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Taekwondo vs. Karate: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 16, 2023
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art focusing on high kicks and jumping/spinning kicks, while karate is a Japanese martial art emphasizing hand strikes and a deep stance.

Key Differences

Taekwondo is a martial art that originated in Korea, with a history that dates back thousands of years. It places a strong emphasis on dynamic kicks, especially high kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques. The name "taekwondo" can be translated as "the way of foot and fist," underscoring its emphasis on both leg and hand techniques.
Karate, on the other hand, hails from Japan, and its roots can be traced to the indigenous martial arts of the Ryukyu Islands combined with Chinese influences. It focuses primarily on hand techniques, punches, strikes, and blocks, with a deep stance. The word "karate" translates to "empty hand," signaling its emphasis on unarmed combat.
While both taekwondo and karate teach discipline, self-control, and self-defense, their techniques and philosophies differ. Taekwondo often employs a more upright stance, while karate uses a deeper, more grounded stance. Additionally, taekwondo typically includes patterns called "poomsae" or "forms," while karate uses "kata" for its patterns.
Another distinction between taekwondo and karate is their approach to competition and sparring. Taekwondo sparring is generally full-contact with protective gear, with points awarded for controlled and accurate kicks and punches. In contrast, traditional karate sparring may be point-based with controlled contact, emphasizing technique and focus.
In essence, while both taekwondo and karate are respected martial arts, each with its own unique history, techniques, and philosophies, they offer different experiences to practitioners. Their emphasis on either kicks or hand strikes, their origins, and their approach to training make them distinct from one another.

Comparison Chart




High kicks, jumping and spinning kicks.
Hand strikes, punches, and deep stances.


Deep and grounded



Sparring Style

Full-contact with protective gear
Controlled contact with emphasis on technique

Taekwondo and Karate Definitions


Taekwondo means "the way of foot and fist."
Taekwondo students learn both hand and foot techniques.


Karate translates to "empty hand."
Karate techniques are executed without weapons.


Taekwondo is a Korean martial art.
He began practicing taekwondo at age seven.


Karate focuses on hand techniques.
The karate master showed a precise knife-hand strike.


Taekwondo emphasizes dynamic kicks.
The taekwondo athlete delivered a powerful roundhouse kick.


Karate uses patterns known as kata.
He practiced his karate kata daily.


Taekwondo has patterns called poomsae.
The black belt demonstrated an advanced taekwondo poomsae.


Karate is a Japanese martial art.
She has a black belt in karate.


Taekwondo promotes discipline and self-control.
Her taekwondo training helped her develop focus and perseverance.


Karate teaches both defense and offense.
Through karate, he learned how to block and counterattack effectively.


A martial arts form from Korea, known for its elaborate kicking techniques. The sparring aspect is a recognised Olympic sport.


A Japanese martial art in which sharp blows and kicks are administered to pressure-sensitive points on the body of an opponent.


An Okinawan martial art involving primarily punching and kicking, but additionally, advanced throws, arm bars, grappling and all means of fighting.


To attack (somebody or something) with karate or similar techniques.


A traditional Japanese system of unarmed combat; sharp blows and kicks are given to pressure-sensitive points on the body of the opponent.


A traditional Japanese system of unarmed combat; sharp blows and kicks are given to pressure-sensitive points on the body of the opponent


Which is better for improving physical fitness, taekwondo, or karate?

Both significantly improve fitness; taekwondo emphasizes agility and flexibility, karate focuses on strength and endurance.

What's the main difference between taekwondo and karate?

Taekwondo emphasizes high, fast kicks, while karate focuses on hand strikes and punches.

Do taekwondo and karate have belt ranking systems?

Yes, both martial arts use a colored belt system to signify students' ranks and progression.

Are there competitions for both taekwondo and karate?

Yes, both martial arts have local, national, and international competitions, with taekwondo being an Olympic sport.

Is taekwondo or karate more effective for self-defense?

Both are effective; taekwondo offers powerful kicks, karate provides strong hand strikes.

Are there weapons used in taekwondo or karate?

Traditionally, both are predominantly unarmed arts, but some karate styles incorporate weapon training.

Do taekwondo and karate require a uniform?

Yes, taekwondo practitioners wear a dobok, and karate practitioners wear a gi.

What are the mental benefits of practicing taekwondo or karate?

Both promote discipline, respect, patience, confidence, and stress relief.

Which is more popular worldwide, taekwondo or karate?

Both are popular globally, with millions of practitioners, but taekwondo has a higher profile due to its Olympic status.

Are there different styles within taekwondo and karate?

Yes, both martial arts have various styles that might emphasize different techniques or philosophies.

Do taekwondo and karate training involve breaking boards?

Yes, board breaking is practiced in both to demonstrate power and precision.

Can practicing taekwondo or karate help with managing aggression?

Definitely, both teach control, respect, and peaceful conflict resolution, helping to manage aggression.

Are taekwondo and karate suitable for children?

Yes, both offer children physical fitness, discipline, respect, and self-defense skills.

Is there a philosophical aspect to taekwondo and karate?

Yes, both emphasize moral development, discipline, and a peaceful, respectful ethos.

How often should one practice taekwondo or karate to progress?

Consistent practice is key; 2-3 times per week is recommended for both.

How long does it take to get a black belt in taekwondo or karate?

It varies, but generally, it takes several years of dedicated practice in both martial arts.

Can taekwondo and karate be learned at any age?

Absolutely, both martial arts welcome and benefit students of all ages.

Can taekwondo and karate be used in mixed martial arts (MMA)?

Yes, techniques from both are often integrated into MMA fighters' skill sets.

What's the significance of forms or patterns in taekwondo and karate?

Forms (poomsae in taekwondo, kata in karate) help practitioners master movements, breathing, and focus.

Is sparring part of both taekwondo and karate training?

Yes, sparring is essential in both for practical application of techniques and combat simulation.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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