Understanding the Different Types of Martial Arts | Karate International

Understanding the Different Types of Martial Arts

Tuesday, July, 17 2018

One of the most frequently asked questions we get asked at Karate International is about the different types of martial arts. There are many different options available for those that are interested in the self-defense skills, fun, and fitness that come along with learning one of the martial arts.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at some of the different martial arts more closely in order to explain the difference and help you get an idea of the practice that’s best for you.


What is Karate?


Let’s start with what we’re most passionate about - karate. Karate is an art, sport, and system of self-defense. The word karate means “empty hand,” due to the lack of weapon use in the sport but also likely due to some beliefs about the spiritual journey that karate practitioners sometimes embark on and the focus on unburdening one’s mind. Karate originated in Okinawa and teaches a practitioner to use their hands and feet to deliver blocks and strikes against an attacker.  


The psychological elements of the karate practice are equally important as the physical movements. Karate emphasizes positive attitude development in the form of perseverance, virtue, leadership, respect for self and others, and goal setting.




Another very popular martial art is Taekwondo. It’s arguably the winner of the best named martial art, meaning “the way of the kicking foot and smashing fists.” Dating back about 2,300 years, Taekwondo was developed into the style we know it to be today in the 40s and 50s in Korea.


There are some similarities between Taekwondo and Karate. The biggest similarity is that both are striking arts. Both Karate and Taekwondo teach kicks, punches, and blocks. Other martial arts, like Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, focus more on submissions and throws.


Neither martial art puts an emphasis on weapons. And there are similar moral philosophies ingrained in Taekwondo and Karate like an emphasis on self-improvement, philanthropy, self-control, and character development.


Which is Right for You?


So if Karate and Taekwondo are similar - which should you practice? Well, it depends. What I tell my students, or anyone interested in martial arts is that you should find a school and an instructor that you like. Book a class and try out a prospective school. Do you like how the instructor teaches and how the classes are run? Is the facility clean and well-maintained? The answers to those questions are going to dictate your satisfaction with a martial arts school at least as much as the particular martial art that you decide to practice.


In deciding if Karate, or Taekwondo, or some other martial art is right for you, look at the culture of the school, the passion in the instructor, and the drive that both inspire in you. After all, you’re learning martial arts to be pushed to your best potential. Only the right mix of culture, instructor, peers, and self-determination can provide that.