Choosing one or another Japanese martial art for a further practice or for a sport career building is not an easy task. You should take into consideration all-important characteristics of each particular Japanese martial art, compare it with your own needs and see whether it corresponds to your physical and mental abilities. Each Japanese martial art is created to make a man, strong in his body and mind and, as a rule, it demands more practice than you can ever expect. Let us compare such well-spread Japanese arts, as karate and aikido, and point out peculiarities of each.
Karate or karate-dô ( "the way of the empty hand") is a synthesis of indigenous Okinawan fighting methods and Southern Chinese martial arts. Various Okinawan practitioners, who moved to mainland Japan during the early 20th century, introduced karate to the Japanese main islands from Okinawa in 1921. Karate emphasizes explosive striking techniques, such as punching, kicking, knee/elbow strikes and open hand techniques. However, grappling, joint manipulations, locks, restraints, throwing and vital point striking are also common. Many styles of karate include special equipment and weaponry.
Since its introduction to Japan, karate has been adapted for practice as a competitive sport and quickly spread to the Western world. The World Karate Federation (WKF) is the only recognized International Sport Federation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for Karate and represents the major uniform rules among all the styles.
Aikido, literally meaning a "harmony energy way" or a "way of the harmonious spirit", was developed by Morihei Ueshiba during the period of the 1930s to the 1960s. The major parts of aikido have come from jiu jitsu, the most ancient Japanese martial arts. Aikido is considered to have an important spiritual component. The name aikido consists of three Japanese characters ai, ki and do. These are often translated as a union, a universal energy and a way; thus, aikido can be translated as "the way to the union with the universal energy". The ending "do" in the word aikido indicates a spiritual path. It means that to become excellent in a physical technique is not the ultimate purpose of training. Ueshiba, a father of Japanese aikido, taught that all principles, inherited in the techniques, should be applied to all the aspects of the practitioners' life. The Aikido training views the body and mind as an inseparable wholeness that you should develop simultaneously.
What concerns aikido techniques, they are designed to control an attacker, redirecting his energy instead of blocking it. Aikido incorporates a wide range of techniques, which use principles of the energy and motion to redirect, neutralize and control attackers. Therefore, aikido can be used to defend without causing a serious injury to either an aggressor or a defender. If performed correctly, the size and the strength are not important for the techniques to be effective.
This short review allows to see the difference between two arts and determine them as absolutely unique and unrepeatable phenomena. No matter what you choose (it depends again on your needs and goals), each art practicing and learning is a hard, but rewarding task. It gives much to your body, mind and soul.