Aikido vs. Karate: How Do these Martial Arts Techniques Differ?

During these days, when outdoor activities are limited, it’s best to acquire a new skill or knowledge in a new sport that can be enjoyed indoors and improve your overall agility while learning techniques for self-defense. 

Aikido and Karate are among the best martial arts to learn this time. Although they have many similarities, these two have differences in their approaches and techniques used. Another great weapon that the ancient people used to protect themselves was the Shobu Zukuri.

What is Aikido

men in pairs, practicing Aikido

Translated as “the way of harmonious spirit,” Aikido is a Japanese martial art that was adapted from the concept of protecting oneself without causing any violence, nor showing aggressiveness or inflicting harm to others. Although, Aikido in modern times ultimately aims to safeguard someone that uses the martial and the attacker. 

Origin and Evolution of Aikido

Aikido and Karate are popular martial arts practiced by many people around the world. Their martial art concepts come from opposite ends of the softness/hardness spectrum; Aikido is considered one of the ‘soft’ martial arts, while Karate is classified as a ‘hard’ technique. However, the two share many similarities.

The basic martial arts skills started in the 14th century in Japan, but it was systematized in the modern form by Ueshiba Morihei, a Japanese martial-arts expert. He originally taught Aikido as a purely defensive martial art. However, Ueshiba’s student Tomiki Kenji developed Tomiki aikido, a competition style that merged aikido techniques. A competitor attempts to score points by swiftly touching an opponent with a rubber or wooden knife, and the other tries to avoid and disarm the attacker. The two alternates in wielding the knife.

What is Karate

A woman kicking a man, they are practicing Karate

Karate came from kanji ‘kara,’ meaning empty, and te,’ meaning hand; thus, karate means “empty hand.” Adding the suffix “-dō” (pronounced “daw”), meaning “the way/path,” karate-dō, implies karate as a total way of life that goes well beyond the self-defense applications. In traditional karate-dō, one is supposed to compete and strive to excel against him/herself. 

Karate is also a Japanese martial art that features an unarmed player, kicking, striking, and defensive blocking with arms and legs. Emphasis is on concentrating as much of the body’s power as possible at the point and instant of impact. Striking surfaces include the hands (particularly the knuckles and the outer edge), ball of the foot, heel, forearm, knee, and elbow.

Origin of Karate

Karate evolved in East Asia over centuries. It became systematized martial art in Okinawa, Japan, during the 17th century, possibly of the people forbidden to carry weapons. When it was imported into the country, it was even included in the physical education in intermediate-level schools and several techniques and methods were developed. 


Although the modern Aikido is quite passive and considered a “soft” martial art, it was initially used as a “hard” form of self-defense that ultimately aims to kill a challenger. If a person using this martial art is untrained, when he falls, he might fracture his neck, back or injure his. However, these days, Aikido is only seen as a soft sport that maintains harmony between both parties.

On the contrary, most people view Karate as a hard martial art, but in its real sense, it is softer in mental and technical appearance.

The Karateka (one who plays karate) must look for the most economical and efficient way of executing punches through extensive training and the right state of mind.

Aikido also features a similar concept to Karate. Most Aikido techniques are based on square, triangular, or circular movements. When a student starts to practice, initially, he will perform techniques in a square formation, followed by triangular techniques after several months of intense training. As he progresses, he will be introduced to circular movements. In each level (both Aikido and Karate), all techniques are carefully and efficiently taught to students utilizing only a smaller amount of power. From one level to another, the training becomes more relaxed.

Aikido and Karate have similar levels of fighting ability and strategy. At the first level, a student needs to control his opponent through combined movements. As the opponent attacks, a student should hit him. On the next level, must cause the opponent to be immobile or use the attacker’s momentum against the opponent. Lastly, the climax is the prevention of a confrontation and harmonizing the situation.

Both martial arts are similar in terms of thinking, alignment, connection, proper timing, distance, and body state. One must give up his life mentally before an opponent attacks him, known as Mushin, or a state of unconscious thinking, a Japanese principle.

According to experts, an inner spirit that drives a harmonious movement of the hips, body, and mind provides an extraordinary feeling.

If you find interest to start learning Aikido, make sure that you prepare all the necessary equipment. See the list of Aikido essentials, and start purchasing them.