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Judo vs Karate: What’s the Difference?

There are numerous types of martial arts. All of them have their unique purposes and abilities, and so as judo and karate. Knowing how to make a difference between them can help you if you want to learn one or both of these fighting techniques.

So, what sets judo and karate so much apart? There are many differences but I will start with the most important one. Judo is a soft martial art, which means that it is employing throwing and grappling techniques, while karate is a hard martial art, which focuses on striking techniques.

There are not a lot of similarities between those two martial arts, so I just scraped the surface of this topic. Stay with me, and you will learn what are judo and karate, what are their purposes, and what you should learn if you have a certain goal.

Knowing Your Martial Art

You are not into martial arts, but you are interested to learn something about them, especially judo and karate? For a start, you need to know what type of martial art it is, what techniques it employs, and how it can be used. Some martial arts have a more competitive character, while others can be better used in real-life situations.

Origin of Karate

I will start with a short history lesson. Karate was founded back in the 17th century in the Ryukyu kingdom, and particularly Okinawa island. For centuries Chinese immigrants moved to the Ryukyu islands, and many were proficient in Kung-fu martial art.

As time went by, the Japanese developed their heavily modified martial art based on kung fu and named it Karate. The name comes from Kara Te, which means open hand. In that, form it came to Japan in the 20th century and developed into the form we know today.

Origin of Judo

Judo was founded in Japan in the late 19th century, and it was based on an old Japanese martial art called Jujutsu. Don`t mix Jujutsu with Jiu-jitsu. Jiu-jitsu was developed later, and its core is mixed between Jujutsu and Judo.

The goal of mastering Judo was to offer its students not only physical but also psychical development, which was based on Confucianism. The philosophy of judo is that a smaller and weaker opponent can learn the techniques to overcome and defeat a stronger and more agile enemy.

That can be accomplished not just by using pure physical strength, but by being more focused on your inner self. That way you can overpower even a much stronger enemy that relies only on pure strength.

Difference Between Karate & Judo

Now as we know the basis and history, we can focus more on the definitions of judo and karate, and what sets them apart. You first need to look at the technique of the combat used by a martial art.

In karate, a fighter wants to batter the opponent, beat him with his bare hands and legs. When you are watching a karate match you can see that the only way to win is by trying to force the opponent to the ground with pure aggressive attacks and hits.

One combatant is always trying to take the initiative with fast legs and arms hits, while the other is trying to defend itself and block those attacks.

That can also be a part of the tactic. Keeping the opponent active, while saving the energy for the attack. When you sense that the opponent is getting tired, you can change stance from defense to an attack, and produce a series of strong attacks, that can put an opponent into submission.

In judo, on the other side, winning doesn`t include hitting the opponent or trying to hurt him with punches. It is more of a gentle martial art if I can call it that way.

Instead of inflicting pain, in judo, a fighter tends to tire the opponent. There are several techniques to accomplish that, from avoiding attacks, doing a lot of the work on the ground level, to keeping the opposition fixed in a strong grapple.

Also, an important part of a judo fight is throwing an opponent to the ground. After you lock him with a grip, and when he is tired, ending the battle with a throw on the ground is like icing on the cake.

Judo Karate
Whole-body is active and most of the fight is in the locked position Arms and legs are used in a fight, and fighters are keeping their distance before attacking
You win by throwing your opponent to the ground and keeping him on his back for 20 seconds You win by collecting points based on where did you hit the opponent
7 color belt grading system 6 color belt grading system

FAQ About Judo And Karate

Is Karate better than Judo?

A: There is no definitive answer to this question. In the end, it all depends on several factors, as what you want to accomplish, what skills are you after, what kind of martial art you want to master, how do you want to use that knowledge? It may seem that karate is more popular, mostly because it is often seen in movies.

It is prettier for an eye, because there are a lot of flashy and attractive moves and strikes, while judo is a slower and more close contact martial art.

When you are watching a judo fight you may not find it that attractive, because there are no direct hits, but it more revolves around tactics and knowing how to tire an opponent.

For someone younger that can be boring. But in the end, it all depends on personal opinion. Answering which one is better is like trying to prove that chocolate ice cream is better than a strawberry or vanilla.

Which is better – judo, karate, or taekwondo?

A: These three martial arts are so different from each other that is very hard to compare or judge which one is the best. They all come from East Asia, and Taekwondo is the youngest – it is practiced for around 70 years.

What sets them apart is the fighting techniques, and way to defeat the opponent. While karate employs arms and legs that are used in fast and agile striking, judo is a close-combat martial art that focuses on endurance.

Then there is taekwondo, again very different from those two. In taekwondo, fighters can only use legs to strike each other. There is some grappling and close combat, but essentially direct leg hits to bring the most point for a competitor.

So, choosing one of those three is solely based on your choice and likings. For more all-around activity karate is the best choice if you are looking for slower and closer combat you need judo, and if you want to work with your legs taekwondo should be your choice.

What is the difference between judo and jiu-jitsu?

  1. Both Judo and Jiu-jitsu have the same origin – the original Japanese jujutsu. In Japan, Judo was founded in 1882. They wanted to start a new martial art, with just the roots in the old teachings.
  2. Some 30 years later, Mitsuyo Maeda brought Judo to Brazil, where he met the Gracie family. He shared his knowledge with them, and then they opened their school of modified Judo, called Jiu-Jitsu.
  3. Judo and Jiu-Jitsu share some techniques because they share the same base. In both martial arts there are the same joint locks, chokeholds, and throws.
  4. Differences come when you look at the executions of those techniques, and which parts of the body receive more stress during the fight.
  5. I mentioned submission, groundwork fighting, and throws, as the basics of Judo. Judo implements all of those techniques, but focuses on throwing, while Jiu-Jitsu pays more attention to fighting on the ground, and submission.
  6. In a Judo match, if you want to win you need to perform a successful throw after you throw your opponent off balance with a trip or a throw.
  7. On the other hand, in Jiu-Jitsu, most of the time will be spent on the ground, so the focus is always on the fight on the ground and submission.
  8. There is also a difference in the grading system. In Judo there are 7 belt colors, while in Jiu-Jitsu there are only 5.

Knowing the difference between martial arts can be helpful if you want to start training, or you find it interesting to follow it as a sports competition.

If you are into mastering a martial art, you should check it out, to see will it fit your physical and psychological abilities, because all martial arts have their unique terms that need to be in check if you want to master them.

If you are not in those two categories, and you just want to learn something new and interesting, I hope that you enjoyed this article. I will continue in covering all sorts of different topics, so keep an eye on this blog.

James Smith

James is a passionate explorer and the creative mind behind, a platform dedicated to unraveling captivating distinctions. With an insatiable curiosity, he uncovers hidden nuances in various aspects of life, from cultural traditions to scientific phenomena. James believes that appreciating differences fosters personal growth and societal empathy.