Kung Fu vs Karate

I find that people often ask me, what is the difference in Karate and Kung Fu? Today, I would like to explain some of those differences.

Let’s start with Karate. Karate generally refers to a form of martial art that originated in Japan. There are several people who assume that Karate refers to one style of martial art. It would be more accurate to say that Karate refers to the striking techniques found in Japanese martial art. Judo would be the throwing arts and Jujitsu the ground work. The main styles of Karate taught by Arkansas Wushu are Shotokan Karate, and Kenpo Karate. You may hear someone who has practices Karate called a Karateka

Wushu, refers to the martial arts that have originated from China. There are many styles of Wushu, though most people in America refer to this as Kung Fu. Kung Fu is not actually specific to martial arts, but translates to mean a skill that has been acquired through years of practice. Today, Wushu generally refers to the styles Chan Quan, Nan Quan, and Shaolin. Jeet Kune Do and Wing Chun were also made into very famous styles thanks to the help of Bruce Lee.

Kung Fu and Karate often have similar techniques and may even teach the same basic movements. Techniques like the Back Fist and The Front Snap Kick are almost Universal to most Martial Arts throughout the world. Though the movements may be similar, they are often combined or used in different ways. To prove a point lets use forms to compare the styles.

A Karate form is called a Kata, and it almost always begins with a bow. In contrast, a Kung Fu form is called a Taolu. Rather than bowing, Chinese forms tend to begin with a greeting known as a Salutation. These can very from a simple gesture to an almost dance like introduction. Sometimes self defense techniques are incorporated into the salutation itself.

After the introduction, there is always a particular stance every movement is performed in. The stances for Kung Fu can be found in Karate as well. In performance, Karate tends to use somewhat higher stances. This makes it easier to transition from one movement to another but does not have a very appealing look. Kung Fu often tends to use deeper stances both for flare, and to help build flexibility and leg muscle. You will see many more flashy techniques such as spin kicks and performing the splitz in Modern Kung Fu forms than you will in your traditional Karate, however that is not always as practical.

Outside of the stances, you have the actual movements. This is where things get very confusing. There are soft style and hard style techniques in both of these martial arts. Karate usually teaches hard style techniques in the beginning, meaning almost all closed fist techniques. The soft techniques are incorporated in the advanced ranks. Kung fu does the opposite, teaching soft skills first like parrying a punch rather than trying to stop it with your fist. As Kung Fu advances, it adds in more hard style techniques. There are many styles of martial arts within both of these general styles however, meaning there are many exceptions to the rule.