Kung Fu vs. Taekwondo

Kung Fu and Taekwondo are two of the most well-known martial arts practiced all over the world. Both systems offer healthy physical conditioning and strong mental focus, but their training regimens employ different movements, strikes and philosophies. The continuously flowing movements of Kung Fu are a stark contrast to the straightforward, sharp movements of Taekwondo, yet these styles share the same goal of warding off attacks.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that utilizes strong kicking techniques. (Image: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Kung Fu and Taekwondo History

Kung Fu originated in China circa 2800 B.C. Martial Arts Info states that the Shaolin Temple became a sanctuary for many former warriors who had become monks. Kung Fu was not originally developed at the temple, as different combat styles were used in skirmishes throughout China, but it did flourish there. Many of the monks applied their spiritual discipline to perfect the martial art so it could be used to defend the temple from thieves. Taekwondo originated in Korea approximately 5,000 years ago, and it is now recognized as South Korea’s national sport. The World Taekwondo Federation states that the system was developed to train both the mind and body in the ancient kingdom of Koguryo.

Striking Techniques

Kung Fu and Taekwondo utilize very different striking techniques. The Austin Kung Fu Academy notes that the Chinese style employs numerous quick hand strikes. These can be delivered as open-handed slices and finger pokes, as well as close-fisted punches. Taekwondo places more emphasis on striking with the legs, employing kicks from various angles designed to attack an opponent’s legs, abdomen, collar bone and head. Kung Fu does include kicks and Taekwondo does include hand techniques, but generally, Kung Fu focuses on the speed of the hands, whereas Taekwondo focuses on the power of the legs.

Movement Styles

Kung Fu movement flows consistently, so fighters rarely stand flat-footed. The circular, fluid motion can make blocks and strikes appear soft, but they are completed with snaps of the wrists and elbows, which elicit power. Taekwondo’s forceful linear approach is in direct contrast to Kung Fu’s almost dance-like style. Kicks are thrust with full power from a long range to keep the opponent at a distance. Each individual Taekwondo strike is intended to be a debilitating blow that can end a conflict, whereas Kung Fu often combines a series of short strikes to disable an opponent.


Kung Fu includes techniques for the use of 18 specific weapons, including the battle axe, the spear, the three-section staff and the chain whip, according to the Austin Kung Fu Academy. It is believed that many tools used for farming and carpentry were adopted as weapons in ancient times. Weapons are not a traditional part of Taekwondo. However, throughout the past centuries, Taekwondo practitioners began training in the use of the bo staff and the nunchaku due to the influence of Japanese and Okinawan martial arts systems.

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