Taekwondo vs. Judo: Key Differences

There are hundreds of martial arts to choose from, and Taekwondo and Judo are two of the best-known ones. But what are the key differences? Let’s explore Taekwondo vs. Judo.

Judo is a Japanese grappling-focused martial art and is an off-shoot of Jiu-Jitsu, exhibiting a wide array of throws, joint locks, and ground moves, while Taekwondo is a Korean kicking-based martial art with a precise focus on detailed kicks and strikes. 

Taekwondo and Judo are martial art forms and combat sports. And both are Olympic sports unlike most other styles of martial arts.

But the moves and techniques are also very different.

And it takes a lot longer to get a black belt in Judo than it does in Taekwondo. So in this article, we’ll examine the history, movement, and key differences between the two.

Let’s get into it.

What are the biggest similarities between Taekwondo and Judo?

Other than the fact that they are both Taekwondo and Judo developed in Asian countries, and both are Olympic sports, there is no significant similarity between Taekwondo and Judo regarding their movements. Taekwondo focuses almost exclusively on kicks and strikes, while Judo focuses on takedowns and grappling.

You can differentiate Judo from Taekwondo by just watching their moves and fighting styles.

Like its Japanese relative Karate, Judo is classified as a Japanese combat sport. Judo comprises two Japanese characters: Ju, which translates loosely as “gentle”, and do, which translates as “the way”, hence the gentle way.

The chief objective in Judo is to takedown or throw an opponent to the ground, then restrain or subdue an opponent using a technique, or force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or choke.

Taekwondo is a Korean combat sport and a martial art form originating from the South Korea region.

The word “Taekwondo” comprises three syllables which translate as tae (foot), kwon (fist), and do (way), altogether translated loosely as the way of fist and foot”, or the way of kicking and punching.

In Taekwondo, the legs play an essential role in the actions and attacks. Physically, it is known to develop speed, strength, flexibility, balance, and stamina.

In a recent article of mine, I shared how to learn Taekwondo all by yourself.

While that might seem a good option, it is not the best option. Learning in a dojo with teammates is a sure way to measure progress in martial art. But it is possible, and you can even earn a black belt that way.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Is Taekwondo effective in a street fight?

Taekwondo can be effective in a street fight, especially against an untrained attacker. But Taekwondo is a sport. Self-defense is focused on physical safety skills. So, while some Taekwondo techniques can be used for self-defense, it is not the ideal choice if fighting is the number one goal.

Taekwondo comprises many techniques – such as kicking, striking, blocking, and footwork – for defending and evading attacks.

These techniques can be effective when protecting yourself in a street fight, but they are not really designed for that specific scenario.

And in a fight, anything goes. And only knowing a series of almost choreographed techniques can put you at risk.

With its popularity among all age groups and genders, and its standing as an Olympic sport, Taekwondo is sometimes singled out as “weak” and ‘”pointless”.

And the fact that some schools hand out black belts in just a couple of years doesn’t help that reputation.

However, we easily forget the origins of most martial arts. But in this case, Taekwondo, in the first place. While Taekwondo is not necessarily a peace-centered form of martial art, it has its roots in energy preservation, balance, and proper striking technique, not to mention fitness and self-development.

Taekwondo is not just about fighting in the same way that car racing isn’t about becoming a robbery driver.

Comparing Taekwondo to another Japanese martial art, Aikido, Aikido is considered fiercer. But because it takes a long time to master and its origins are rooted in peace, it is largely ignored. 

To see the differences between Aikido and Taekwondo, check this recent article of mine. What really surprised me was how much better one is than the other for self-defense.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Taekwondo vs Judo: who would win?

In a competition between Taekwondo and Judo, the Judoka would likely prevail.

This is due to the much longer training time to reach a black belt and the fact that the Judoka could easily take down a Taekwondo opponent. Once on the ground, the Judo practitioner would have a significant advantage.

Martial arts were created and trained for a straightforward reason – to protect oneself and their family.

Oftentimes, people wish they could defend themselves from unexpected attacks through the use of martial arts. But most don’t take the time to learn one due to a variety of reasons.

As such, it is to your benefit that you learn at least one martial art.

While watching people display their fighting skills, Taekwondo might seem like the best art for self-defense. But, Judo is the best style to learn, in my opinion. 

That’s by a small margin, but a margin nevertheless.

Why Judo? Simply because credibly, most fights turn out to be all about wrestling tricks and grappling at the end. Unless the first hit is a knockout, the fight often becomes a frantic jumble of close punches, knee hits, cloth grabbing, and shin kicks.

However, as a good Judoka, all you need to do is force the fight to close quarters or let your opponent do that himself, and you will literally hand him his butt.

While a spinning hook kick seems more visually shocking, trust me, if you can execute a proper Harai-goshi throw when the fight is on, they will go down – and stay down.

And once a Judoka had the Taekwondo practitioner on the ground, it wouldn’t be long before they were choked or joint-locked into submission.

Are Taekwondo and Judo in the Olympics?

Taekwondo and Judo are both in the Olympics, and Karate was also recently added to the Olympics as well. But most martial arts are not practiced in the Olympics.

Martial arts were part of the first sports that became a fixture of the Olympic Games.

