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How is Karate Different from Taekwondo?

There are many different Japanese martial art styles and schools. Karate is one of the most well-known and most practiced styles. It is known for its strikes and hand techniques. Taekwondo, another martial art, is recognized for its powerful kicking techniques, often quite stylized.

Below, we discuss the two different martial arts, their similarities and differences. Read on and get ready to learn more about these martial arts.

To begin, the most glaring difference is the technique. Karate relies heavily on strikes using the hands, whereas Taekwondo is more of a kicking art. The fighting styles are very different from one another.

Both are striking arts that form from the basic principles of discipline, fitness, and dedication. These are common to almost all martial art forms. Each school has their own style, form, sparring rules, and benefits. Whether you are already a Karateka student, a Taekwondo pro, or just want to explore a great way to improve fitness, this article is a great starting point. Let’s get started.

Origin of Karate

Few people are aware of how ancient Karate’s origins are. Its birthplace is Okinawa, a Japanese island where hand-to-hand combat was often practiced. By utilizing vital point striking, punching, and kicking methods, the martial art of Karate was developed with a focus on unarmed self-defence. Jumping kicks and other moves that are today associated with karate were developed through time.

Many of Karate’s originators began their training in various Chinese martial arts, which heavily influenced the development of Karate. Rules against practicing Karate during the Japanese occupation of Okinawa led to ongoing training in secret which spurred the development of separate techniques and schools of Karate.

Karate is currently renowned for its emphasis on unarmed self-defence and mental discipline. Plus, it’s much more than just a physical workout. Karate encourages inner strength, self-control, and confidence while highlighting the significance of the mind-body connection. With numerous forms that integrate distinct techniques like vital point hitting and leaping kicks, it is no surprise that Karate is one of the most well-known martial arts in the world.

Origin of Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that traces back to Karate and Chinese Kung Fu. Those two styles were mixed with indigenous Korean styles in the 1940s and 50s to create a brand new martial art focused on kicking and vital point striking without bearing arms. Taekwondo kicks are extremely precise and are mesmerizing to watch in action.

Choi Hong Hi’s Theory of Power, which prioritizes speed above muscle bulk, is one of the fundamental ideas of Taekwondo. Choi, a Korean army general and martial artist, studied martial arts to methodically develop a style that would incorporate all he had previously learned. He discovered that since speed can produce a lot more force, it is much more crucial to focus on speed and agility over brute force.

The relax-strike principle is another essential Taekwondo technique. Between the active portions of a battle, Taekwondo training trains combatants to maintain total relaxation, allowing them to save energy and use it more efficiently. Black belts in kicking, punching, and mindfulness place equal importance on mental discipline and relaxation as they do on physical fitness.

Taekwondo became an official sport in 1955 and was soon added to the Olympics, helping it grow into one of the most popular martial arts in the world.

Similarities Between Karate and Taekwondo

There are few similarities between the two martial arts, despite the fact that both are of similar origin and that practitioners of Taekwondo and Karate wear similar attire while training. Although various translations of the word Karate, such as “Chinese hand” or “Tang dynasty hand,” can also be discovered, one thing is certain: Karate is always defined as something related to hands.

This is because Karate is a martial art that mostly relies on hand-to-hand combat. The most notable difference between the two martial art forms is that Taekwondo almost completely disregards the hand in its techniques. Taekwondo first uses kicks for attacking and hands as a backup, which is the opposite of Karate.

Both sports can help one develop tremendous athleticism when it comes to exercising, but Taekwondo’s basic principles of kicking and jumping help give it a bit of an edge here. Karate is more rigid and linear; it typically involves more breathing techniques and fewer big movements. It should be emphasized that while Karate has huge moves in comparison to other disciplines, Taekwondo, with its spinning jump kicks, definitely dwarfs it.

When one begins training any of the two, the fundamentals are pretty similar. The attitudes, fundamental concepts, consistent organization of associations, and training are essentially the same. Both rely on a similar belt grading system that ranges from white to black (the colours in between vary), and each advancement requires a similar exam structure.

