Difference between Tae Kwon Do and Karate

TaeKwonDo Vs Karate: What are the Differences?


Difference Tae Kwon Do and Karate

When you have decided to start Martial art classes and you have narrowed your choices down to Taekwondo or Karate, you may be asking yourself, how is Taekwondo different then Karate?  Which is better to learn?

Both Taekwondo and Karate are practical in situations against an untrained attacker, but techniques used in Karate can be more practical. Many combinations in TaeKwonDo depend on jumping and spinning kicks, while certain aspects of Karate have simpler effective strikes that have a less margin of error.

Whichever martial art you choose,  you will find that either one is great to learn and that both are lots of fun. There are 6 key ways that Taekwondo is different from Karate. Ready to fins out what they are? Lets get started!

6 Ways Taekwondo is Different Then Karate

While the two martial art styles are similar in many ways, they also have some very distinct differences. Lets go over in detail each one of these so you can have a better understanding their differences and similarities.

1. History


TaeKwondo comes from Korea, they teach techniques that are mainly for kicking and are now meant to be fast, strong and if done right can appear almost graceful.  The art also teaching punches and blocking techniques to counter any and all attacks but kicking is emphasized more then anything else.

For a more indepth look at the history of Taekwondo, check out this post I wrote.


Karate comes from Japan and more specifically Okinawa, the priority is hitting your opponent with more hands then feet and so they use much more punching, knees and elbow strikes.

If taught correctly, the movements are very direct and decisive.  As with TaeKwonDo, there are also blocking methods used but they also teach take downs as a regular part of their Martial Arts training.

2. Philosophy


The generally accepted translation of Taekwondo is “the art (Do) of foot(Tae) and fist(Kwon).

According to the Korean language, “Do” signifies the philosophical approach to a way of life, a type of pathway to achieve enlightenment. The students of Taekwondo, through tough physical, mental as well as spiritual training, intend to improve themselves in every class and every day.

At the center of TaeKwonDo is the concept of Yin and Yang and this symbolizes the interaction of opposing forces in nature. Harmony and balance are achieved when these opposing forces are distributed equally, a this will allow a way for one to rid oneself of ego


Karate on the other hand is based on the philosophy of Budo, the martial art ways of Japan, which is reflected in its concept of a constant search for personal improvement. The definition of Karate is that of “Empty Hands” which has the concept of emptying the mind of all evil desires and vanities.

Karate a martial art in which the ultimate purpose is not to seek to win, but to work toward perfection of character and a strong body. As with TaeKwonDo, it requires solid discipline and strenuous exercise

3. Forms (Poomsae Vs  Kata)

Differnce between TaeKwonDo and Karate

Before I get into the differences, let me just add that regardless of which form you practice, you must make sure you repeat them over and over and most importantly that you learn to do them correctly. 

This will make sure that the movements will be ingrained in your memory and will vastly improve your skills including the angles, snaps and power.


The TaeKwonDo poomsae (or forms, for a simpler term) are supposed to be a practice of the techniques that you learn with each belt rank. The forms are meant to be done with the mindset that there is an opponent across from you and you are either striking or blocking.

It is basically a combination of offensive and defensive techniques towards an imaginary opponent.  At the same time, it also serves as the identity of TaeKwonDo as each poomsae has their own (very unique) meaning.


A Kata in Karate contains all the basic and fundamental movements within its system. The basic function of kata is and was to teach students these exact techniques. Each technique is done in a specific manner.

In Karate, the kata (the Japanese version of forms) holds all of the basic techniques of the system. These floor patterns, allow the kata to be done within confined space and has little to do with attacks from different directions.

According to present day Okinawan masters, kata represents fighting a single opponent and the development of kata allows one to practice techniques without the fear of injury to an opponent. Historically, this was important because if someone was injured, they or the family was allowed to seek revenge. (ouch!)

4. Hands Techniques


With modern day TaeKwonDo and its movement towards a more sports oriented martial art, hand movements and punches have taken even more of backseat to kicks.

One of the reasons for this is because in tournaments, like the Olympics for example, it makes it difficult if not impossible to score with any type of hand technique and therefore it has tended to go away from the more traditional TaeKwonDo style which used many of the same hand styles as Karate.


On the other hand (get it?), Karate uses punches more frequently and often includes knee and elbow strikes. Karate punches include such strikes as reverse, jabbing, back fist and lunge punching. A typical and fundamental combination would go something like a thrust punch, and then a back fist followed up an elbow strike.

5. Kicking

Taekwondo vs Karate


Kicks in Taekwondo are meant to be fast. They are smooth, efficient and high, just what is needed for competition. The kick that is most often used for this is the roundhouse kick, however, even within Taekwondo, there are differences in the way some kicks like these are preformed. The basic Tae KwonDo Kicks would include:

  • Front Kick
  • Turning Kick
  • Side Kick
  • Back Kick


Kicks in Karate on the other hand generally don’t go above the waist. This may look slow and cumbersome to someone who is used to kicking high and fast like in TaeKwonDo, but the energy to raise the kick to this high level is used for power in Karate at lower leg levels.   The basic Karate Kicks would include:

  • Front Kick
  • Round House Kick
  • Knee Strike
  • Crescent Kick

6. Weapons


Where Karate and TaeKwonDo really seem to go in different directions is when it comes to Weapons. In the years that I have taken World TaeKwonDo, I can not remember a day in which any type of weapon was introduced.

At first, I thought that perhaps my particular school just did not train their students in this aspect of training but I came to learn that in TaeKwonDo their is basically no weapons learning at all with the only exception being, some ATA schools, where there may be a weapon taught at the school but it depends from school to school.


In Karate, due to its Okinawan origins, weapons play an important part of a schools training. During your training you will be introduced on how to use weapons such as the bo staff and nunchaku.

However and in case you were wondering, at the beginning and so you don’t accidentally knock yourself out, they are padded until you become more proficient in their use at which time the “gloves come off” and you start to train with more intensity .

Final Thoughts

As I hope can you see at this point the two styles are more similar then different and for this reason, among a few other important ones, I decided to go with TaeKwonDo.

However, at some point in the near future, I think I would like to take up Karate, in addition to my TaeKwonDo of course, as their is a lot of cross over and I think I would enjoy learning how to use my hands more,  not to mention learning how to use those bo staff weapons.