Being a karate dojo, we obviously favour our form of martial art. But, as a responsible member of our community, here is what you need to know about the difference between Karate and Tae Kwon Do.


Karate originated in Japan.

Tae Kwon Do originated in Korea.

History of Karate:

Karate origins from the Ryukyu Islands, now known as Okinawa. Although modern karate is relatively young at 200 years old, its origins date back to over a thousand years ago, when it was brought to China from India by a Buddhist monk called Bodhidarma. With Chinese influence, karate became a renowned martial art focusing on various self-defense and strengthening techniques.

History of Tae Kwon Do:

Tae Kwon Do was heavily influenced by three rival Korean Kingdoms nearly 2000 years ago, even though the name Tae Kwon Do has only been used since 1955. Once the Japanese colonization ended in Korea, Korea streamlined its martial arts practices to fall under one single system, Tae Kwon Do, the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association. It is heavily influenced by Japanese and Chinese martial arts.

“Karate may be considered as the conflict within oneself or as a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training and one’s own creative efforts.”
– Shōshin Nagamine

Karate Practices:

Knee/elbow strikes
Open-handed techniques
Take Downs

Crisp & Linear

Tae Kwon Do Practices:

Take Downs

Strong and Graceful

What Do They Mean?

Karate is translated as ‘Empty Hands’

Karate focuses on self-defence. Its practices rely on the effective use of an unarmed body.

Tae is translated as ‘Destroy with Feet’
Kwon is translated as ‘Strike with Hand’
Do is translated as ‘Way/Path’

Tae Kown Do is known as ‘The Way of Foot & Fist’


Karate : Gi

Tae Kwon Do : Dobok or Tobo

What is Karate and Tae Kwon Do?

Karate is a systematised set of exercises to strengthen the body and the mind

Tae Kwon Do focuses on kicks as the leg is the longest, strongest weapon. It focuses on strength and balance.


Karate will incorporate weapons training into the curriculum, ideally at the higher belt levels. The weapons used are the bo staff, nunchaku, and the sword.

Tae Kwon Do weapons training is not as common, but may be introduced as an addition to the regular curriculum.


Both forms of martial arts focus on the principle of thwarting the attacking and countering with a strike. Force against force. Both practices have developed structures forms. In karate, these forms are known as kata. In Tae Kown Do, poomse is the set of exercises used to pass along techniques.

Karate will be an official Olympic event in the Summer Games in 2020

Tae Kwon Do has been an official Olympic event since 2000

Which Martial Art Do I Choose? 

Fundamentally, one must consider personal preference.

The most important aspect of choosing a discipline though is learning about the school itself. Ask about the instructors, the curriculum, and their business practice. Most schools have an introductory program. Try it. Talk with the students and parents. Find a reputable school that has your best interests at heart.

Best of luck in your search. For further questions about karate, visit Elite Karate for more information.