What is the Difference Between Karate and Taekwondo?

Are you or your child interested in learning martial arts? Have you heard of Karate and Taekwondo but need to figure out which one is right for you? If so, you’ve probably wondered what is the difference between Karate and Taekwondo.

When looking at the differences between Karate and Taekwondo, Karate originated in Japan while Taekwondo originated in Korea. Karate emphasizes hand strikes while Taekwondo emphasizes kicks. Karate is generally more effective in close-range combat while Taekwondo is better for long-range fighting.

Karate also focuses more on the development of character and discipline while Taekwondo emphasizes physical fitness and agility.

Both Karate and Taekwondo are known as striking arts, which primarily emphasize using bare hands and feet to deliver powerful blows in combat. However, their origin, techniques, and philosophies can vary a lot.

Karate and Taekwondo are striking arts originating in Asia but have different histories and styles.

So in this article, I’ll examine the primary differences to help you get a clear understanding of the two.  That way you can m ake a fair comparison and pick the one that is best for you.

Let’s get started!

difference karate taekwondo lg

What are the types of moves and techniques in Karate?

This striking art is focused on empty-handed combat, meaning it doesn’t use weapons. Instead, Karate practitioners rely on different strikes, kicks, and blocks to protect themselves and defeat opponents.

One of the most fundamental differences between Karate and other martial arts is hand strikes versus kicks. Karate has an impressive variety of hand strikes, including punching, knife-hand strikes (shuto uchi), ridge-hand strikes, and elbow strikes.

Karate practitioners use various techniques, including hand, kick, knee, and elbow strikes. They also learn joint locks and weapons like the bo staff. Karate teachings emphasize using the whole body in executing techniques, so a martial artist must develop upper and lower body strength.

Hand strikes

Karate students learn several hand strikes, including the karate chop, shuto uchi, and various hand strikes like punches, hook punches, and uppercuts. Hand strikes are essential for self-defense and can disable an opponent quickly.


Karate students learn a variety of kicks, including front, side, roundhouse, and back kicks. Kicks require significant flexibility, coordination, and accuracy, and karate practitioners train extensively to refine their kicking techniques.

Knee strikes and elbow strikes

Karate students also learn knee and elbow strikes, particularly useful in close combat situations. Knee strikes and elbow strikes are powerful and can quickly disable an opponent.

Joint locks and bo staff

Karate practitioners also learn joint locks, which allow them to disable an opponent by breaking their joints or limiting their mobility. They also know to use weapons like the bo staff, a long bamboo stick used primarily for striking.

Karate Dojos and protective gear

Karate training typically occurs in dojos, or training halls, where students learn offensive and defensive techniques. Students wear a karate gi, a traditional uniform, and may use protective gear like headgear, gloves, and shin guards during sparring sessions.

If you’re interested in learning Karate, you must find a reputable school called a dojo. Different styles of Karate, such as Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, and Shito-Ryu, all have teaching methods and techniques.

What are the types of moves and techniques in Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is another famous martial art that you may be considering. Taekwondo martial arts classes focus on striking with the feet and legs, making it a more specialized martial art than Karate.

“Taekwondo” means “the way of the foot and the fist,” highlighting the emphasis on kicks. Taekwondo practitioners learn a variety of kicks, including front, roundhouse, and head kicks, executed with lightning-fast movements.

Taekwondo boasts various kicks, ranging from basic to advanced techniques. The use of knees and elbows is not emphasized in Taekwondo as in other martial arts, but the spinning and jumping kicks are signature moves that make Taekwondo stand out.

Basic kicks

The most basic kick in Taekwondo is the front kick (ap chagi), which involves lifting the knee towards the chest and extending the foot forward, striking with the ball of the foot. The roundhouse kick (dollyo chagi) turns the hips to generate power, striking with the foot’s instep. The sidekick (yop chagi) is executed by lifting the leg sideways and striking with the heel edge of the foot. Beginners use all these basic kicks as foundation techniques.

Advanced kicks

As students progress in their training, they learn more advanced kicks like the spinning hook kick (dwi-huryeo chagi) and the spinning back kick (dwi-dollyo chagi). These kicks require a lot of leg strength and flexibility, as they involve the full rotation of the body while airborne.

Hand strikes

Although Taekwondo is primarily known for its kicks, it includes hand strikes as essential techniques. Some of the standard hand strikes include the punch (jireugi), open hand strike (sonnal chigi), ridge hand strike (jungkook chigi), knife-hand strike (sonkal taerigi), and palm-heel strike (bandal chigi). These strikes are used to complement the kicks and can be used in combination to create complex techniques.

Joint locks

Joint locks are techniques used to control or immobilize an opponent by manipulating their joints. While Taekwondo does not specialize in joint locks, some schools may teach basic joint manipulation techniques in the curriculum.

How are Karate and Taekwondo similar?

