The Encyclopedia
of Differences

Difference Between Karate and Taekwondo

Table of Contents

Are you having trouble choosing between Karate and Taekwondo? Here is the help you need right now.

How is Karate different from Taekwondo?

The main difference between karate and taekwondo is that karate is a martial art form originating in Japan that uses more arm action, while taekwondo is a Korean martial art that places more emphasis on powerful kicks. The term Taekwondo translates to "the art of feet and fist" and the term karate translates to "empty hands".

Both forms of martial arts differ quite a bit in their respective forms, stances, movements, and more. In case you wish to learn more, make sure to follow along.

What is Karate?


Karate is a form of Japanese martial art whose main purpose is to let an individual develop the defensive skills of using body parts for countering attacks. The word Karate is obtained from the combination of two words, namely kanji and te. Kanji means empty, while te, refers to hands. Combining we've Karate signifying "empty hand." Usually, there are four main styles of Karate. These are Shotokan, Wado-ryu, Goju-ryu, and Shito-ryu.

What is Taekwondo?


Taekwondo is a martial art form that originated in Korea and holds on to both systematic and scientific traditions. The main purpose is to teach individuals more than just fighting skills. In other words, with Taekwondo, you're looking at a martial art that helps you bring in the practice of self-defense just with hands and feet. It is a great way to foster the right mental state while applying various punching and kicking techniques. To break down the literal meaning of Taekwondo,  we've "kicking," "punching," and "the art or way" or "discipline." 

Differences Between Karate and Taekwondo


The word Karate stands for "empty hands". The primary purpose of this name is to depict a situation where an individual needs to use his or her bare hands in self-defense. In other words, the term Karate stands for the effective use of an unarmed body against attacks.

The term "Tae" in the word Taekwondo means "action with foot," Kwon signifies "striking with hands," and "Do" stands for "Path,” “Way,” or “Discipline.”


Karate originated in Okinawa, Japan. On the other hand, Korea is the country of origin for Taekwondo.

Other Terms

Karate is also known as Karate-Do. Taekwondo is also popular as Taekwon-Do, Tae Kwon-Do, and Tae Kwon Do.

Title for the Instructor

One who instructs Karate is usually titled Sensei, while for Taekwondo it is Sa Bum Nim.

Clothing Style

An individual's attire during Taekwondo is usually something which is known as "Dobok," or "Tobo". Clothing in Karate is entirely different. It consists of a Gi with patches and a cotton belt whose color varies according to the skill level. 

karate clothing
Example of Karate clothing

Bowing Style

In Karate or Taekwondo, bowing follows a particular pattern. For the former, arms need to be straight against the torso with hands just below the waist. Once in that position, you'll have to execute the bow by bending your torso while maintaining eye contact with the opponent. The latter is comparatively straightforward, and it just needs your hands or arms joined together.

Name of the Form

The pre-defined form or sequences in Karate is termed "kata," and in Taekwondo, the same is popular as "poomsae."

Prime Movements/Techniques

When we talk about the prime features/movements in Karate, there are quite a few. To name them, we've strong punches, takedowns, blocks, and more. Taekwondo, on the contrary, emphasizes mostly on effective kicking.

Main Focus

Karate has more focus on strength, power, alongside form and stances. On the other hand, Taekwondo focuses a little bit more on speed, flexibility, and mobility.

Target Selection

In Karate, you'll learn to strike a specific section of your opponent's body with distinct techniques. Taekwondo deals more with hitting at areas, not particular targets in general. 


In Karate, an individual generally uses the strength of his/her legs to come up with kicks as the backup movement. Taekwondo uses the hand in a similar situation.

Comparison Chart: Karate Vs Taekwondo

MeaningEmpty handsFoot+Fist+Discipline
OriginOkinawa, JapanKorea
Also Known AsKarate-DoTaekwon-Do, Tae Kwon-Do, and Tae Kwon Do.
Instructor's TitleSenseiSa Bum Nim
Clothing StyleGi with patches and a cotton beltDobok
Bowing StyleArms straight, bending the torso while maintaining eye contact with the competitor.Joining hands or arms
Features/MovementsStrong punches, takedowns, blocksKicking
FocusStrength, power, stancesSpeed, flexibility, mobility
Target SelectionSpecificArea in general

Similarities: How Karate is similar to Taekwondo

Although both Karate and Taekwondo are different from each other in origin, form, clothing, movements, and more, there are quite a few factors that make them reside under the same roof. 

Prime Goal

Karate and Taekwondo are both martial art forms with body movements that are meant to offer self-defense services.

Moral Value

No matter if you choose Karate or Taekwondo, both will help you inculcate patience and discipline.

Workout Impact

Practicing the forms of Karate and Taekwondo acts as a workout that targets the entire body.

Grading System

If you decide to learn either of the two, be ready to get familiar with the popular belt upgrading system.

Frequently Asked Questions

🤷‍♂️ Which is better: Karate Vs Taekwondo?

Both Karate and Taekwondo offer a great workout to eventually help acquire appropriate self-defense techniques. However, the overall approach is pretty different. Once you're aware of those factors, choosing the one that fits perfectly for you will be an easy task.

😓 Which is harder: Karate Vs Taekwondo?

The answer to this question depends upon the physical state you're in. As already mentioned, Taekwondo is a practice that involves more kicking, which means it emphasizes the strength of your legs; Karate, on the other hand, uses more hand attacks. There is no fix parameter to state which form is harder, Karate or Taekwondo.


Practicing Karate and Taekwondo is a great way to tone up your entire body and prepare for building strong self-defense. Although the ultimate goal is pretty similar, the approaches are significantly different. This leads to a challenging situation when one tries to set them apart.

In this article, we've tried to mitigate that once and for all. From stances to clothing, from the bowing style to the prime focus, we’ve listed every element that distinguishes Karate from Taekwondo.


Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
Share our Article on:

Table of Contents

About the Author: Tom Vincent

Tom Vincent graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and social studies. He then started his higher education at the University of François Rabelais in Tours with a DUT Information Communication. To expand his knowledge, he also followed a professional degree in e-commerce and digital marketing at the Lumière University of Lyon. On this project, he is in charge of articles covering language, industry and social.
All Posts Written By Tom Vincent

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

magnifiercrosschevron-downarrow-right linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram