What’s the Difference between Judo and Karate?

difference between karate and judo

If you don’t practice or follow these sports, karate and judo can seem similar
You see these guys wearing a kimono and fighting on a tatami
But it could be the only common points between these two sports, there are many differences between them

What’s the difference between judo and karate?
These two Japanese martial arts are very different
Here are the two main differences:
– In karate you need to kick your opponent, while in judo you make catches
– In karate there is no ground fighting, while in judo it’s an important part of the fight

If you want to know more, I’ll explain these martial arts origins, their philosophy and the other major differences in fight and equipment



A Japanese art of self-defense employing hand strikes and kicks to disable or subdue an opponent


The main thing to remember in this definition, is that in karate, fighters give kicks

You should also know that kicks are generally stopped before touching the opponent (or even if hit, the goal is to not hurt)
In fact, it’s the sense of the word: karate = kara (empty) + te (hand)


Karate was created in China, but Japan brought many improvements, so it’s really a Japanese martial art

Gichin Funakoshi is often referred to as the karate inventor, even though karate existed long before

Important facts

World Karate Federation: Created in 1970, the world federation now includes 190 countries for over 100 billion practitioners over the world

Olympic games: Long after other sports like judo and taekwondo, karate will participate in the 2020 summer Olympic games for the first time (in Japan, Tokyo for the fun story)

World championship: Japan, France and Great Britain are the best nations of all time in the karate world championships. I’ll show you a video from the 2018 edition later in this post


The basic material to do karate is simple: a kimono and a belt

Like in judo, the belt color indicate the fighter experience (from white for beginners to black for experts, with intermediate colors: yellow, orange, green, blue and brown)
In the biggest competitions, organizer gives a different color to each fighter, even if they both have a black belt normally. Generally, it’s blue and red belts. In this case, they were the belt color imposed by the organizer

I told you the basic material, but it all depend on the situation
Many accessories exist to protect the fighters, protections for hands, feet, teeth and intimate parts
Kids often wear helmet and chest plate in addition to protect themselves


Kumite and katas

You have to know that two types of fights exist in karate: classical fights (kumites) and katas

I’ll go back to classic fights later
But katas are a choreography, attempting to reproduce a fight, following a predefined plan, without real opponent
Here is an example in video, from the team final of the world championship in Paris (2018), if you want to know what it looks like:

How do karate fights work?

Now we can talk a little about classic fights in karate
They last between one and three minutes, depending on the competitions

Point counting may also differ in each competition
Generally, the goal is to respect the championship rules
There may be rules of precision, touch or respect of authorized targets
A referee team watches the fight from the tatami, and award points according to these rules

As in many other martial arts, there are penalties that make lose points
So, great champions should also keep their cool to avoid them
They can lose a fight just due to one penalty

Demonstration video

To finish about karate, here is a video of a classic fight
So you can see everything I said resumed in one video:



A sport developed from jujitsu that emphasizes the use of quick movement and leverage to throw an opponent


At the opposite of the karate martial art, the big thing to remember is that in judo there is no kick
The main goal is to put your opponent on the ground, by using many catches
The fight doesn’t necessarily end when one or both opponents are on the ground


Judo was created in 1882, by Jigorō Kanō in Japan
The goal was to transform jujitsu (classical combat sport), into a new discipline, integrating a big part about mind and body education

Judo includes many important values, whose parents like a lot
That’s why there are so many practitioners in the world (over 50 billions, five times more than karate)

Here are the values of judo

  • Politeness
  • Courage
  • Sincerity
  • Honor
  • Modesty
  • Respect
  • Self control
  • Friendship

These values are more important than the technique in judo
Respect and trust in the opponent are also essential to have the best fight possible

Important facts

Currently, Japan, France and South Korea are the best countries in the world
Ryoko Tani (Japan), Tadahiro Nomura (Japan) and David Douillet (France) are considered as the all-time best judokas in the world


The basic material of a judoka is also simple: kimono and belt as well

The judo kimono is a bit heavier / thicker than karate
Belts are working the same way, a different color for each level, with black belt for the highest grades (first dan or more)

As there is no kick in judo, no protection material is required
That does not mean you will not hurt yourself, I know what I’m talking about 🙂


There are also Katas in judo.
But there is no competition with katas to my knowledge
Competitions are only for classic fights

As in karate, athletes are classified by age, weight and gender

There are also many similarities in the counting of points
Without going in too many technical details, you can win points (advantages) or lose some (penalties) following your actions on the tatami

Points are generally marked according to the result obtained in combat when the opponent is put on the ground (more or less points depending on how he falls)
It is also possible to score points on the ground by immobilizing the opponent


As for karate, here is a video of a fight between Riner and Moura in 2017:


That’s it, you know everything about judo and karate, or at least you know the main differences

If you should remember only one thing, notice that karate uses kicks (with hand or foot) while judo only use catches