Karate vs Taekwondo: The Battle of the Traditional Martial Arts

Karate vs Taekwondo

Karate and Taekwondo are two of the most practiced martial arts in the world. At the height of their popularity, there were many debates discussing which was the superior martial art.

Let’s break down Karate vs Taekwondo and go over all of the similarities and differences between the two striking arts. Including going over the strengths and weaknesses of the two if the practitioners from each style faced each other.

Karate vs Taekwondo: The Histories 

Both of these martial arts have unique and rich histories. Here are the histories of Karate vs Taekwondo.

The History of Karate

The striking art of Karate originated in the islands of Okinawa. Within these islands many Chinese fishermen, who were Kung Fu practitioners, would settle there.

Karate would be created from techniques from Chinese Kung Fu styles and indigenous fighting techniques from the Ryukyu islands. There would be numerous masters credited with the development of Karate, but one of the main masters was Gichin Funakoshi.

Grand Master Funakoshi is considered the father of modern Karate and was responsible for bringing Karate to mainland Japan. 

Funakoshi would develop his style called Shotokan. Other masters would make their styles, which included Kyokushin, Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, and Shito-Ryu.

Karate would begin to spread worldwide after WW2 due to the US military base in Okinawa. American servicemen would begin learning Karate and then take what they learned to the US.

The martial art of Karate would quickly become one of the most practiced martial arts in the world. Today, there’s an estimated 100 million people that practice a form of Karate.

Karate

The History of Taekwondo

The Korean martial art of Taekwondo like Karate is also a fairly young martial art. Although, the origins of the martial art date back to the Three Kingdoms period in Korea thousands of years prior.

Some of the older Korean martial arts that Taekwondo would take technique from include: Sukon, Taekkyon, and Gwonbeop.

Aspects of Karate would also be adopted into Taekwondo due to the occupation of Korea by Japan during the 1900s. After WW2, Japan’s occupation of Korea would end and Koreans would begin to reform their own identity. This included the creation of a national martial art.

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There were four martial artists that are mainly credited with the creation of Taekwondo. They include: General Choi Hong Hi, Nam Te Hi, Han Cha Kyo, and Lee Chong Woo. General Choi is credited with coming up with the name Taekwondo.

Taekwondo would become internationally practiced within the first thirty years of its creation. In 1973, the World Taekwondo Federation would form and soon after, the first World Taekwondo Championship would be held.

Then just 15 years later in 1988, Taekwondo would debut as a demonstration sport at the Seoul Olympics. Later becoming an official Olympic sport in 2000.

During this period, Taekwondo became one of the most practiced martial arts in the world next to Karate. Today, Taekwondo is practiced in over 200 countries and on nearly every continent in the world.

Taekwondo

Karate vs Taekwondo: The Similarities

Karate and Taekwondo share a lot of similar qualities between each other. Here are the main similarities between Karate vs Taekwondo.

Striking Martial Arts 

Both Karate and Taekwondo are traditional striking martial arts. Each style consists of a variety of different punching and kicking techniques.

The techniques vary, but many of the same striking techniques are practiced within both martial arts.

Belt Systems

Karate and Taekwondo both signify rank by using their own belt systems. The belt systems in each style are different, but both have black belts as the highest rank of the colored belts. Also in both styles, it takes around 4-6 years of consistent training to achieve a black belt.

Karate Influenced Taekwondo

When Taekwondo was being formed after WW2, Karate would have an influence on the martial art’s creation. The creators of Taekwondo would actually borrow numerous things from Karate such as uniforms, the belt system, techniques, and forms.

Taekwondo pioneers like General Choi would take these ideas from Karate to create the system for their martial art.

Both Styles Use Forms

As mentioned above, both of these martial arts use forms in their teachings. In Karate, the forms are called “katas” and in Taekwondo, they call forms “poomsaes.”

Also in both Karate and Taekwondo competitions, they each have divisions for forms that competitors compete in.

The Popularity of Karate and Taekwondo

Both Karate and Taekwondo are not only similar in techniques, but in popularity. They are two of the most practiced martial arts in the world with around 100 millions practitioners in each style.

Karate vs Taekwondo: The Differences 

While Karate and Taekwondo may seem similar to the untrained eye, they are widely different martial arts. Here are the differences between Karate vs Taekwondo.

Japan vs. Korea

Let’s list the first major differences between the two martial arts, which is their origins. Karate is a Japanese martial art, while Taekwondo is a Korean martial art.

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Karate had an influence on Taekwondo’s creation, but Taekwondo is the national martial art of South Korea. In Japan, Karate is one of the national martial arts next to the grappling art of Judo.

Linear Movement vs. Long Distance Fighting

In most all of the forms of Karate, the movement within them is almost all linear and rigid. They will take swift angles, but the goal of Karate is to move forward at their opponent.

