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What Is Better, Kickboxing Or Karate?

When it comes to martial arts, there are a lot of different styles to choose from. But which one is the best for you? In this blog post, we will compare kickboxing and karate to help you decide which one is right for you. These martial arts have unique benefits, so read on to learn more about them!

Kickboxing FAQs

TL;DR: Yes, kickboxing, MMA, and boxing are extremely dangerous. A traumatic brain injury is the greatest risk in all combat sports in which blows to the head are allowed. When it comes to traumatic brain injury, boxing is the most dangerous sport, but kickboxing and MMA aren't far behind.

Dementia pugilistica or 'punch drunk' syndrome is a form of acquired cognitive impairment in up to a fifth of professional boxers (Latin: pugilator, boxer). It also occurs in other sports where there may be mild head trauma, such as football and horse racing.

Acute subdural hematoma, the most common acute brain injury in boxing, accounts for 75% of all acute brain injuries and is the leading cause of boxing fatalities.

Boxing head guards protect your head from injuries like cuts, scrapes, and swelling. Unfortunately, they don't protect you from concussions or other brain injuries. Regardless, many boxers choose to wear them to protect themselves in any way. Boxing head injuries aren't the only things to be worried about.

A kickboxer can throw punches like a boxer, but they can use kicks and knee strikes, hitting their opponent's head, body, and legs. This difference between kickboxing and boxing is only one of the many variations between the two sports.


Karate Vs Kickboxing: Which Is Better?

When it comes to pure striking martial arts, none are more popular and effective than Karate and Kickboxing. The two are designed and developed to use kicks and punches that incapacitate the opponent quickly and decisively. But, although both of these arts use striking as the primary weapon, just how different Karate and Kickboxing are?

There are many differences between Karate and Kickboxing. Not only in technical differences but in other aspects as well. That includes philosophy, stance, rules, and equipment. It’s safe to say that the two have more differences than similarities.

You should keep in mind several things when choosing between Karate and Kickboxing. What are the goals that you wish to achieve with training? Do you want to learn self-defence, or do you want to compete and progress in the sport? Is your motivation purely recreational? You should know what to expect from both of these martial arts and then determine which one is the better option for yourself.

What’s Better For Fitness?

According to most fitness calculators and apps, karate and kickboxing burn roughly the same calories per hour (somewhere in the 600 and 700 calories per hour range, depending on your exact source). Most classes in karate and kickboxing will also offer a similar full-body workout in their warmups, drills, techniques, and possible scarring. With things being so even between the two martial arts, what it comes down to is up to the individual: What type of training are you more likely to enjoy and more likely to stick to? That’s the one that will be the better martial art for you. 

What’s Better For Self-Defence?

Most kickboxing schools will teach you to strike hard and accurately and block properly, which will, in theory, make you better equipped to defend yourself in a fight, but the techniques you’ll learn in class will be far more effective in a ring than in the streets. Karate’s thorough kicks, punches, blocks, and the grappling system should be easier to adapt and apply to scenarios outside of the gym and competition arena. Shotokan Karate is particularly well known for its self-defence applications. 

If you are truly concerned about safety and self-defence, taking separate self-defence training in conjunction with your karate or kickboxing training — which will keep you fit and help you hit hard — is the best idea of all. 

What’s Better For The Mixed Martial Artist?

Even a decade ago, this answer would have been obvious. Kickboxing and Muay Thai have provided the foundation for much of modern MMA’s striking game and have been a necessary form of training for many of the sport’s most successful stars. Thanks to the game-changing reign of Lyoto Machida and the current success of fighters like Stephen Thompson and Michelle Waterson, though, karate’s unique strikes and stances have proven to be a powerful — and often elusive — tool for the new MMA fighter looking for an edge. 

Whether you’re taking MMA-style training for fitness purposes or with an eye toward competition, you will probably need some kickboxing training to help you build your foundations as a striker in the sport. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the better discipline for MMA competition. For the best advantage and the most well-rounded arsenal, a mix of karate and kickboxing training and techniques is the best option. 

The Bottom Line.

Ultimately, the most important difference between karate and kickboxing is what they both mean to you as a martial artist. Unless you’re a professional athlete who needs to train in a certain way for your career, the best martial arts will be the one that you enjoy and the one that you’ll want to stick to and continue to train in regularly and responsibly. Do karate training and competition excite you more than kickboxing? Go with what makes you happy. Is stepping into a kickboxing ring something that you’ve always wanted to try? Do it. The best martial art is the one that makes you look forward to going back for more and growing with it over the long term. 

What Are The Differences Between Karate And Kickboxing?

When you compare Karate and Kickboxing, there are obvious similarities between them. First, they are both primarily striking martial arts. Therefore, using takedowns, throws, grappling, and fighting on the ground is off-limits. There are some exceptions and circumstances where they are used, though.

