Is karate or Tae Kwon Do better?

Updated: 9/27/2023
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13y ago

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The question of which system of Martial Art is "better" is ALWAYS a matter of opinion.

Karate is a term that originally described the origins of hand fighting in China ("Kara" = "Tang" or ancient China during the Tang Dynasty, and "Te" = "hand"). Later, Japanese Shotokan master Gichen Funakoshi suggested that the confusion between Chinese boxing, and Japanese Martial Art be cleared up by changing the characters where "Kara" also means "empty," thus "Karate-Do" means "The way of the empty hand."

Although both Korea and Japan had ancient fighting methods, it is believed that the Chinese hand method was learned and taken back to Okinawa, and became known as "te" or hand. It was modified and developed into a unique Okinawan Martial Art, and later migrated into Japan. Fist fighting from China was also introduced directly into Korea as Tang Su Do ("The way of China Hand), and blended with their native grappling and kicking.

Korea's Martial Art of today has influences that stem back thousands of years into their history and culture, but little is known about direct translation of a specific curriculum. The forms taught up into the 1980's in most TKD schools were directly based on the kata of karate. Yet, modern Taekwondo is based on the unique concept of placing the strongest and longest weapon of the legs as the primary weapon, thus the entire strategy and tactics of Taekwondo differ from all other systems, including many of those that influenced the early founders of Taekwondo.

Each Martial Art system has similar qualities to offer, with different approaches to the same end. The real differences comes not in the art itself, but in the quality of instruction which produces either good, proficient Martial Artists, or improperly trained students. Opinions, and personal preferences vary, but in reality, there is no such thing as one system being "better" than another.

NOTE: Please feel free to add your own opinions, and personal experiences on the discussion page for this question.


for forms

The concept of solo practice of techniques existed in Japanese Karate, and was not originally a part of Korean Martial Art training. When Taekwondo was being developed between 1944 and 1955, the method of forms used in Shotokan Karate was borrowed, and restructured for Taekwondo tactics. These forms are very different from the original Okinawan kata. Since that time, the official Poomsae (forms) of Taekwondo at the Kukkiwon have been redesigned twice to better reflect the differences in Taekwondo.

for kicks

What distinguishes Taekwondo from other Martial Arts is its more varied kicking techniques, and its priority towards kicks as a primary weapon. In Taekwondo students can learn to perform multiple kicks while flying and jumping in the air, but such kicks are perhaps not suitable for all students, and are seldom used in real-life self defense. Karate schools generally teach very few or no jumping or flying kicks, but utilize basic kicks as a supplement to the hand and elbow strikes.

for competition

Many Taekwondo schools focus on the competition aspect rather than the martial art, but that varies from instructor to instructor and from school to school. Taekwondo competition is an Olympic sport, while karate is not. The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is the sports governing body that establishes the rules for Olympic Taekwondo sparring. Many MMA fighters have a significant striking background in karate. Earning medals might be just the thing you're looking for to help a child build confidence, or it might not appeal to you at all.

for the elderly

Both Karate and Taekwondo can be practiced by the elderly, but techniques and sparring is modified to suit the physical condition of the individual. While younger athletes might perform high kicks, or jumps and spins, these are not required, and elderly students are only required to learn and demonstrate effective self defense skills.

for children

Most Taekwondo schools are set up to handle children's classes, not all karate schools are.

for difficult terrain

The high, powerful flashy kicks of tournament Taekwondo are not suitable for difficult terrain such as sand, ice, rain and slippery surfaces, therefore the Taekwondo fighter learns to adapt and apply the techniques appropriate to the situation. On slippery surfaces, both the attacker and defender are at a disadvantage, and the Taekwondo fighter can lay on the ground and still use very powerful kicks to the knee, groin, ribs, and head. Taekwondo also includes training in hoshinsul (self defense tactics), hapkido, and yudo for grappling and ground-fighting strategies.

for power

Power is more dependent on natural scientific principles which involve body mass, acceleration, reaction force, balance, and proper technique than on training in any particular martial art. Both arts have instructors that teach these well and instructors that teach these poorly.

the schools and the people

Which is better depends on the school, and the instructor. The schools are different every place you go. A good instructor can be much more important than which style you are studying. If the leadership is poor or weak, students might have bad attitudes regardless of the system. Good instructors in both Karate and Taekwondo teach positive attitude, and enforce rules of proper conduct, and moral and ethical behavior. The two martial arts are closely related, so changing from one to another is relatively easily done.


