Karate Vs Taekwondo – Which Martial Art?


Many people are still baffled by the differences between various martial art forms to this day. A perfect example of this is the Karate vs Taekwondo debate. A significant number of people are actually convinced that these two forms are one and the same. It’s time to shed some light on the topic and clarify the similarities and differences between the two.

Karate vs Taekwondo: The Differences

History and Origin

Karate and Taekwondo are both Asian martial arts in respect to the origin. Karate was born in Japan some 2000 years ago and was founded by Buddhist monks who came to the country at the time (in the Ryukyu Islands, now known as Okinawa). The word “Karate” means empty hands – this is showcased with justice through the martial art’s system of fighting and self-defense that relies majorly on the efficient use of a fighter’s unarmed body.

Taekwondo, on the other hand, traces its roots from the country of Korea, at around the same era as Karate first came into existence. Taekwondo was created through the union of different cultural influences which came from the three kingdoms (Silla, Baekje, and Goguryeo) ruling over Korea during the time. The word “Tae” denotes the act of destroying using one’s feet. “Kwon” denotes the act of striking or smashing using one’s hands. “Do” denotes the path or way. Put together, Taekwondo (or Tae Kwon Do) translates to “the way of the foot and the fist.” Since the birth of Taekwondo, many modifications have been made to its technique, paving the way to a more evolved and systematic martial art.

Movement and Power

Karate utilizes different body parts to strike an opponent during combat. These methodical patterns of attack include the use of hands, elbows, feet, and knees. The unique thing about Karate is that every single motion is predetermined, as in a series of steps of a dance. Each move flows through space using angular and repetitive movements. Open-handed movements are common in Karate, executed through punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. The striking is sharp, crisp, and linear at the same time. To an audience, the execution may seem like a well-rehearsed routine because of the precision is shown. In trying to disarm or counter the attacks of the opponent, blocking techniques such as parries and takedowns are usually manifested by Karate fighters.

While Taekwondo also focuses on striking movements, the technique calls  for a certain degree of priority in being able to kick the opponent’s head whenever the opportunity presents itself. Taekwondo fighters make use of both power and torque that can be generated from the lower body, as this is significantly stronger than the power that can be generated by the upper body. In doing so, relative stability must be maintained. Like Karate, takedowns and parries are also utilized, although a greater focus is given to the execution of effective kicks against the opponent.

In comparing Karate vs Taekwondo, the latter has fewer restrictions in terms of traditional and calculated movements and makes up for this using naturally occurring reactions and reflexes in response to the opponent’s move or to a certain situation.

Olympic Sports

To this day, Karate has not been recognized as an official sport in the Olympics. Taekwondo, on the other hand, has been ever since the year 1988 where the games were hosted by its country of origin – in Seoul, South Korea.

Karate vs Taekwondo: The Similarities

Although the difference between the two fighting styles is now cleared, we cannot put aside the similarities between the two (which have been the cause of confusion in many people over the years).

Proper Clothing

Both Karate and Taekwondo fighters and trainees are required to put on the accepted fighting clothing. In Karate, a Japanese Karate gi is necessary, while in Taekwondo, participants are expected to wear their respective uniforms.

Self Defense

These two martial arts are both designed as a means for someone to defend himself/herself in the absence of weapons. Both arts utilize nothing more than the natural power and striking facets that are innate in the human mind and body. These have been improved and honed over many decades and centuries to become the fighting styles as we know them today.

Which Martial Art is Better?

After knowing the similarities and differences, which martial art wins in the battle of Karate vs Taekwondo?

Each of these two martial arts makes use of its own set of principles and guidelines that make it unique from the others. No one martial art is more dominant than the other. For a person to know which one is right for him/her, actual experience coupled with consideration of the core values and principles of the art will help make the choice a whole lot clearer.

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