If you are tired of sitting around on your behind all day, or if you are looking for an invigorating way to get physically and mentally fit, you may be considering signing up for a martial arts school. But there are many schools to choose from, and it can be difficult to determine which one suits you best. While there are numerous schools taught these days, two of the most popular continue to be karate and taekwondo.
You've probably heard of both of these schools; but how are they different? To a large extent, they aren't. Both revolve around sparring with a partner. Both teach a respect for self and others, and both mark advancement through upgrades in belt colors. But the most fundamental difference between the two martial arts schools is that karate focuses on punches and taekwondo focuses on kicks.
Don’t both schools use both kicking and punching? Yes, just to varying degrees. And which fighting action you are favoring ultimately determines your go-to stance, posture, and weight distribution. Taekwondo classes will teach you to keep your legs relatively straight and lengthened. You will be turned sideways to your opponent, and you will keep your weight largely on your back leg - this is to allow for quick, powerful kicks from your front leg.
Karate, on the other hand, positions its students in a lower crouching position. Since most of the fighting is done through the hands, it is beneficial to have knees bent more greatly - this allows for a “spring-loaded” effect, in which the fighter can push up from the legs and add a great deal more force to a punch. The karate posture also tends to place weight on the front leg, which is less conducive to kicks but helpful when delivering a punch.
The two martial arts schools also create differences in fighters’ torsos. Karate classes train fighters to greatly engage their hips; the spring-loaded stance allows for quick hip rotations, which help to drive punches even more strongly. Shoulders remain relatively low, relaxed and un-engaged. Taekwondo classes, on the other hand, teach fighters to greatly rely on their shoulders - this can be explained in part by the fact that the straighter-legged, kicking posture of taekwondo does not allow for hip rotation as greatly as karate does, so more strength is derived from the shoulders.
As you can see, there are differences between what you will learn in karate classes and taekwondo classes. To put it in a nutshell, karate will teach you to dominate with your hands, while taekwondo will teach you to master the strength of your legs. Whichever school you choose, you will be learning an ancient art that will not only allow you to protect yourself, but will involve you with a positive community that will ultimately make you a stronger, healthier person.