Karate is a Japanese martial art form, while Taekwondo originated in Korea. A noticeable difference in the techniques in both these unarmed combat schools is that Taekwondo typically places relatively more emphasis on kicking compared with karate.

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Karate versus Taekwondo comparison chart
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What is it? Karate is a form of unarmed Japanese martial art developed from fighting methods from the Ryūkyū Islands, what is now Okinawa, Japan. It is a form of a Korean martial art and a combat sport.
Movements Karate is primarily a striking art, with punching, kicking, knee/elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques.The movements are crisp and linear. And also has various blocking techniques like parries; and takedowns are taught as well. Taekwondo uses mainly kicking techniques that are both strong yet graceful. Punching and blocking with parries and; takedowns are taught as well. Kicking techniques are emphasized more however.
Also known as Karate-Do Taekwon-Do, Tae Kwon-Do, Tae Kwon Do
Olympic event No Yes
Parenthood Chinese Kung Fu was brought to Okinawa and developed into indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands Historic, Taekyon, Karate
Organizations Some of the main organizations are: European Kyokushin Karate Org., World Seido Karate Org., USA National Karate DO, Japan Karate Federation, International Karate Assoc., Kenkojuku Karate Assoc.WKF World Karate Federation, SKIF Some organizations include the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) and International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). Apart from these there are many private organizations such as American Taekwondo Federation(ATF), American Taekwondo Association(ATA),
History According to legend, the evolution of karate began in 5th Century CE when Bodhidharma (Indian Buddhist monk) arrived in Shaolin-si (small forest temple). From there it appeared in Okinawa, a Japanese Island. It started in Korea, approximately 2000 years ago, during the period of 37 BC - 668 AD, with the influence of three rival Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Silla and Baekje. Over the years, it has evolved and become systematic.
Meaning The meaning of the word karate is "empty hands." It refers to the fact that Karate originated as a system of self-defense which relied on the effective use of the unarmed body of the practitioner. Tae means to destroy with the feet; Kwon means to strike or smash with the hand; and do means "path" or "way". Hence, taekwondo can be translated as "the way of the foot and fist".
Country of Origin Japan (Ryukyu Kingdom) Korea
Self-defense Yes Yes
Clothing Gi with patches representing the style students practice or school (dojo) they practice in, Barefooted, and colored cotton belt (depending on their skill level. Example: Beginners start start at White belt level) Dobok or Tobo
Common title for instructor Sensei Sa bum nim
Typical Style of Bow Arms straight against the torso, hands just below the waist, and the bow executed by bending the torso down while keeping your eyes on the opponent. hands together or arms together
Features Strong punches, kicks, takedowns, and blocks. As fast as Taekwondo The main feature of Taekwondo is effective kicking. it is one of the faster martial arts.


A girl practicing a Taekwondo kick
A girl practicing a Taekwondo kick

According to legend, the evolution of karate started over two thousand years ago, in the fifth century BC when Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma arrived in Shaolin-si (small forest temple),to teach Zen Buddhism. He introduced a systematized set of exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body, which marked the beginning of the Shaolin style of temple boxing.

This teaching later became the basis for the Chinese martial arts. But the early development of karate was still unknown until it appeared in Okinawa, a small Japanese Island. The Okinawan martial art "ti" was practiced by Okinawan royalty. The upper class family members were sent to China to study various disciplines, and from there the Chinese influence came to Okinawa and amalgamated with this martial art.

Later, Sakukawa Kanga, martial artist studied pugilism and staff fighting in China, and his student Matsumura Sokon taught two important styles, Shuri-te and Tomari-te and Shaolin and his style, popularly known as Shorin-ryū. Matsumura taught his art to Itosu Ankō, and he introduced kata for young students, in public schools. The forms he created include all styles of karate, and Itosu Ankō is known as the grandfather of modern karate.

Tae Kwon Do is a two thousand year old martial art form that originated in Korea, during three rival kingdom’s ruling around 37 BC - 668 AD. It is based on the premise that every person has the instinct to defend him or herself against a sudden attack. Young men were trained in unarmed combat techniques to develop strength, speed, and survival skills.

Later, Korean martial arts faded into obscurity during the Joseon Dynasty. When the Japanese were ruling (1910-1945), the practice of Tae Kwon Do was banned. But it survived through underground teaching and folk custom. In 1945, when Korea was liberated from Japanese colonization, many new martial arts styles were formed from the combination of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean influences. After the Korean War, nine martial arts schools started their operation, and South Korean President Syngman Rhee instructed the unification of all the schools under a single system. A governmental body selected a naming committee's submission of "tae-kwon-do". And the Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA) was formed in 1959 to facilitate the unification.


