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Kung Fu and Karate: what is the difference?



You have probably already heard about karate or Kung Fu around you. Indeed, these two different martial arts are among the most popular and widespread. But have you ever wondered what the difference is between Kung Fu and Karate? Let's take the time to analyze together the five main elements that distinguish these two self-defense disciplines.


1. The origin of these two martial arts


Both karate and kung fu have distinct histories and origins. Over time, these differences led to the development of martial arts as we know them today.


Kung Fu: a traditional Chinese martial art


Kung Fu has its earliest origins in China. It is said that it would be more precisely to the temple of Shaolin that we would attribute the beginnings of this traditional Chinese martial art. The practice of this discipline of combat would even go back as far as the sixth century where history seems to mention it for the very first time.


The Japanese origins of Karate


Karate appeared later in history and instead has its origins in Japan. More precisely, it would be on the island of Okinawa that karate as we know it was born. It is said of this martial art that its initial roots come from traditional Kung Fu which would then have been adapted and modified over time. A fusion of Chinese and Japanese cultures would therefore have shaped this discipline which has now become widespread.


2. The philosophy behind Kung Fu and Karate


The practice of Kung Fu puts forward a philosophy focused on both body and mind. Emphasis is placed on training in harmony between the physical and the mental, the fusion of the elements as well as the improvement of oneself and one's techniques through effort. The philosophy of karate is also inspired a little by that of Kung Fu. This Japanese martial art emphasizes the principles of honor and respect. It is also often associated with samurai ideology.


Overall, the practice of these two martial arts involves fundamental notions for each individual such as self-development and perseverance. Their regular practice therefore has great benefits, both physical and psychological.


⇒ This important notion is the very basis of our teaching of Kung Fu and the other martial arts that we offer at INSTINCT MARTIAL.


3. The great diversity of techniques for Kung Fu


One of the important differences between Kung Fu and karate concerns the diversity of techniques. Kung Fu is indeed recognized as a martial art featuring many varied forms. These number in the hundreds and have also inspired the birth and development of other martial arts disciplines over time, such as karate (Japan) and Taekwondo (Korea) in particular.


4. The use of weapons in the practice of these disciplines


Another aspect that distinguishes karate from Kung Fu is the use of weapons in the practice of these martial arts. In this sense, Kung Fu is recognized for using a greater variety of weapons than karate.


Among the traditional weapons of this Chinese martial art, it is possible to find:

  • the sword (Dao);

  • the straight sword (Jian);

  • the spear (Qiang);

  • as well as the staff (Gun).


For its part, the word KARATE would have an etymology meaning "empty hands". As the name suggests, weapons are therefore little used in the execution of this Japanese martial art.


5. The difference between Kung Fu and Karate in the composition of movements


But, overall, the most noticeable difference between Karate and Kung Fu is in the different movements as well as the forms performed.


The flexible and elegant movements of Kung Fu


Traditional Chinese Kung Fu is particularly known for its great fluidity. Flexibility, elegance and agility are thus put forward through 360° movements that combine with lateral movements. Circular movements are ample and are often interpreted as softer. However, this does not detract from the intensity and rigor associated with the regular practice of Kung Fu.

The finesse of the execution of Kung Fu techniques is associated with a fusion and a search for balance between the internal and external aspects.


The more linear movements of karate


Unlike the circular movements of Kung Fu, those of karate are generally more linear and dry. The movements through the forms (katas) are for the most part codified and well ordered. The karateka generally moves in angular directions or is inclined to take forward-facing steps.


In short, although there are also many similarities between these two famous martial arts, there are still differences to better understand the distinction between Karate and Kung Fu. By its Japanese origins, karate was inspired by the bases of traditional Kung Fu, born in China. It then established itself as a martial art in its own right. On the side of Kung Fu, the fluidity of the ample and circular movements, all in flexibility, as well as the greatest variety of techniques are distinctive elements of this discipline.


⇒ Do you want to learn more about the benefits of Kung Fu? Come see us at INSTINCT MARTIAL. Our Kung Fu school, located in Quebec, offers you the opportunity to surpass yourself in an environment that is always stimulating.

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