A Look at Two Popular Forms of Martial Arts


Martial arts have existed in one form or another for thousands of years. Today, they are as popular as ever and exist in a variety of methods and schools. The two most popular varieties of martial arts in Northern America are Karate and Tae Kwon Do. While to the amateur eye, these two systems seem extremely similar if not identical, to the trained martial arts enthusiast, there are notable differences between the two.

The version of karate that we have come to know was developed in Japan in the island of Okinawa. It takes a great deal of influence from Chinese martial arts. While there are quite a few different styles of karate, we view them all as Japanese martial arts. Karate utilizes a colored belt system to show the ranks of the karate practitioner. This system ranges from white (the novice) to black belts (instructor levels and above). Black belts come in different degrees depending on the level of mastery you hold. Each time that the practitioner tests and passes to reach the next level, they earn a new color belt.

The martial art of karate uses katas or set routines that simulate fighting against an imaginary opponent. As a general rule, your arms and hands are used mostly for strikes and blocks (approximately 60% of the time), while legs are used primarily for kicking (about 40% of the time). A practitioner must learn blocks to protect themselves before they learn offensive moves.

Our modern form of tae kwon do was developed in Korea using a great deal of influence from Japanese karate. Because of this, it is frequently referred to as Korean Karate. Practitioners of this system use a similar belt system to show level of proficiency. There are two main styles of tae kwon do, one under the International Tae Kwon Do Federation and the other under the World Tae Kwon Do Federation.

Korean Karate differs from karate in the types of moves used for fighting and their frequency. Use of hands and arms in tae kwon do is only about 40% where as legs are used 60% of the time. They also utilize much higher kicks, aiming to the head level. In order to do this, they utilize more jumping and flying kicks. Tae Kwon Do forms are usually shorter and less complex than karate forms, though some schools include karate forms as well.

Whichever system of fighting you choose to learn, they both have far reaching benefits. Either way, you can’t go wrong!


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