The two most common martial arts being practiced in the US are karate and taekwondo.
Ever since, people have been wondering on what is the difference between these two. This poses a problem especially for those who are just looking around for a martial art school or studio.
The fact that both karate and taekwondo seem to be wearing the same style of uniforms with different belt colors does not make help either.
The development of Karate.
Modern traditional karate was developed in the islands of Okinawa in Japan after some influences from Chinese martial arts.
In fact, there are different styles of karate but they are all commonly considered as Japanese martial arts today. The colored belt system was developed to show the different ranks of karate practitioners.
White depicting novices and black belts representing instructor levels and higher. There is a whole range of other different colors in between.
The development of Taekwondo.
Modern tae kwon do was developed in Korea after much influence from Japanese karate during the occupation by Japan. Sometimes, taekwondo is referred to as Korean karate.
The Koreans adopted the same white uniforms along with a colored belt ranking system for taekwondo.
Today, there are two major styles of tae kwon do, one under the International Tae Kwon Do Federation and the other under the World Tae Kwon Do Federation.
Many tae kwon do 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 Tae Kwon Do Federation.
There are also older Korean styles including tang soo do and moo duk kwan. Some of the more Americanized karate and taekwondo schools also use uniforms with other colors such as red, black and blue. This is in addition to the traditional white.
It can be noted that in karate, arms or hands are used 60% of the time for strikes or blocks while the use of legs for kicking is just around 40%.
This breakdown is seen in the many forms or katas of karate, which are set routines that simulate fighting against imaginary opponents using martial arts techniques.
The forms from tae kwon do would have the opposite percentage breakdown with 40% hands and 60% legs. In tae kwon do, there is more stress on higher kicks to the head level than in karate.
Tae kwon do practitioners also utilize more jumping or flying kicks where one is airborne while executing kicking techniques. The tae kwon do forms or patterns are generally a bit shorter and less complex than the karate forms. Some tae kwon do schools have been known to use the odd karate form in its curriculum as well.
In the US as well as other parts of the world, there are separate conventional competitions for karate and tae kwon do.
However, the open martial arts tournaments often have competitors from both karate and tae kwon do competing together.
Some of the larger open martial arts competition events even have separate forms divisions for Japanese karate and Korean tae kwon do competitors but the fighting or sparring divisions is usually combined.
Many black belts in taekwondo end up studying karate and vice versa.
Tae kwon do has received more publicity in recent years since its introduction as an Olympic sport. But both karate and taekwondo are considered as hard style martial arts today.