Difference between Karate and MMA

Key difference: A differentiating factor between Karate and MMA is that Karate is one form of martial arts that developed in Japan, while MMA is a combination of several martial arts, including Karate.  

Karate is a term that is derived from the amalgamation of two words: ‘kara’ and ‘te’. Kara means empty and te means hand, both of them put together, i.e. karate essentially means “empty hand”. Further, if the suffix ‘do’ (pronounced as doe) which means “way” is added to this term, then the formed word, i.e. karate-do implies “a total way of life”. This is exactly the stature that karate has gone on to achieve, as people all over the world practice and preach it. People of all genders, ages, nationalities, etc. have recognized karate, and have taken to it as a widely accepted and privileged martial art form.

Having its origin in Okinawa, Japan, karate involves sharp and precise movements that heavily rely upon a person’s hand-eye coordination. A basic principle of karate is to make one’s body steel hard, so as to tolerate the impact of objects like bricks, wood, etc., and possibly go on to break them as well. Self-defense, combat, and physical training are some of the inherent values of karate. Karate is one of the most energetic forms of martial arts in the world today, with a variety of striking techniques such as punches, kicks, knee strikes, elbow strikes, etc. In many sub-forms of karate, techniques of grappling, throwing, joint-locking, restraints, etc. are also taught and implemented.

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. As the name suggests MMA comprises the blend of many martial art forms such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, etc. The origin of MMA dates back to the eras of the Greeks and the Romans. The sport of MMA also has its roots in the Greco-Roman style of wrestling. In the 20th century, the credit of popularizing the multiple martial arts concept goes to Bruce Lee, the Chinese martial artist/actor, of Enter the Dragon fame. As of today, MMA is a popular combat sport that is followed and practiced all over the world.

It is basically a full contact sport that involves two opponents fighting against each other, under the supervision of a referee. Like any other sport, this sport too has rules of its own, which when not adhered to, can attract penalties or punishments for foul play. With a blend of striking and grappling techniques, this sport is supposed to be played while standing and being on the ground as well. The objective of MMA is to knockout one’s opponent, for which the “no mercy” style of MMA is very popular. MMA is also known as cage fighting or ultimate fighting, as the players are required to go at each other in a cage, in a no holds barred fashion. The sport is gaining constant popularity through mediums like pay-per-view and professional wrestling.

Comparison between Karate and MMA:






Ancient Greek and Roman eras

Forms of martial arts included

Only one: Karate itself

Several: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, etc.

Olympic Sport




Full contact, Semi contact, Light contact

Full contact only


Open air

In a cage



Various, such as grappling, striking, throwing, etc.

Bare fighting


Yes, also with “no mercy” style

Image Courtesy: focusedfitnessdojo.com, nytimes.com

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