Difference between Taekwondo and Karate

Key difference: The two martial art forms differ in their origins. Taekwondo is a modern Korean martial art and a combat sport, whereas, Karate is a Japanese martial art form, generally practiced from sports perspective.

Taekwondo was originated in South Korea; it was one of the military art forms, generally practiced for self-defense. It is also one of the modern combat sports in Korean countries, and is practiced nearly all over the world. Its origin was found some two thousand year ago, and was originated during the three rival kingdoms rule in 37 BC - 668 AD. Its training is associated unarmed combat techniques in order to develop strength, speed, and survival skills. It is said to be "The art of Kicking and Punching" or "The art of unarmed combat".

The term “Taekwondo” is derived from the Korean words:

"Tae"- foot

"Kwon"- fist and

"Do - way of

Taekwondo is a famous combat sport and a martial art form. It is known for its kicking techniques. In Teakwondo, the legs play a vital role in the actions and attacks. The martial artistes have long and strong legs, which act as a weapon at the time of attacks and kicks. Thus, the legs have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes without successful retaliation. Physically, Taekwondo is known to develop strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina. The traditional Taekwondo, typically relies upon the martial art forms, which were established in the 1950s and 1960s in the South Korean military. It was also practiced in various civilian organizations, including schools and universities. The modern Taekwondo two main styles; its one style is practiced by International Taekwon-Do adherents and the other is derived from Kukkiwon, the source of the sparring system sihap gyeorugi. The four disciplines followed in Taekwondo are:

  • Patterns
  • Sparring
  • Self-defence
  • Breaktest

Karate is an evolutionary martial art form, originated in Japan. It had started some two thousand years ago in the fifth century BC. Karate was developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom. Okinawan is the birthplace of modern karate, and it was introduced to Japan in 1922. The basic principles of Karate are based on enhancing the health benefits and to make the body iron like or as hard as rock. It is a technique of “empty hand actions and attacks”, wherein the hands are made too tough and hard, by regular practices and actions.

The term Karate, is a combination of two kanji (Chinese characters):

Kara- empty and

Te- hand

The art of Karate is based on some standard and basic principles, i.e. in Karate, the attacker never attacks first he/ she waits for their opponent’s attack, and then reveal their attack with appropriate associative actions. 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 very high impact. In the other forms or styles, grappling, throwing, joint-locking, restraints, and vital point strikes are also used and applied. The Karate practices are divided into:

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

Comparison between Taekwondo and Karate:




Short descriptions

Taekwondo is a form of a Korean martial art and a combat sport.

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



Okinawa, which is currently part of Japan.

Also known as

Taekwon-Do, Tae Kwon-Do, Tae Kwon Do



It is kicking art, and consists of techniques like punching and blocking with parries and takedowns.

It is a striking art, with punching, kicking, knee/elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques. Along with the various blocking techniques like parries; and takedowns.

Nature of moves and attacks

The movements are hard, strong and  graceful

The movements are crisp and linear.

Instructors are called as

Sa bum nim



Its main feature of Taekwondo is effective kicking. It is one of the faster martial arts.

Its main features are strong punches kicks, takedowns, and blocks and are as fast as Taekwondo.

Clothing and Uniforms

Dobok or Tobo

Gi with patches, which represents the style of the students or school (dojo) they practice in, Barefooted, and colored cotton belt (depending on their skill level.

Bows are

The bows are done with hands together or arms together.

The bows are done by arms straight against the torso, hands just below the waist, and the bow executed by bending the torso down while keeping the eyes on the opponent.

Olympic participation

It is one of the Olympic events. 

It is not an Olympic event.


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

Associations and federations

  • World Taekwondo Federation (WTF)
  • International Taekwondo Federation (ITF)
  • Karate Federation
  • International Karate Assoc.
  • WKF World Karate Federation

Image Courtesy: adastrasportsschool.com, karategb.com 

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Karate's origin was Okinawa. It was brought to Japan in the 1920s.

Thanks, Ed. Included that information.

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