The Difference Between Judo And Karate

If you’re not a martial arts fan, judo and karate may seem similar. Although both sports originated in Japan and have some similar techniques, the two are entirely different. Generally, the main difference is that judo is a soft martial art that entails grappling and throwing techniques, while karate is a complex martial art involving striking. However, that’s not all.

This article dives deep into extracting the main differences to help you grasp the differences between the two forms of martial arts. Read on to learn more.

The first difference between these sports is their history.

The History Of Judo

Judo, a Japanese martial art, was initially referred to as Jiu-jitsu and involved throws, locks, and grappling. However, it was later evolved and renamed by Jigoro Kano in 1882 as it had started to fade away. This sport was inspired by ‘ju yoku go o seisu,’ referring to ‘softness controls hardness,’ meaning a weaker individual can defeat a stronger opponent by using the opponent’s force and momentum.

Judo was initially meant for entertainment, but in the 20th century, it was termed an Olympic sport. Judo participants are called judokas, while their instructors are called sensei. The judokas must wear a traditional attire called keikogi when performing the sport. Judo has become popular and is taught in many gyms. For example, if you’re looking forward to learning, it’s worth checking out Judo San Diego and other similar places. Here you will meet well-trained coaches with the necessary knowledge about the sport.

The main objective of judo is to take down the opponent. Therefore, one is declared a winner when the opponent is inactive and on the ground.

The History Of Karate

Karate is a form of martial art derived from a combination of words, ‘kara’ and ‘te.’ Kara means empty, while te means hand. Therefore, karate means ’empty hand.’ Karate was invented by people who intended to defend themselves in a period when weapons were prohibited. This martial art originated in East Asia in the 17th century but evolved in Japan in the 1920s. It was categorized into four styles: Wado-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, Shotokan, and Shito-Ryu.

Unlike judo which entails taking down the opponent to the ground, karate entails kicking and striking the opponent while defensively blocking the opponent’s moves with legs and arms.

Body Parts Used

Another key difference is evident in the body parts used in these two forms of martial arts.

Judokas use their arms and legs to wrestle with their opponent. However, the force and momentum to take down their opponent are mainly generated from the legs, core, and hips. In judo, the legs aren’t primarily used for their strength but for their ability to abruptly distort the opponent’s balance, after which the core and hips help execute the throw to the ground.

Karatekas, practitioners of karate, mostly use their limbs. For example, they use the elbow to fists on the arms and knee to feet for the legs. All the parts between these areas are used to strike and punch the opponent. Throws and locks are non-existent in karate. Therefore, karate focuses mainly on the limbs, while judo is a full-body sport.


Judo has two main techniques: nage-waza (throwing techniques) and katana-waza (grappling styles). However, judo’s strength is mainly in its throwing techniques. Judokas aim to unbalance the opponent and throw them on the ground. Judo doesn’t involve striking; that’s why it’s referred to as a soft form of martial arts. Judo’s training and technique emphasize using force, momentum, pivot points, and joint manipulation.

Karate, on the other hand, is a striking martial art focusing on stand-up fighting without grappling or throwing. Karate training only entails kicks, punches, and blocks. These techniques make it a more aggressive form of martial arts than judo. The main aim of karate is to defeat the opponent using strikes and punches. Therefore, karate’s technique and training emphasize the strength and flexibility of the limbs.


Judo is a defensive martial art in nature, meaning when a fight breaks on the street, a judoka has the upper hand regarding self-defence. This is because many street fights are close-range and mainly end on the ground, which is judo’s technique.

Additionally, judoka can control the opponent and the fight’s direction, making judo greater for self-defence than karate. This is why judo training is taught to law enforcement individuals in many countries. However, judo doesn’t perform well in the case of multiple attackers since it can be disastrous to be on the ground against multiple opponents.

Karate is mainly designed for attacking. When karatekas are given ample space, they can unleash quick strikes and punches, gaining an advantage over the opponent. But, when an attacker closes down the distance, a karateka is disadvantaged. However, in the case of multiple attackers, a karateka can finish off two or three opponents before they close in, which is impossible for a judoka.


As stated, judo is a defensive form of martial arts. Judo assumes the opponent is about to attack and focuses on countering the attack without sustaining any damage. Therefore, a judoka aims to be firmly planted on the ground to hold and throw the opponent. Once the opponent is on the floor, the judoka finds a superior position to control the opponent to submission.

Comparatively, karate is an aggressive form of martial arts that focuses on damaging the opponent before the opponent can strike back. This means the body has to be firmly planted on the ground while the other limbs attack the opponent.

Benefits Of Learning Judo

Judo isn’t just a sport; it teaches judokas a way of living and has mental and physical benefits. Here are some of the benefits of learning judo:

  • It helps grow strength and flexibility.
  • It improves concentration and coordination.
  • It boosts self-esteem and confidence.
  • It improves overall physical fitness.
  • It helps one master self-defence.

Lastly, judo strongly emphasizes discipline, respect, and humility. One must treat opponents and instructors with respect and maintain a high standard of conduct on and off the mat.

Advantages Of Learning Karate

Here are some benefits of learning karate:

  • It tones the body and builds stamina.
  • It improves mental health.
  • It boosts aggression and energy levels.
  • It boosts reaction time and alertness.

Learning karate (and judo) is an excellent way to improve your physical fitness, mental well-being, and overall quality of life.


Judos and karate are fascinating martial arts with a long and rich history. While they may share some similarities, they are ultimately quite different in terms of technique, philosophy, and approach.

Whether you’re interested in the throws and submissions of judo or the strikes and kicks of karate, both offer a great way to improve your physical fitness, discipline, and self-defence skills. 


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