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

Taekwondo vs Karate

Taekwondo vs Karate – 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 self-defense goals. We’ll settle the 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

Taekwondo vs Karate

The most basic difference in karate vs taekwondo is between your hands and your feet- punching vs kicking. Think of the shuto uchi, or the famous “karate chop” you’ve seen in every ninja movie – karate uses hand combos primarily, and then kicking is a backup. 

Taekwondo is the exact opposite- it emphasizes kicking and uses hand moves as the backup. Taekwondo has more variety in the moves you can learn, including 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 has been popularized by modern culture, while taekwondo has been around for thousands of years. Even though Mr. Miyagi made karate famous in our pop culture, it originated in Japan. It started around 500 years ago to, as the story goes, stop the use of weapons on the island of Okinawa so that the king could prevent war. Japanese soldiers started using hand-to-hand combat to protect themselves instead of weapons, 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 practicing self-defense with your whole body – it’s known as the art of the foot and hand. Fun fact, when Japan overtook Korea in the 1900s, the Japanese declared taekwondo illegal. Japanese renegades practiced the martial arts form in secret, and they’re the ones that kept karate and taekwondo similar alive to this day.

Different Techniques Used

Taekwondo vs Karate

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

Karate emphasizes mental strength and stamina, then, because one of your only forms of protection in a karate fight is your mind. You’ll learn lots of hand techniques and combinations while keeping kicks on deck as a last resort. Karate is 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 longest and strongest weapon on the body. Kicks in this martial art are very powerful for striking your opponent. You’ll learn spin kicks and several different kicking combinations while using hand techniques when necessary. Taekwondo has more effectiveness at a distance because you can utilize the length of your legs against your opponent.

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 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 McKinney 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 rules are a bit more complicated, while taekwondo rules are more straightforward. A karate student can strike the head, neck, face, chest, side, abdomen, and back. The judges in the competition 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.


So honestly, both of these martial arts styles will transform your body and get you fit fast. They’ll both teach you practical self-defense 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? 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 Vasquez Taekwondo & Haidong Gumdo Academy staff here in McKinney for yourself- you’ll love it!