Both Karate and Taekwondo training don’t make use of weapons, relying solely on physical techniques to defend against attacks. They also prioritize sparring and competition to practice and refine skills, making them both popular choices for those seeking to engage in world taekwondo federation competitions.

Another similarity between Karate and Taekwondo is that they both feature various kicks. Both styles emphasize the importance of developing strong leg muscles and a fast, accurate kicking technique. Taekwondo is particularly well-known for its swift kicks and emphasis on head kicks, while Karate includes a variety of kicks, such as spinning kicks and knee strikes.

Additionally, the histories of both martial arts are lengthy and fascinating, with origins in prehistoric times.

How are Karate and Taekwondo different?

Despite certain similarities, Karate and Taekwondo are different martial arts forms with their own distinctive features.

Karate traces its roots to the Japanese island of Okinawa, which developed from the Chinese martial arts practiced there.Taekwondo developed in Korea during the Japanese occupation and was heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts and Karate.

Another significant difference is their fighting style. Karate is often considered to be a striking art, with a focus on hand combat and the use of joint locks and throws. On the other hand, Taekwondo is a popular Olympic sport and has a strong competitive aspect, with tournaments held worldwide.

The use of protective gear is also different between the two martial arts. Karate practitioners typically wear a gi, or uniform, while sparring and may also wear protective equipment such as gloves or shin guards. Taekwondo students also wear a uniform but may wear additional protective gear during sparring, such as chest protectors and headgear.

The most fundamental difference between Karate and Taekwondo lies in their techniques. While both martial arts focus on empty-hand combat, they have unique strategies and movements. Karate emphasizes strikes with the hands and feet, while Taekwondo emphasizes high and spinning kicks.

What is the history and origin of Karate?

For all aspiring martial artists, Karate is a striking art that originated on the Japanese island of Okinawa during the Japanese occupation. The earliest records of people practicing Karate date back to the 19th century. Karate translates to “empty hands,” meaning it is essentially a bare-hands combat system with no use of weapons.

Funakoshi Gichin, a Karate practitioner, introduced Karate to mainland Japan in the early 20th century, when the Japan Karate Association later adopted it. Over time, Karate spread to the United States and other countries, gaining popularity through karate classes, karate dojos, and even being featured in pop culture.

The most fundamental difference between Karate and Taekwondo is that Karate is a Japanese-based martial art featuring more hand and elbow strikes than kicks. Karate also emphasizes joint locks, knee strikes, and the use of both open and closed-hand techniques. Karate practitioners wear a traditional “gi” uniform with a jacket and pants.

Karate is a full-body workout that enhances physical strength and mental fortitude. Karate training includes a variety of techniques, such as the Karate chop, spinning kick, and shuto uchi. Karate competitions involve protective gear and a set of rules.

What is the history and origin of Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art developed by Kwan masters. Unlike Karate, Taekwondo places more emphasis on fast kicks, head kicks, and spinning kicks rather than hand strikes. It also includes the use of elbow and knee strikes like Karate.

Taekwondo was proclaimed the national sport of South Korea in 1971, and it was given Olympic status at the 2000 Olympic Games. Taekwondo classes also focus on self-defense techniques and forms/katas and have a range of strikes, such as hand strikes, kicks, and joint locks.

Chinese martial arts influenced Taekwondo and also integrated some Japanese Karate techniques. This means that it has a variety of kicks, with the most popular ones being fast-striking, jumping, and jumping-spinning kicks.

Which is better for self-defense: Karate or Taekwondo?

The answer to this question largely depends on your personal preferences and training goals.

The self-defense techniques used in Karate include grappling, throws, and take-downs. Martial artists are trained to defend themselves against armed opponents and bare-handed attackers. In Karate, the focus is on delivering powerful strikes to vital areas of the opponent’s body to hinder them.

Similarly, Taekwondo students are also taught self-defense moves, with kicks being the prime focus, making them better suited for longer-range self-defense situations.

Click here to read my recent article if you’re interested in learning about the pros and cons of Taekwondo.

In terms of training for a street fight or real-life scenario, both Karate and Taekwondo can be practical. Each style emphasizes different techniques and strategies, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Finding a qualified tutor who can assist you in acquiring the abilities and mentality required to remain composed and focused under pressure is essential.

How do sporting competition rules differ between Karate and Taekwondo?

Karate and Taekwondo are both very popular in the competition scene, with each martial art having its own set of sports governing bodies. The main difference between the two is the ruleset followed in competition.

For example, in Karate competitions, strikes are allowed on the head, body, and legs but are prohibited on joints and the back of the head. Karate competitions focus on techniques such as punches, kicks, knee strikes, and elbow strikes, among others. Also, Karate is divided into the World Karate Federation and the Japan Karate Association.

Conversely, Taekwondo is an Olympic sport, so competition rules are more specific and regulated. In Taekwondo competitions, the international taekwondo federation instructs athletes to wear protective gear. Kicking is the dominant form of attack in such competitions. Taekwondo competitions focus on techniques such as head, spinning, and fast kicks.

