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Difference Between Kung Fu and Karate

You know those movies where amazing athletes just fly around, throwing punches and kicks like it’s nothing? How cool is it when a person slices a wooden board with his bare hands like it’s no big deal?

When you see such action, a bunch of words might pop into your head: Karate, Jujitsu, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, etc. All these fighting styles form what we know as martial arts. Each style has its own unique philosophy, techniques, and cultural influences.

Now, Kung Fu and Karate are the two forms of oriental martial arts. Each has its own style and technique.

What is Kung Fu?

Bruce Lee made Kung Fu popular in the 1970s, but the combat style has a long history. Kung Fu is more akin to a broad training program that incorporates many different martial arts systems.

You may have watched those amazing Chinese action films, Kung Fu, in which warriors use a variety of methods to subdue their opponents with grace. The exciting part is that there are numerous Kung Fu styles. Some concentrate on quick punches, some on strong kicks, and some even imitate the motions of tigers or cranes.

Chinese culture is deeply ingrained in Kung Fu. It conveys customs, tales, and a reverence for others. Thus, when you talk about Kung Fu, you’re embracing a part of China’s rich history as well as learning how to fight.

What is Karate?

The concept of karate is novel to the Western culture. Even though it has been practiced for eons, people have only recently become aware of this intriguing form of self-defense. Americans have viewed karate as a way of life, a form of self-defense, or just a physical fitness regimen since World War II. But karate is more than simply brute force; it involves much more.

It started in the Ryukyu Kingdom of Japan. Actually, “kara” means “empty,” and “te” means “hand.” These two words are combined to form the word karate. Thus, it means “empty hand” when translated literally.

This does not imply that you should practice karate with your hands empty. Rather, it represents the concept of self-defense without the need for weapons. Karate emphasizes striking and blocking techniques using the hands and other areas of the body.

Difference between Kung Fu and Karate


According to historians, Kung Fu existed much earlier than the Zhou period. Its inception can be found in ancient China, when it was created as a method of combat training and self-defense.

Karate began in the Ryukyu Kingdom era in Japan, namely in the Okinawa archipelago. It is heavily influenced by Japanese culture and adheres to customs that are connected to decency and honor.


Kung Fu has strong roots in Buddhist and Taoist thought. It emphasizes qi, or inner energy, harmony, and the idea of flowing like water. It’s becoming less about physical combat and more about knowing oneself and your opponent.

Zen Buddhism has an influence on karate, which places a strong emphasis on discipline, character development, and technical proficiency. It teaches you to pursue peace while realizing that the capacity to stay out of confrontation is the source of great strength.


Kung Fu is a journey that molds the mind, spirit, and body in addition to demanding extreme discipline. Kung fu uses many different kinds of methods. It frequently features complex forms, movements influenced by animals, and an emphasis on both offensive and defensive tactics.

Through the practice of karate, you can protect yourself without the need for weapons by using just your hands and fists. It emphasizes striking moves including punches, kicks, and hand strikes. It takes a more direct approach, emphasizing the need to strike a balance between hitting and kicking.

Kung Fu vs. Karate: Comparison Chart


Karate is a path of self-improvement and perfecting the skill of precision, not just physical moves. It has strong roots in Japanese philosophy and customs. The link between the mind and body is Kung Fu.It includes a wide range of techniques; some emphasize quick blows, some strong kicks, and some even imitate animal motions.


Which one is better, Kung Fu or Karate?

Kung Fu is many different fighting styles blended into one, which is why many people consider it superior. Kung Fu is a defense martial art, while Karate is a more offensive form.

Which one is better, Kung Fu or Taekwondo?

Both are excellent martial arts for physical fitness and well-being. Taekwondo is more about kicks, while Kung Fu is a mix of a variety of fighting techniques.

Which one is better, Taekwondo or Karate?

Taekwondo involves more kicking, whereas Karate is a more well-rounded fighting technique that places more emphasis on hand techniques. Karate is more suitable for close combat, while Taekwondo’s fast-kicking techniques are best for long-range attacks.

Can Karate defeat Kung Fu?

Well, there are some Kung Fu styles that can possibly trump Karate, and vice versa.

Is Kung Fu Chinese or Japanese?

Kung Fu is deeply rooted in Chinese culture.

Does the Karate Kid learn Karate or Kung Fu?

In the classic movie “The Karate Kid,” the protagonist learns Karate, not Kung Fu.

Which is more aggressive, Karate or Kung Fu?

Neither martial art is inherently more aggressive. Kung Fu helps you grapple with your opponent better, while Karate is more violent.

Did Bruce Lee practice Kung Fu?

Yes, Bruce Lee was trained in Kung Fu, specifically Wing Chun. However, he later developed his own martial art philosophy, Jeet Kune Do.

Does Bruce Lee know Karate?

Bruce Lee was familiar with Karate and incorporated elements of it into his own martial art form.

Can Kung Fu be used in a real fight?

Yes, Kung Fu can be effective in a real fight scenario.

Which Karate style is closest to Kung Fu?

Uechi-Ryu blends Kung-Fu with Okinawan martial arts.

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  1. Martial arts weaponry is found in both kung fu and karate styles but different sets of weapons are utilized in each system.

    Much like the empty hand forms, the kata with karate weapons are also more linear compared to those with kung fu weapons which have more circular movements. As expected, there is a lot more variety of different Chinese weapons than found in the Japanese karate styles.

    Thanks for the great article 🙂


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References :

[0]Clements, Jonathan. A Brief History of the Martial Arts: East Asian Fighting Styles, from Kung Fu to Ninjutsu. Hachette UK, 2016.

[1]Mancuso, Ted and Frank Hill. Kung Fu for Young People: An Introduction to Karate and Kung Fu. Black Belt Communications, 1982.

[2]Lorge, Peter A. Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

[3]Urban, Peter. Karate Dojo: Traditions and Tales of a Martial Art. Tuttle Publishing, 2011.

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADCESlSUOg-kung-fu-long-fist-style-people-practicing-martial-arts/

[5]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAEGDWiMmqc/

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