Karate is often the most common term for martial arts used in the United States. At some point in time many people began to think all eastern fighting styles as the same or some kind of “Karate.” This is similar people of the U.S referred to soda pop as “Coke”, or tissues as “Kleenex.”
The average person asking about the difference between Karate and Taekwondo (or sometimes Tae Kwon Do) isn’t looking for a deep philosophical meaning of Taekwondo and Karate. Instead, they are looking to be free from worry that the Judo, Karate or Taekwondo School they sign their children up for are going to yield teaching not unlike what was taught in the movie Karate Kid. Karate and Taekwondo are virtually the same in this mindset.
So what is the real, in-depth difference between Taekwondo and Karate?
One of the main differences between the two is the country of origin. Karate originated in Okinawa, Japan. Taekwondo on the other hand was created in Korea. Practitioners of Karate and Taekwondo both argue that they were the first to create martial arts. But martial arts most likely began to spring up in several different places in Asia about the same time. Taekwondo origins began in the Korean martial arts of Taekkyon, Subbak and Takkyon. It was around 1950 and the end of the Korean War that “Taekkyon-do” became Taekwondo.
Karate uses more hand techniques than Taekwondo. But Taekwondo uses more foot techniques. Both Karate and Taekwondo have kicking, punching, locks, grappling and throws. Teachers of Karate and Taekwondo will emphasize certain elements over others, it depends on the school.
The biggest difference between Karate and Taekwondo is how they have evolved. In the beginning they both were used as forms of self defense. It is speculated that both Taekwondo and Karate were used in military service or criminal activity. This was at a point in time one would need to rely on empty handed combat, but even today hand to hand martial arts are needed.
Taekwondo, has become both martial art and sport. Olympic competition has driven Taekwondo technique to incredible levels. Taekwondo, at its upper levels, is a full contact, full speed combat sport. Practicing theory of the techniques as well as the physical are both very critical. Taekwondo classes allows for more self expression, whereas the Karate classroom is well-ordered and uniform. Students are encouraged to find their voice, their tactic within established rules.