The primary distinction between Karate and Taekwondo’s competition regulations is that Karate emphasizes strikes using all of the body, whereas Taekwondo predominantly focuses on kicks. So, consider your goals in choosing which martial art to pursue and consider these differences in competition rules.

What advantages do martial arts like Karate or Taekwondo offer?

To begin with, it is a fantastic way to work out the entire body and enhance physical stamina, flexibility, and balance. The tenacity, diligence, and dedication required for martial arts training can help people develop resilience and well-being.

Check out my recent articles to learn about the fantastic benefits of Karate martial arts training and if it’s effective in a real fight!

Classes in martial arts offer students a controlled and encouraging environment where they can learn from qualified instructors and connect with other practitioners. These classes can be taken anywhere, from Brazilian jiu-jitsu gyms to traditional karate dojos.

Learning self-defense skills and getting ready for future danger in the real world can both be enjoyable and exciting experiences through martial arts. While not every situation requires physical confrontation, understanding basic self-defense skills can provide a sense of empowerment and peace of mind.

The importance of cardio and strength in martial art training of Karate and Taekwondo

Karate and Taekwondo success requires both cardio and strength training. These two forms of training combined offer a thorough workout that boosts general fitness and enhances martial arts proficiency.

Practitioners must focus on both fitness aspects to improve their physical performance and martial arts skills. For martial arts practitioners, cardiovascular endurance is crucial since it helps them maintain high levels of physical activity without getting exhausted quickly.

Cardio is crucial for maintaining stamina during long training sessions and sparring matches, while strength is essential for generating power during kicks, punches, and other techniques. Training with an emphasis on appropriate form and style can also aid in injury prevention and increase general fitness.

Frequently asked questions:

Which is stronger, Karate or Taekwondo?

The answer is neither; both martial arts are equally strong. It depends on the individual’s personal preferences and which style of martial art suits them best.

Is Taekwondo good for girls?

Taekwondo is an excellent choice for girls as it focuses on quick footwork and fast kicks, which can be helpful in self-defense situations. However, this doesn’t mean Karate is unsuitable for girls; it depends on individual interests and style preferences.

Ultimately most martial arts will be great for girls. They can help build confidence, self-esteem, and teamwork.

Some teen girls may, however, be uncomfortable with grappling arts like Jiu-jitsu or Judo due to potentially being uncomfortable doing what is essentially wrestling with boys, as most classes will be co-ed.

How will you differentiate Karate from Taekwondo?

Karate has roots in Chinese martial arts with some Japanese influences, while Taekwondo is based on Korean martial arts.

Karate focuses on hand, elbow, and knee strikes, whereas Taekwondo emphasizes footwork, kicking techniques, and spinning kicks. Karate students often wear a gi and follow specific teachings, while Taekwondo practitioners wear protective gear and often compete in various Taekwondo competitions.

Can you use Taekwondo in a street fight?

Yes, you can use Taekwondo in a street fight.

However, it is essential to understand that in a street fight, the rules of martial arts competitions do not apply. In order to defend themselves in an uncontrolled situation, Taekwondo practitioners must adapt and use their talents. Weapons, multiple attackers, and kicks below the belt or strikes to the head are all fair game.

Karate may be involved similarly in a street fight using bare hands and intense strikes.

How do I know which martial art is better for me?

Choosing the right martial art can be a daunting task.

It is important to consider your goals, physical abilities, and personal preferences. Some martial arts are more focused on striking, while others emphasize grappling or joint manipulation. If you are looking for self-defense, consider a martial art that teaches practical techniques for real-life situations. If you want to improve your fitness level, try a martial art that incorporates cardio and strength training.

Before committing to a particular martial art, do your research. Attend classes or watch videos to get a feel for the style and teaching methods. Ask yourself if you enjoy the techniques and if you feel comfortable with the training environment.

Remember, the best martial art for you is the one that you enjoy and are motivated to practice consistently.

Karate vs. Taekwondo | What's The Difference?


In conclusion, Karate and Taekwondo’s main differences are their origins, techniques, and focus. Karate comes from the Japanese island of Okinawa and focuses more on hand strikes and joint manipulation. Meanwhile, Taekwondo originates from South Korea and is more geared towards fast kicks and spinning techniques.

Both are based on using empty hands to defend oneself, requiring much hard work and dedication to master. Regarding self-defense, both Karate and Taekwondo can be practical, but it ultimately comes down to personal preferences and the specific martial arts schools or dojos in your area.

Both self-defense training and competitive sports, as well as gaining new skills, are worthwhile pursuits. Why not give them a try and see which speaks to you the loudest? No matter whatever martial art you pick—Karate or Taekwondo—you’re in for a treat.

Image by inna mykytas from Pixabay and Image by inna mykytas from Pixabay

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