Difference between Tai Chi and Karate

Key difference: Tai Chi is Chinese origin martial arts, which is also practiced for gaining meditation and stabilization the mind, whereas Karate is a modern Japanese martial art form which is practiced for sports and self-defense. 

Tai Chi was originated in China. It was influenced from the Taoist and Buddhist monasteries. It generally focuses on the slow meditation along with the martial art form. It is practiced in both ways, for defense as well as for maintaining health. The term means "supreme ultimate fist", "boundless fist", "supreme ultimate boxing" or "great extremes boxing". Tai Chi movements emphasize the importance of weight transference, which helps in balance and prevents falls. The actions in the martial art are entirely dependent on the opponent’s action and move. The Tai Chi principles were developed in terms of being sensitive to and responsive of another person's 'chi' or vital energy. Some of the Tai chi forms are practiced as slow movement. The entire study of t'ai chi ch'uan primarily involves three aspects:

  • Health
  • Meditation
  • Martial arts

Karate is a well known Japanese form of martial art, which comprises of sharp and crisp actions. Nowadays, it is practiced more from a sport point of view. Okinawan is the birth place of modern karate, and it was in 1922. It is one of the most dynamic forms of martial arts. Its physical aspect relies on the development of defensive and counter attacking body moves and actions. In Karate, the practitioner never attacks first. It is a striking art form that uses punches, kicks, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques. In some forms or styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints, and vital point strikes are also used. 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 cause very high impact. Karate practice is divided into:

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

Comparison between Tai Chi and Karate:


Tai Chi


Short descriptions

T'ai chi is a Chinese system of slow meditative physical exercise designed for relaxation and balance and health.

Karate is a form of unarmed Japanese martial art developed from fighting methods.




Also known as

"T'ai Chi Ch'uan" or Taijiquan


The word meanings

The word T'ai chi ch'uan / Taijiquan are formed by the combination of three hanzi:

(Hanzi – Wade-Giles / Pinyin – Meaning)

  • T'ai / Tai – supreme, grand, great
  • Chi / Ji – ultimate, extreme
  • Ch'uan / Quan – fist, boxing

The word karate is a combination of two kanji (Chinese characters):

  • Kara- empty
  • Te- hand

Thus, karate means "empty hand."


It is a soft type of martial art.

It is a hard martial art technique.

They are

It is martial and meditative exercise form of art.

It is a pure self defense martial art form.

Associated with

It is associated with the internal meditations.

It is not associated with the internal meditations.


Same as they wear in Kung Fu.

Gi with patches.

Attacks are

Here, the movements come from majority of weight on one foot.

Here, the attacks and movements are aggressive and are not neutralized.

Image Courtesy: taijionmaui.com, karategb.com 

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