Differences Between Aikido and Tae Kwon Do

I once met a guy and our conversation drifted very quickly into martial arts (surprise!), specifically about self defence.  I was confused when he stated that he wanted to learn Tao Kwon Do for self defence because a friend of his is a highly ranked student of the discipline.  My first reply was: “Tao Kwon Do is mostly based on high kicks, really not ideal for self defence and you are a 37 years old reasonably large and heavy male, Tao Kwon Do is ideal with people with lot of flexibility in their legs and trying to achieve it at this age might be tricky”.  He continued with his explanation that in ideal situation he would like to be able to seize the opponent’s attack and avoid striking but simply locking his attacker in a way that would be impossible for him to hurt any further but without risks of injuring him too much.  I then added that what he was talking about was possibly doing Aikido, or Ju Jitsu or other styles not primarily based on strikes… and then he remarked:

“Oh!, yes, Aikido, I meant Aikido, this is what my friend is an expert of…”.


To me somebody that confuses Aikido with Tao Kwon Do is like confusing a steak with a salad, both food but very different in content. So what are the main differences that a new-be should look out for when choosing a class of either Aikido or Tao Kwon Do?

Let’s list the main ones:

  • Aikido is Japanese; Tae Kwon Do is Korean, well no easy to spot by observing them :-)
  • In an Aikido class you will see most people in a white Gi, perhaps with coloured belts and the higher ranked people and the masters will wear a black hakama, a very broad pair of trousers that look like a skirt.  In a Tae Kwon Do class they wear white Gi, with coloured belts but their top is some times a “V” neck long sleeves shirt.
  • In Aikido you see people twirling and twisting, throwing and applying arm and wrist locks: people fall and fly around a lot; in Tae Kwon Do  opponents are striking each other, mostly with kicks to the upper part of the body (sporting rules forbid kicks below the belt).
  • Aikido is mainly defensive, e.g. it starts working when an opponent attacks you; Tae Kwon Do is based on attacking with strikes.
  • Aikido’s techniques can be subtle and usually require a very long time, several years, to be practised at a level of proficiency to be useful in self defence; Tae Kwon Do can start to be effective with some of its techniques within a few months or a year of practice.
  • Aikido teaches, apart from the bare hand practice, the use of various weapons like sword and staff;  Tae Kwon Do  is purely based on bare had strikes.

I have chosen and selected 2 videos to show what Aikido and Tae Kwon Do look like.  It was harder than I thought as many are not representative enough.  Please keep the volume down and ignore the part of the Tae Kwon Do video from the boxing ring onwards:

Image reproduced from http://upload.wikimedia.org and http://www.fairedusportamarseille.com

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About Massimo Gaetani

Massimo is a professional coach certified by Results Coaching System. He works primarily with business owners and senior managers in organizations to boost their performance, set powerful goals about their business and careers and he supports them on their path to ensure successful outcomes. His clients to date are professionals, entrepreneurs, C role individuals and senior managers spanning a broad range of industries. Massimo supports his coaching qualifications with 15 years of management experience in small to large enterprises working in various senior positions in sales, marketing, IT and business consultancy. Find out more at www.profitdojo.com
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