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Aikido vs. judo

Photo courtesy of New York YMCA Camp

Someone asked me a while back to post what I consider to be pros and cons of aikido and judo – sort of what I like and dislike about aikido and judo. There’s a couple of disclaimers that apply. First, this is all just my view of it. Your mileage might vary. Secondly (the big secret) aikido and judo are really just the same thing taught somewhat different ways. So, it’s kinda difficult to create an explicit comparison of the two. Also, any list like the following is necessarily incomplete. With that said, here goes…


Aikido Pros:

Good, viable self-defense. Probably better for self-defense than any of the empty-hand martial arts that I’ve done for any significant amount of time, including TKD, karate, hapkido, jujitsu, and judo. I’ve heard of old-school judo teachers telling their students that for real self-defense, you do aikido but for sport you do judo. But, on the other hand, the self-defense viability of aikido is probably highly dependent on who you find as a teacher.

Scalable, ethical responses are a specialty of aikido. The ability to control without hurting when that is appropriate – without sacrificing the great self-protective aspects of the art. This makes aikido particularly appropriate for responders under special constraints (i.e. police, psych workers, nurses, etc…)

Almost anyone can do aikido effectively regardless of physical handicap, age, or fitness level because it is not dependent on size, strength, speed, or even agility. If you can see and walk pretty well, then you can do effective aikido – and there are even large subsets of aikido that you can do without being able to see or walk.

Aikido Cons:

Not really great exercise. Aikido approaches self-defense with the ideal of being able to do it effortlessly, and the better you get at aikido the less energy you expend doing it. American aikido guys tend to end up very competent but also overweight and underfit unless they do something else for exercise.

Sometimes non-intuitive. The idea of avoiding and evading and not using force is often difficult for young people to grasp. Young adults, especially males, tend to have a lot of trouble figuring out that it is okay to avoid and evade and disengage without necessarily smiting the enemy. They often can’t believe that aikido will be effective.

Judo Pros:

Great for exercise. Good way to maintain strength, aerobic capacity, and flexibility.

Great venue for competitive sport activity. You can compete on any level from local grassroots all the way up to Olympic level.

Very pragmatic, intuitive, and practical. If it does not put the other guy on his back in a resistive randori situation, it just doesn’t work.

Creates very tough fighters. I’ve heard professionals (i.e. military police) say that they’d rather go into a real fight with a judo guy backing them up than any other martial artist because judo guys tend to be tough and practical.

Judo is very standardized. This is because there is an internationally standardized set of competition rules. If you learn in America and go anywhere in the world, you’ll be doing the same judo. Almost all Judo clubs in the world follow the general guidelines of Kodokan Judo, whereas almost every karate club in the world teaches something different.

Judo Cons:

Tends to tear up the athlete after a while. All competitive judoka, without exception, end up with broken toes and fingers, and a great many end up with bum knees. A lot of old judo guys retire into aikido to prolong their mat-years.

Problems with grappling? We’ve all heard the admonition to not go to the ground with multiple opponents or with a guy with a weapon. While that applies to all martial arts equally, it may affect the self-defense viability of judo somewhat.


Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮


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Christian, husband, father, judo & aikido teacher, Cardiac Rehab Program Director, Ph.D.


This work by Patrick Parker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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