Aikido versus Tae Kwon Do

It was a weekend of camping with several families and many children. Both inside and outside time for scheduled events, there was plenty of time to watch children in the wild, interacting with each other naturally without some of the usual constraints and controls present in suburbia.

One evening, as dusk settled and the parents sat around the campfire, the children ran, played, and roughhoused. At one point, I looked over my shoulder and saw a new variation on tug-of-war: a pair of boys were running around picking an arbitrary third kid to use as a rope! Everybody was having fun and no one was getting hurt, so my attention returned to the fire.

As I sat and talked to another dad, my daughter approached and interrupted politely:

Daddy, the boys were running around grabbing other kids and pulling their arms. So-and-so grabbed my arm and I did that twisty thing with the elbow? Is that OK?

Katatekosadori Ikkyo, tenkan variation. She caught the cross-arm grab before it evolved into morotedori (two hands grabbing one wrist) and before the second boy grabbed her other arm (futari-gake).

Did you hurt him?

NO, Daddy! But he did have a really surprised look on his face! Then he went away.

My ten year old daughter, you may know from earlier stories, studies Aikido.

The next day we saw another scene with kids at play, but this time two young brothers became frustrated with one another. Again, it seemed fairly typical—something for the kids to work through on their own—right up until we saw what happened next: The older boy (seven years old) performed a forward lunge kick to his younger brother’s chest (maegeri), knocking him back a few steps before the younger brother retaliated with a two-handed push to his brother’s chest (ryokatatori). Their mother heard the yelling and jumped in to separate them.

The older sibling studies Tae Kwon Do.

If you searched the Internet for “Aikido versus Tae Kwon Do” (or Aikido versus Anything Else, for that matter) you were likely looking for something else, perhaps the typical “Who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman?” discussion or video. I will speculate that my examples are actually more typical of “Aikido versus Tae Kwon Do” in the real world.

Yes, I understand that comparison is hardly scientific: The kids are different ages and different sexes, the circumstances were different (surprise in play versus anger and frustration), there are different teachers, different families, and so forth; however, there is a point that we cannot overlook: When we perform hundreds and thousands of repetitions of one technique or another, we are conditioning how we will respond when surprised or when under stress when our “thinking brain” is absent. This response, by the way, is not necessarily limited to physical techniques; it may extend to a general attitude. We are imprinting general behavioral patterns of response.

Aikido typically conditions a completely different response than does Tae Kwon Do.

Yes, we can agree that most martial arts are Paths that lead to the peak of the same mountain; however, those paths can be very different and very far apart near the base—when we are beginners. If in addition to being beginners the students are also children, the parents should have additional concerns.

Different arts can all infuse a child with discipline, self-confidence, physical fitness, an ability to defend one’s self and others, and so forth. Sending a child off to military school will likely accomplish those same goals. The question then remains: If you want to impart those qualities to your children, which path is the right path for you and yours? When your children are surprised in horseplay or frustrated in an argument and the thinking mind dissolves, how will you want your child to respond?

By Joe

Puzzle Wrestler & Mountain Herder. Math & Computer Nerd since the 80s. Longtime linux (current debian, ubuntu, raspian, centos, gentoo), currently fighting feebsd. Over-complicates networks for fun, occasionally secures them for profit. Develops own tools & services (cli, web services, and lately some android). Degrees in Math, Belts in Aikido. Zen, Motorcycle, Ham Radio, Homebrew (Ale, not Radio), Coffee & Tea, some Mandolin & Fiddle, MDA Advocacy (son with Duchenne), …


  1. i guess what you meant by coffee taste the same as tea is, they're both martial arts that would achieve the same goal. but in your opinion, which would be more effective or practical in an ordinary situation, aikido or taekwondo?

  2. "I don't get it Joe. Your child studies aikido, so are you saying that is better than takwondo, that it is less agressive?"

    In exactly the same way a hammer is better than a screwdriver, sure. 🙂

  3. I don't get it Joe. Your child studies aikido, so are you saying that is better than takwondo, that it is less agressive?
    And coffee and tea don't taste the same, the effects of the caffeine aren't the same either.

  4. Both arts can be great vehicles for learning about one's self. It is in that phase of "learning" where things can be difficult. I remember in my beginning Aikido days, walking through crowds imagining how I would handle an attack from each person coming toward me from whatever direction. That aggressive training mind is not right or wrong, per se; as a matter of fact, it's partly what we're here to understand. So to we are learning about where our physical responses come from; in no small part, the response comes from our situation–to include the habits we have chosen to train.

    In the Aikido dojo–as perhaps in others–we know that no one is more dangerous than a beginner. Whereas the longtime practitioners have developed finesse and sensitivity into their controls, the beginner has not–and however long we have trained, our joints are generally just as fragile as when we started. Still, the focus upon that finesse, sensitivity, and control condition ourselves in a particular way–and it shows.

  5. Great insight to the differences between the two martial arts.

    My understanding, Joe was trying to state that TKD is more of an aggressive martial art where striking (punches/kicks) are practise every class to make it second nature to a response. Aikido on the other hand is more of a peaceful/offensive martial art, where you study to work with your attacker and redirect his aggression.

    Thats my understanding anyway.

  6. "… but in your opinion, which would be more effective or practical in an ordinary situation, aikido or taekwondo?"

    Of aikido and tae kwon do, the one that is best for you is likely the one that appeals to you, is local, is within your budget, has a good good teacher, and has camaraderie among the students that matches your personality. That's the one that you will stick with over the years, and that's where you will develop your skills, confidence, and everything else.

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