13 Reasons That Karate Is Better Than Kung Fu (In My Opinion)


The debate of which form of martial arts has superiority over the other is an age-old argument that has led to no concrete answer to this day. I have trained in both karate and kung fu at different times of my life, and I’ve come to the following conclusion:

From my own perspective, I believe there are many reasons why karate is superior to kung fu. It is easier to learn, it is an Olympic sport, it has many practical benefits, and it has a greater level of diversity than Kung Fu.

There are of course no concrete facts supporting Karate’s triumph over Kung Fu – it is more a case of opinion, and the preferences of myself and others I have trained with.

However, in this article, I’m going to really examine the many benefits of Karate compared to Kung Fu, and really focus on the following:

  • Self-defense
  • Competition
  • Physical Trainingm
  • Mental Training
  • Weight Loss
  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness

Thirteen Reasons to Believe That Karate Is Better Than Kung Fu

1. Movements in Karate vs Kung Fu

Karate is an offensive art which means it leans heavily towards the act of striking; from punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, to open-handed techniques – all the movements in Karate are direct, linear, and crisp.

Many moves to protect and shield oneself are also taught in the art of Karate like parries and takedowns, which is why it is considered an excellent defensive practice. 

Kung Fu, in comparison, features circular movements and gestures that often mimic the attacks of animals.

Most of the movements in Kung Fu include jabs, punches, strikes, and kicks which are similar to the movements found in Karate as it originated from Kung Fu in the first place. The circular movements of Kung Fu give it a more agile look which is why in some parts of China, Kung Fu is considered a ‘soft’ style while Karate and Tae Kwon Do are viewed as ‘hard’ styles. 

2. Karate As An Olympic Sport

Another big difference between the two martial art sports is that Karate has been given precedence over Kung Fu and it was registered as an Olympic sport in 2020. (Source)

Although it was a recent addition, it is considered a great feat for the Japanese. Karate, along with four others forms of martial arts, had been declared officially as a ‘sport’ after World War II.

It has just been added to the lists of sports in the Olympics. It is fitting that the sport is making its debut in the 2020 Olympics taking place in Japan, where Karate was originally created. 

3. Self-Defense: Karate vs. Kung Fu

Karate literally means ’empty hands’. This means that the original practice of karate involved no weapons of any kind. It originated in southern Japan as a mode of self-defense that relies on the body alone to defend against the attacker.

Originally, according to historians, Karate was developed in Okinawa, Japan to enable and teach the Okinawans peasants to fight and defend themselves against the Japanese warriors.

This is why the form of Karate focuses on blocks, hard kicks, and strikes which were intended to take down the opponents immediately.

Karate is considered to be more realistic and efficient due to its moves.

On the other hand, Kung Fu (or Gung Fu) is a term given to an accomplishment or skill obtained by a person after tedious hard work over a long period of time.

This is another reason that Karate is considered a more superior sport. Where Karate aims to defend and attack, Kung Fu is a graceful play of limbs and soft dance-like movements. 

The fighting ability and practicality of Kung Fu have been watered down over the years with flashy moves that are designed to look impressive but lack practicality.

It is widely known that Kung Fu covers many forms and types of martial arts within it. One of them called “wushu” is the perfect example of the flashy moves that Kung Fu has adopted which make it feel inferior to Karate because the latter is used as a mode of self-defense and actually has a realistic application. 

In simpler words, Karate can be used effectively in a situation where you want to defend yourself by initiating an offense as it is an offensive sport. Meanwhile, Kung Fu can be used effectively in a situation where you want to protect yourself from your opponent. 

4. Learning The Moves

Kung Fu refers to a life-long accomplishment or skill that a person obtains after hard work and serious dedication.

Which gives you a clear sense that learning the rules and moves of Kung Fu is a long process that may take you a lifetime to excel at. Kung Fu is a sport that not only has circular movements but pressures on being well rounded. 

This can be observed from the many complex sayings that masters of Kung Fu preach of like “Heavy on the bottom, light on the top” and “One hand lies, while the other tells the truth”, etc. Even though it is a sport of extreme discipline, many years are lost before you are considered a master of Kung Fu.

Karate, on the other hand, is much more finite and less diverse, which can be a negative quality and a positive one at the same time.

Because the moves and drills of Karate are finite, one can practice them and go over their drills again and again – making oneself an expert in the art of Karate.

Karate is also a martial art that requires considerably less time than Kung Fu to master, hence, it is proficient when it comes to optimum self-defense against an attacker. 

5. Universal Uniform In Karate

Another thing that sets Karate apart from other forms of martial arts is its distinct uniform that is similar for all Karate players all over the world.

Their uniforms are called ‘gi’ and consist of a kimono-type white jacket and pants with a colored belt denoting their level of skill.

Kung Fu has different types of uniforms for people depending on the type of Kung Fu they choose to partake in.

The biggest difference between the two uniforms, though, is that in Kung Fu the practicing individuals wear shoes while those in Karate do not.

6. Karate as the Ultimate Sport for Kids

We have established from the debate above that although Kung Fu is an old sport, Karate is a sport better-suited for modern times.

It has diverse moves that can be mixed with new contemporary moves to make it even better; this is exactly why Karate is all the rage over the world.

