Taekwondo vs Karate : Which Martial Arts Style is Better and Why

Martial arts for women

Karate vs taekwondo- one of the longest-standing debates in martial arts. The majority of people assume they’re the same thing, but some differences will determine which is better for you and your martial arts goals. We’ll settle this classic debate and go over the differences between karate and taekwondo to empower you to make your own decision on which is better for you!


The Difference Between Karate and Taekwondo

Taekwondo vs Karate

The most basic difference between Taekwondo and Karate is the matter of kicks and punches. Think of the shuto uchi, or the famous “karate chop” you’ve seen in movies – karate uses hand techniques primarily, and then kicking is more of an occasional thing. 

Taekwondo is the exact opposite- it emphasizes kicking and uses hand combos as the backup. Taekwondo has more diversity in combos as well, like spinning and jumping kicks.


Origins of Karate and Taekwondo

Taekwondo vs Karate

When you think about which martial arts classes you want to take, it can be helpful to consider the origin. Karate started later but modern culture made it pretty famous, while taekwondo has been established for thousands of years. Even though Mr. Miyagi made karate famous in our pop culture, it has its roots in Japan.

It started around 500 years ago too, legend has it, stop the use of weapons on the island of Okinawa to prevent war. The Japanese started fighting with their hands instead of weapons to protect themselves, and karate was born- hand-to-hand fighting. Taekwondo goes back quite a bit further to 50 B.CE. in Korea. It’s all in the name- tae means kick, Kwon means punch, and do means, well, doing things. 

So taekwondo means defending yourself with your entire body – it’s known as the art of the foot and hand. Interestingly, when Japan overtook Korea in the 1900s, the Japanese prohibited taekwondo. Japanese rebels practiced the martial arts form in secret, and it’s because of them that we can even practice taekwondo today.


Different Techniques Used

Taekwondo vs Karate

So what is the difference between karate and taekwondo? It’s the difference between the two halves of your body- hands/arms and legs/feet. Karate means empty hands, a nod to the fact that it’s a martial arts form relying heavily on the use of your hands without any weapons. 

There’s a certain focus on stamina and mental strength because one of your only forms of protection in a karate fight is your mind.

Students in karate classes learn lots of hand techniques and combinations while keeping kicks on deck if needed. It’s best for when you’re close to an opponent and need that hand-to-hand combat advantage. On the other hand, taekwondo emphasizes the legs, chiefly because the leg is the strongest weapon. 

Kicks in taekwondo are very powerful for striking your opponent. Students in taekwondo classes learn spin kicks and several different kicking combinations while using hand techniques as a backup. Taekwondo is a good fit if your opponent is at a distance because you can utilize the length of your legs against them.


Competing in Taekwondo and Karate

Taekwondo vs Karate

Both karate and taekwondo are not only practical and effective martial arts forms, but they also provide opportunities for competition and advancement that will challenge you to grow. 

They both require serious mental and physical strength and stamina just like other martial arts classes, which is why so many in Irmo enjoy the rewards of all their hard work being recognized at belt ranking and in competition. 

There is a difference between taekwondo and karate competition rules. The rules of karate are a bit more involved, while the rules of taekwondo are more simple. A karate student can strike the head, neck, face, chest, side, abdomen, and back. The karate judges have a list of criteria that need to be followed for the match to be considered a win, like good form, accurate distance, and good timing. 

Taekwondo, however, is a bit simpler. In a taekwondo competition, a student gets 3 points for a kick to the head, 2 points for a spinning kick to the opponent’s torso, and one point for a basic attack on their torso.



To be honest, karate or taekwondo can both get you super fit and in shape quickly. They’ll both teach you practical self-defense that you can use to defend yourself against an attacker. And they’ll both teach you to persevere, respect yourself and others and gain confidence like never before. So which is better, karate or taekwondo? Well, the best one for self-defense is the one you take the initiative to do. Doing nothing will result in nothing! So come and try martial arts with our BGR8 Martial Arts staff here in Irmo for yourself- you’ll love it!


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