Taekwondo and Karate are two of the world’s most well-known kicking martial arts, both with unique benefits and differences.
Taekwondo has more speed and flexibility in its strikes. Karate focuses on more powerful strikes, uses more punches, and incorporates throws on its move set. The similarity between the two is the stance, both have a wide-open stance, but Taekwondo is a bit more bouncy.
Have trouble what to choose between Karate and Taekwondo? This article might help you.
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Differences between Karate and Taekwondo
Karate and Taekwondo differ in culture, fighting stance, style, tournament rules, etc. Below is a quick outline.
Karate is one of Japan’s homegrown martial arts. Karate originated in the archipelago of Okinawa. It originated from a Japanese kingdom which is greatly influenced by Chinese culture.
The Kingdom that developed Karate was called Ryukyuan. Karate was rooted in the traditional indigenous Ryukyuan martial art inspired by Chinese Kung Fu.
Funakoshi Gichin is the father of modern Karate. Funakoshi is from a noble family of Indigenous Ryukyu in Yamakawa, Shuri, Okinawa, Japan.
There are a lot of Karate styles that emerged over the years. The oldest Karate style is the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu. It was founded by Sokon Matsumura.
Taekwondo is South Korea’s national martial art. Taekwondo came from the word ‘Taek’, which means kick, ‘Kwon,’ which means fist, and ‘Do,’ which means art. In short, it means ‘art of hand and foot fighting’.
Taekwondo was developed between 1940s and 1950s. It is a mixture of older Korean martial arts such as taekkyeon, gwonbeop, and subak.
The father of Taekwondo is Gen. Choi Hong Hi. He was responsible for developing Taekwondo’s move sets and fundamentals to what you’re seeing today.
Unlike other martial arts, where you’ll call your instructor ‘master’, ‘coach,’ or ‘sensei,’ Taekwondo uses Sabumnim, which means a ‘guide’ or ‘instructor.’
Traditional Chinese martial arts inspire both Karate and Taekwondo.
When Karate and Taekwondo were developed, Chinese martial arts were very influential in the Eastern region of the world.
Fighting styles and stances
Karate has solid power and speed combined in one style. Karate specialists use a wide and open leg stance. Their guard is usually at the abdomen level, not on the jaw.
They sometimes mix this open stance with a bouncy movement to be elusive and unpredictable.
But most of the time, pro-Karate fighters, like in Karate Combat, simply walk toward their opponent to throw a strike. Because sometimes, being bouncy makes it hard to pack a hit.
Karate has body throws and more punch utilization in its arsenal. This makes Karate a more versatile martial art than Taekwondo, which relies mainly on kicks and uses little to no punches.
Taekwondo focuses more on speed and mobility when it comes to throwing kicks. They also love the acrobatic style of kicks, such as all sorts of spinning and flying attacks.
When it comes to the fighting stance, Taekwondo has a wide, bouncy fighting stance which adds to their mobility during a fight. This also helps them snap their kicks better than simply standing.
Taekwondo doesn’t use throws during a match; they only do kicks and punches. Punches to the face are not allowed in training or competition; practitioners can only hit each other on the upper body.
Both martial arts shares a close copy of their wide, open-leg stance. They’re also known to throw a volume of kicks in one match.
Belt grading system
The universal belt order for Karate is white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, black, and red. Within these belts, colors are stripes you need to achieve to progress to the next color rank.
Despite having a universal rank system, many dojos have developed their own rank progressions based on the Karate style, such as Kenpo Karate, Shotokan, and more.
The typical belt progression in Taekwondo is white, yellow, orange, green, purple, blue brown, red, and black.
Taekwondo brown and the red belt have junior and senior levels. You’ll need to pass junior and senior brown belt to be a red belt.
Clothing & protective gear
Karate Gi closely resembles the Judo Gi because they have the same place of origin (Japan.) Karate also has a belt that signifies the rank of one practitioner.
Modern-day Karate athletes use protective gear during tournaments and sparring sessions to prevent unwanted injuries from happening.
Karate specialists use shin guards, body armor, headgear, Karate gloves, and groin guards to achieve maximum protection.
Taekwondo Gi can be easily exchanged for Karate Gi because it looks the same. It’s usually a plain white Gi with a v-neck collar.
Taekwondo athletes usually use shin guards, body armor, and head gears for sparring sessions. For tournament matches, they add Taekwondo gloves and a groin guard.
Competition and tournaments
You could win in a Karate match if you managed to gain a solid 8-point lead in the first 3 minutes of round 1.
If that happens, the opposing side will not have the chance to make up the lead because the fight will automatically end.
A knockout is also possible, and just like any other combat sport, a K.O will instantly end the fight.
If the match lasts 3 rounds, then the winner will be based on who has the more points. Head kicks and throws cost 3 points and 1 point for a body kick.
You can win a Taekwondo match via knockout or via decision. To win via decision, you must rack up as many points as possible up to the last second of the third round.
A clean head kick will give you 3 points, and a body kick is 1 point. A turning back kick to the body will give you 4 points; knocking your opponent down will also give you an additional score.
Both martial arts give 3 points to a head kick, but Taekwondo awards more points to successful turning kicks.
Is Karate or Taekwondo better for self defense?
Karate is better in self-defense compared to Taekwondo. Karate is more versatile because it uses more punches and throws in its move sets.
The availability of throws gave Karate a solid edge because putting your opponent down is the way to go in a street fight.
Relying mainly on kicks can get you quickly countered.
The Taekwondo stance usually has its hands down, leaving its face wide open for a punch.
Another thing that makes Karate better is it specializes more in power and strength on each shot. Taekwondo gives attention to flexibility, mobility, and speed; there’s still power but not as much as Karate.
Picking the right one to learn
If you’re looking for a martial art to learn as a pure hobby or for fitness, Taekwondo is a good choice for you. But if you want to learn a martial art for self-defense, go for Karate.
It’s safe to say that Taekwondo is a bit toned down compared to Karate. Karate is more brutal because it focuses more on power and strength within its kicks, punches, and throws.
Taekwondo teaches more about flexibility and speed than its kicks. It has more acrobatic spinning moves, so if you’re a fan of watching people do this, make it a reason to try Taekwondo.
Nonetheless, whichever you pick, it’s a win-win situation. Both are great martial arts with a rich cultural and artistic background you can learn for self-defense or just a fun summer hobby.