Karate vs Taekwondo Similarities and Differences

If you have ever considered practicing martial arts, you have probably come across karate and taekwondo, adding them both to your list of possibilities. These are two of the most common forms of martial arts being practiced today and for good reason.

tae kwon do vs karate

Karate and taekwondo are both great self-defense forms of martial arts and will both offer you an amazing workout mentally and physically. They both also teach you self-discipline and self-respect. Although there are many similarities to these two forms of martial arts, they offer their unique benefits.

In this article, we will discuss what each form of fighting is and how they are similar. Both forms of self-defense have a magnitude of benefits for all those who practice their techniques.

Martial Arts

Martial arts are a blanket term for a massive variety of fighting styles and techniques. There are hundreds of martial arts techniques being practiced all over the world. These fighting styles are designed to teach students how to defend themselves properly and effectively if they were ever in a situation where they felt threatened or were under attack.
Many forms of martial arts originated to keep worriers and soldiers safe during combat, designing hand-to-hand combat and weapon skills proven to be effective when under attack. As time went on, most teachings have altered to make these fighting styles fit everyday lives and to compete in sporting events.
Even though the fighting styles have toned down during training, they are still beneficial in self-defense and are still widely practiced today for that specific reason. Two of the most popular forms of martial arts being karate and taekwondo.

What is Karate?

Martial Arts

Karate was created hundreds of years ago, designed to teach warriors how to defend themselves using hand-to-hand combat rather than using deadly weapons. The core belief of the practitioners in karate feels self-defense techniques should be performed to protect oneself while not causing too many injuries to your attacker.  Karate is well known for its intense and precise striking.

What is Taekwondo?

Although taekwondo has also been around for quite a long time, it has changed and evolved throughout the years. In the 1940s, taekwondo was developed and practiced. which is widely known today. It’s easy to understand the methods of fighting in this practice when you translate each word.

Tae (To kick) Kwon (To punch) do (To do). It gives you a good indication of the moves and techniques practiced in martial art. Using the whole body to kick, punch, and block to defend yourself against an attacker. However, this practice (or sport) is well known for its skills and techniques in its kicks.


In both forms of martial arts, there are competitions. Each fighting style has its own set of rules to follow throughout the match to indicate which person wins. These matches use different types of techniques including punches, kicks, and many different forms of striking.

Karate (2-minute Matches)

When competing in a Karate match each strike earns you a point. Each of the following areas counts as a hit and only these areas can be scored:

  • Head
  • Face
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Side
  • Back

If the competitor strikes their opponent in one of these places, it is judged based on specific criteria. Only when the specifications are complete does a point get rewarded in the competitor’s favor. These criteria that must be met are as follows.

  • Good form
  • Vigorous application
  • Good timing
  • Accurate distance
  • Awareness
  • Sporting attitude

-One point is awarded for a qualifying punch to the mid or upper chest

-Two points are awarded for all qualifying mid-level kicks

-Three points are awarded for all qualifying upper-level kicks or qualifying techniques performed on a fallen opponent.

Whichever opponent has the most points at the end of the match wins.

Taekwondo (2-minute matches)

Taekwondo (2-minute matches)

In taekwondo matches and their results can look much different than in karate. In this sport, the objective is to forcefully punch and kick your opponent in the head and chest (scoring zone) awarding points to each player for the amount of force used in each blow.

Many matches today have electronic buttons on each player’s chest pad. They gauge the strength behind the hits to the chest giving the player points. For head hits or during matches where there are no electronic scoring systems, the judges will agree on the points earned for each blow to the scoring zone.

After the matches are over, the winner is the person who received the most points or, you can win by knocking out your opponent.

Ranking System

Each form of martial arts has a belt ranking system to identify which level of practice they are in. Both karate and taekwondo, have their belt orders, ranks, and meaning behind each level.


Although the colors system may vary in the middle of the ranking system depending on the martial arts school you attend, the meaning behind each rank remains the same. And like most martial arts practices, white will always represent a beginner level and, black represents mastery level.

  • White belt
  • Yellow belt
  • Orange belt
  • Green belt
  • Blue belt
  • Brown belt
  • Black belt

To advance from one level to another in karate, you will have to take a test at the end of each rank. These tests will evaluate your skills and understanding of everything you have learned in your classes. If you pass, you will be awarded a new belt color during a ceremony held a few times throughout the year.

In between each belt advancements, you can earn a strip on your belt. It indicates you have mastered a specific area in your rank level.


Like karate, you move up the ranks in taekwondo after mastering each level and the skills required in that rank. However, unlike karate, there are checklists for taekwondo in which you have a set list of skills, techniques, and daily exercises that you can do before you can move up the ranks.

Once you feel you are ready to move up in rank, you must complete a promotion application and, if granted, they can then take the next upcoming promotion test.

Again, like in karate, the Belt levels start with white indicating a beginner and end with black representing Mastery level. The middle belt shows growth and represents the stages where each practitioner has qualified for.

  • White belt
  • Yellow belt
  • Green Belt
  • Blue Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Red Belt
  • Black belt

10 DAN Degrees (Black Belts)

There are 10 degrees of black belts in taekwondo and karate known as DAN degrees. Each black belt will take approximately one year to complete earning your tenth black belt or your 10th DAN after ten years.

These belts are given to those who have committed a lifetime to learning and practicing the martial arts and making it part of their daily lives.

It is challenging and takes several years to achieve this level of martial arts ranking and is given to those who have proven themselves and earned it. Many students will not continue past their 1st black belt.

Breaking It Down

Breaking It Down

When you think about taekwondo and karate and read up on their skills techniques, and practices, they will sound very similar and almost identical. However, once you watch both classes and see their matches in competitions,then you will notice their differences.

Here is a guide to give you the basic similarities and differences in each practice.

Primarily relies on and punches and strikesForms of Martial ArtsPrimarily relies on strong kicks and spins.
Japanese OriginOffers a full body work outKorean Origin
Uses strikes involving elbows, knife, hands, and vital pointsTeaches self-defenseOlympic sport
Can engage in some grapplingTeaches self-disciplineUses hands as back up
Uses kicks as back upOffers a sense of belongingStances often have weight on the back leg.
Stances often have weight evenly distributed.Increases confidenceOften use jump kick techniques


No matter which forms of martial art you choose to practice you will benefit from learning their skills and techniques and, you will find yourself practicing them throughout your daily life without even thinking about it.

Karate and taekwondo are both fantastic forms of martial arts dedicated to training students on what it takes to effectively protect themselves in every type of situation while giving them an understanding of all aspects of body and life.

It is up to the individual as to what their preference is, and what is more appealing to them. Both activities are a great source of physical activity. They will keep you fit while teaching self-discipline, and self-defense techniques.

 Neither form of self-defense is better than the other and, the one you choose to practice will only depend on where you feel comfortable. They are both great opportunities to learn, and you will have fun engaging in them.