Kung Fu vs Karate

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There are several kinds of martial art forms and Kung Fu and Karate stand out as two of the most popular in the world. To the untrained eye, Kung Fu and Karate might look the same. No thanks to the thousands of martial arts movies that have graced our screens over the past decades.

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This article is the transcripted version o the video above.

Kung Fu or Karate?

But in fact, there are substantial differences between these two art forms and in this article, we'll be comparing these two martial arts styles side by side.
In the end, we'll ask the question of which of these two styles is better.

Origins of Kung Fu

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Kung Fu and Karate may look similar but there are fundamental differences between them right from their very beginnings.
Kung Fu has been practiced in China for over 7 000 years. The ancient martial art is a collection of ancient Chinese culture, philosophy, and wisdom. Kung Fu is in fact a collection of different Chinese martial arts. In China, the phrase Kung Fu could refer to a variety of martial arts, including Wushu, Baguazhang, Drunken boxing, Shaolin, and a lot of other art forms. The most famous forms of Kung Fu and the forms most common in the western world are Shaolin and Wushu Kung Fu. If you've ever watched Jackie Chan or Jet Li then you've definitely seen these forms of Kung Fu.

Wooden Dummy Jackie Chan Kung F

Origins of Karate


Karate is not as old as Kung Fu, as it has been practiced for about 200 years. Originally formed in Okinawa, Japan. Karate can be thought of as an offshoot of Chinese martial arts. Karate came to life as a martial art form thanks to the trade relations between China and Japan, which saw many Chinese families travel to the Japanese island of Okinawa. With the influx of these families came the knowledge of Chinese martial arts. However, the Chinese out of pride and greed did not relay the full knowledge of their martial arts to the Japanese.

Bruce Lee

The Chinese taught Japanese some fundamental ideas and explanations of their martial art. However, for some reason, they omitted the cultural significance of the art form. As a result, there were bridges in the knowledge of Chinese martial art for the Japanese. Because of this, over time the Japanese practice of Chinese martial art or Kung Fu evolved over time, becoming different from its original form and morphing into what we know today as Karate. This is why Karate and Kung Fu are quite similar: they are branches of the same tree.

Kung Fu and Karate: meaning of the names

Kung Fu as a martial art does not specifically refer to a style of fighting as we have earlier pointed out. It is best described as an umbrella of many Chinese fighting styles, with Wushu and Shaolin being the most prominent. In the real sense of the word, Kung Fu refers to any individual achievement that is cultivated, nurtured, or gained by sheer hard work. It describes a variety of skills, disciplines, or studies attained through Chinese martial arts.

On the other hand, Karate refers to a specific fighting style. The meaning of the word Karate is empty hands. It points to the purpose of the martial art which is self-defense, and this self-defense depends on the skillful application of the defenseless body of the artist.

Differences in movements

Kung Fu vs Karate

One of the more obvious differences between Kung Fu and Karate is in their movement. The movements of these two martial arts strongly define them and their application. In Kung Fu, the movement is more circular and fluid. When practicing Kung Fu, the artist is trained to shift his weight laterally, making them depend more on responding to their opponent's attack. You first evade a strike and then deliver a powerful counter strike.
Kung Fu also draws inspiration for movements and techniques from various animals. This is where we get the tiger style or the crane style Kung Food.

Kung Fu Shaolin

Movements in Karate, on the other hand, are more straightforward and are described as linear. It relies on making straightforward powerful strikes with the hands, feet, and elbows. In Karate these styles are mastered to be very quick and very powerful. A lot of what happens in Karate has to do with power. Expert Karate fighters can deliver incredibly powerful kicks to their opponents.


The contrast and movement between these two martial arts make them suitable for slightly different applications.
Because of Kung Fu's graceful circular motion, it is ideal in circumstances where you might be grappling with your opponent.
However, if you are more interested in inflicting harm on your opponent, the more violent and powerful Karate art will be more suitable: with powerful kicks and the use of elbows you can knock out your opponents with a single strike.


The uniforms worn in Kung Fu and Karate are quite different.
Karate uniforms are more recognizable. Complete Karate attire will comprise white pants, a jacket, and a colored belt. The color of this belt indicates the skill level of the artist.

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In Kung Fu, artists wear various styles of tops with Chinese-style buttons or frog buttons. The uniforms come in different colors, styles, and materials. One significant difference in dressing between Kung Fu and Karate is that while Kung Fu artists wear shoes, Karate artists do not.

Difficulty Level

Which of these martial arts is easier to learn?
For adults, Karate is an easier martial art to learn and this is primarily because of its straight linear movements. It is a lot easier to execute these linear actions than the more complicated fluid Kung Fu movements. However, if you are not capable of executing jump kicks and other powerful techniques, then Kung Fu might be the better option for you.

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For kids, Karate is also an easier art to learn. This is because Kung Fu requires lots of focus and this might not be an easy thing for kids to achieve. While Karate also requires a good degree of focus, as pretty much all martial arts do, it is easier to focus on Karate'smore straightforward techniques than those of the more complicated Kung Fu.

Which is better?

Which of the two martial arts is better?
Well, the simple answer is none. It is often complicated to ask which martial art is better than which. You have to put it in context. Both Kung Fu and Karate are self-fulfilling in their own right. Depending on your personal preferences, you might choose Kung Fu over Karate or vice versa for various reasons depending on your personal aims, circumstances, and preferences, and either of them will suit you perfectly. Most artists tend to learn a variety of martial arts for different scenarios. This makes them well-rounded artists and more formidable opponents.

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Sophie Hartman
Gr8 read! Finally some1 tackling the real issues - Kung Fu vs Karate. Can't decide if I'm a karate chop enthusiast or Kung Fu kick fanatic. Either way, love both!

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Tommy Laughter
Despite being a lifelong fan of Karate, Kung Fu's philosophy, depth and grace have won me over. It's not just about the kicks, folks, it's about understanding the art form; and when it comes to art, Kung Fu takes the cake—in my opinion.

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Max Goodwords
Love the way you pit Kung Fu and Karate in a friendly duel! Both pack a punch, but I'm on team Kung Fu, due to its added Zen factor. Though, longing to karate-kick the tiredness out of me on Mondays! 😄

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Bobby Laughter
Kung Fu and Karate, battle of the century! I detect a roundhouse kick coming from Karate, but wait...is that a flying Crane from Kung Fu? Let's just agree, couch martial arts is safer!

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Tommy Huckleberry
Great article, although I think both Kung Fu and Karate both have their kicks and punches, pun intended! I mean, Batman practiced both, didn't he? And look how awesome he turned out!

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