The Comprehensive Martial Arts Guide: Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, Aikido, and Kung Fu!

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

Have you ever wondered what's the difference between Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, Aikido, and Kung Fu? To some people, they're all the same. And yet, they're completely different disciplines. However, the all develop the same values including respect, courage, focus, and physical development.


If you are planning to start practicing a martial-art it is very important to understand the major differences between these disciplines before deciding which one is suitable for you. This guide will highlight the differences and offer some recommendations to help you decide which martial-art is suitable for you!


Striking vs. Grappling:

Martial Arts can be divided into two main categories:

1- Striking (i.e. Punching & Kicking): such as Boxing, Taekwondo, Karate, and Muay Thai.

2- Grappling (i.e Throwing & Submission Locks): such as Judo, Aikido, and Wrestling.


Striking martial-arts are typically characterized as long distance combat sports. They focus primarily on developing the ability to execute kicks and punches from a long distance. Striking martial arts typically focus on developing leg flexibility/ range of motion, endurance, strength, speed, as well as technical and strategic expertise.


Grappling martial-arts are characterized as close distance combat sports. They focus on developing the practitioner's ability to execute grabs, throws, and submission techniques. Training includes physical strength, endurance, as well as technical and strategic expertise. Grappling martial arts are known for using the least amount of effort to defeat your opponent, this is achieved through developing a high level of technical knowledge as well as physical development.


Taekwondo: The Way of Hand and Foot


Taekwondo is a Korean combat sport categorized as a long-distance martial art, i.e kicking & punching.

It is an Olympic sport and is governed by the WT (World Taekwondo Federation).

It features worldwide opens, championships as well as award winning cash prizes in competitions such as the Grand Prix & Grand Slam. Today, Taekwondo is among the most popular martial-arts in the world.


Taekwondo is divided into two main practices: Kyrogui & Poomsae.

Kyrogui is the combat side of Taekwondo. It is scoring punches & kicks against an opponent.

Poomsae (forms) is an individual side of Taekwondo. It is executing movements, punches, and kicks in an organized and creative sequence.


Scoring points in Taekwondo has been subject to change over time but the principles remain the same. Currently (2020) kicks to the body are worth 2 points, and kicks to the head are worth 3 points. Punches are only allowed against the body and are worth 1 point.


Here's some footage to give you a sense of what Taekwondo Kyrogui is all about:

(Video Courtesy of World Taekwondo)


Karate: The Art of the Hand (and Foot)


Karate is a Japanese long-distance (striking) combat sport.

It is governed by the WKF (World Karate Federation).


It is divided into two essential practices: Kata & Kumite.

Kata (forms) is the individual creative side of Karate, expressed in a most disciplined and fierce-some manner, which invites much appeal and respect.

Kumite, on the other hand, is the combat side of Karate. Much like Taekwondo Kyrogui. It involves Punching and Kicking against the opponent to earn points.


Here's some footage to give you a sense of what Karate Kata is all about:

(Video Courtesy of World Karate Federation)


Judo: The Gentle Way


Judo is among the most popular grappling martial arts. It is a Japanese martial-art and Olympic sport governed by the IJF (International Judo Federation). Its founder, Jigoro Kano, had a philosophy of "Maximum efficiency, Minimum effort". "The Gentle Way" is a good way to describe Judo.


Scoring in Judo is achieved through several means such as: throwing your opponent flat on their backs or sides, holding your opponent on their back for 20 seconds on the ground (submission), arm-locking or strangling your opponent to submission.


Here's some footage to give you a sense of what Judo is all about:

(Video Courtesy of GameOf Life)


Kung Fu: Achievement through Time and Effort


Kung Fu is China's main martial-art and is deeply influenced by Chinese culture.

It is governed by the International Wushu Federation.

It can be divided into two basic practices; namely internal and external Kung Fu.


External Kung Fu aims towards strengthening the body.

There are many types of External Kung Fu such as Wushu, Shaolin Kung Fu, and Wing Chun.

Wushu Kung Fu is comprised of Taolu (Forms) and Sanda (Sparring), much like Taekwondo and Karate's Poomsae & Kyrogui / Kata & Kumite. Moreover, Wing Chun is a branch of Wushu, specialized in close range combat.


Shaolin Kung Fu is also very popular. Practiced in China's infamous Shaolin Temple, it is known to be quite extreme. Its practitioners are known for exceptional mental and physical strength.


Internal Kung Fu focuses on developing internal aspects of the human body using concepts such as Chi (Breath Energy), and Shen (Mental / Spiritual Will) to fortify the body against ills. Internal Kung Fu is best practiced alongside External Kung Fu. The most popular forms of internal Kung Fu are "Tai Chi" & "Qi Gong".

(Video Courtesy of Cinda Button)


Aikido: The Way of Harmonious Spirit


Aikido is a Japanese Martial Art governed by the International Aikido Federation.

It focuses on throwing and submission movements through redirecting an opponent's attack by entering and turning movements. Its main techniques include various types of grabs, joint locks, and throws.

(Video Courtesy of Shinburenseijyuku)


Picking your Martial Art


Our Recommendations:

If you like long distance kicking & punching pick Taekwondo- Kyrogui.

If you like executing creative forms in an organized sequence pick Karate- Kata.

If you like grappling, submission, and throws pick Judo or Aikido.

If you like a philosophical and generalized martial art pick Kung Fu.


Practicing a martial art can be a great way to exercise the body and mind. Go for it!


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