May 29, 2024

US National Taekwondo Association

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There Is A Difference Between Karate and Taekwondo by KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim

There Is A Difference Between Karate and Taekwondo by KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim

The two most common martial sports/arts practiced in North America are Karate and Taekwondo. Many wonder what the difference between these two arts is since both disciplines wear similar uniforms and belts. This is especially true for those who are starting their journey’.

Modern traditional Karate was developed in Okinawa with some influences from the Chinese martial arts. There are different styles of karate, but they are all commonly considered to be Japanese. The colored belt system was developed to officially designate the various ranks of karate with white depicting novices and black belts (with various degrees) representing instructor levels and higher. There is a whole range of other different colors in between. Modern Taekwondo was developed in Korea after much influence from Japanese karate during the occupation by Japan. Indeed, Taekwondo is sometimes referred to as Korean karate. The Koreans adopted similar white uniforms along with a colored belt ranking system for Taekwondo. Today, there are two main styles of Taekwondo, one under the International Federation and the other under the World Federation. Many schools have added a black lining to their white uniforms for black belt levels. A V-neck top is often seen in schools affiliated with the World Federation. There are also older Korean styles including Tangsoodo and Moodukkwan. Some of the more Americanized schools also use uniforms with other colors such as red, black, and blue in addition to the traditional white.

It can be generalized that in karate, one would use their arms or hands for 60% of the time for strikes or blocks while the use of legs for kicking will be about 40%. This breakdown is seen in the many forms or katas of karate which are set routines which simulate fighting against imaginary opponents using martial arts techniques. The forms from Taekwondo would have the opposite percentage breakdown with 40% hands and 60% legs. There is also more emphasis on higher kicks to the head level than in karate. Practitioners also utilize more jumping or flying kicks where one is airborne while executing kicking techniques. The Korean forms or patterns are generally a bit shorter and less complex than the karate forms. Some Taekwondo schools have been known to use the occasional karate form in its curriculum as well.

In North America as well as other parts of the world, there are separate traditional competitions for karate and Taekwondo. However, the open martial arts tournaments in North America often have competitors from both disciplines competing together. Some of the larger open martial arts competition events will have separate forms divisions for Japanese and Korean style competitors but the fighting or sparring divisions will usually be combined. Many black belts end up studying both styles. Taekwondo has received more publicity in recent years since its introduction as an Olympic sport. The style and rules used for the Olympic version fighting comes from the World Federation (WTF). Both karate and Taekwondo are considered as hard style martial arts in North America today

The USNTA is a traditional organization which focuses on the military self-defense form of Taekwondo. We practice both forms of sparring as well as the street effective Self-Defense practices. This allows you to practice lifesaving skills and techniques that are illegal in competition but necessary for life and death self-defense situations. We are proud to carry on the traditions and practices of the Founding Fathers of Taekwondo to preserve the true art of Taekwondo for future generations.

Yours in Taekwondo,
KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim
Chairman of the USNTA Board of Directors

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