Differences between judo, karate and taekwondo

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When it comes to the world of martial arts, our minds often conjure up images of different specialties and routines, such as Taekwondo, Karate or Judo. However, there are cases where we make a mistake and misidentify various moves. And there are numerous differences between judo, karate and taekwondo. Given the vastness of the martial universe and the constant bombardment of advertising and films, the public is often left confused as these media tend to distort the true essence of martial arts.

Therefore, in this article we are going to tell you what the main differences are between judo, karate and taekwondo.

Differences between judo, karate and taekwondo

Let's delve into the origins of these three martial arts, all of which have Asian roots. Both Karate and Judo come from Japan, which makes them closely related. On the other hand, Taekwondo, often confused with a Chinese or Japanese martial art, actually comes from Korea.



The origin of this martial art is associated with both South and North Korea, dating back to the Korean empire and its martial ancestor, taekkyon. Recently, there has been a notable presence of this art in international news, leading to the question of which Korea it belongs to.

In the field of martial arts, Taekwondo is notable for focusing on using powerful leg movements, known as kicks. However, it is worth noting that competitions and tournaments also recognize the effectiveness of certain hand strikes, commonly known as fists.

When considering Taekwondo from an institutional point of view, it can be divided into two different aspects or styles: the WTF and the ITF. The International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) maintains a firm commitment to the essence of traditional Taekwondo, prioritizing aggressive sparring and recognizing blows to the face as legitimate techniques.

The taekwondo of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is a more sporty and stylized version, although it has certain limitations in terms of technicalities. Its main objective is to protect athletes from possible injuries. Since its inaugural introduction at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, WTF Taekwondo has maintained its status as an Olympic sport.

The clothing used for Taekwondo training is known as Dobok. Usually, The Taekwondo dobok consists of two main garments and a belt known as an obi. The top of the dobok, also known as a jacket, features a border around the neck seam that is white or black, depending on whether the wearer is a black belt. However, it should be noted that there are currently numerous schools that opt ​​for the color black regardless of the rank of the practitioner.

In several Taekwondo schools, the Dobok or Taekwondo uniform may feature embroidered logos and designs. It is quite common to find the emblem of the South Korean flag adorning different Taekwondo kimonos. To ensure the safety of athletes, especially during competitions and certain training sessions, Protective gear such as a chest protector, helmet, shin guards, groin protector and forearm protectors is generally used.



Originating from the island of Okinawa, Karate is a traditional Japanese martial art with a rich history. Karate has its origins in Kung fu, as it was introduced to the island of Okinawa by successive waves of Chinese immigrants. During their stay on the island, these immigrants made adaptations and improvements, resulting in the development of a distinctive, indigenous style known as Karate. As a result, Karate eventually separated from its roots in Kung fu.

The essence of Karate lies in its literal translation, "empty hand", and its fundamental philosophy revolves around the use of the hands to stop all forms of aggression. Karate encompasses a wide range of techniques, including powerful strikes such as open-handed strikes, closed punches, and strikes to vital points on the body. Additionally, it incorporates various kicks, including side kicks, direct kicks, and heel kicks. Karate includes specific movements designed for self-defense purposes. It is worth noting that practitioners also train Judo-style throws.

Karate, since its beginnings, has given rise to various styles and substyles, with Shito-ryu Karate, Goju Ryu Karate, Wado Ryu and Kyokushinkai being among the most important. While each of these styles has its own unique characteristics, they all share a foundation rooted in traditional Karate, which emphasizes powerful punches and kicks.

There are many Karate tournaments, world championships and competitions, and plans are underway to include it in the program of the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. The competitions consist of two main modalities: Kata, which involves the execution of exercises and techniques, either individually or as a team, and Kumite, which focuses on combat.

The traditional clothing for practicing Karate is known as Karategi, which consists of pants, jacket and belt. Usually, Karategi is white, although certain styles may allow the use of black or red. Certain kimonos or Karategis have sleeves that extend to the middle of the forearm, while the rest of the fabric usually reaches wrist height.

Karategi selection varies depending on the type of competition, whether Kata or Kumite. In Kata, a heavier Karate-gi is preferred, typically weighing around 14 or 16 ounces. On the contrary, for Kumite a lighter 10-ounce Karategi is used, which allows for greater agility and fluidity in movements.



Jigoro Kano, responsible for bringing together the best techniques of various indigenous fights in Japan, successfully created judo, a Japanese martial art with deep roots in the country's history. Of all the martial arts, Judo stands out as the one that is furthest from Karate and Taekwondo. Unlike these other disciplines, judo focuses on grappling techniques, such as throws that use the opponent's weight to knock him to the ground, as well as chokes and dislocations. Although there are punching and kicking techniques in Judo, they are not commonly used, except for specific katas where they are exclusively incorporated.

Judo offers a unique aspect that is not extensively explored in Karate or Taekwondo, which is ground fighting or ne-waza. This form of combat begins with both opponents on the ground, and its arsenal of techniques includes chokes, pins, joint locks targeting the elbows, shoulders and ankles (although the latter is prohibited in competitions), throws and more.

Judo shares many similarities with Greco-Roman wrestling, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and sambo due to its unique characteristics. The traditional Judo clothing is the Judogi, which consists of three components: jacket, pants and belt. The Judogi comes in two colors, blue and white. Unlike the light jackets used in Karate or Taekwondo, the Judogi jacket is known for its thickness and heaviness.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the differences between judo, karate and taekwondo.