Millions of people practice Aikido and Kung Fu around the world. Many conflate these two disciplines and view them as being virtually identical. However, they’re very different, as this close look at the Aikido vs Kung Fu debate will reveal. 

Kung Fu is a fighting style concerned with using the body as a weapon. Aikido focuses on disarming an attacker in a non-violent manner. An individual’s motivations and preferences will dictate which fighting style they choose. 

The rest of this article will outline the key talking points from the Aikido vs Kung Fu discussion so that you can choose the right form of martial arts for you.

Aikido vs Kung Fu: Differences

It’s understandable that the uninitiated struggle to tell the difference between Aikido and Kung Fu. However, there are some critical differences relating to striking and motivation. 

Here’s a table summarizing the key differences between Aikido and Kung Fu. 

AreaAikidoKung Fu
Fighting StyleGrapplingStriking
OriginsThe early 20th CenturyBCE
Primary MotivationDefusing a situationAttacking the opponent

We’ll now discuss these Aikido vs Kung Fu differences in greater detail. 

Fighting Style

While hundreds of martial arts exist, they all belong to one of two sub-categories. A martial art belongs to either the long-range or short-range group of fighting styles. We can think of long-range fighting styles as fighting from a distance, throwing various punches and kicks. Short-range styles get up close and personal, where you grab opponents and put them in a hold. 

Kung Fu is a quintessential long-range fighting style, where the fighter seeks to remain elusive. The fighter makes targeted strikes and uses their body as a weapon. There’s no instance where a Kung Fu fighter looks to grab onto their opponent. 

In contrast, Aikido moves fundamentally involve closing into your opponent’s striking range. The objective is to use the opponent’s momentum against them, usually to throw them or pin them. Aikido is non-violent and is particularly effective for self-defensive or diffusing a violent situation. 


Another way to understand the Aikido vs Kung Fu debate is to examine the origin story of each style. 

The origins of Kung Fu date back to the Zhou Dynasty of the Chinese Empire. The fighting style represents a form of biological mimicry, as it supposedly imitates the fighting style of animals. Kung Fu is more than just Chinese martial arts. Kung Fu is a Chinese philosophy describing how hard work leads to excellence in a given endeavor. A fighter’s Kung Fu is like a piece of poetry.

By comparison, Aikido is a very young martial art that Morihei Ueshiba developed in the early 20th Century. The motivating factor wasn’t to create a fighting style but rather a mix of religion, philosophy, and martial arts. Aikido is a hybrid of many Japanese martial arts that facilitates “unifying the energy of life.”

Primary Motivation

Arguably the most crucial consideration of the Aikido vs Kung Fu debate is discussing what each style seeks to achieve. 

Kung Fu is a lot more aggressive than Aikido. By practicing Kung Fu, you’re looking to defeat your opponent by repeatedly striking them. Not only are you looking to beat the opponent, but remain unscathed in doing so. In essence, you’re turning your body into a lethal weapon. Many people practice Kung Fu as a sport or artform instead of a practical form of self-defense.

Aikido is a much less aggressive type of martial art. Many people would describe it as a self-defense technique rather than a martial art. It comes down to a single instruction–use an opponent’s movement against them. Aikido training does not include any attacking methods, differentiating it from most other martial arts. 

Which Style Is Better for You?

It’s almost impossible to say one style is better than the other. Kung Fu enables fighting, and Aikido enables defending. If you thrive in a competitive environment, I recommend Kung Fu. However, if you just want to feel comfortable protecting yourself, Aikido is perfect for you. 

Final Thoughts

While people always love to pick a winner, both Kung Fu and Aikido have their relative merits. 

Kung Fu is a powerful Chinese martial art that teaches individuals to weaponize their bodies. It allows an individual to overpower an opponent while incurring minimal physical damage when mastered. 

Aikido is a Japanese self-defense technique that allows a practitioner to subdue an aggressor. Conflict resolution is possible by using an opponent’s momentum against them without causing injury.

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