In Karate, throws leading to a decisive strike on the ground are common, but only specific techniques are practised and permitted in combat. On the other hand, some forms of Kickboxing allow clinching and sweeps. But that is mainly the case in Muay Thai, which you could argue is a completely separated martial art derived from Kickboxing.

As for the differences between Karate and Kickboxing, it would be easier to divide them into several segments so you could comprehend what they are and what they mean in practice. So instead, we’ll cover philosophical differences, as well as the rules, used equipment, and technique.


Although aggression is commonly linked with martial arts, Karate is the complete opposite of aggression. Instead, it focuses on peace, meditation, calmness, and focus. The philosophy behind Karate stems from the roots from which Karate grew and evolved over the centuries.

At first, it was known as Te and renamed Karate in modern times. Te was developed in Okinawa, Japan, by Okinawans who trained in ancient martial arts in China. Those old martial arts focused on meditation and peace, stemming from their background in Buddhism. Therefore, meditation is an integral part of every Karate practice, and it’s important to get into the right state of mind if you want to succeed in the art.

The philosophy of Karate states that you should avoid every conflict if possible. However, it is clear that conflict happens in life, and sometimes we cannot do anything to prevent it. Nevertheless, your opponent deserves respect, even if they are wrong.

That’s why you should aim to finish the conflict quickly and briefly. Every strike or move in Karate is designed either to defend yourself from an incoming attack or to incapacitate the opponent/attacker with as little damage inflicted as possible. Therefore, the moves are quick, efficient, and brisk.

Kickboxing is a martial art you could call aggressive, but the purpose is self-defence, not attacking. Every strike is delivered with maximum force, using arms and legs as weapons. You move forward with aggression and striking to incapacitate your opponent by inflicting damage, not avoiding it.

Even though the philosophy behind Kickboxing is more focused on power and force behind strikes, it is mainly focused on self-defence. You’ll learn a lot about counter-attacks, enabling you to fend off any potential attacks.


There’s a difference between what you can learn and what you can use in competition when it comes to technique. For instance, Karate teaches many techniques when it comes to kicks, but you can only use a handful of them in regulated competition. 

The same goes for Kickboxing. Many knee and elbow strikes can be taught in a gym, but those strikes aren’t meant for use in sports Kickboxing. And the fact that you can use only limited techniques in competition affects the stance of the fighters. Karate practitioners will keep their lands lower and sacrifice power for quickness and precision because it’s not important how hard you’re hitting, but where and how you do it.

The Kickboxing technique is developed in a way that maximizes damage. You put all your force behind virtually every strike and use your muscle strength and the full body momentum to maximize power. Forward movement, hip rotation, and incredible footwork highlight the Kickboxing technique the most.

On the other hand, Karate isn’t looking to move forward but rather work from the counter. Therefore, reading your opponent and being able to react accordingly is crucial. Every move and strike is meant to finish the fight quickly, avoiding damage if possible. It should give you enough time to escape or call for help if attacked.

The main characteristics of the Karate technique are focus, calmness, precision, and quickness. It’s not about how hard you hit, but where and how you hit.


does boxing help in a real fight3

The most crucial difference in the rules of Karate and Kickboxing combat is the level of contact. While Kickboxing encourages full contact, sport Karate allows only soft, light contact. So if you knock your opponent out, you’re most likely getting disqualified for excessive contact.

In Kickboxing, you win either by knockout or on the judges’ scorecards when the time runs out. There’s a system where the bouts are scored, but you don’t get points for each strike landed. Instead, your entire performance is scored.

On the other hand, sport Karate has a different point system in place, and the winner is the practitioner that scores more points. There are techniques worth 1, 2, or 3 points, and the winner is the one that takes an eight-point advantage first or has more points when the time runs out.

Also, low kicks are forbidden in Karate, while they are the most common kicking technique in Kickboxing. That’s why you see Karate fighters have a bit of trouble assimilating into MMA, while Kickboxers often thrive in those circumstances. The rules of Kickboxing are much more similar to MMA than they are to Karate.


Karate comes from the Easter Asian culture and uses specific equipment for training and combat. A traditional gi is a suit worn by all Karate fighters, encompassed by a belt. The colour of the belt depends upon your rank in training, starting with the white and ending with the black belt.

It is mandatory to wear a mouthguard, a helmet, body armour, and shinguards with instep padding in combat. Groin guards are recommended but not mandatory. 

Kickboxing has a completely different set of equipment, though. You’ll wear only shorts, but you need to have gloves on for combat. Also, shin guards are mandatory only in amateur competitions and aren’t worn in professional Kickboxing. You will also need a mouthguard and a groin guard.

Which Is Better For Self-Defense: Karate Or Kickboxing?

