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Taekwondo vs Karate

Last Updated: 04.07.22


While these martial arts have certain differences between them, they also have certain similarities. For a start, practicing on Century punching bags is a good idea for either of these sports. Practicing martial arts isn’t just a hobby. It can become a lifestyle without you even realizing it. Without further ado, here are the essentials of taekwondo vs karate.


Basic introduction

Throughout the years, it has been proven that martial arts offer both physical and mental health benefits. The main goal of practicing martial arts is to learn self-defense, yet it also offers a full physical workout, improves balance, and refreshes your mind as it allows your respiratory system to train itself as you’re working out.

Both taekwondo and karate are so popular amongst the many forms of martial arts that they’re also Olympic Sports. Taekwondo was added to the Olympics in 2000, whilst karate was supposed to be added in the 2022 Tokyo Olympics, which has been postponed to a later date. Nevertheless, the sport will be added whenever the edition takes place.

The similarities

First and foremost, both taekwondo and karate start by teaching you fundamental rules and basic moves. They both go by the philosophy that violence isn’t the answer and that the moves you will learn should be used solely for self-defense. You’ll learn a basic stance from which the rest of the moves will originate.

Throughout the training, at some point, you will also learn that keeping these stances more than necessary won’t help you out in a real fight, but they’re essential for training. And you’ll also need to learn to switch from one move to another quickly to enjoy their full effectiveness. Otherwise, you won’t be able to strike opponents with force.


A short history of karate

Martial arts have been around for millennia, but the first recorded origins of karate start about 500 years ago in Okinawa, a Japanese island. While no written evidence exists of this, many researchers believe that karate originated when King Shoha banned weapons on the island. Why would he do that, though? To prevent war, as the tale goes.

Because people were left totally defenseless, they started practicing hand-to-hand combat to be able to defend themselves in case of robberies, invasions, or other dangers. It is said that karate has both Chinese and Japanese influences since the two cultures clashed with each other during the time of King Shoha’s rule.

Funakoshi Gichin is the first ever recorded karate master. He was born in 1868 and dedicated his entire life to spreading this martial art to the entire Japanese region. And his efforts paid off, as a few of his followers founded the Japan Karate Association in 1949 after his death. Their purpose was to continue spreading the popularity of this now world-famous martial art.

But even before the Japan Karate Association was started, the first karate dojo opened its doors in the USA in 1945, right after World War II. From there, karate gained enormous popularity throughout the world. And it even branched off into several sub-genres of martial arts. Just to name a few of the most popular right now: Gōju-ryū, Shitō-ryū, and Shotokan.


A short history of taekwondo

Just like karate, taekwondo also originates from millennia of martial arts wisdom. However, unlike karate, taekwondo has some recordings that date back even before our era, more specifically around 50 B.C.E. in Korea. Taekwondo is derived from two words – “tae”, which means to kick, and “kwon”, which means to punch – or destroy with a fist, in literal translation.

Taekwondo practitioners have experienced some oppression throughout the years, just like falun gong adepts are currently experiencing in China. During the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 1900s, taekwondo was banned, and people would have to practice in secrecy if they didn’t want to be persecuted by their oppressors.

Others traveled to learn martial arts in China or Japan. And because of all the influences from judo, karate, and kung fu, taekwondo branched off into different styles, just like karate did before it. Kwan, the first taekwondo school in Korea after the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945, began spreading the now-famed martial art throughout the country.

Taekwondo as we know it today originated in 1955 when several masters gathered around for a meeting regarding this martial art. The result? They managed to merge all the different styles into a more concentrated, more fluid style of taekwondo that is now taught all around the world.


The differences between taekwondo and karate

Karate uses hand attacks more, while the feet stay mostly grounded, as kicks are only resorted to as a back-up move. Taekwondo is the exact opposite in this sense, as you will be using your feet to kick, jump, and spin a lot more, while your hands will mainly be used as back-up weapons. 

Common to both is that they offer a full-body workout and they teach you discipline and patience. In pop culture, karate’s most popular style is the shuto uchi, more commonly referred to as the karate chop. Movies like Karate Kid have propelled this style toward a mainstream audience, who now basically confuse it with the only style available in karate.

Taekwondo uses a different stance that allows the person to be ready to kick at lightning-fast speeds. If you want to learn taekwondo, be prepared to do some spinning and exercise your legs more than you did your entire life.

Promotions and ranking

You’ve probably heard the term “black belt” used when referring to karate champions quite often. That’s because the black belt is the highest possible ranking that one can achieve. Unlike football, karate ranks aren’t necessarily measured through matches that you’ve won, but by technical achievements. The better you get at doing certain moves, the higher up you’ll get.

A panel of judges evaluates the student’s techniques, mental discipline, movement, and other aspects. Karate development can continue throughout a practitioner’s almost entire lifetime. Many people aspire to reach the tenth level of the blackbelt, Ju-Dan, but few are able to achieve this. Most will probably stick to the first levels of black belt, or even to the pre-black belt levels.

Taekwondo, on the other hand, only has three separate levels of preparedness: junior, senior (or student, depending on the dojo), and instructor. Juniors can be easily identified because they wear belts of different colors. 

Students or seniors can be identified through a white belt and the instructors often have black belts with different types of patterns, Roman numerals, and other distinguishing symbols. While getting from junior to senior is fairly easy, advancing to instructor level is a challenging endeavor.

Just like with karate, you will be judged by a panel of judges based on your skills, endurance, ability to break boards, sparring, and self-defense, among other things. The promotion can take several years, and it is an arduous trial. You only get promoted after practicing a certain rank for a couple of years depending on the rank’s difficulty.

Could you do it? Don’t be ashamed if you think the answer is no. If you’re curious, it doesn’t hurt to try. No one will force you to stay and practice the sport for years. You can leave whenever you want.


Final thoughts

Both of these martial arts are hard sports to practice and master. While getting basic self-defense lessons will suffice for most people, some may dedicate their entire lives to mastering either of these sports. Both karate and taekwondo are worth admiring, and the mental agility behind them is a true phenomenon of nature to behold.

While other martial arts are worthy of praise, there’s something truly special about karate and taekwondo that has propelled them both to Olympic Games status. Even those who are not familiar with martial arts, in general, could probably recognize the two sports without much prior knowledge.

In any case, whichever ones you want to practice, we wish you the best of luck in finding the right dojo in your area and get the proper training. Don’t forget to also check out our site for other products that will aid you in your classes, such as mats, boxing bags, and wrapping gloves.




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