an opponent to the ground.

So in this article, we’re exploring both Judo and Aikido, and answer all the top questions that come from comparing the two.

I’ll cut to the chase by looking at one of the main questions on your mind in the next section.

Which is better: Judo or Aikido?

Aikido is better if you are looking for a martial art that focuses on self-defense and holistic self-improvement while Judo is better if you want something more competitive or aggressive.

The right answer might seem like a cop-out, but it’s “it depends.” The question is a tad like saying which is better: a BMW or a Mercedes.

It depends on what you want to achieve.

Do you want to be a badass at self-defense, or do you merely want something which gives you an opportunity to exercise your body regularly? And honestly, in my years of training, the most “badass” people I’ve met don’t act like one, and rarely, if ever, get in actual fights.

Or do you want a martial art that gives you “the whole package?”

It’s vital to have clarity about what you want. Only then can you decide. So, I’ll share what each one essentially is about and which is better in which scenario.

Both are about using an opponent’s energy against them. So, they’re not about brute force, per se, but about brains above brawn. But Judo is a more competitive one, and I’ll say it’s more lethal.

Why? A true Aikido practitioner is trained not to harm or injure others.

It’s about self-defense in such a way that you try not to inflict harm on an opponent. You’ll probably say what a strange philosophy! Well, it stems from the fact that the founder of the system, Morihei Ueshiba, was also involved in a religious movement. This is believed to have impacted him in developing it.

A judoka (practitioner of Judo) is out to give you a beat down. In fact, they want to take you down fast and are not overly concerned with whether you’re hurt or not.

This is not to say that Aikido is not deadly. It can be.

But, as you know, our mindset affects our results. An art or philosophy where you’re not meant to harm even those who are trying to harm you might not be the most effective in a street fight.

So, if you’re looking for “the whole package,” as it were, I’ll say choose Judo. 

If you’d like to know more about Judo, see a recent article of mine, where I explored Judo and BJJ. I got choked to unconsciousness once in Judo, but I haven’t actually practiced much Judo. BJJ is probably what I love the most and have done the most of.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the difference between Judo and Aikido?

The primary differences between Judo and Aikido are that Judo requires greater strength to dominate, and is much more competitive. Aikido, by comparison, is designed to avoid the fight, and if forced, to injure an opponent as little as possible.

Judo and Aikido are similar and are effective martial arts.

We looked at a similarity in one of the preceding paragraphs. But, there are key differences that we can discern. This is very important to know so that you can choose which one is best for you.

Now, let’s explore nine differences between both.

1. The Use of Energy

Judo requires more physical prowess and strength than Aikido.

You’ll need to evince a degree of physical fitness to excel at Judo because you’ll have to be able to throw folks that are as strong or stronger than you. Aikido, on the other hand, is more about leveraging effective techniques that require minimal strength. It’s about evasion, manipulation, and deflection.

The dominant mindset is how to use your opponent’s advantage against them! In Judo, you’re more direct; you want to get them to the ground as quickly as possible and keep them there.

2. The Mindset

While Aikido is effective for self-defense, its primary goal is to develop the practitioner’s character and not their fighting skills.

In fact, the founder wrote that to harm another is to harm oneself. Even when you have to defend yourself, the aim is to do it in such a manner that you don’t harm your opponent.

Judo also has elements of self-development, but it has no such requirement. A judoka could use chokes, some grappling, and ground wrestling techniques to inflict harm on their opponent.

They’re not thinking of how to defend themselves and not harm others, in the same breath!

3. Sports and Competitions

Judo is the first martial art that was accepted as one of the sports allowed in the Olympics.

In fact, Judo is seen as a sport by many. When it’s practiced as such, there are many rules to be adhered to in order to protect the participants. Aikido is rarely used as a sport.

Perhaps, because it’s not seen as “competitive” enough, and folks may not find it as entertaining. Judo, on the other hand, is immensely popular all over the world. In fact, as far back as 1921, it’s been one of the top sports at the Olympics.

4. Development of Stamina and Strength

Aikido’s main draw is that it can be used by almost anybody.

The focus is more on the ability to flow with and redirect energy. If you’re more interested in building up your body to be fitter, Judo is better because it’ll help you develop stamina and strength.

Many exercises that are employed in Judo are physically demanding and would consequently help you become stronger. If you’re not very fit or are not interested in that facet, you might want to start with Aikido.

When you’ve become proficient, you could add Judo to your arsenal.

5. The Nature of Proactivity

Judo is more offensive, while Aikido is more defensive.

As you know by now, the Aikidoka (practitioner of Aikido) is not interested in harming the opponent, so he or she would not initiate an attack, and when attacked, would leverage the opponent’s energy against them.

A Judoka, on the other hand, would actively pull, grapple with, push an opponent ( a practice known as “kuzushi”) to unbalance them. It’s more in favor of attacking the other, while the Aikidoka is more into waiting for the assailant to make the first move, then they respond accordingly.

6. Nature of Attacks

Judo is premised on the assumption that there is one attacker and that they are attacking from the front.

This is what usually happens in real life. But, there are occasions where there could be many attackers, and they could be trying to harm you from all directions.

Aikido assumes the second scenario. There are times when this happens, but it’s rarer, and if it happens, one must be exceptionally skilled to survive unscathed. In a sense, we could say each martial art is really focused on a facet of what you need.

This is why a lot of people learn a couple, not just one.

7. The Main Focus

Judo involves a lot of grappling, while Aikido places more stress on throws and takedowns.

So, how both see and leverage distance is different. A judoka wants you close so that they can grapple with you. They want you as close as possible; while an Aikidoka does really need you to be close, they’re already primed to throw you while using your momentum, even from a distance.

In a recent article of mine, I went into some detail on Aikido. Click the link to enjoy the riveting info that I shared. I compared Aikido and BJJ.

Check it out.

8. Techniques

Judo is mainly focused on throwing, standing, sacrifice, and grappling techniques.

While Aikido is built on blocking, counter, dislocation, grappling, pinning, and striking techniques. If you like to know more about Aikido, see a recent article of mine, where I looked at how effective it is for self-defense.

Just click the link to check it on my site.

9. Founders

Both martial arts have their origin in Jiu-Jitsu developed in Japan and are both more than self-defense systems.

They were developed at different periods and by different founders. Judo was founded by Dr. Jigoro Kano in 1882 after he had studied there other ancient martial arts.

Aikido was founded in the early part of the 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba, a martial arts expert.

Conclusion

I’ve shared tons of info on the differences between Judo and Aikido.

I explored the philosophy, nature of attacks, proactivity, how energy is manipulated, and I suggested which one is better.

I voted for Judo because it’s more an offensive martial art, and there’s no limiting belief to hold you back. But I’ve practiced both in limited amounts, and as I often say, ANY martial art training is better than none!

See you on the mats.


Photo which requires attribution:

kote gaeshi by saia.neogaia is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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