Aikido is one of the youngest Japanese martial arts that revolves heavily around the philosophy of harmony, peacefulness, and overcoming one’s ego. It’s beneficial for the physical condition and mental well-being of the person practicing it. But, is Aikido effective in a street fight for self-defense.
Aikido is not effective in a street fight for self-defense, although it teaches defensive strategies such as joint-locks, throws, and strikes. The goal in Aikido is to defend yourself while trying to avoid hurting the attacker. That philosophy can be costly because a street attacker will definitely try to hurt you.
Aikido will teach you how to be more aware and disregard ego in life. It will also teach you how to use the attacker’s momentum against them. All those things can be useful in a street fight. The technique itself is not sustainable to keep you safe and allow you to defend yourself effectively. There are many better combat sports and self-defense systems you can learn.
What Is Aikido?
Aikido is a Japanese martial art that combines self-defense techniques such as throws, locks, strikes, and pins with the philosophy of harmony and peacefulness. All the methods use as little effort as possible to incapacitate an attacker.
You will use their momentum against them and try to defend yourself without causing any damage to the other person. It takes a lot of focus and mental toughness to overcome aggression and ego and remain peaceful even in the most stressful situations.
Unlike other martial arts, Aikido is non-competitive, so you don’t progress by defeating opponents. You advance by showing you understand the principles, philosophies, and exercises. You train to master the techniques, but more importantly, you train to connect your energy, body, and mind.
The word Aikido comes from ai (harmony), ki (spirit, energy), and do (path, way). IT roughly translates to “The way of unifying energy.” 
That might seem abstract, but when you learn what the philosophy of Aikido is, it’s much more apparent.
Even though you learn how to defend yourself in Aikido, it’s not the primary focus of this martial art. Instead, the focus is on finding inner peace, completing forms, and overcoming one’s sense of ego and aggression.
If you want to find peace of mind and enjoy the philosophy that Aikido promotes, it will be incredible for you, especially because you will get more physically fit in the process. However, if your primary goal is to learn how to defend yourself in street fights, there are other arts and systems you’d be better off studying.
Is Aikido Effective for Self-Defense?
You can learn some great things from Aikido that can help you feel safer and defend yourself in a street fight. But, in terms of its effectiveness, Aikido can’t match with almost any other fighting technique – especially in a “no rules” street fight.
Aikido practitioners, as we mentioned, are taught to avoid inflicting damage. You want to avoid conflict and not let rage get the best of you. But, when push comes to shove, and somebody attacks you violently, there is not much Aikido can do for you.
You won’t learn grappling, wrestling, or proper sparring. If somebody that trained virtually any other martial art attacked you in a street fight, you would end up getting beaten up. Of course, if somebody comes at you guns blazing and brawling, you’ll have a good chance of evading the attacks if you trained Aikido. That is essentially what it’s for.
However, due to the techniques you use that inflict little to no damage, they are just going to keep coming at you with force. In the end, you’re going to have to either escape or use techniques other than Aikido throws and small joint-locks if you want to defend yourself efficiently.
I’m not saying that Aikido is entirely useless and can’t do any good for you in self-defense. There are no guarantees in a street fight, with Aikido, or any other martial art. While it does teach you specific skills that are quite useful in combat, such as focus, momentum shifts, evasive movements, etc., it has many glaring weaknesses when paired up against more attack-based martial arts.
After considering both the strong and weak sides of Aikido, the answer is straightforward.
Aikido alone is not sustainable for self-defense purposes. It does teach you many valuable skills you can use for self-defense. Or, you would have to be extremely high-skilled in Aikido to learn how to compensate for those weaknesses and use techniques in a way that prevents the opponent from capitalizing on those weaknesses.
In any other circumstances, you will need to use different techniques from other martial arts (or at least street fighting) if you want to get out of a fight safely. That might be boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, MMA, or any other methods. When you combine them with Aikido in a practical way, only then could it be sustainable for self-defense.
Best Martial Arts (and Combat Sports) for Self-Defense
MMA (mixed martial arts)
MMA is a combat sport that allows fighters to combine various martial arts techniques and use them under a lenient ruleset. Every martial art has specific weak points. MMA will enable you to strengthen those weak points by implementing techniques from other martial arts, making you a virtually perfect all-around fighter.
MMA fighters always practice at least two martial arts simultaneously, one for striking and one for grappling. Learning how to blend striking and grappling together means you virtually have no weakness in your fighting skills, both offensively and defensively.
That’s why MMA stands alone as the most efficient combat sport/martial art for self-defense. No matter how the attacker engages (trying to hit you, take you to the ground, grab you in a chokehold, etc.), you will have the required skills to defend yourself.
Blending in Aikido into your MMA fighting strategy might be very efficient in terms of movement and agility. You would need to limit the techniques you use, though, because Aikido depends highly on small joint-locks, which are one of the few things not allowed in MMA.
There are some apparent disadvantages when thinking about using only boxing in a street fight. You don’t learn how to strike with your legs or how to grapple. But, there’s a reason why boxing enjoys such an incredible reputation as one of the most engaging, intelligent, and strategic martial arts in the world.
If you know nothing about boxing, you might see it as two guys swinging at each other until somebody drops. But, there’s so much more to it that you don’t see on first look. There’s an incredible amount of footwork and efficient movement necessary to perform at a high boxing level.
You learn how to evade attacks and deliver with precision and force. You will be more aware and agile and learn not to lose control. Learning to remain calm and calculate your moves in a heartbeat is something that can be a life-saver out in the streets.
Applying almost the same principles but adding leg strikes into the mix, Kickboxing is another striking martial art that will enable you to defend yourself better than Aikido. It is a much more assertive martial art, and the techniques are forceful.
You’ll be light on your feet and know how to deliver a single blow to incapacitate the attacker. In most cases, a hard low kick is all it takes to win a street fight. The only weakness here is that it doesn’t incorporate grappling or takedowns, so if the fight ends up on the floor, you’ll need to utilize some other techniques to get out of it in one piece.
Wrestling doesn’t include striking, so many people seem to think it is ineffective for self-defense. But, in reality, it is one of the most efficient martial arts for self-defense out there. Most street fights end up in a hold, a throw to the ground, or a clinch of any sort. Rarely will you stand on your feet and go at it striking.
Even if somebody attacks you out on the streets with kicks and punches, wrestling will enable you to lunge forward and take the fight to the ground, where essentially nobody can do anything to you.
You learn how to control your opponent’s movement and simply make them incapable of any kind of attack. Getting into a dominant position on the ground means you are the one choosing what to do next, be it ground-and-pound, or controlling and de-escalating the situation.
Krav maga isn’t a combat sport, nor is it a traditional martial art, but it is one of the most efficient self-defense systems in existence. It uses a diverse palette of strikes, holds, throws, and other techniques to deal as much damage as possible and escape any kind of attack – even with weapons.
It came to a bad reputation because there are many fake Krav maga experts, teaching all kinds of silly techniques, presenting them as Krav maga.
But, real Krav maga is specially designed to hold no bars in terms of self-defense. There is no such thing as a dirty move, including eye pokes, foot stomps, and groin shots. Whatever gets you out safely, it’s welcome.
If you can find a school with a real Krav maga master that teaches only the real, highly-efficient techniques, there is no better self-defense system in the world.