What Is The Difference Between Karate And Taekwondo? (Beginner’s Guide)

Taking up a martial art is a great new hobby and sport to partake in and will give you a variety of mental and physical benefits if you persist.

What Is The Difference Between Karate And Taekwondo?

You will learn some key self-defense skills as well as giving your entire body an aerobic workout. Martial arts also help in building muscle mass and making you more balanced.

If you do not like the idea of a standard work out schedule, taking up a martial art is a great alternative with plenty of motivation to keep trying.

But with this concept of taking up a martial art, there is then the often overwhelming choice of deciding which martial art will be right for you.

Two of the most globally available martial arts to learn due to their widespread popularity are karate and taekwondo.

Due to their surge in popularity worldwide in the past few decades they are both now officially recognized Olympic sports. 

Many people overlook the differences between these two sports and will simply choose the one which easier to access depending on where they live.

However there are many differences that make choosing between them quite an important decision.

The Difference Between Karate And Taekwondo

To simplify the differences between these two martial arts, in karate your legs will mostly stay grounded and kicks will only be used as a backup, while in taekwondo there is more of a focus on jumping, kicking, and spinning and instead hands are the backup.

However, both will have a focus on improving your patience and discipline and will give an effective full body workout.

Another similarity is that they will both start you from a beginners perspective and will build you up from the foundations of basic moves and then moving onto more advanced moves.

Each of these martial arts have important stances that make punching, kicking, and blocking more effective and you will be taught these slowly to make sure you master them.

Stances are used as a tool to improve technique while training and when actual fights occur, moving between these stances is what will create an effective fighting technique.

While this has given an overview on some of the differences and similarities between karate and taekwondo, going more in depth on each sport will help you in deciding which is better suited for you!


Karate gained widespread popularity for its presence in pop culture with a specific focus on ‘shoto uchi’ more commonly known as a karate chop. Karate focuses on techniques that use the hands and kicks are saved as a back-up.

Karate originated around 500 years ago and can be traced back to the island of Okinawa in Japan.

There is very little written evidence of this early history but it has been passed down that a King Shoha who ruled banned weapons to stop any war occurring.

Because of this the people of the island began using hand combat to defends themselves instead.

Karate has clear influence from both Japanese and Chinese culture as both of these countries were often exposed to eachother being neighbors.

The earliest recognized karate master from Okinawa is known as Funakoshi Gichin and he was born all the way back in 1868.

He dedicated himself to spreading the teachings of karate all over Japan and his followers ended up forming the Japan Karate Association in 1949 which was used to promote this style of martial arts.

Just before this the first karate dojo was opened in the US in 1945 and soon after this karate started gaining traction worldwide leading to many different styles developing.

Because of this there are many different styles still forming and evolving but some of the most common and popular styles are; shitō-ryū, shotokan, gōju-ryū, and wadō-ryū.


In comparison to karate, taekwondo uses a lot more kicks and instead punches and hand techniques are relegated to back-up.

If you learn taekwondo you will learn many different kicking moved that have a focus on spinning as well as jumping that makes it very distinct from karate.

Because karate mainly uses hand techniques it is important to stay grounded, but the inverse is true for taekwondo as the body needs to be prepared for fast and effective kicking attacks.

Similarly to karate, taekwondo has ancient history with the first records of the martial arts style being from 50 BCE within Korea.

‘Tae’ means kick, ‘kwon’ means punch, and ‘do’ is the way something is done. Taekwondo means the way to use your whole body to defend yourself. 

Japan ended up occupying Korea in the earlier parts of the 1900s and in this time the Japanese occupiers banned any Korean military arts. While this stopped many, many continued in secret and many others moved to Japan or China to learn.

Judo, Kung-Fu, and Karate were all introduced within Korea and this ended up giving taekwondo many differing styles from these influences.

By the time Japanese occupation finished in 1945 a taekwondo school named Kwan opened in Korea.

Modern taekwondo started in 1955 when the masters from Kwan held a conference and merged their different styles to make a uniform style of taekwondo that made it easier to teach and learn the martial art. 


Both of these martial arts have specific rules to follow when competing and points are usually allocated by judges to show how well the arts are executed. Karate gives similar points for punches and kicks while taekwondo scores kicks significantly higher. 


So as you can see from this article, both of these martial arts have similarities in how they focus on discipline and will give you a good full body exercise.

However, they both have distinct histories that make the process of learning them significantly unique.

If you enjoy the idea of staying grounded and using punches, go for karate, and if the idea of spins, kicks, and jumps appeals to you, then taekwondo is the way to go!

Christopher Anderson
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