Key Differences Between Kung Fu and Karate

As a general person does not know about martial arts, it’s difficult to find the difference between Karate and kung fu.

In this kung fu vs. karate article, we will be taking a close look at both these forms of martial arts, and we will also be discussing their differences in detail.

So, let’s get the show on the road.


What is Kung Fu?

Kung fu

Kung Fu is a martial art form traced back to China’s Zhou dynasty around 1111 to 255 BC.

In the 5th century, Daoists practiced Kung Fu as a form of exercise. The meaning of Kung Fu means work or achievement.

So basically, it means the hard work and dedication one puts into any skill or art. As mentioned before, it is one of the most popular and celebrated forms of martial arts, and it is also China’s most ancient martial arts form that is practiced.

This martial arts form includes a lot of continuous circular motion and turning. Kung Fu involves a lot of physics principles and is thus heavily related to science.

One of the essential things in kung fu is maintaining balance while causing maximum damage to your opponent, so the moves are fast and fluid.

Five basic foot positions of Kung Fu are the normal upright posture, frog, snake, dragon, and horse riding. As you can tell, Kung Fu’s movement principles are influenced by animals.

Like most martial arts, Kung Fu consists of several physical health benefits which will make you stronger.

In addition to that, Kung Fu is supposed to exercise your spiritual dimension and has mental health benefits since self-discipline and concentration are cores of the martial arts form.

This form of martial arts is open, which means the practitioners who have perfected their actions can adapt it, and the instructor is called a Si Fu.


What is Karate?


Karate originates from Okinawa, a Japanese island in the 5th Century CE.

Although it originates from Japan, Karate has influences of China which is why sometimes people confuse their origins.

This form of martial arts is the most practiced and developed today, and from 2020 it has even been included as an Olympic event.

The word Karate essentially means “empty hands” because it is mainly used as a form of self-defense for unarmed practitioners.

In today’s world, Karate is viewed as a sport as well as a martial art form. Its principles are strict training, fighting, and, most importantly, self-defense. This is why in Karate, you are never supposed to attack first.

If you have ever seen the practice of Karate, you must have noticed that Karate includes swift, linear, and sharp movements. These movements are also very crisp and have sudden stops.

The practitioners are trained to focus their powers on their strikes of punches and kicks, which make them highly impactful, and this is achieved by perfecting their postures.

Karate uses a lot of open hand techniques and other styles joint-locking, grappling, throwing, punching, vital point striking, and kicking.

There are three forms of karate training which include Kihon (basics), Kumite (sparring), and kata (posture). The instructors of Karate need to achieve perfection before they train any other practitioners, and they are known as sensei.


Differences Between Kung Fu and Karate

kung fu vs karate

Although both these forms of martial arts may appear similar to an untrained eye, they do have their fair share of differences.

For starters, Kung Fu is more ancient and originates from China, while Karate is traced back to China.

One of the starkest differences between these two forms of martial arts is that Kung Fu is more fluid and includes circular motions, whereas Karate has only sharp and linear movements.

Spiritual exercise and hard work are the cores of Kung Fu. On the contrary, self-defense and fighting are more important aspects of Karate. However, one similarity that they both have is that they both require tremendous discipline and patience.

In today’s world, Karate is more practiced and has been developed more than Kung Fu. Thus, Karate is viewed as a sport and is more celebrated worldwide.


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Kung Fu vs. Karate: The Comparison Table

Parameter of Comparison Kung Fu Karate
Meaning Refers to the hard work and dedication one puts into a skill or art


It means’ empty hands’ and signifies the self-defense of an unarmed practitioner through hard work
Origin Traces back to China from about 1111 to 255 BC Traces back to Okinawa (a small Japanese island) from the 5th century CE
Movements Very quick, fluid, and includes continuous circular motion Sharp, fast, and linear movements with high impact
Features Animal-influenced moves are swift Joint-locking, grappling, throwing, punching, vital point striking, and kicking
Types and forms Three deadly types of Kung Fu are Monkey, Praying Mantis, and Wing Chun Four types of Karate are Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, Shotokan, and Shito-Ryu
Core Principles Exercises the spiritual self of the practitioner through concentration and self-discipline, also used for self-discipline Primarily used for self-discipline, fighting, and comes with great training
Uniform It varies by institution but generally consists of Kung Fu pants, Kung Fu shoes, and a belt Gi with patches to show the style of the practitioner, a colored cotton belt (the color depends on the skill level), and the practitioner remains barefooted


Key Takeaways

1. Kung Fu originates from China from between 1111 to 255 BC. Meanwhile, Karate originates from a small Japanese island called Okinawa.

2. The skill that is put into a skill or art by hard work and dedication is known as Kung Fu, whereas Karate is the self-defense of an unarmed practitioner.

3. In Kung Fu, movements are more circular and fluid. On the other hand, in Karate, the strikes are very fast and are linear with sudden stops.

4. Fast animal moves have heavily influenced Kung Fu, and so the actions are similar to animal movements. On the contrary, the motions of Karate are open hand techniques as well as other styles and forms, which include joint-locking, grappling, throwing, punching, vital point striking, and kicking.

5. Uniforms of Kung Fu practitioners are Kung Fu pants, Kung Fu shoes, and a belt, while ones for Karate consist of Gi with patches which represent the style of Karate the student practices, a colored belt, and no shoes.



The martial arts world can be very intimidating, and with so many styles out there, it can certainly get confusing.

So, we hope you could clearly understand the differences between Kung Fu and Karate and have a clear understanding of both martial art forms.

From China to the small Japanese island of Okinawa, Kung Fu and Karate are difficult forms of art which require incredible efforts and patience, which we hope you were able to understand today!