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

karate and taekwondo training

Karate vs taekwondo – one of the longest-standing debates in martial arts. A lot of people probably think they’re the same thing, but there are a few differences that will determine which is better for you and your personal goals. We’ll settle this classic debate and go over the differences between karate and taekwondo to guide you to make your own decision on which is better for you!

The Difference Between Karate and Taekwondo

karate and taekwondo training in Burleigh Heads

The most basic difference in karate vs taekwondo is the difference between kicking and punching.

Think of the shuto uchi, or the famous “karate chop” you’ve seen in movies – karate uses hand techniques primarily, and then kicking as a backup.

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

karate and taekwondo classes in Burleigh Heads

When picking which self defence you want to study, it can be helpful to consider the origin. Karate started later but has been popularized by modern culture, while taekwondo has been practiced for thousands of years.

Even though Mr. Miyagi made karate famous in our pop culture, it actually originated in Japan. It started around 500 years ago to, as the story goes, stop the use of weapons on the island of Okinawa in order 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 literally means defending yourself with your whole body – it’s known as the art of the foot and hand.

Interestingly, when Japan overtook Korea in the 1900’s, the Japanese actually declared taekwondo totally illegal.

Japanese renegades practiced the martial arts form in secret, and it’s thanks to them that we can still practice taekwondo today.

Different Techniques Used

martial arts techniques

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, referencing the fact that it’s a martial arts form relying heavily on the use of your hands without weapons of any kind.

Karate emphasizes mental strength and stamina, then, because one of your only forms of protection when practicing is your mind. Karate students learn lots of hand techniques and combinations while keeping kicks on deck if needed.

It’s perfect for when you’re close to an opponent and need that hand-to-hand combat advantage. Alternatively, taekwondo emphasizes the legs, chiefly because the leg is the strongest weapon.

Kicks in this martial art are very powerful for striking your opponent. Students in taekwondo classes learn spin kicks and a number of different kicking combinations while using hand techniques as a backup.

Taekwondo is perfect if your opponent is at a distance because you can utilize the length of your legs against them.

Competing in Taekwondo and Karate

martial arts competition

Both karate and taekwondo are not only practical and effective martial arts forms, but they also provide opportunities for competition and advancement that encourage legitimate growth in their students.

They both require serious mental and physical strength and stamina just like other martial arts classes, which is why hundreds of students in Burleigh Heads 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. Karate competition rules are a bit more complicated, while taekwondo rules are straightforward.

In a karate competition, you can strike to the head, neck, face, chest, side, abdomen, and back.

The karate judges have a list of criteria that need to be followed in order for the match to be considered a win, like good form, accurate distance, and good timing.

Taekwondo competitions are more to-the-point. A taekwondo martial artist 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.


So honestly, both of these martial arts styles will transform your body and get you fit fast. They’ll both teach you the practical self defence that you can use to protect yourself and your loved ones. And they’ll both push you to achieve a ton and accomplish things you never thought you could do. So which is better, karate or taekwondo? Honestly, the best one for self defence is the one YOU take the initiative to do. Doing nothing will result in nothing! So come and try martial arts with our Black Belt Plus staff here in Burleigh Heads for yourself- you’ll LOVE it!