Contestants in a Karate tournament.
Contestants in a Karate tournament.

Karate is popularly known as a striking art, featuring punching, kicking, knee/elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques, although grappling, joint manipulations, locks, restraints/traps, throws, and vital point striking are taught with equal emphasis. Karate allows the practitioner to defeat an opponent by the use of striking and kicking. The practitioner practices hard physical training to develop fighting skills that requires strenuous physical and mental discipline.

The Meaning of Karate is "empty hands” which refers to the fact that Karate originated as a system of self-defense which relied on the effective use of the unarmed body of the practitioner. This consisted of blocking or thwarting an attack and counter-attacking the opponent by punching, striking or kicking. The modern art of Karate has developed out of a thorough organization of these techniques.

Ideally, Karate should help to develop a strong character and build a feeling of respect toward the fellow man. In karate, the principles taught to the students can be summarized as: Character, Sincerity, Effort, Etiquette and Self-control.

Taekwondo is popular for its use of kicking techniques, which distinguishes it from karate. The theory behind this is that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon a martial artist has, and kicks thus have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes without successful retaliation. Physically, taekwondo develops strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina.
The breaking of boards requires both physical mastery of the technique and the concentration to focus one's strength. It symbolizes the union of one’s mental and physical discipline. A taekwondo student typically wears a uniform with a belt according to their rank, tied around the waist.
A focus on mental and ethical discipline, justice, etiquette, respect, and self-confidence is one of the major parts of this form of martial art. The phrase, "Respect Senior or older, love Junior or younger," is used in Taekwondo training.

Promotion and ranking

Karate ranking has its basis in technical competence and character development. At higher levels, teaching and dedication are important factors. Karate ranking is used to measure progress and to provide feedback and incentives in training. There are two levels of belts; Pre-Black Belt Levels (kyu ranks), and Black Belt Levels.

The pre black belt levels are: White Belt: 10 kyu; Orange Belt: 9th kyu or Ku-Kyu; Yellow Belt: 8th kyu or Hachi-Kyu; Blue Belt: 7th kyu or Shichi –Kyu; Green Belt: 6th kyu or Roku-Kyu; Purple Belt: 5th kyu or Go-Kyu; High Purple Belt: 4th kyu or Shi-Kyu; Third Brown Belt: 3rd kyu or San-Kyu; Second Brown Belt: 2nd kyu or Ni-Kyu; First Brown Belt: 1st kyu or Ik-Kyu.

To achieve the higher ranks, one has to give an examination under the panel of judges, who judge the students by their techniques, mental discipline, movement etc. After this level, the black belts level start. Reaching the level of Black Belt is considered a new beginning. Karate development can continue throughout ones life, stressing more finesse, inner strength, and teaching as you grow in experience.

Black Belt Levels are, Sho-dan: First Degree Black Belt; Ni-dan: Second Degree Black Belt; San-dan: Third Degree Black Belt; Yon-dan: Fourth Degree Black Belt; Go-dan: Fifth Degree Black Belt; Roku-dan: Sixth Degree Black Belt; Shichi-dan: Seventh Degree Black Belt; Hachi-dan: Eighth Degree Black Belt; Ku-dan: Ninth Degree Black Belt; Ju-dan: Tenth Degree Black Belt.

Taekwondo ranks are separated into "junior" and "senior" or "student" and "instructor" sections. The juniors are identified by belts of various colors. Students start with the tenth geup and are indicated by a white belt and advance toward the first geup.

To advance from one rank to the next, students have to go through promotion tests in which they demonstrate their proficiency in the various aspects of the art before a panel of judges. These tests include combination of various techniques in specific sequences; the breaking of boards, demonstration of the ability to use techniques with both power and control; sparring and self-defense, demonstration of the practical application and control of techniques; and answering questions on terminology, concepts, history, and the like, to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the art.

The Senior section includes nine ranks indicated by the Korean word dan. Black belts begin at first dan and advance to second, third, and so on. The last Dan is ninth which is honarary and only given to true masters as designated by the International Taekwondo Federation. The degree is often indicated on the belt itself with stripes, Roman numerals, or sometimes there is no pattern present in black belts. For black belts, promotion from one degree to the next can take years. The general rule is that a black belt is promoted to the next rank only after practicing it for the number of years equivalent to his/her rank.


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