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

Karate and taekwondo classes

Karate vs taekwondo- which do you choose? The majority of people assume they’re the same thing, 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

Karate Girl Boy With Black Belts, Gracie Largo Jiu Jitsu

The most basic difference in karate vs taekwondo is the difference between kicking and punching.

Think of the shuto uchi, or the famous “karate chop” you’ve seen in every ninja movie – karate uses hand combos primarily, and then kicking is a backup.

Taekwondo is the exact opposite- it emphasizes kicking and uses hand combos as the backup. Taekwondo is also more diverse with the moves you can master, including spinning and jumping kicks.

Origins of Karate and Taekwondo

Image, Gracie Largo Jiu Jitsu

When you think about which martial arts classes you want to take, it can be helpful to consider the origin.

Karate started later but has been popularized by modern culture, while taekwondo has been practiced for thousands of years. Karate, made most popular by Mr. Miayagi in The Karate Kid, was first practiced in Japan.

It started around 500 years ago to, as the story goes, stop the use of weapons on the island of Okinawa in order to prevent war. Japanese warriors started fighting with their hands instead of weapons to protect themselves, 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 defending yourself with your entire body – it’s known as the art of the foot and hand.

Interestingly, when Japan took over Korea in the 1900’s, the Japanese actually declared taekwondo totally illegal. Japanese rebels practiced the martial arts form in secret, and they’re the ones that kept taekwondo alive to this day.

Different Techniques Used

Image2, Gracie Largo Jiu Jitsu

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

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

There’s a greater focus on mental strength and stamina because one of your only forms of protection when practicing is your mind. Karate students 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. On the other hand, taekwondo emphasizes 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 in taekwondo classes learn spin kicks and a number of different kicking combinations while using hand techniques if necessary.

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

Competing in Taekwondo and Karate

Taekwondo, Gracie Largo Jiu Jitsu

Both karate and taekwondo are not only practical and effective martial arts forms, but they also provide opportunities for competition and advancement that encourage serious growth in their students.

They both require serious mental and physical strength and stamina just like other martial arts classes, which is why hundreds of students in Largo enjoy the rewards of all their hard work being recognized at belt ranking and in competition.

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

In a karate competition, you can strike to the head, neck, face, chest, side, abdomen, and back. The judges in the competition 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, however, is a bit more straightforward. In a taekwondo competition, a student 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

To be honest, karate or taekwondo can both get you super fit and in shape really quickly. They’ll both teach you the practical self defense that you can use to defend yourself against an attacker. And they’ll both push you to achieve a ton and accomplish things you never thought you could do. So which is better, karate or taekwondo? Well, 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 Gracie Largo Jiu Jitsu staff here in Largo for yourself- you’ll LOVE it!

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