Karate vs Taekwondo: Which Martial Arts Style is Better and Why

taekwondo and karate training

Karate vs taekwondo- one of the longest-standing debates in martial arts. A lot of people probably think they’re the same thing, but there are some key differences that will determine which is better for you and your martial arts goals. We’ll settle the debate and go over the differences between karate and taekwondo to guide you to make your own decision on which is better for you!

The Difference Between Karate and Taekwondo

karate and taekwondo in Brooklyn

The most basic difference in karate vs taekwondo is between your hands and your feet- punching vs kicking.

Think of the shuto uchi, or the famous “karate chop” you’ve seen in movies – karate uses hand techniques primarily, and then kicking as a backup.

Taekwondo is the exact opposite- it puts an emphasis on kicking and uses hand moves as the backup.

Taekwondo has more diversity in combos as well, like spinning and jumping kicks.

Origins of Karate and Taekwondo

karate and taekwondo classes in Brooklyn

When you’re thinking about which one you want to study, it can be helpful to consider the origin.

Karate started later but became a pop culture phenomenon, while taekwondo has been around for thousands of years.

Karate, made most popular by Mr. Miayagi in The Karate Kid, started in Japan.

It started around 500 years ago to, as the story goes, stop the use of weapons on the island of Okinawa so that the king could prevent war.

The Japanese started using hand-to-hand combat to protect themselves instead of weapons, and karate was born- hand-to-hand fighting.

Taekwondo goes back quite a bit further to 50 B.CE. in Korea. It’s all in the name- tae means kick, kwon means punch, and do means, well, doing things.

So taekwondo literally means practicing self defense with your whole body – it’s known as the art of the foot and hand.

Fun fact, when Japan overtook Korea in the 1900’s, the Japanese actually declared taekwondo totally illegal. Japanese renegades practiced the martial arts form in secret, and it’s thanks to them that we can still practice taekwondo today.

Different Techniques Used

martial arts techniques

So what is the difference between karate and taekwondo? It’s the difference between the two halves of your body- hands/arms and legs/feet.

Karate means empty hands, a nod to the fact that it’s a martial arts form relying heavily on the use of your hands without any weapons.

There’s a certain focus on stamina and mental strength because one of your only forms of protection in a karate fight is your mind. You’ll learn lots of hand techniques and combinations while keeping kicks on deck if needed.

Karate is best for when you’re close to an opponent and need that hand-to-hand combat advantage. Alternatively, taekwondo emphasizes the legs, chiefly because the leg is the longest and strongest weapon on the body.

Kicks in this martial art are very powerful for striking your opponent. You’ll learn spin kicks and a number of different kicking combinations while using hand techniques when necessary.

Taekwondo is perfect if your opponent is at a distance because you can leverage the length of your legs against them.

Competing in Taekwondo and Karate

martial arts competition

Both karate and taekwondo are not only practical and effective martial arts forms, they provide opportunities for competition and advancement that will challenge you to grow.

They both require serious mental and physical strength and stamina just like other martial arts classes, which is why so many in Brooklyn enjoy the rewards of hard work paying off at belt ranking and in competition.

There is a difference between taekwondo and karate competition rules. Karate rules are a bit more complex, while taekwondo rules are more straightforward.

A karate student can strike the head, neck, face, chest, side, abdomen, and back. The karate judges have a list of criteria that need to be followed in order for the match to be considered a win, like good form, accurate distance, and good timing.

Taekwondo competitions are more to-the-point. A taekwondo competitor gets 3 points for a kick to the head, 2 points for a spinning kick to the opponent’s torso, and one point for a basic attack on their torso.

Conclusion

So honestly, both of these martial arts styles will transform your body and get you fit fast. They’ll both teach you self defense skills that you can use to protect yourself and your loved ones. And they’ll both push you to achieve your goals and accomplish things you never thought you could do. So which is better, karate or taekwondo? We’ll show you in class, as the better one for self defense is the one YOU do. Doing nothing will result in nothing! So come and try martial arts with our Glory Martial Arts Center staff here in Brooklyn for yourself- you’ll LOVE it!

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