Difference between Karate and Martial Arts

Key difference: Karate is an individual Japanese martial art form, whereas, Martial Arts in general comprises of all the forms of martial art and combat sports which have origins from China, Japan and Korea. In simple terms, Karate is one of the forms of Martial Arts.

Karate and martial arts are more often considered to be the same, but it is not like that; the below article will guide and reflect the differences between the two.

Karate is a well known form of Martial Arts, which is highly effective for self defense exercises. The modern day Karate was originated in Okinawa, a place in Japan. The word karate is a combination of two Japanese characters: kara, meaning empty, and te, meaning hand; thus, karate means "empty hand." Adding the suffix "-do" (pronounced "doe"), meaning "way," i.e., karate-do, implies karate as a total way of life.

This martial art comprises of sharp, precise and linear actions and movements, which are totally based on the hand movements. In karate, the body and hands especially are made too hard and tough in order to withstand and break any hard objects. The basic principles of Karate are based on enhancing the health benefits and to make the body iron-like or as hard as rock. Its traditional themes work on the disciplines of dedicated training, fighting and self-defense techniques. It is a striking art form that uses punches, kicks, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques. It is one of the most dynamic forms of martial arts. In Karate, the practitioners use a series of ‘kata’ or ‘postures’ which can be offensive and defensive, and they learn to focus their power in punches and kicks which are designed to be of very high impact. In the other forms or styles, grappling, throwing, joint-locking, restraints, and vital point strikes are also used and applied. Today, the art form is privileged and practiced all over the world.

Martial Art is a broad term which classifies the general form of arts which have their origin belonging to the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean along with some other Asian countries. It is a term which means War Art or Fighting Art. These were practiced for, self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness purposes. The term, Martial Art was usually used to refer to the European sports perspective in the 1550s. It is derived from the Latin word which simply means as arts of Mars," where Mars is the Roman god of war.

Martial arts were developed in different countries, according to their traditions and cultures. Today it is a vast branch which includes the modern as well as the traditional forms of arts and combat sports. Sport forms, like judo, karate, taekwondo and kendo, which have their origins from Japan, Korea and China are a part of this branch. There are varieties of teachings like self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development which are taught and gained from martial art forms. The action comprises of the hand and foot movements, kicks, blocks, and punches. The martial arts students increase their physical strength and mental toughness. Each form of martial art is a different and distinctive study of action, every art form helps an individual to maintain and stabilize oneself. The study of any Martial Art requires a sheer dedication, and hard work towards the practice. Its regular implementation keeps the body stable, fit and fine. Now, in order to classify the term more prominently and specify the categories properly there is also a type known as Mixed Martial Art (MMA) included under the branch.

Comparison between Karate and Martial Arts:



Martial Arts

Short description

Karate is an oriental system of unarmed combat using the hands and feet to deliver and block blows, widely practised as a sport.

Martial arts are various sports, which originated chiefly in Japan, Korea, and China as forms of self-defense or attack, such as judo, karate, and kendo.

Art forms included of Origin


China, Japan and Korea.


Karate is one form of Martial Arts.

Martial arts as a whole comprises of:

  • Karate
  • Judo
  • Taekwondo
  • Kickboxing
  • Hapkido



It is generally practice for self-defense purpose.

They are practiced for self-defense, general health and fitness also in the form of exercise, meditation and from all perspectives.

They are

It is martial art from in general, but practiced mostly from sports point of view.

They comprises of martial arts as well as of combat sports form.


Karate is a hard type of martial art form.

They comprises of both soft (for example Aikido) and hard (for example Kickboxing) types of martial art form.

Main components

The Karate practices are divided into:

  • Kihon (drilling of stances, blocks, punches, strikes and kicks)
  • Kata (pre-arranged forms simulating combat situations)
  • Kumite (sparring)

Martial Arts can be categorized under five distinct types:

  • Stand-up or Striking Styles
  • Grappling Styles
  • Low Impact Styles
  • Weapons Based Styles
  • Mixed Martial Arts (MMA, a Hybrid Sports Style)


  • Arm Techniques
  • Foot Techniques
  • Foot Movements
  • Stances
  • Blocking Techniques

They include all the forms of techniques of all the respective Martial Art forms and combat sports.

Participation of Olympics

They are not included in Olympics

Some, for example: Judo, Taekwondo, etc. are a part of Olympics, while other like Aikido, Hapkido, etc. are not part of Olympics.

Some Associations and Federations

  • Karate Federation
  • International Karate Assoc.
  • WKF World Karate Federation
  • World Taekwondo Federation (WTF)
  • WKF World Karate Federation
  • nternational Kung Fu Federation (IKF)

Image Courtesy: blitzsport.com, aaamartialartssupplies.com.au

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