Hapkido vs Aikido: Which is Better?


Martial artists do not understand why, but it is very common for neophytes to confuse Hapkido for Aikido. But is there any circumstance that is leading to this confusion? 

Both martial arts come from the same school – the Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu, from Takeda. From the outside, the techniques performed in both disciplines are similar. In a superficial view, the martial artists’ dresses in both are similar, especially in some Hapkido schools that have adopted the Hakama.  

Also, the names are similar. Finally, Aikido has been very popularized by Hollywood, especially by Steven Seagal. This fact has been used by some Hapkido schools for its diffusion by assimilation. If many say they’re not the same, then what are the differences? 

Well, in this hapkido vs aikido comparison article, we’ll try to help you tell them apart.  

What is Aikido? 

Aikido is a Japanese martial art practiced either with bare hands or with the traditional weapons of Budo Japanese. These weapons including “ken” (sword), ” jō” (stick), and “tantō” (the dagger). 

Aikido is a multifaceted art that has its roots in the history of Japanese culture, descending from the ancient tradition of the samurai. 

This art involves throwing the opponent to the ground. One of its most popular techniques is called “shihonage,” a basic technique performed in the relative position of hanmihantachiwaza. In this position, the one who performs the technique is in the “suwariwaza” position. 

Its practitioners are called aikidoka. In combat, they take the name of “uke” who attacks and “tori” who defends. 

The discipline of aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba(1883-1969), also called the aikidōka Ōsensei, the “Great teacher.”  

Aikido is derived mainly from the martial art of Daitō-Ryū Aikijūjutsu, from which, however, it began to distance itself, developing as an independent discipline, starting from the end of the 1920s.

This is also due to Ueshiba’s involvement with the Ōmoto-kyō religion. Documents of the first students of Ueshiba bear the name aiki-jūjutsu. 

Aikido has more than 10,000 nameable techniques that are derived from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu. However, some others were designed by Ueshiba himself.  

The modern realization of Aikido is due to the work of Morihei Ueshiba, a singular figure of mystic and poet, who with an indomitable spirit went through his entire life elaborating an original synthesis of traditional forms of combat, recomposing them in the light of a new philosophy. 

Aikido in its present form is the fruit of the maturation of Ueshiba’s thought. In 1943, when the war was in full swing, abandoning all ties hitherto had with the army and with the world of martial arts, he retired into voluntary exile in Iwama, a small town hidden in the mountains.  

Here, combining meditation with the study of martial arts and love for the earth, he gave life to Aikido as we know it today: an art that transcends the boundaries of mere martiality to become a philosophy of life. 

One of the downsides of learning Aikido is that it requires more time to be effective in the art, unlike other arts like Hapkido or BJJ. It takes around three years to learn Hapkido but Aikido requires around 4 to 5 years.  

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What is Hapkido? 

Hapkido is a martial art pronounced as Hap Ki Do. In speaking Korean, Hap means “coordination” or “union”; Ki describes internal energy, spirit, endurance, or strength; and Do means “art” or “way”. 

Hapkido – considered to be the first modern mixed martial art – literally translated as “the art of harmonious energy” or “the way of energy coordination”; the name, as well as the martial art, is related to and deriving from the Japanese Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujitsu founded by the Grand Master Sogaku Takeda (1868-1943).  

He shares the principles of harmony between the role of Tori (the one who completes a technique, often defensive) and the role of Uke (the one who undergoes the technique).  

Hapkido focuses its main attention on the center of the body of the two opponents which, by merging, forms a “social” center of which the Tori uses, appropriating and neutralizing the aggressor with the use of his strength. 

The birth of Hapkido dates back to around 1940, by the Grand Master Dojunim Choi Yong Sul, who developed it after years of study in Japan, through the teaching of Sogaku Takeda (1868-1943), Master of Daito-Ryu Aiki- Ju-Jitsu.  

Back in Korea, Choi Yong Sul developed a more complete training system that also gave space to percussion techniques, influencing the evolution of the art. The original art took on several names: Hapki-Yu-Sul, Yu-Sul, Hapki-Yu-Kwon, and finally was identified in the current Hapkido. 

Hapkido employs levers, pressure points, throws, kicks, and other strikes primarily for self-defense. Hapkido practitioners learn to use pressure points that are known as hyeol. Hapkido emphasizes circular movements, movements without resistance and control of the opponent. 