Both of these martial arts are effective for self-defence. However, the power behind Kickboxing can’t be disregarded. Therefore, it is a bit more potent than Karate when it comes to being able to defend yourself from any attack.

You approach the attacker much more aggressively, disregarding the damage you might cause. Instead, you’ll hinder them with power and avoid any chance of retaliation.

On the other hand, Karate focuses on avoiding unnecessary damage and looking to end the encounter as quickly as possible. That is often the best course of action because you’re not only avoiding inflicting damage but also receiving it. The shorter the encounter, the less possibility of you getting hurt.

To conclude, you can use both effectively but will be able to defend from a larger variety of strikes with Kickboxing.

Which One Should You Choose: Karate Or Kickboxing?

Now that you know what features are characteristic of each, the right choice for you should be evident by now. But, of course, it all depends on your motivations and which of the principles you can identify yourself in.

If you are looking to be able to defend yourself peacefully while having peace of mind, focus, and compassion, then Karate is the right choice for you. A great thing about it is the strictness in code and respect you must adhere to. It can be implemented not only in Karate but also in everyday life. You’ll be able to improve your focus and be a lot stronger mentally.

Kickboxing has a lot more aggressive approach, so if you prefer power over quickness, this is the way to go. It can also depend on your body shape. If you are quick and light, you will have a great start to being competitive in Karate because the technique will fall right to your advantage.

Bigger folks with more weight and strength will have a great chance to be successful in Kickboxing, although it’s not impossible for you to be great in Karate if you have those features. But, in the end, it’s all about your state of mind and the purpose of your training.

Karate Vs Kickboxing – Which Is More Effective?

A common question that many ask is, which Martial Art is better than the rest?

In this blog, you will learn a bit about how Karate and Kickboxing compare in; self-defence, complexity, history, strength & conditioning, and popularity.

Their similarities include that they are both:

  • From Japan
  • Stand-up Martial Arts styles (hand-to-hand combat between opponents in a standing position)
  • Based on punches and kicks

Their similarities result from their close relationship historically and practically.

However, despite their similarities, they are two very different Martial Arts.

Self-Defence – Round 1

Like any Martial Arts question, the answer here is that it depends… It depends on the style, the school and the student.

Some styles will help you build more obvious self-defence skills; others will teach you more about awareness.

Self-defence isn’t only about fighting and blocking; the best form of self-defence is to end the fight before it has started.

Let’s see how Karate and Kickboxing compare here:

Karate For Self-Defence

More popular styles taught in the West include Goju-ryu, Shotokan-ryu, Wado-ryu, and Shito-ryu.

Karate, in this sense, is heavily focused on practising ‘forms’ or ‘Katas’.


These refer to a detailed choreographed pattern of movements that can be practised alone or within groups and in unison.

Katas are an effective training tool to develop perfect form, speed, and accuracy when taught correctly.

You will need to learn how to adapt these skills to fight and defend yourself in a real-life situation.


Which is Karate’s form of sparring means ‘grappling hands’. In Gohon Kumite, which beginners practice in traditional Shotokan karate, the defender steps back, blocking the attacks and performing a counterattack after the last block.

There are some harder styles of Karate that are more suitable than others for self-defence; a few of these include Kyokushin and Kenpo Karate.


Kyokushin is a stand-up, full contact Karate style. Kyokushin means ‘Ultimate Truth’ and is deeply rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline, and hard training. Kyokushin aims to teach students to overcome their physical limitations and find their own ‘truth’.


Kenpo means ‘Fist Law’. It is a style of Karate that is often defined by its more ‘hands-on’, flowing approach, similar to Kickboxing. The style focuses on linear strikes and kicks, pressure point manipulation, circular movement, and joint locking and breaking.

While Kyokushin and Kenpo are some of the more effective styles of Karate, it is worth mentioning that they are not the most popular or commonly taught in the West.

Karate is not a fighting tool for beginners.

It will take a good Karate student around 6-10 years to defend themselves effectively.

Kickboxing For Self-Defence

You must learn how to take hits and how to get hit. It is so important in self-defence. Kickboxers train to hit, get hit, and hit back. They train realistically against manoeuvring opponents who use feints and dummies (deceptive/pretend attacks), and they learn how to hit and defend in various combinations.


Kickboxing’s best tool for learning self-defence is sparring. You will learn how to execute everything you have learnt against an opponent in a controlled environment. This is not just about the physical techniques but also the mental teachings of Martial Arts.

In sparring, you will learn how to build your focus, taking note of your opponent's every move so that you can respond accordingly. You will learn how to spot a real threat from a fake one, and most importantly, you will learn how to keep calm under pressure.

Sparring is a sure-fire way to build your stamina, strength, and endurance. The fighter with higher endurance often continues until the end and ultimately wins.


Similar to Boxing, Kickboxers know how to hold a tight guard, which can be hard for even the most trained fighters to get through. A well-trained Kickboxer will also know how to block a kick and counter simultaneously.

