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

Adult Karate Class

Taekwondo vs Karate: a classic debate. Lots of people think they’re the same, but there are a few differences that will determine which is better for you and your martial arts goals. We’ll settle the debate and go over the differences between karate and taekwondo to help you make your own decision on which is better for you!


The Difference Between Taekwondo vs Karate

Adult Karate Classes in CarlsbadThe most basic difference between Taekwondo vs Karate is the matter of kicks and punches. Think of the shuto uchi, or the famous “karate chop” you’ve seen in movies – karate uses hand techniques primarily, and then kicking as a backup. Taekwondo is the exact opposite; it emphasizes kicking and uses hand combos as the backup. Taekwondo has more variety in the martial arts moves you can learn, including spinning and jumping kicks.


Origins of Taekwondo vs Karate

adult Karate ClassWhen you’re thinking about which one you want to study, it can be helpful to consider the origin. Karate started later, but has been popularized by modern culture. Meanwhile, taekwondo has been established for thousands of years. Karate, made most popular by Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, originated in Japan. It started around 500 years ago to, as the story goes, stop the use of weapons on the island of Okinawa and prevent war. The Japanese started using hand-to-hand combat to protect themselves instead of weapons and karate was born, hand-to-hand fighting. 


Taekwondo goes back quite a bit further to 50 B.C.E. in Korea. It’s all in the name; “tae” means kick, “kwon” means punch, and “do” means, well, doing things. So taekwondo means defending yourself with your whole body, known as the art of the foot and hand. Fun fact, when Japan overtook Korea in the 1900’s, the Japanese prohibited taekwondo. Japanese rebels practiced the martial arts form in secret, and they’re the ones who kept taekwondo alive to this day. It makes you think, is taekwondo better than karate?


Different Techniques Used

Adult Karate Classes in CarlsbadWhat is the difference between Taekwondo vs Karate? It’s the difference between the two halves 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 sans weaponry. There’s a greater focus on mental strength and stamina because one of your only forms of protection in a karate fight is your mind. Students in karate classes learn lots of hand techniques and combinations while keeping kicks on deck, if needed.


Karate is 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 the leg is the longest and strongest weapon on the body. Kicks in taekwondo are very powerful for striking your opponent. Students of taekwondo learn spin kicks and several different kicking combinations while using hand techniques as a backup. Taekwondo is perfect if your opponent is at a distance because you can utilize the length of your legs against them. So, is taekwondo the same as karate?


Competing in Taekwondo and Karate

Adult Karate ClassesBoth karate and taekwondo are not only practical and effective martial arts forms, but they also provide opportunities for competition and advancement that will challenge you to grow. They both require serious mental and physical strength and stamina just like other martial arts classes, which is why so many in Carlsbad enjoy the rewards of hard work paying off at belt ranking and in competition. There is a difference between taekwondo and karate competition rules. The rules of karate are a bit more involved, while the rules of taekwondo are more simple. Thus, is karate and taekwondo the same?


A karate student can strike the head, neck, face, chest, side, abdomen, and back. The judges in the competition have a list of criteria that need to be followed for the match to be considered a win, like good form, accurate distance, and good timing. Taekwondo, however, is a bit simpler. 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.


In all honesty, karate or taekwondo can both get you super fit and in shape very quickly. They’ll both teach you 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 Taekwondo vs Karate? We’ll show you in class, as the better one for self-defense is the one you do. Doing nothing will result in nothing! So come and try martial arts with our Kobayashi Studio of Martial Arts staff here in Carlsbad for yourself: you’ll love it!


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