Although Hapkido contains both evasion techniques and attack techniques, the goal of many situations is to approach the opponent with short-range strikes, levers, or throws. The practitioner of Hapkido, therefore, tries to gain an advantage through techniques, trying to avoid the use of force against force. 

Hapkido is composed of a wide range of techniques: strokes with the cutting and pointing hand, elbows, pre-levers called releases, joint levers, throws and unbalances, low, medium, and high kicks and knees, falls, and somersaults. These are all designed to become instinctive and persistent gestures, to be truly effective in the event of a real attack. 

Hapkido also involves studying “Hyung Sae” coded forms, created by the Grand Master Myung Kwang-sik style Yon Moo Kwan to better channel energy and improve the performance of the body. Many meditations and breathing exercises are performed to improve concentration and balance in full contact with nature.  

In the practice of Hapkido, traditional Korean weapons are also studied, for defense or attack. These include Tan Bong short stick with or without rope, Joong Bong medium stick, Cian Bong long stick, Kane or Cane or Tan Giang walking stick, Tan Gom knife, Gum sword, Pho Bhak rope or belt, and many other common objects held in the hand or thrown. All these weapons are useful and necessary to improve one’s defensive action 

Similarities of Aikido and Hapkido 

Both martial arts are born from students of the Takeda school, the Aikido of Master Morihei Ueshiba, and Hapkido of Ji Han Jae, student of Master Choi Young Sool.  

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Hapkido is a martial art of Korean origin, considered hard. It is based on punches and legs, as well as dislocations, throws, and other self-defense techniques whose ultimate goal is to harm the adversary. It even has a more aggressive military side, with much more forceful techniques. 

Differences between Aikido and Hapkido 

The differences between Aikido and ware laid bare in the table below: 

Differences 
Hapkido Aikido 
Fluid but violent and destructive techniques. Fluid but not violent techniques. 
Hapkido is a militaristic art of pure self-defense. Aikido is an art of mystical and pacifist conception, although some of its many schools have drifted towards the “practical”. 
Hapkido uses semi-circle techniques, ending abruptly and breaking the joints. Aikido uses widely circular techniques, and its objective is not to break, but to reduce while causing the least possible damage. 
Hapkido teaches a wide range of hand punches and kicks of Korean tradition. In Aikido the blows are not taught or practiced. They only come “along the way” to distract or loosen the opponent while the true technique is applied. 
Hapkido trains all kinds of weapons and everyday objects. Any means is good to down the adversary. Aikido only works as weapons, the bokken, and the jo. 
Hapkido has been conceived as a Korean art. Aikido is deeply rooted in Japanese Budo. Despite being so recently created, in its spirit, it is probably the most Japanese martial arts. 
Use of a small circle or half circle. Use of a large circle to harness the force.  
Wide variety of controls and chokes. Few controls and strangulations. 
Great variety of attacks of all kinds.  There are no kicks and few blows.  
Japanese and Korean techniques, with Chinese influence. Purely Japanese techniques. 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, Hapkido is a hard martial art while Aikido is a soft art. In Hapkido, the techniques are straightforward, most ending in dislocations or breaking bones or joints. The blows are essential for their development. 

With Aikido, the techniques are worked in a wide circle, much less harmful and never attacked, it is a defensive art whose blows, are used only for the development of the technique, and to be able to take the opponent to where the conflict ends, taking minimal damage. There are practically no leg strokes. 

Hapkido uses blows, as an intrinsic part. Aikido does not believe in harming the opponent, so its blows are more of a distraction and an accompaniment to the technique. 

The kicks in Hapkido are strong and forceful. It’s the first cousin of Taekwondo, the martial art of kicking, par excellence. It has a very wide repertoire of kicks. And if we consider school-trained art, it even outnumbers leg techniques. Aikido has practically no kicking. Or they are irrelevant. 

We could expand further, with endless nuances, but we think we have made it clear that they are totally different martial arts and the confusion is due more to ignorance than to reality. 

Ultimately, both are fantastic as long as you find what you are looking for in them. 

Jonathan

Hi - I'm Jonathan, and I've been passionate about fighting ever since I was a little kid. I did some Karate, Judo, and Kickboxing, and always wanted to try Aikido. I started this site to indulge my passion for Martial arts, answering all the geeky questions I had. Now I want to share all the information I've learned with you guys.

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