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Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu And Karate are all great styles

First, there is no “best” style of martial art. It is much better to think of styles in terms of what you want to get out of your training.

For example, do you want to get fit? Then, almost all styles will meet your need, because all martial arts have a fitness component to them. Do you want practical self-defense? Then you should train in a martial art that contains techniques like throat strikes, eye gouges, and groin kicks. Are you looking for a very formal setting? Then Karate is the answer for you because karate comes from Japan.

Let me elaborate, most Japanese martial arts styles have various rituals and traditions that come from the Japanese culture, which is very formal.

Second, the difference between styles is not as important as the differences in instructors.

Having the right instructor can make all the difference in the world. You should ask yourself what kind of instructor you think would best mesh with your personality.

For example, are you looking for a taskmaster? Or would an instructor who is more patient and soft-spoken be more up your alley?

That being said, here are the differences between Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu And Karate.

Tae Kwon Do

First, Tae Kwon Do is a martial art that originated in Korea. Specifically, South Korea. In fact, Tae kwon do is the nation's national sport.

Tae kwon do is what is known as a combat sport. A combat sport takes martial arts techniques originally designed for the battlefield and adapts them for competition. In fact, Tae Kwon Do's main emphasis is on strategies for using both kicks and punches to win a competitive match.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do Kicking

Generally speaking, Tae kwon do places an emphasis on kicking techniques. Don't get me wrong, Tae Kwon Do does include punches and blocks, in addition to kicks. However, the kicks of Tae kwon do is its defining characteristic.

Some of the kicks you will learn in a Tae Kwon Do school are Sidekicks, Front kicks, roundhouse kicks and the most spectacular of all jumping spinning kicks.

Because of this emphasis on kicking techniques be prepared for a lot of stretching during class. In fact, most Tae kwon do schools spend about 40% of class time on stretching your legs out.

Second, Tae kwon do training can include learning weapons. Most Tae kwon do schools teach the Kama (Sickle), nunchaku, and the bo staff.

That being said, I think that the one major weakness of learning Tae kwon do is that you will no learn any grappling techniques. Grappling consists of clinching tackles takedown, throws, and ground fighting. Grappling is a part of almost every self-defense scenario and neglecting this major part of self-defense can be a mistake.

Tae kwon do is also standardized. The curriculum is the same no matter what school you go to. Because of this, you may move to a new city pick up right where you left off at a new tae kwon do school.

Contrast this with Kung Fu, where every single school has a unique curriculum.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu is an umbrella term for martial arts that originated in China. Throughout China's long history, many styles of fighting developed. These styles are known as Kung Fu.

You may have heard of some of these styles. For example, Wing Chun, Shaolin, Preying Mantis, Tai Chi, and Wushu are well-known styles of Chinese kung fu.

In reality, the words “Kung Fu” do not mean fighting or martial arts. Instead, when translated directly, The words Kung fu translate to hard work.

Of all three styles Kung fu has the most emphasis on self-defense techniques, such as elbow and knee strike, headbutts, and eye strikes.

Kung Fu

The unique aspect of Kung Fu training is the use of tactile sensitivity.

Tactile sensitivity is the ability to decide on what kind of move to use in self-defense not based on sight but rather by feeling out the opponent's position.

Taking out the reliance on sight makes fighting much more instinctual and thus instantaneous. See the video to understand what tactile sensitivity is.

Generally speaking, Kung fu is more fluid in its movements and combinations. While both Karate and Taekwondo, tend to be more rigid in their structure.

In addition to empty hand fighting, Kung fu includes training in many ancient weapons such as the long wooden staff and sword work.


Karate is the most well known of all 3 styles. It is the most widely practiced martial art in the world.

As you might already know, Karate comes from Japan. Specifically, and island off the coast of Japan called Okinawa. One man, in particular, is responsible for the evolution and proliferation of karate as the most popular martial art. His name was Gichin Funakoshi.

Funakoshi is considered the father of modern-day karate.

Karate Forms

Next, Japanese society is very formalized and Karate class reflects that formality.

In a typical Karate class, you will see very elaborate rules of etiquette. There are specific ways and times to bow. In addition, there are even formalized ways to line up.

These rules are enforced because they are considered to be polite ways of interacting in Japanese culture. New karate students may have to learn these through observation, as in many instances these are not written down

The word Karate is actually a combination of two Japanese words. “Kara”, meaning empty and “Te” meaning hand.

Today, there are 5 main subsections or styles of karate practiced. The 5 styles are Shotokan, Gojo Ryu, Shito Ryu, Wado Ryu, and Shorin Ryu.

Tae Kwon Do vs. Kung Fu vs. Karate

A Taekwondo so school is called a “dojang”. A Karate school is called a "dojo". While a Kung Fu School is called a "kwoon".

All 3 of these styles use a method of training called forms. Forms are a routine, similar to a dance routine where all of the moves are memorized and choreographed. In the martial art of Tae Kwon Do, these forms are colled Poomse. In the martial art of karate, these forms are called kata. While in the martial arts of Kung Fu these forms are called Lu.

In addition to forms, most martial arts schools that teach these 3 styles, will also have some type of sparring as a part of the class curriculum.

Sparring is a form of training where you are competing against another student in class.

They are trying to hit you and you are trying to hit them. Sparring can include kicks, punches and takedowns.

Sparring is usually against a single opponent that is approximately your size.

In conclusion, all styles of martial arts are good for you. Generally speaking, training in martial arts is about trying to better yourself. It is about training to be the best person you can be.

In reality, you will get the benefits of martial arts from training in any style. Benefits like self-discipline, self-control, flexibility, and fitness are just a part of living a martial artist lifestyle. Your next step is to think about what kind of environment you want to be in. you should think about what kind of instructor you are looking for.

Don't sign up at the first tae kwon do, karete, kung fu school you visit

First, go out and participate in a trial class at multiple schools. Most schools offer a one-day free trial. We certainly do. Trying out different venues is really an eye-opening experience. You will see a huge difference in teaching styles and cultures.

Next, definitely, do not sign up at the first school you try out. Make sure you try out at least 3 before making a decision. Sounds like a lot of work? Well, you don't want to get stuck at a school then later wish you had not signed up there.

I always hope that people who walk into the our school have tried other schools previously. Why? Because then I know they will have the background knowledge to see how we are different.