This highlights that defending is just as important as attacking in a real-life situation because once you get knocked out, it’s ‘Game Over’.

Kickboxing Comes Out On Top For Self-Defence

Considering the most popular styles taught, Kickboxing comes out on top for self-defence.

That’s not to say you cannot pick up great self-defence skills at a Karate School. Just find the right style and a good instructor.

However, the fluidity that comes with Kickboxing will train you to focus on attacks, blocks, and counters. In addition, this Martial Art will get you comfortable with taking hits, which is arguably more of a mental thing.

Remember, the first time you get hit in a fight (especially if you aren’t ready or used to it), you might retreat, which will not work in your favour. When this comes to fighting for your life, this could be the end if you aren’t ready.

To answer this question fully, you would also have to address a core weakness of both these stand-up Martial Arts…

What Happens When The Fight Goes To The Ground?

This is the last place you want to be in a street fight, but styles like Wrestling, Jujitsu, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu come in handy in these situations.

Ultimately, the best form of self-defence comes from practising multiple forms of Martial Arts and taking the best of them all to suit your style.

In a street fight, you never know who your attacker will be. They might be taller, stronger, heavier, or more cunning than you.

So, whatever your means of self-defence, outmanoeuvre and outsmart your attacker, and remember there are no rules on the street.

Awareness is your greatest tool in any fight.

Complexity – Round 2

are there different styles of kickboxing

Complexity Of Karate

Karate students train to perfect their technique truly; quite often, this takes a lot of time and patience too.

As you progress higher up the ranks towards Black Belt, you will find a new set of practical techniques.

You will learn a variety of throws and locks from other Martial Arts, such as Jujutsu (another Japanese Martial Art). This is when some of the more effective training happens.

You may not be exposed to this variety as a beginner. The techniques you are exposed to will depend on the Martial Arts School. Some schools focus on mastering a few techniques; others teach a broader range of techniques.

You will generally start by training at long-range distances, for example, the Step Forward Front Punch, to both the body and head. At this level, this style relies on the assumption that your opponent will back away backward and linearly.

Complexity Of Kickboxing

Kickboxing will teach you how to fight, and if you train hard, you will quickly learn how to fight well.

Kickboxing is primarily made up of four punches and two kicks.

These include; Jab, Cross, Hooks, Uppercuts, Front Kick and Roundhouse (Knees and Elbows are less common).

That’s not to say there aren’t other techniques, but these are the main ones. And you will generally learn variations of these techniques in various combinations, mixing in elements of defensive techniques too.

This makes Kickboxing a great choice if you want to learn Martial Arts quickly.

Especially for those who aren’t too convinced about the long-term commitment that Karate requires.

While Kickboxing is more limited than Karate in its variety of techniques, it sets you up with a strong foundation with effective transferrable skills.

Fluidity, timing, awareness, and countering will prove invaluable for any Kickboxing student wanting to pick up Karate.

Karate Is Best For Complexity

This is a close one.

Even though Kickboxing has a better grasp of the different ranges for beginners, it often relies on the student to keep developing, using their creativity to continue mastering the art.

Karate has strong, straight, single strikes but lacks continuity and fluidity in sparring. As a result, it gets labelled – ‘static’ or ‘rigid’. In many street fights, you’ll often find a variety of round punches thrown, not just long linear punches that you will more commonly find in Karate.

For me, Karate just about tips the scales for the best complexity. But this is only as you progress to Black Belt and start learning techniques from other Martial Arts.

It is a Martial Art that requires an adaptable student who knows how to differentiate techniques for training and those for real-life application.

Like with any Martial Art, it is down to the student to adapt the techniques to suit their style and flow. Style can be trained, but it is best to find your style, which comes down to various factors, including your size, weight, movement patterns, etc.

What’s Best For You – Karate Or Kickboxing?

It’s worth mentioning the level of complexity will depend on what you are looking for and what suits your learning style.

If you want to pick up the basics quickly, Kickboxing is probably your best bet.

Its limited range of techniques can be learnt in a relatively short amount of time. However, learning the different variations and applications will take you longer.

If you take up Kickboxing, you will learn to fight straight away.

While you will not be able to master Kickboxing in a 12-week course, you will surely become more proficient in Kickboxing than in Karate in a shorter amount of time. This is mainly down to the many forms and katas that come with learning the foundations of Karate.


So, what’s the verdict? Is karate or kickboxing better for self-defence? The answer is… it depends. Both martial arts have pros and cons, so it comes down to what you are most interested in and what you think will work best for you. If you want a more fluid style of fighting that also incorporates kicks, then go with kickboxing. But if you prefer a more grounded style with powerful punches, then karate may be a better fit. Ultimately, the best way to find out is to try them both out!


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