Aikido vs Taekwondo: Which is Better?


Comparing one martial art to another helps us choose which ones best fit us. But it can also be really hard to know the difference if you are new to martial arts. So let’s examine which is better, Aikido vs. Taekwondo.

Here’s what I think having trained in one and examined the other:

Aikido is a better choice than Taekwondo for many people. Aikido is often easier to start, especially for those younger or smaller, and does not require brute force to master. Taekwondo is focused on powerful kicks that can take years to master and a lot of core strength.

It will take you years to master any martial art. I should let you know that.

But, you’re probably already hip to that fact about life, that most things that are truly valuable take a long time to acquire.

Actually though, how long it takes to earn a Black Belt in Taekwondo is one of my beefs.

Many Taekwondo schools award a black belt in just 2 years. That’s just not long enough to master anything, and I think it sends the wrong message to students.

Martial arts are often more involved than that, and they often have some subtle elements that one can’t rush through.

If you want to be armed with self-defense skills that are lethal and also the depth of character that seeks to spread harmony, then Aikido is better.

In this article, I’ll share some vital distinctions between Aikido and Taekwondo that’ll help you make the right choice.

Let the fun begin!

What is the difference between Aikido and Taekwondo?

One of the differences between Taekwondo & Aikido is that Aikido can be used by a lot more people, irrespective of their age, size, and physical fitness. Taekwondo, on the other hand, requires that a person be very flexible & physically fit because it involves applying head-high kicks to the opponent.

But really, Taekwondo is largely kicks of different kinds.

This can be deadly if it connects with the target. But, it’s hardly something that an average person can pull off. It’s a tad tricky if you try it with an equally skilled opponent, who could kick the other leg, on which the whole body is balanced!

Aikido employs a much wider, and subtler variety of takedowns and submissions.

Aikido is also designed to do as little damage to your opponent while having no damage done to you. Whereas with any martial art that is as physical as Taekwondo, years down the road, the practitioner is likely facing a lot of joint pain from years of putting their body through incredible stress.

But let’s look at what each name means.

Ai-ki-do

Ai”-fit, combining, unifying, joining. “Ki”-morale, mood, energy, spirit. “Do“-path, way. Aikido is “the way of harmonizing energy.”

Tae-kwon-do

Tae“- foot. “Kwon“- fist. “Do”-way of. It’s “the art of punching and kicking.”

Both martial arts are from Asia, Aikido is from Japan, while Taekwondo is from Korea. Aikido is richer than Taekwondo in that it is more of a “budo,” a way, a philosophy, that helps its practitioners mentally, spiritually, and physically. It has its roots in Jiu-Jitsu.

Taekwondo, on the other hand, is a more recent art of punching and kicking that’s not as conceptually rich as Aikido, if you ask me.

If Aikido is as rich as I shared above, why then does it sometimes have a bad rep?

Why does Aikido have a bad reputation?

Aikido has a bad reputation with some because the philosophy is about harmony instead of hurting. It is the least violent martial art outside of Tai Chi Chuan. An Aikido master would rather avoid the fight if possible, and if engaged, do as little damage as possible.

But the media, video games, and UFC tend to promote very different kinds of martial arts.

We think the martial arts that are the most deadly and violent are the ones that are the most awesome. And don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to train hard and to get physical.

But there’s also nothing wrong with wanting to avoid a fight.

In fact, that’s far smarter than choosing to get in one. And there’s also nothing wrong with not wanting to injure your opponent any more than necessary to subdue them. BJJ is like that too in a way.

Aikido is a holistic system that’s ultimately about spreading peace and harmony all over the world.

A consummate and masterful warrior, O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba founded Aikido. He had samurai blood running in his veins, had mastered several martial arts, and even fought in war.

Aikido is effective for self-defense, but it’s really not about fighting. Since hurting or killing an opponent is not part of the system.

It’s understandable that those who are only looking for martial arts that will enable them to beat others up might be turned off by this talk of peace and harmony.

Naturally, they’ll think it’s not effective. And yet, Aikido can be deadly. But, it does take a long time to master.

But since I mentioned BJJ above, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, how does it compare to Aikido?

I actually explored that in a recent article of mine. In the article, I outlined the differences between both. I looked at which is better, Jiu-Jitsu or Aikido, whether BJJ is effective for self-defense, or whether Aikido is effective for self-defense. I wrapped it up with whether BJJ’s effectiveness is when you’re on the ground?

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Now that you see how folks might have misconstrued Aikido, what’s the deal with Taekwondo?

Is Taekwondo a fake martial art?