The basic difference between the two, as far as I can tell, are not the moves themselves but how you get there. One theory for increasing power unique to the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) is the "Sine Wave Motion", a "down, up, down" motion between moves that is believed to build power for a snappy finish. Karate does not use this and simply moves from one move to the next much faster, and many Taekwondo schools do not do this either.

Also it would be erroneous to think TKD is centered on competition: while this does play a part if you want to do such things there is a whole spiritual aspect that is quite beautiful. ---- Like Karate practitioners, Taekwondo students perform a lot of upper body techniques like punching, blocking and striking. What distinguishes Taekwondo from other martial arts is its predominant kicking techniques. In Taekwondo students can learn to perform multiple kicks while flying and jumping in the air.


(note: If you are going to suggest that one is "better" than the other, regardless of your personal experience, that would be stating an opinion rather than substantiated fact. Any such debatable opinions will be moved to the discussion page. Please use the discussion page for controversial discussion or debate over this topic.)

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6y ago
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13y ago

One style is never better than another, because both forms of art are expressed their own, and therefore, are dependent on the practioner's practice. To judge between two arts would be the same considering if paint is better than ink or if guitar is better than violin.

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13y ago

The question of one art being better than another art is ALWAYS a matter of opinion based on individual likes, dislikes, and preferences.

Both Karate and Taekwondo use a variety of strikes which derive power from scientific and natural forces through technique and skill. The ability to do either one well has little to do with differences in physical strength. The training itself is designed to improve your health, and increase your overall muscle tone and body strength.

As to the successful application of one method or another in real-life self defense, it depends greatly on the level of skill and development of the practitioner, as well as the quality of instruction more than the art itself.

Although there are similarities between these two systems. there are stark differences in key aspects. Some people are misled about the substance of Taekwondo by the fact that early Taekwondo forms practice (called "poomsae") were altered variations of the Japanese karate forms (called "kata"). Forms are merely training tools that assist the practitioner in training more thoroughly and efficiently when alone. The "concept" of forms practice did not exist in Korean Martial Art prior to the 19th century, therefore it was adopted for use by the Koreans who organized Taekwondo into a solidified curriculum.

However, once it was realized that the nature of Taekwondo's techniques and tactics did not fit accurately in the design of Karate Kata, the entire system of Taekwondo forms were redesigned. The Palgwae system was created, and then the Taegeuk Poomsae replaced them as the official forms of Taekwondo. The idea of forms was borrowed from Karate, but only the basic concept remains as the core elements of Taekwondo are what are contained in the modern Korean Taekwondo Poomsae.

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12y ago

Tennis is a sport. Karate is a martial art and should not treated as a 'game.'

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Q: Is karate or Tae Kwon Do better?
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Witch is better for a 10 year boy karate or Tae Kwon Do?

Tae kwon do is the Korean version of karate. Neither is 'better' than the other. It will also depend upon what the student is looking for. Visit both dojo and see what you like and don't like about what you see.

What is closely related to tae kwon do?

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What kind of sport is Korea known for?

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Can you think of several different kinds of martial arts?

Karate, tae kwon do

Should I do karate?

In my experience, I found Tae Kwon Do to be a more advanced and proper martial art than Karate.

What events are in Karate for this year's Olympics in Beijing?

Karate is not and hasn't ever been an event in the Olympics. Tae Kwon Do is an Olympic event.

What does tae kwon do literally mean?

The name Tae Kwon Do, means - tae - "to stomp, trample", kwon -"fist" -, and do - "way, discipline"

Which kwon is the root style of the tae kwon do?

Kwon means to "strike back or break with fist" in korean. The original founder of Taekwondo studied Taek Kyon and karate. Over time other masters have expanded the style and added absorbed bits of multiple styles. I don't think there is a 'kwon' that is the root of Tae Kwon Do

Can you use martial in a sentence?

Martialarts include Tae-kwon-do, karate, kung-fu, and many other styles.

Which one is better to practice Karate Kung Fu Tae Kwon Do?

The one that you like the best. They all work toward the same goals and you need to find the best fit for you.

Did Tae Kwon Do come after martial art was banned in Korea?

Tai Kwon Do was created through a combination of Karate and the traditional arts of Korea. The Japanese banned the practice of these arts during their occupation. Numerous Koreans learned some of the martial arts of their conquerors and leater combined them keeping the best parts.