Furthermore, the Japanese have made Karate easy and accessible to all and this is the reason that Karate is more widely taught in schools rather than Kung Fu. 

Precedence is given to Karate over Kung Fu because Kung Fu requires decades of training before you can join someone in a ring and fight and it is a sport that you need to dedicate your entire life to learn.

Meanwhile, Karate takes fewer lessons and learners can quickly become efficient at using the moves in real life-threatening situations.

Kids are taught Karate over Kung Fu because it’s the best self-defense skill one could ask for and involves fewer practice drills. Karate also teaches hand-to-hand combat whereas Kung Fu masters excel in fighting with their weapons. 

7. The Unparalleled Diversity of Karate

The inherent diversity that Karate embodies has no match.

The best thing about Karate is that no matter what ‘style’ of Karate you train in, there is always something intuitive and fun for you to learn. Whether it is Kumite, Kihon, Bunkite, Kata, or Kobudo, the base strategies and moves of Karate remain the same.

 The good thing about Karate is that even though it is deeply rooted in the traditions of Okinawa, Japan, the moves and strategies of modern training methods can be incorporated to make this sport adaptable to modern times. 

It is important to remember that the sport is always as good as the player makes it, so, if you learn and practice karate properly, only then you will be able to excel in it. 

8. Practical Use of Karate As Opposed To Kung Fu

Since Karate stems directly from Kung Fu, there are a lot of common aspects that can be found between the two.

The Japanese modified Kung Fu and changed it into what is known as Karate today.

They took the major rules and structure of Karate and restructured it in a simple and direct manner to make it easier and faster to learn. 

Even when you watch Karate vs. Kung Fu matches, Karate seems like a direct fighting form while Kung Fu is mostly circular moves. Although immensely graceful, Kung Fu does not hold the same fighting urge that Karate does.

People who practice Karate professionally are often taught all the same basic fighting principles as Kung Fu. 

Karate continues to be an excellent source of self-defense for people who want to learn the martial arts for this specific purpose.

It is preferred by the newer generation over Kung Fu because of its versatility in the ring and the time that it takes to become a master. 

For all the reasons presented above, I present my own argument that Karate is a better sport to learn in contemporary times.

Although Kung Fu has its own merits, Karate is easier, simpler, and faster to learn and these are often the reasons that people choose Karate over any other form of martial arts. Since Karate is a great sport for people of all ages, here are some advantages that Karate offers. 

9. Leaves a Positive Effect on Your Physical and Mental Health

Like every other physical exercise, Karate plays a significant role in improving overall physical and mental health. (Source)

In my personal experience, this effect is greater than that I experienced when training in Kung Fu.

A student of Karate creates a healthy habit of exercising daily, multiple days of the week. This becomes a lifelong hobby for a student of Karate and they reap the multiple benefits of this sport. 

Moreover, the level of intense rigor that your body gets accustomed to, the more you learn Karate, the more it will aid you in the future. The joints and muscles of a student of karate are far more elastic and flexible than the people who do not pursue the sport. 

With everything going wrong around the world, there seems to be no recluse for the mind.

But if you are a student practicing the art of Karate, you will become accustomed to training vigorously for multiple hours during a day.

This will leave you spent and the biggest gift of nature is the mechanism of recycling psychological stress through physical exercise.

The sport keeps you happier and healthier and it doesn’t hurt that you know excellent ways of self-defense against any predator. 

10. Improves the Health of Your Heart

The full-body workout that you must undergo during the process of practicing Karate gets your blood pumping and puts a specific demand on the muscles of your heart, forcing it to be healthier and stronger.

Karate training targets many muscle groups of the body.

It will not only strengthen the muscles of your heart and make it healthier, but it will also improve your oxygen intake. It is hand-down one of the best methods for bringing significant changes in your entire cardiovascular system.

11. It Will Help You Lose Weight

By participating in the extreme sport of Karate, you can effectively lose and tone the muscles in your body.

The vigorous exercise that you must partake in to learn karate will target all major fat deposits in your body and get rid of them. It provides the perfect full-body workout that one must require to lose fat. 

Aside from that, exercising in such circumstances will also force you to eat healthier as well as improve your appetite and make you fit. 

12. Improves Coordination and Reflexes

The most prominent and promising trait one acquires during consistent training in any martial art sport is its effect on muscle coordination and your body’s reflexes.

This comes in handy because Karate itself is a self-defense sport and requires some quick thinking.

Results and statistics prove that when you practice Karate religiously and for a long period, you not only sharpen your reflexes in the dojo or during self-defense, but also in everyday tasks like driving.  

13. Improves Self Esteem and Generates Confidence

Learning any martial arts, especially Karate, improves the self-esteem of the learner. In Karate much more than Kung Fu, the gradual progress of a student from one belt to a belt of a higher color plays an important part in blooming their self-esteem. 

Other than that, when a person learns to protect themselves in any situation, they become ten times more confident in every aspect of their life.

They learn composure and the constant physical exercise removes any agitation from their mind and they continue to grow as calm, collected, and confident people. 

Jay Speakman

Jay has been a lover and player of many sports all his life, particularly hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, and racket sports. He works as a personal trainer, and writes for many sites about fitness and health. You can find out more about Jay at https://sportscentaur.com/about-jay-speakman/

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