Taekwondo is not a fake martial art whatsoever. It’s being practiced by about 60 million people in 164 countries around the world, and it’s an Olympic sport as well. Criticism of Taekwondo often comes from its lack of variety and the speed in which they hand out black belts.

Taekwondo is part of the training for Korean soldiers and is Korea’s most recognized sport. It’s even used by Conor McGregor and some other MMA stars. And if you’ve ever seen any of McGregor’s kicks, and the faces of his opponents, you know it’s nowhere near fake.

So it’s as real as real can get.

The criticism is because many martial art practitioners believe that Taekwondo is not as rich as other martial arts. There seems to be too much focus on kicks and not on a full, well-rounded repertoire of techniques such as one finds in Aikido or Kung Fu.

It’s conceivable how a martial artist from the two I just mentioned and others could easily trounce a Taekwondo artist once they’re able to sidestep that kick, or even draw in the kicker, and throw or strike them fast.

Taekwondo’s foundation is delicate. It’s not a fake martial art. But it’s not going to be my first choice if I am compelled to choose.

So, would I choose Aikido?

And, how effective is Aikido for self-defense? Check out my thoughts in a recent article of mine where I explored that question in some depth.

I looked at the claim that it’s useless, explored whether it’s effective in a street fight, and compared it to two other popular martial arts. I also shared some of its effective moves.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How would a TKD practitioner fare in a real fight? Let’s see, shall we?

Is Taekwondo effective in real life?

In a fight with someone untrained in martial arts, Taekwondo (TKD) can certainly be effective. But, against a seasoned street fighter, Taekwondo may not be enough. The TKD kick can be powerful if it connects with an unsuspecting target. But if the 1st one doesn’t connect, they could be in real trouble.

Ultimately, a fight is more than kicks.

If a TKD fighter meets with someone skilled in striking, kicking, throwing, wrist locks, they can be easily overwhelmed because they don’t have a lot in their arsenal. They need a relatively controlled environment to execute those kicks effectively, but real life is not like that.

But street fights are dirty and don’t play by any rules.

It’s often chaotic; that’s why those who know many different techniques are likely to triumph. Because they can easily switch from one to the other, depending on what’s called for by the state of the fight.

A person who is only good with one or two moves is easily at a disadvantage.

So Taekwondo can be effective in real life, but it depends on the practitioner and the context. You could indeed spend 2 years at it and get a black belt.

But based on my experience, martial arts take about 7-8 years to really get decent, much less ready to be awarded a black belt. And no matter how many days a week you train, there’s just no substitute for years of training.

What you really want is mastery, not just a symbol you can show off.

If Taekwondo can be effective in real life, are there fighters who employ it in MMA? It’s funny; that is exactly what we’re about to explore.

Are there any MMA fighters with an Aikido or Taekwondo background?

Yes, there are many MMA fighters with a Taekwondo background and a few who have trained in Aikido. However, as the name implies, most Mixed Martial Arts fighters train and use a variety of different martial arts.

If Taekwondo is in the hands of someone who has mastered it, it can be deadly.

That’s why it’s incorporated into the arsenal of some of the best fighters in MMA. A kick can be so lethal it could ensure that the other party is knocked out, or at least that the fight ends quickly.

Just watch Connor McGregor, who has trained in TWD, Karate, and BJJ to see some really impressive kicks.

But, it’s vital to stress that MMA being what it is, the fighters employ a mix of techniques from different sources. The list below offers a sample of some of the best who leverage Taekwondo.

  1. Akop Stepanyan
  2. Nina Ansarrof
  3. Daron Cruickshank
  4. Bas Rutten
  5. Edson Barboza
  6. Benson Henderson
  7. Valentina Shevchenko
  8. Rose Namajunas

By comparison, the list of MMA fighters with some Aikido training is a little smaller. But those fighters include:

  1. Jason Delucia
  2. Daniel Cage Theodore (who also has a black belt in Taekwondo)
  3. Jay Dodds

And while perhaps lacking formal training, you can also find YouTube videos of Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida training with Aikido master Steven Segal.

Conclusion 

We took a deep dive comparing Aikido vs. Taekwondo today.

We even asked controversial questions, such as whether Aikido and Taekwondo are really effective. We explored the differences between both of them, and whether Taekwondo is a fake martial art.

But we also looked to see if there are fighters in MMA who use it. I shared what both martial arts mean, their origin, and I even suggested which one is better.

As I often say, ANY martial arts practice is better than none. But if I’m forced to choose between Taekwondo and Aikido, I’ll pick Aikido every time.

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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