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Karate Vs. Taekwondo for Kids

author image Mike McLaughlin
Mike McLaughlin has been writing news, entertainment and sports articles since 1990. McLaughlin has written for “The Maine Campus,” “The Bangor Daily News" and various websites. McLaughlin is also a martial arts instructor and certified personal trainer. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and an associate degree in filmmaking.
Karate Vs. Taekwondo for Kids
Karate Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Martial arts classes teach children important lessons about self-defense, confidence, respect and discipline Two well-known styles are karate and taekwondo. Both can benefit your child physically and mentally. The main difference is karate focuses on traditional self-defense maneuvers, while taekwondo often focuses on competition skills.

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Karate developed hundreds of years ago on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Japan forcibly occupied Okinawa in 1609 and confiscated all weapons. Okinawans fought back with their bare hands and feet. Those striking, blocking and kicking methods were refined and karate was born. Taekwondo originated in Korea. The first documented evidence of Korean martial arts dates back to the hand-to-hand combat training of the hwarang warriors in the 6th century. Taekwondo was officially formed in 1955. Karate is translated as “empty hand” and taekwondo means “way of the foot and fist.”


Both are considered “hard styles” of martial arts. This means force is used against force. For example, if someone punches you, you respond with a strong block, then follow with a counter punch or kick. Initially, children typically block foam training equipment instead of actual punches. Both teach a series of punches, blocks and kicks. Many of these techniques are included in choreographed forms called “kata” in karate and “poomse” in taekwondo. Both emphasize physical conditioning and teach a child how to understand the practical applications of techniques.


Your child will learn several more kicks in a taekwondo than in karate. In addition to basic kicks, this Korean art teaches several flashy spinning and jumping kicks. Children usually enjoy all the drills in which they repeatedly kick pads. Taekwondo's fast foot techniques are often deceptive and trick opponents into leaving themselves open to attacks. Karate has more of a balance between kicks and strikes. Karate's kicks focus on self-defense applications, whereas many advanced taekwondo kicks are most useful in tournament fighting.


The difference in fighting styles is evident at tournaments. In traditional karate tournaments, punches and kicks earn the same amount of points. Therefore, karate competitors typically use their fists and feet equally. However, a taekwondo competition rewards kicks with big points and punches are rarely used. Taekwondo sparring became an official Olympic sport in 2000.


Karate and taekwondo have a much different emphasis on weapons training. Traditional Okinawan weapons are usually an important part of a karate school's curriculum. In karate, your child will likely learn how to use padded versions of weapons such as nunchaku and bo staff. The nunchaku is two short sticks connected by a rope or chain. Taekwondo classes occasionally offer weapons training, but those lessons are typically considered a special addition to the core curriculum. Children often find this part exciting since several television characters, animated and otherwise, use these weapons.

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  • The Karate Handbook; Ray Pawlett
  • The Martial Arts Companion; John Corcoran
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