Karate vs Taekwondo vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

There are many different Forms of martial arts across the world. For people who are not very familiar with martial arts, they may all look the same. But each discipline has its own focus and way of training, practicing, fighting, ranking and competing. As there are so many disciplines it would be impossible to cover them all in one article. We will look into the differences between Karate, Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs Karate vs Taekwondo

While Karate’s focus is on striking with your hands, and Taekwondo focuses on kicking techniques, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is based on ground fighting and submission holds. It focuses on the skill of taking an opponent to the ground, controlling one’s opponent, gaining a dominant position and forcing one’s opponent into submission. The idea is that smaller, weaker opponents can take control of larger, stronger opponents by getting them to the ground and using choke holds and joint-locks to force them into submission.


Karate training involves ‘kumite’ and ‘kata’. Kumite is fighting or sparring and usually blows are stopped short, preferably within an inch of contact. Hands, feet, elbows, knees and forearms are toughened by striking various padded surfaces and wood. Kata is a set routine of moves put together to simulate a fight. It consists of blocks, punches and kicks which flow from one to the next. In competitions, karateka’s are judged by a panel of judges on their execution and timing of each move.

Taekwondo training focuses on kicks. The stance is narrower to enable higher and faster kicking. Speed and agility are important as well as physical conditioning and fitness. In competitions more points are given to spinning kicks and head height kicks. They believe in the theory of power which includes reaction force, concentration, equilibrium, breath control, mass and speed.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be used for sport or self-defense. Training sessions focus on sparring, or ‘rolling’, and live drilling. Drills may be practiced on resisting or non-resisting partners. Isolation sparring, where only a certain technique or two are used, enables trainees to perfect each technique. As in all sports, physical conditioning and fitness play an important role. The four main principles for training are: 1. Use the strongest parts of your body against the weakest part of your opponent’s body. 2. Use action/reaction attack. 3. If you can’t move your opponent, move your own body. 4. Be like water.


Karate is a Japanese martial arts form which is said to be influenced by Fujian White Crane, a form of kung fu originating in Southern China.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial arts form and is recognized as one of the oldest in the world.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was invented around 1920 by Brazilian brothers who had learned Kodokan judo from a traveling Japanese judoka.


Karate means ‘the way of the empty hand’.

Tae means foot, kwon means fist and do means way. So translated, Taekwondo means the way of the foot and the fist, or the way of kicking and punching.

Ju means gentle and jutsu means art, so jiu jitsu means gentle art. The gentle art refers to using one’s opponent’s strength to your own advantage.


The ethos of Karate is effortless action and confidence, humility, openness and peace brought about through the unity of mind and body.

Taekwondo ethos is courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.

The principals of Jiu Jitsu are: size doesn’t matter, technique always overcomes strength, a good grip gives you the upper hand, press on no matter how tough it gets, focus and be present in the moment, what you give is what you get and always be kind to yourself.

Uniform and grading

A karate uniform is called a gi. Karatekas (a practitioner of karate) move up in ranks indicated by the color of the belt worn with the gi. Junior belts and senior belts are the same colors except the junior belts have a white stripe running through the middle. The order of the belts is white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, first brown, second brown, third brown, black. There are 10 black belts known as dans, or degree, to work through. To move up a rank, students who are ready will be invited by their sensai to grade. The grading involves showing all they have learned including basics, kata, kumite and fitness.

The uniform worn by Taekwondo trainees is known as a dobok. The grading system is not standardized but most styles separate senior and junior ranks referring to juniors as ‘color belts’ and seniors as ‘black belts’. The ranks for juniors is not standardized and varies from style to style. They consist of 8 to 12 ranks indicated with different color belts. The senior section is divided into ranks known as dan, meaning degree. Ranks begin at first dan and work up to ninth dan. The dan number can be indicated on the black belt with stripes or Roman numerals.

The uniform for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is known as a gi. A colored belt is worn with the gi indicating the rank of the competitor. The ranking system is very focused on age. Children between the ages of 4 and 6 can obtain 3 grey belts. Children aged 7 and up can earn 3 yellow belts. Orange belts are for children 10 and over and green belts for those 13 and older. Blue belts can only be obtained once a trainee has turned 16. Once a competitor turns 16 he/she must convert to the adult belt system. The adult ranks begin at white and progress through blue, purple, brown, 6 black, 2 coral and 2 red.

Each of these martial arts disciplines has something different to offer. If you are deciding which dojo you’d like to join it is a good idea to try a lesson or two at each. This way you will get an idea and a feel for the discipline and will be able to choose the one that suits you best.

Now that you’ve ready this article, be sure to check out the next article; How Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Helps You Get In Shape.

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