Karate vs taekwondo- a classic debate. Lots of people think they’re the same, but there are a few differences that will determine which is better for you and your self-defense goals. We’ll settle this classic debate and go over the differences between karate and taekwondo to empower you to make your own decision on which is better for you!
The Difference Between Karate and Taekwondo
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 is more of an occasional thing.
Taekwondo is the exact opposite- it emphasizes kicking and uses hand moves as the backup. Taekwondo is also more diverse with the moves you can master, including spinning and jumping kicks.
Origins of Karate and Taekwondo
When picking which self-defense you want to study, it can be helpful to consider the origin. Karate started later but has been popularized by modern culture, while taekwondo has been around for thousands of years. Even though Mr. Miyagi made karate famous in our pop culture, it originated in Japan. It started around 500 years ago to, as the story goes, stop the use of weapons on the island of Okinawa to 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 even further to 50 B.CE. in Korea. It’s all in the name- tae means kick, Kwon means to punch, and do means, well, doing things. So taekwondo means practicing self-defense with your entire body – it’s known as the art of the foot and hand.
Fun fact, when Japan overtook Korea in the 1900s, the Japanese declared taekwondo illegal. Japanese renegades practiced the martial arts form in secret, and it’s because of them that we can even practice taekwondo today.
Different Techniques Used
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 weapons of any kind. Karate emphasizes mental strength and stamina, then, 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. It’s a good fit for when you’re close to an opponent and need that hand-to-hand combat advantage.
Alternatively, taekwondo focuses on the legs, chiefly because your leg is the strongest (and longest!) weapon you have on your body. Kicks in this martial art are very powerful for striking your opponent. Students of taekwondo learn spin kicks and several different kicking combinations while using hand techniques when necessary. Taekwondo has more effectiveness at a distance because you can leverage the length of your legs against your opponent.
Competing in Taekwondo and Karate
Both karate and taekwondo are not only practical and effective martial arts forms, but they also 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 Sacramento enjoy the rewards of hard work paying off at belt ranking and in competition.
There is a difference between taekwondo and karate competition rules. The rules of karate are a bit more involved, while the rules of taekwondo are more simple. 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 for the match to be considered a win, like good form, accurate distance, and good timing. Taekwondo, however, is a bit more straightforward. 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.
So honestly, both of these martial arts styles will transform your body and get you fit fast. They’ll both teach you practical self-defense that you can use to defend yourself against an attacker. 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? Honestly, the best one for self-defense is the one you take the initiative to do. Doing nothing will result in nothing! So come and try martial arts with our iYa Taekwondo staff here in Sacramento for yourself- you’ll love it! Free Trial Here!