Within Taekwondo, fighters try to fight from a longer distance. Enabling practitioners to use their kicks or include jumps or spins in order to create more power.

Jumping/Spinning Attacks vs. Grounded Attacks

When you watch a talented Taekwondo fighter, you will see them throw impressive spinning or jumping kicks. In Karate, students it is rare that you see them leap to throw kicks. Jumping or skipping front kicks and roundhouses are used in Karate, but jumping spin kicks.

The Belt Systems in Karate vs Taekwondo

While both martial arts have a belt system, the two are widely different from one another. They each begin and end with a white and black belt, but the middle ranks differ.

The Karate Belt System

  • White Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Orange Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Blue Belt
  • Purple Belt
  • Red Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Black Belt

Read more about the Karate belt system

The Taekwondo Belt System

  • White Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Orange Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Purple Belt
  • Blue Belt
  • Blue w/ Black Stripe
  • Brown
  • Brown w/ Black Stripe
  • Red
  • Red w/ Black Stripe
  • Black Belt

Read more about the Taekwondo Belt Order.

Karate vs Taekwondo: Their Strengths

Each of these martial arts have their own strengths. Here are the strengths of Karate vs. Taekwondo.

The Strengths of Karate 

The striking art of Karate has two specific strengths that we’ll mention.

  • Well Rounded Striking
  • Quick Movements

Between the two martial arts, Karate has a more well rounded striking system than Taekwondo. Not only are kicks taught, but also powerful punches, elbows, and knee strikes.

All set up by quick and simple movements. There is no wasted movement in Karate and everything is targeted to go right at your opponent. 

The Strengths of Taekwondo 

Just like with Karate, we’ll mention two specific strengths for the striking art of Taekwondo.

  • Keeping Distance
  • Incredibly Powerful Kicks

If you’ve ever seen kickboxer and MMA fighter Raymond Daniels fight, he puts the strength of Taekwondo on full display.

The martial art enables a practitioner to keep the distance on their opponent to land kicks. When they’re able to control this distance, it enables them to add jump, spins, or both into their techniques.

Creating a lot of power on their kicks, which will put their opponent to sleep.

Karate vs Taekwondo:  Their Weaknesses

While the two martial arts do have their strength, they do have some glaring weaknesses. Here are the weaknesses between Karate vs. Taekwondo.

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The Weaknesses of Karate 

Karate has two specific weaknesses that we’ll go over. 

  • Predictable Movements
  • No Mentionable Grappling Techniques

Karate is a respectable martial art, but the movements and techniques have a certain pattern. A pattern that a well-rounded opponent can easily read and take advantage of.

Take MMA legend and Karate master Lyoto Machida for example. When Machida is on, he’s hard to beat, but the opponent’s that defeated him used the same strategy.

They would read his movements, close the distance, and either take him to the ground or KO him. His grappling has improved over the years, but it has always been the weakness of his style.

The Weaknesses of Taekwondo 

Taekwondo has a few different weaknesses, but we’ll go over two specific ones like with Karate.

  • Dependance on Distance
  • No Mentionable Grappling Techniques

Taekwondo has strong striking techniques, but they’re all dependent on controlling the distance of a fight. The kicks are all beautiful, but they can’t use them unless there’s distance between them and their opponent.

Take the losses of MMA fighter Michael Page for example. He’s an incredibly talented striker, but when he loses, it’s because he didn’t control the distance.

The opponent’s that have beaten Page were able to either get in close out grapple him or hurt him. These flaws showcase the glaring weaknesses that Taekwondo has.

Key to Victory For Karate 

For a Karate fighter to be victorious in a Karate vs Taekwondo bout, they would have to do one specific thing. Close the distance against the Taekwondo fighter.

For Taekwondo to function, a practitioner would need to control the distance in order to get off their kicks. That is why the best game plan for a Karate fighter is to close the distance and jam the Taekwondo fighter.

This would eliminate the threat of kicks, while enabling the Karate fighter to use their superior hand strikes. So, if you ever spar against a Taekwondo fighter, remember to close the distance and stay in their face.

Keys to Victory For Taekwondo 

For a Taekwondo fighter to beat a Karate fighter, they would have to do two things. Keep their opponent at a distance and use their movement.

Karate is a rigid martial art that relies on a lot of linear movement to set up their attacks. That is why it would be imperative for a Taekwondo to keep control of the range and keep constant movement.

It would allow them to get off their kicks and stay out of danger of the Karate fighter’s attacks.

The Final Verdict 

In a fight between Karate vs Taekwondo, the winner would depend on who has the better skill and gameplan. Either one of these martial arts or both along with a form of grappling would improve your self defense skills.