Going back to Ancient Greece, wrestling was already a fixture in the Olympics in 708 BCE. Close to twenty years later, a kind of boxing called “pyx” (which means “with a clenched fist”) was introduced at the Olympics in 668 BCE.

In 648 BCE, a modern mixed martial arts precursor, pankration, was introduced and competed in as an Olympic event.

Fittingly, Judo debuted at the Olympics during the Tokyo 1964 Games. The women’s events debuted at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics. 

Judo athletes are called Judoka.

Points are awarded for techniques and moves being displayed and employed elegantly and successfully. If, after the match is finished, the scores are level, a “Golden Score” or overtime bout is activated. In this kind of round, the first Judoka to score a point wins.

Taekwondo debuted in the Olympics debut as a demonstration event at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. 

At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Taekwondo made its debut as a full medal sport and had since been incorporated into the event.

Taekwondo matches at the Olympics are scored using the Protector, and Scoring System (PSS) introduced at the 2012 London Games.

The Protector and Scoring System use electronic sensors previously built into the protective gear of the athlete, which is linked wirelessly to an electronic scoreboard.

Points are awarded when an impact is made with the correct part of the foot on the protective gear on the opponent’s head or trunk.

Judges can also award points manually and add technical points after a display of spinning/turning kicks (they are awarded extra points).

Can you do flips or takedowns in Taekwondo?

Traditional Taekwondo does not involve takedowns or flips. It is known primarily for kicks and strikes, but a few Taekwondo schools also add in a variety of additional grappling techniques.

But Taekwondo dojos may include gymnastics in warmups which often start a class. So the idea of grappling, flipping, and takedowns are not foreign to their students.

This said, there exist very few dojos who decide to include gymnastic training in their curriculum.

Judo, on the other hand, is overflowing with flips, throws, and takedowns. Some of its takedowns are implemented by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which, like Judo, has its roots in traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

Check my recent article on the similarities and differences between Jiu-Jitsu and Taekwondo. I actually think one is better (and more fun) than the other. But I could be wrong.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Judo techniques are categorized into three key groups: 

  • Nage waza (throwing techniques)
  • Atemi waza (vital-point striking techniques)
  • Katame waza (grappling techniques)

Throwing techniques are numerous and wide-ranging, their purpose being to get an opponent unbalanced and wrong-postured and ultimately bring them down on their back.

“Atemi waza” consist of strike maneuvers (using the hand, edge of the hand, fingers, elbow, foot, knee, and heel) aimed at specific vital points on the opponent.

Atemi waza are not allowed in competitions or even in standard practice because of their hazardous nature.

Katame waza comprises strangling, joint twisting holding, and other counter bending techniques, etc. calculated to restrict an opponent’s freedom of movement.

These techniques are further divided into three groups: “shime waza” (strangling techniques), “osae waza” (hold-down techniques), and “kansetsu waza” (Joint lock techniques).

How do Taekwondo and Judo compare to other martial arts?

Let’s explore the main difference in the fighting style of Taekwondo and Judo compared to BJJ, Muay Thai, and Wing Chun (one of the many forms of Kung Fu).

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is also known as Thai boxing and comes from Thailand. It has more in common with Taekwondo since it focuses heavily on powerful kicks and strikes. It has very little in common with Judo. Like Taekwondo, it does require a good degree of physical strength.

Both Muay Thai and Taekwondo are primarily standing arts.

By comparison, while Judo always starts from standing, the goal is typically to do a throw or other takedown and take the opponent to the ground and submit them on the ground.

Muay Thai is more about using brutal techniques, which also include elbow strikes, to knock out or incapacitate an opponent.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ is most similar to Judo since it was derived from it.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, like Judo, often (but not always) starts from standing. It uses very little in the way of punches or kicks (unless we’re talking a more self-defense-oriented Jiu-Jitsu school such as Valente Brothers in the Miami area (where Helio Gracie’s gi hangs on display).

Once an opponent is taken to the ground, ground fighting happens until the BJJ practitioner uses any of a variety of submission holds to tap an opponent, or actually break an arm or choke someone unconscious in a real fight.

Wing Chun

Wing Chun is one of the many styles of Kung Fu, which are Chinese martial arts.

It’s also the original martial art practiced by Bruce Lee before he created his own style called Jeet Kune Do. Wing Chun has a lot in common with Karate, so in that sense, it has a lot more overlap with Tae Kwon Do than it does Judo.

Wing Chun’s power comes from its speed.

Kicks and especially punches can be delivered very quickly and even in short range. Think of Bruce Lee’s legendary “1-inch punch”.

Judo vs Taekwondo - Grappling vs Striking Fight (Tkd vs Judo)


We faced off two popular martial arts against each other today: Judo and Taekwondo.

We considered their similarities and differences as a general rule, highlighting the effects of both. We also tried to see if Taekwondo was deemed effective at street fights.

And then the ultimate question popped, which martial art would win when faced off against each other. We also asked if they were available in the Olympics and, lastly, if Taekwondo included flips and takedowns.

As I often assert, ANY martial arts practice is better than none. But if I need to choose which is superior, Judo would be my choice.

Image by Bizzari from Pixabay

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