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What Are The Differences Between Kung Fu and Karate?

Kung Fu is more focused on practical self-defense while Karate is generally more sport-oriented. What this means is that Kung Fu movements tend to strike vital targets such as the eyes, throat, and groin, while Karate movements attack the torso (Side kicks, Reverse Punches) and the legs (Roundhouse Kicks)

Wing Chun

The two popular disciplines of martial arts are Kung Fu and Karate. These two are combative in nature, but that is where the similarity ends. For many who do not practice these arts, they may seem like they are the same.

Kung Fu vs. Karate

The differences between the two start from their roots to their philosophies. When you watch someone performing martial arts, it is hard to tell exactly whether they are doing Kung Fu or Karate.

So, when it comes to Kung Fu vs. Karate, how do you tell the difference? Here are the main differences between Kung Fu and Karate.

1. Definition

The first difference between Karate and Kung Fu is in their meanings. Karate stands for empty hands. The meaning originated from the fact that Karate came into existence as a mode of self-defense that depended on the operative use of the defenseless body of the artist.

Kung Fu, also known as gongfu, refers to any individual achievement or cultivated skill gained by hard work.

Another important thing to note under its meaning is that Kung Fu does not stand for a specific skill. Rather it is used to describe a variety of skills, discipline, or study attained through Chinese martial arts.

When you think of Kung Fu, think of it as an umbrella term for forms like Wing Chun, Shaolin Kung Fu or tai chi. All these forms have different principles, techniques, and even philosophies.

Dissimilar from Kung Fu, Karate stands for one specific type of martial art.

2. Country of origin

Kung Fu applies to ancient martial arts forms, which existed between the Chinese. On the other hand, Karate originated from Japan from a practice known as “te”. The practice involves only hand motions.

The Chinese martial arts, later on, influenced Karate and that is why there is a connection between the two forms of martial arts.

Although both Kung Fu and Karate seem to utilize the same techniques, many of the Kung Fu styles will usually possess more techniques than Karate. It is almost as if the Japanese people restructured the number of techniques from the Chinese to create karate.

Karate

3. Circular Motion vs. Linear Motion

Kung Fu tends to use motions that are more circular whereas Karate tends to be linear. This means that when you are practicing Kung Fu the movements will shift your weight laterally that you will depend more on responding to your opponent’s attacks.

On the other hand, with Karate, the movements will take you forward with a thrust towards your opponent. The circular movements involved in Kung Fu give the practice a graceful look because the techniques appear to flow from one to the next.

In many of the Kung Fu styles, there is more go and less stop. This is the reason you will find many martial artists, especially those in North America, referring to Chinese Kung Fu as a ‘soft’ style. Karate and tae kwon do are those referred to as ‘hard’ styles by the same artists.

However, that does not say that hard styles are more powerful than the soft ones.

The difference in the motions makes the two forms of martial arts useful on different occasions. Kung Fu will help you in circumstances where you might be grappling with your target, whereas Karate is more violent. In short, you can use Karate when you want to harm your opponent and use Kung Fu when you simply want to stop the opponent.

4. Uniforms

Looking at the uniform is one of the simplest ways to tell martial artists apart. The most common types of uniforms are the Karate uniforms, which comprise of white pants, jacket, and a colored belt. The color of the belt, of course, depends on the skill level of the artist.

Various styles of Karate require different uniforms but they all share the same basic design. The difference usually comes in the lengths of the legs, sleeves and the skirt of the jacket, known as the Uwagi.

The uniforms worn by Kung Fu artists comprise of various style tops with frog buttons. Frog buttons are Chinese style buttons. This style is different from the one seen on the Karate uniforms because Karate uniforms come with an overlapping tied-up design.

Additionally, these uniforms come in various colors, materials, and styles. One example of the material used for Kung Fu uniforms is satin.

The most important difference to note between the uniforms is that whereas Kung Fu artists wear shoes, those in Karate do not.

Kung Fu vs. Karate? Choose Your Preference

Now you know about Kung Fu Vs Karate.

In summary, Kung Fu does not stand for one specific form of martial art whereas Karate does. Kung Fu originated from China and Karate originated from Japan. The movements involved in Kung Fu are circular and those in Karate are linear.

The Karate uniform is mostly white, apart from the belts, which depend on the skill level. However, Kung Fu uniforms are colorful and the Kung Fu artists wear shoes, unlike the Karate artists who do not. The two are different in many ways but both have numerous psychological benefits.

The next time someone tries to tell you that Kung Fu and Karate are the same, educate them with the differences that you have learned here. Whether you practice Kung Fu or Karate or you do not practice either, knowing these differences is important because it expands your knowledge.