Karate and Taekwondo Techniques Compared

A variety of punches, kicks and elbow strikes are used in Karate to defeat opponents. Karate does, however, include some excellent kicking techniques, but it places greater emphasis on hand blows. Black belts in Karate are highly recognized for their strong punches, and they are also famed for some of the most lethal unarmed moves in all of the martial arts.

Those who practise Taekwondo, in contrast, are renowned for their spectacular jumping and spinning kicks. Taekwondo is predominantly a kicking martial art. The technique emphasizes fast kicks delivered with agility, suppleness, and speed. Taekwondo kicks are among the strongest in martial arts in terms of raw strength, making them a popular option for self-defence.

Kata vs Poomsae

Martial artists must study and perfect a variety of techniques to perform the forms and styles of Taekwondo and Karate. While kata is the training method of Karate, Taekwondo students learn Poomsae, a sequence of predefined moves. Martial artists can practice a variety of techniques, such as punching, kicking, and vital point striking, through structured forms relying on heavy discipline.

Martial arts training is incomplete without Kata and Poomsae, which can take years to master. To obtain a black belt in either Taekwondo or Karate, mastering these forms is frequently a necessary step.

Further, while not often entertaining through basic training fundamentals, both martial arts can bring in weapons from time to time, such as nunchaku, bo staff, and sai. In competition, Taekwondo is exclusively unarmed, but some Karate competitions allow weapons.

Whether you practice Karate or Taekwondo, Kata and Poomsae are critical to your training. These fundamentals give you the proper training to improve fitness, self-defence, discipline, focus, confidence, and more.

The Rules

Taekwondo and Karate are distinguished from one another by a few differences in the regulations for scoring and sparring. Karate places more emphasis on hand skills, whereas Taekwondo mostly emphasizes kicks. Kicks to the head are typically allowed in Taekwondo competitions but are almost always prohibited in Karate sparring. In Taekwondo, a head kick is a highest-scoring move, but in Karate, a punch to the body scores more points than a kick.

Taekwondo and Karate both have slightly different scoring systems. When a competitor kicks their protective equipment during a Taekwondo match, electronic sensors automatically award points. Similar rules apply in Karate, although judges are present to verify the scores and hand techniques are typically given more credit.

Karate and Taekwondo success require both cardio and strength training. The combination of these two styles of training gives a thorough workout that enhances overall fitness and maximizes performance in martial arts.

While strength training develops muscular strength and power, cardio exercise enhances endurance. To ensure that the body is ready for the demands of martial arts practice and competition, a correct balance between the two types of training is essential. Training with an emphasis on appropriate form and technique can also aid in injury prevention and increase general fitness.

Which is Better for Self-Defence?

While it ultimately comes down to an individual’s training and skill level, both Taekwondo and Karate are valuable martial arts to learn for basic self-defence skills. Karate’s focus on hand strikes and blocks gives it a slight edge in a real-world combat situation, but you cannot write off the power of a seasoned Taekwondo kick. Of course, in a close-combat situation, it is probably going to be a little challenging to get that spinning kick going.

Regardless, a seasoned Taekwondo practitioner will have a considerable advantage over a random challenger trying to push their weight around.

There really is no better choice between Taekwondo or Karate for self-defence, as both give you strong skills to protect yourself. If you purely want self-defence, you are more suited to take up Karate, however.


Both Karate and Taekwondo are valuable martial arts to pick up and learn, which offer you a range of benefits. What you want ultimately rests on your end goals. One is punch oriented, whereas the other is kick-based. Both offer great fitness, self-defence training, life skills, discipline, focus, perseverance, respect and confidence. You can’t go wrong with either choice.

If you are looking for karate classes for children, The Powerhouse Academy has time-tested programs devised specifically for your child’s age. We make sure our students are challenged and placed in the right class for their age and fitness level. 

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