Karate VS. MMA: Which Is Better?

There are plenty of martial arts and combat sports to learn, all with their different systems and moves. Two of the most popular forms are karate and MMA (mixed martial arts).

However, some people wonder what the difference between them is, and which is better overall. So, which is?

Karate VS. MMA: Which Is Better?

Well, we’ve got the answers! In our handy guide below, you’ll find out the key differences between karate and MMA, and get an idea of which of the two martial art forms is better.

Karate VS. MMA – What Are They?

To begin with, we need to have a look at defining what both of these are, so that you can first begin to understand the differences. 

Karate is one of the most respected and practiced martial arts in the world, with a wide variety of different styles to try within it.

Generally speaking, karate focuses on using a combination of strikes from your hands and legs, with occasional use of the knee and elbow in some variations.

Rather than focus too much on violence and fighting, the disciplines of karate are more to do with competition – it’s a self defense sport. Though it started in the 1300s, karate became widely popular in the 1900s after evolving a lot. 

On the other hand, MMA favors the use of not only strikes, but also ground fighting and grappling techniques.

It’s more of a cobart sport, and practitioners of it will need to be skilled in multiple different martial arts (hence the name!), from which it takes its varied list of moves.

These martial arts are: wrestling, boxing, BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the main form of Jiu Jitsu), and Muay Thai. 

Immediately, you can see a few key differences emerging. We’re going to go into the major contrasts in more detail now. 

Techniques And Moves

As we’ve mentioned, MMA takes its moves and techniques from a wide variety of other martial arts – a “mixture”. They are largely to do with striking and grappling, but also provide moves from the ground too.

From wrestling, MMA users take inspiration from its use of takedowns and control, while boxing has inspired the way they move their upper bodies and how they move their feet – as well as punching and defense. 

Muay Thai, meanwhile, uses very advanced kicking, which MMA has borrowed from. As for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA takes its moves that help to finish the opponent off – things like choking, ground positioning, and so on. 

When it comes to karate, the moves and techniques are wildly different. Besides a few similar strikes, the sport is completely non-identical. Though the styles vary, many share a focus on punches and kicks.

There is a good range of different punches, such as the hook and jab, while kicks come in all styles – front, jumping, roundhouse, and more.

On top of that, most karate types share similar techniques for blocking hits, as well as promoting the use of your elbow in self-defense too in a number of angles. 


Since MMA is the more combative type of sport, it favors all around strength a lot more than karate. MMA requires that you strike the opponent with a lot of force, as well be able to grapple them about and control them that way.

For this, you need to increase your muscle mass, with great strength training. 

Karate, on the other hand, is not so much about muscle mass. Instead, the best karate practitioners will have power in their lower and upper body, rather than muscle all over.

It’s a sport more about defense and movement, as well as demonstrating fine technique. 


The rules that MMA matches will follow can differ, but they are generally the same all over. The competitions take place in boxing rings or cages, while judges score them. Speaking of scoring, a match is won in a few different ways.

The opponent can submit or be knocked out, a fighter can be disqualified, or the judges can rule on decision. Overall, non-title fights have 3 rounds to them, while titles have 5. 

When it comes to karate, the rules also differ across all the different styles. If we examine the rules for karate when it’s played in competition at the Olympic Games, then the karate practitioners have to score 8 points to win.

They do this by scoring set numbers for specific moves – for example, a strike to the torso will net you 1 point. Matches are only 3 minutes long, so they have to be quick about it. On top of that, full force can’t be used. 


This is a pretty clear difference if you’ve ever watched a match of either sport. MMA fighters only wear shorts and gloves, with a few little extras, while karate students must wear the Gi (the karate uniform) and the corresponding belt for their skill level.

This strict idea of a uniform goes with the overall ethos of karate: it’s not combative and violent, more a sport to show pride and technique. Dressing properly is part of the pride. 


Since MMA is more violent and has a lot more movements to it, it takes a lot longer to master and is more difficult to practice. With all its moves, a student will need to learn to wrestle and strike, as well as how to control and fight on the ground. 

Karate, by contrast, has a smaller range of techniques to master. On top of that, it favors self-defense, and therefore there is little risk of getting injured. 

Final Thoughts

While the combat-heavy MMA has a wider range of moves to it, from many other martial arts, karate is more a demonstration of technique and art. Whichever of them is best is really up to what you’re looking for in a martial art!

Christopher Anderson
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