20+ Differences Between Taekwondo And Karate (Explained)

Among the numerous martial arts practiced worldwide, karate and taekwondo can be called one of the most commonly practiced by children and adults alike.

Both karate and taekwondo help in building strength, agility, and balance. They also help in developing life skills like discipline, honesty, and sportsmanship.

Both taekwondo and karate can look very similar to a layman’s eye. This is why certain differences need to be noted so that it can get easier for anyone who has to choose between them.

differences between taekwondo and karate

Comparison between Taekwondo and Karate

RootsIt was practiced as a traditional martial art in Korea as early as 50 BCE.Karate existed in its parent form in the fifteenth century in the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Meaning of the NameThe name means ‘the way of feet and fists.’The name means ‘empty hand.’
EmphasisTaekwondo focuses on all four limbs, with more focus on kick techniques.Karate focuses more on punches, blocks, chops, and other hand techniques, with kicks as a secondary technique.
TeacherA taekwondo teacher is called ‘sabeom nim’.A karate teacher is called ‘sensei’.
UniformIn taekwondo, the uniform is referred to as do bok.The term used for uniform in karate is gi.
Inclusion in the OlympicsTaekwondo has been an Olympic sport since 2000. Karate has been an Olympic sport since 2020.
Commonly Known StylesThe most common ones include the World Taekwondo(WT) style and multiple International Taekwondo Federation(ITF) styles.The most common styles in karate include Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan, Wado-ryu, and Kyokushin styles.

The Major Differences Between Taekwondo and Karate

What is Taekwondo?

Taekwondo was earlier a part of the Korean lifestyle in 50 BCE. It was taught in many schools in their unique ways until, in the twentieth century, the then-Japanese government discouraged it.

The art began to decline slowly, but post-1945, it was decided to create a single combined system, which led to the birth of modern taekwondo.

The name ‘taekwondo’ is made up of three words – ‘Tae’ refers to ‘foot/leg’ or ‘stepping on’, ‘kwon’ means ‘fist’ or ‘fight,’ and ‘do’ means ‘way’ or ‘discipline.’

Combining the three terms, the name would mean ‘the way of feet and fists’ or, in a more refined way, a disciplined art that involves both legs and fists for self-defense.

What is Karate?

Karate evolved from the martial art ‘te’(meaning ‘hand’). Te was commonly practiced in the Ryukyu Kingdom in the fifteenth century, which is known as the region of Okinawa today. The art took elements from Chinese martial arts, and karate was born.

Because, at one point, the rulers of Ryukyu banned all weapons to prevent any war, the martial art focused on unarmed combat. The name ‘karate’ means ‘empty hand,’ and the majority of the martial art curriculum consists of striking your opponent with punches, kicks, and in some styles, grappling moves and even weapons like in taekwondo.

all about taekwondo and karate

Contrast Between Taekwondo and Karate

The Origin

  • Taekwondo- Taekwondo was practiced in multiple schools in Korea but got discouraged by the Japanese government in the early 1900s.

    After the Second World War, in 1955, the South Korean government decided to teach Korean martial arts as a more unified system. As multiple schools came together to create such a system, taekwondo was born.
  • Karate- In the Ryukyu Kingdom, currently known as Okinawa, ‘Te’ was practiced by the people. Te originally had elements of Chinese martial arts and their indigenous art form.

    However, certain legislations imposed by the rulers of Ryukyu, which included a ‘ban on weapons,’ forced the practitioners to focus on unarmed combat and incorporate more unarmed techniques leading to the formation of ‘karate.’


  • Taekwondo- Taekwondo is made of three words i.e. tae, kwon, and do. These mean foot, fist, and way, respectively, which would make martial art mean ‘the way of feet and fists.’
  • Karate- Karate is made of two words i.e., kara and te. The word ‘te’ means hand, and ‘kara’ means empty. Thus karate would mean ‘empty hand.’

The Uniform:

  • Taekwondo- In taekwondo, the uniform worn by the students is called dobok.
  • Karate- In karate, the students wear a gi, which means uniform.

Addressing the Teacher

  • Taekwondo- A Taekwondo instructor is known as ‘Sabeom nim’ meaning master instructor.
  • Karate- A karate instructor is known as ‘Sensei’, meaning master or teacher.
origins of taekwondo and karate

Commonly Known Styles

  • Taekwondo- The most commonly known taekwondo forms are the World Taekwondo forms and the International Taekwondo Federation forms. There are many other forms as well, including the traditional taekwondo forms.
  • Karate- Karate has numerous styles, all of which have their roots in the Okinawan martial arts. The most commonly known styles in karate are Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Kyokushin, Wado-ryu, and Shotokan.

Elements Focused on:

  • Taekwondo- Taekwondo puts more focus on the legs, meaning you will come across multiple styles of kicks like jumping kicks and spinning kicks. The stance taken focuses on all four limbs in a ready position as the person will have to make swift movements.
  • Karate- Karate generally puts more focus on the hands. You will come across a lot of hand-based techniques like chops, punches, locks, and throws. Kicking is also an important part, but the arm techniques are a lot more. The karate stance has more relaxed legs but arms ready.

Inclusion in the Olympics

  • Taekwondo- Taekwondo has been a part of the Olympics since the 2000 Sydney event.
  • Karate- Karate has been recently introduced as an Olympic event in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Can we combine Taekwondo and Karate?

Mixed martial arts and hybrid martial arts are quite common today. Combining Taekwondo and Karate is quite beneficial as one art’s primary focus complements what the other form keeps secondary.

However, instead of starting with both, it is better to put a couple of years into one art and then begin with the other.

Q2. As we practice a particular move repeatedly in taekwondo, what does the teacher command every time?

You might have guessed it, but perhaps the language made you wonder. The commands sound like “Hana,” “dul,” “set,” “net,” and so on. This is counting in the Korean language. 

Q3. What are the most basic commands in taekwondo?

The most common commands you will hear are ‘charyeot’ (attention), ‘gyeongnye’(bow), ‘gihap’ (shout), ‘junbi’(ready), and ‘haesan’ (dismissed). There are more, but you will frequently hear these from your teacher.

Q4. How does counting in karate sound as we practice the techniques?

Karate, being Japanese art, follows the Japanese counting system. You will hear ‘ichi,’ ‘ni,’ ‘san,’ ‘yon,’ and so on. That is how counting is done in the Japanese language.

Q5. What are the basic commands in karate?

In karate, the most common commands you will be hearing are ‘yoi’(ready), hajime (begin), ‘rei’(bow), ‘yame’(stop), and ‘yasume (relax).

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