Karate vs. Taekwondo: 10 Similarities & 10 Differences

If you are looking into various martial arts to get involved in, you might wonder which is better; Karate or Taekwondo? Both Karate and Taekwondo are extremely popular forms of martial arts for both adults and children over the world. Millions of people practice these arts, and for good reason. 

Over the years, I have taken an interest in learning more about self-defense arts, and as a result, I have spent a bit of time investigating the various martial arts forms available. Now is the perfect time to share my comparison with you. 

KARATE VS. TAEKWONDO:  

SIMILARITIESDIFFERENCES
1.Both teach patience.Karate is focused on hands, whereas Taekwondo is focused on legs/feet.
2.Practitioners are unarmed.Karate uses kicks as a backup, whereas Taekwondo uses hands as a backup.
3.Both teach discipline.In Karate, legs stay mostly grounded, but in Taekwondo, legs jump, spin and kick.
4.Provide a full-body workout.Karate was established in the early 1900s, whereas Taekwondo was established in 1955.
5.Involve “stance” lessons.Karate is a Japanese art, whereas Taekwondo is a Korean art. 
6.Beginners start learning fundamental rules and basic moves. Karate clothing is called a “Gi”, whereas Taekwondo clothing is called a “Dobok” or “Tobo”.
7.Moves are taught slowly for technique-learning purposes only.A Karate instructor is called a Sensei, whereas a Taekwondo instructor is called a Sa bum nim. 
8.Both are Olympic sports.Karate debuted at the 2021 Olympics, whereas Taekwondo debuted at the 2000 Olympics.
9.Belong to international organizations and bodies. Karate means “empty hands”, whereas Taekwondo means “the way of the foot and the fist”.
10.Both are self-defense arts. Tournament score systems are different for each martial art.

As far as martial arts are concerned, Taekwondo and Karate are two commonly practiced types. Both of these martial arts are now Olympic sports, with Taekwondo making it into the Olympics in 2000 and Karate making its debut in 2021. While Karate and Taekwondo might seem similar, they actually have a variety of distinct differences too. I wanted to get to the bottom of what makes these 2 martial arts so similar and so different at the same time, so I did a bit of research and observed both of these arts for some time. 

If you want to learn more about the 10 differences and similarities between Karate and Taekwondo, read on.

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How Karate & Taekwondo Are Similar

Let’s talk about what makes these 2 martial art forms the same. Karate and Taekwondo have some very obvious similarities. 10 similarities between Karate and Taekwondo are below:

1. Both Karate and Taekwondo teach patience.

The basics of Karate and Taekwondo are firmly rooted in learning patience. A student has to be patient to learn the moves, perfect them, and then learn how to carry them out in real-life situations. 

2. Practitioners are unarmed in both Karate and Taekwondo.

In both Karate and Taekwondo, for the most part, practitioners are taught to fight without the use of weapons of any kind. The concept is that the practitioner’s body and mind are all the weapons that are needed. 

3. Both Karate and Taekwondo teach practitioners about discipline.

In both of these martial arts, practitioners have to be dedicated and disciplined in order to work their way through the ranks. Over the years, this develops a fine-tuned understanding of the discipline. 

4. Both Karate and Taekwondo provide a full-body workout.

Most martial arts classes, including Karate and Taekwondo, burn around 360 to 955 calories depending on the intensity of the workout, as well as the weight of the practitioner. Because both of these martial arts are focused on cardio as well as muscle development, practitioners can expect a full-body workout.

5. Karate and Taekwondo involve “stance” lessons.

In both Karate and Taekwondo, practitioners are taught various moves and actions that are called “stances”. These stances are the strikes and kicks that you see in Karate and Taekwondo, respectively. 

6. Beginners start learning fundamental rules and basic moves. 

When practitioners start learning Karate and Taekwondo, they start off learning the fundamentals of the martial art, which is just as much mental as it is physical. The basic moves are then taught before practitioners get really into the “thick” of the art/sport.

7. Moves are taught slowly for technique-learning purposes only.

When watching a Karate or Taekwondo class, you might see the movements being carried out in slow and meticulous motion. This is merely for learning processes. Both arts require these moves to be carried out at high speed and smoothly in order to be effective in a real-life combat situation. 

8. Both Karate and Taekwondo are Olympic sports.

For a long time, martial arts weren’t considered viable sports for the Olympics. Now that has changed, and both Karate and Taekwondo form part of the Olympic Games. 

9. Both Karate and Taekwondo belong to international organizations and bodies. 

Martial arts, in general, have come a long way. 

10. Karate and Taekwondo are both self-defense arts. 

 While Taekwondo and Karate are mostly practiced for fitness and exercise, both are actually originally taught as forms of self-defense. If used correctly, the moves of both arts can be quite violent.

How Karate and Taekwondo are Different

While both of these arts have their similarities, they are also quite different in the following ways. 10 differences between Karate and Taekwondo are below.

1. Karate is focused on hands, whereas Taekwondo is focused on legs/feet.

Karate is a striking art that also includes kicking, elbow strikes, punching, and open-handed striking techniques. The movements are quick and precise and also include a variety of blocking tactics and takedowns. On the other hand, Taekwondo is focused on kicking techniques that are powerful yet elegant. Practitioners also learn a variety of punching and blocking techniques, along with takedowns.

2. Karate uses kicks as a backup, whereas Taekwondo uses hands as a backup.

While Karate is focused on open-handed strikes, it does include some kicking as a backup. Much the opposite, Taekwondo focuses on kicking techniques but does use hands as a backup. 

3. In Karate, legs stay mostly grounded, but in Taekwondo, legs jump, spin and kick.

When watching Karate in action, you will notice that practitioners keep their feet on the floor and their legs in a mostly grounded position. In Taekwondo, the practitioner is far more active with leg jumps, spins and kicks, and more. The feet and legs are not grounded for long. 

4. Karate was established in the early 1900s, whereas Taekwondo was established in 1955.

While both Karate and Taekwondo are considered to have ancient roots, they both were consolidated not too long ago. As we know them today, Karate emerged in the early 1900s, whereas Taekwondo was established in 1955.

5. Karate is a Japanese art, whereas Taekwondo is a Korean art. 

Karate and Taekwondo are both martial arts, but they come from different countries. Taekwondo hails from Korea, whereas Karate hails from Japan. 

6. Karate clothing is called a “Gi”, whereas Taekwondo clothing is called a “Dobok” or “Tobo”.

Taekwondo and Karate clothing can look fairly similar, but they are called entirely different things. If you do Karate, you will wear a Gi, whereas if you do Taekwondo, you will wear a Dobok or a Tobo. 

7. A Karate instructor is called a Sensei, whereas a Taekwondo instructor is called a Sa-bom-nim. 

In Karate classes you will call your teacher “Sensei”. In Taekwondo classes, the instructor is called a “Sa-Bon-Nim”. Both of these names for instructors are a sign of respect. 

8. Karate debuted at the 2021 Olympics, whereas Taekwondo debuted at the 2000 Olympics.

While Karate and Taekwondo are both Olympic sports now, they weren’t always. In fact, in 2000, Taekwondo made its first Olympic appearance, while Karate made its debut at the 2021 Summer Olympics. 

9. Karate means “empty hands”, whereas Taekwondo means “the way of the foot and the fist”.

  • Kara means “empty” and, te means “hand”.
  • Tae means “foot” or “leg”; Kwon means “fist” or “fight”; and Do means “way” or “discipline”.

10. Tournament score systems are different for each martial art.

During tournaments, in Taekwondo, participants get more points for kicking; while, in Karate, kicks and punches are usually given the same amount of points.

All things considered

When choosing between Karate and Taekwondo, the choice can be very hard. Both are enjoyable art forms that provide a great workout and arm a person with exceptional self-defense skills. Because I have followed both so closely and feel that both offer value, I would say that you cannot go wrong, whichever one you choose to go with. 

The next step would be to sit in on a class to see each martial art in action or to actually book yourself a beginner’s lesson so that you can determine which one you personally enjoy the most. Good luck and enjoy it!