I met yesterday 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 high ranked student of the discipline. My first reply was: “TDK is mostly based on high kicks, really not ideal for self defence and then, also, you are 37 years old reasonably large and heavy male, TKD 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 possible doing Aikido, or Ju Jitsu or other styles not primarily based on strikes… and there he came out with: “oh!, yes, Aikido, I meant Aikido, this is what my friend is an expert of…”.
To me somebody that confuses Aikido with TKD is like confusing a steak with a salad, both food but very different in content. So what are the main differences that a neophyte should look out when checking a class, of either Aikido or TKD?
Let’s list the main ones:
- Aikido is Japanese; TKD is Korean, well no easy to spot by observing them
- In a Aikido class you’ll see most people in 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 TKD 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 TKD opponents are striking each other, mostly with kicks to the upper part of the body (sport rules forbid kicks below the belt).
- Aikido is mainly defensive, e.g. it starts working when an opponent attacks you; TKD is based on attacking with strikes.
- Aikido’s techniques can be subtle and usually require a very long time, several years, to be practiced to a level of proficiency to be useful in self defence; TKD 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; TKD is purely based on bare had strikes.
I have chosen and selected 2 videos to show what Aikido and TKD look like. It was harder than I thought as many are dispersive and not representative enough. Please keep the volume down and ignore the part of the TKD video from the boxing ring onward: