TaeKwonDo or Karate?

Which martial art should I learn?

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Taekwondo or Karate?

So which martial art is right for me and my family is a question I often get.

Both are a fighting system developed over hundreds of years, proven on the battle field and stood the test of time. I respond by informing the parent that it’s more about the professionalism of the school that ultimately counts. The level of training and experience of the instructors, the convenience of the locations and the cost benefits to the family and student.

At Action Tae Kwon-Do, all our instructors are highly trained and qualified, we have many locations across Canberra and Tasmania and we offer various age specific programs.

We don’t teach fighting to children, they train in children specific programs with no adults in the class (except for the instructor). We offer seperate 3-5yr old and 5-12yr old programs.

The adult/teenager program is completely different. They are an adult learning environment where all aspects of the martial arts are taught, practiced and developed with a committed, experienced and highly capable instructor.

So here’s a bit about the differences in these two martial arts and some history.

Interested in more info on other martial arts? Check out our blog by clicking here.

Tae Kwon-Do

Tae Kwon-Do is a martial art developed independently centuries ago in Korea, although in those days it was known as Tae Kyon. Tae means to kick or smash with the feet and Kwon means to punch or destroy with the hand or fist. Do means method.

Tae Kwon-Do is the technique of unarmed combat for self-defense. It has more than 1300 years of history and tradition behind it. A Buddhist monk named Won Kwang is said to have originated the five principles that today form the basis of Tae Kwon-Do. The art developed as a means of self-defense for the scattered tribal groups who were under constant threat from their warlike neighbours.

1300 years ago the Korean peninsula consisted of three kingdoms. The smallest of these were the Silla Kingdom, which was always under attack from its two powerful enemies to the north and west. Because of its geographical location it was also threatened from Japan. The constant raids led the nobility to form an elite group or army of fighting men to protect them.

This elite group of men was called the Hwarang-Do or way of the flowering manhood. All the men were young, strong and fit, the cream of the Silla manhood. Apart from the regular military training they received, the Hwarang learned the disciplines of mind and body from the Buddhist priests. They voluntarily exposed themselves to serve hardships in order to condition themselves so they would become like steel.

Before long the deeds of the Hwarang became legendary, not only on the battlefields, but also for the way they conducted their lives. They have often been compared with the Samurai warriors of Japan. Gradually, after gaining victory after victory, the Korean peninsula became unified under the banner of the Silla Kingdom. The people inspired by the feats of their elite fighting men, began to adopt the unarmed fighting principles of Tae Kwon-Do. So popular did the art become, that it was soon turned into a sport. Tae kwon-do became compulsory for all young men, from age six upwards to practice the art.

For 500 years the art was practiced in Korea until any military training was outlawed in Korea, and in 1909 with the Japanese occupation of Korea, Tae Kwon-Do was outlawed. Many masters fled the country to China and Japan (where it wasn’t banned) and continued to practice the art in secret.

When Korea was liberated in 1945 many Koreans returned home bringing with them the refined and improved martial arts we know today.

After World War 2, a Korean soldier, General Choi Hong Hi spread his knowledge of the art until in 1955 it became a truly international martial art. General Choi then established the International Tae Kwon-Do Federation, ITF.

Tae kwon-Do is best known for having kicks with great destructive power, although it utilises many hand techniques, throws, blocks and can also be adapted for the use of weaponry.  Many other styles of martial arts employ similar kicks. However, perfection cannot be achieved because other styles do not possess the knowledge of the important basic forms found only in Tae Kwon-Do. It is only when power, speed and correct stance are blended that accuracy and maximum destructive force can be obtained. The legs are the most powerful natural weapon that a human being possess for the defense of their life. Tae Kwon-Do bases its kicks on the bound-spring principle. So the objective in applying a kick is to be like a coiled spring that is suddenly released.


Karate literally means empty hand, although the correct term is Karate-Do, or way of the empty hand. Karate comes from Okinawa, one of the Ryukyu Islands that are between Japan and China. In 1609 the island was occupied by the Japanese who confiscated all weapons and disbanded military classes. This was to avoid any successful uprising from the islanders. The Japanese didn’t take into account their strong martial arts heritage, known as Okinawa T’angor or Te, which means hand. Next, the Ryuku islanders started to condition their knuckles and elbows on straw pads. They pounded these pads until eventually their bodies were hardened to the impact. The Japanese didn’t take into account the mixing with the Chinese and the adoption of many movements of Kung Fu into their fighting system.

The Japanese armour was a similar construction to the straw pads used in training and the islanders quickly disposed of the Japanese oppressors using their fighting skills on general troops and flying kicks for the mounted troops. The farmers played their part too by developing fighting systems around the handles of farming equipment and cutting implements for crops, a fighting system now known as Kobudo.

In 1893, after a long allegiance with the Japanese, Karate was put on the educational curriculum and taught in schools in Okinawa. It wasn’t until 1921 that the Emperor of Japan asked Funakoshi to teach his art in Japan. Gichin Funakoshi named his art Shotokan or the club of Shoto (which was the name he used when writing poetry). All knew his art as the Okinawan hand, which was later translated into Japanese calligraphy to read Karate-Do or the way of the empty hand.

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