My daughter is considering one or the other. Are there some general differences that can by pointed out to laypeople with some of the leading martial arts?
Karate is a generic term for japanese or okinawain martial arts; tae kwon do is korean.
Generally, TKD stresses kicking more than japanese arts like karate.
TKD is also considered a ‘hard art’–meaning direct striking attacks and defenses, as opposed to misdirection and manipulation of attacks. Think maybe the difference between wrestling and boxing.
TKD and hard karate training have good cardio benefits as compared to maybe soft arts training, but this is a matter of opinion.
As a matter of the best defensive system to learn, opinions will vary.
But TKD training tends to be very aerobic.
It all depends on what you want.
A style like aikido won’t rely on physical strength and flexibility as much as TKD, but who is to say whether it’s better as self-defense or as exercise.
Unfortunately, karate is too generic a term. There are many forms of karate. Some emphasis certain elements of the martial arts over others; however, as a general rule of thumb karate provides a pretty balanced approach to martial arts. It will generally cover striking, kicking, blocking, evasion, and some grappling.
Tae Kwon Do is very heavily weighted towards kicking. I hate to leave TKD at one sentence but there is little more that can be said to describe it. Lots and lots of kicking.
Since this is a class for a child the style is irrelevent. No child is going to be able to apply any self defense technique reliably so as to defeat an adult. Evasion, avoidance or a quick escape are key for children’s self defense and although you are technically probably going to see more of this in karate the reality is that it is pretty close and it just doesn’t matter. What you want to be looking for is a teacher who works well with kids (i.e. not me for example). The TKD school is likely to have more kids but this has more to do with its rise in popularity then it necessarily has to do with the teacher’s skill with children. Watch the instructor’s children classes and then make a decision as to who you think is best, based on what you want for your child.
How old is your daughter?
As glitch says, your choice should be based upon wich teacher works best with kids. Children’s MA classes should be fun. Avoid at all costs dominating/intimidating instructors. Also take note of the amount of formality and ritual involved in the particular school. Some TKD and karate schools may use certain disciplines you may not be crazy about. And the instructor must be up front with you, and willing to take the time to talk frankly with you. Further, many children’s programs emphasize and enforce proper behavior and attitude at school and home, schoolwork, household chores, etc. So be aware of the entirety of what they are offering your child.
Also factor in proximity and cost, as they will have a bearing on your daughter’s willingness to continue. And don’t worry if she decides to drop it after a while. Martial arts aren’t for everyone. Give her a taste, and later, if he wants to come back to it she can.
I believe either karate or TKD can be good for a child. Should they wish to study serious self defense at some time in the future, they won’t exactly be hurt by anything they learned. But they probably won’t have much use for the high kicks she learned in TKD, or the kata she was drilled in in many schools of karate.
All things being equal, and knowing nothing more, I would probably gravitate towards karate if it is any of the few styles I am minimally familiar with.
In my experience, some varieties of karate are also somewhat more interested in physical conditioning than others (not just aerobic training but conditioning that will prepare you for the rigors of an actual fight, such as pounding your forearms and shins with objects to toughen them up).
While this is a moot point with your daughter (no one would subject anyone who’s not an adult to such training), I highly recommend sitting through a class or two at any of the schools you’re looking at to get a general sense of what the school’s about.
In my opinion, if you really want to develop self-defense skills, karate schools generally tend to be better balanced and have a more practical focus on self-defense than TKD. Of course, all instructors are different so you’ll definitely want to sit through a class or two before committing.
One final word: if they don’t let you sit through an initial class (or better yet, participate in a class) before signing an agreement, drop them and go elsewhere. I’ve had many friends who’ve been scammed that way.
As someone who has a black belt in karate and has worked in the past teaching karate to kids, I would say the others have hit it on the head:
Attend the schools’ classes first.
For your purposes, I can honestly say that there isn’t going to be enough of a difference between the STYLES to affect your decision of which one to go with. The much greater differences between individual SCHOOLS and teachers, esp. in regards to how they handle kids, discipline, money, physical conditioning, etc., and how much you agree with their approach (i.e., if you want your kid to have a loose, fun environment, if you think she needs to learn a bit more discipline, if you think she needs more exercise, if you don’t have a lot of cash to spend, etc.).
And don’t overlook scheduling/location. The first classes I took were popular with kids/parents because it took place after school at a YMCA, where many of the kids went anyway for afternoon day-care. I chose the school because it was inexpensive and was within walking distance of my house (this was back in high school before I could drive).
Oh…and don’t worry about leading your daughter down the wrong path by picking the “wrong” style for her now. She can always try different ones later on (if she’s interested), and she’ll be richer for the experience.
toadspittle sez it well–if your child is young, base it on how instructor works with children.
Most schools have children’s classes, and you want a guy who relates to/works well with children–no matter what style he/she is teaching. If your child is older, then maybe there is room for input as to what your child wants, say an aerobic workout ala TaeBo or learning a self-defence system.
If you are paying for it, seeing how the school (and the instructor) works is key. You wouldn’t just hand your child over to just any babysitter, would you?
Find someone that will give your child what they/you want from martial arts training.
I took TKD for several years, and I think I’m better off for it.
One thing of note is that it does not use weapons, unlike many other martial arts. It’s great for flexibility, among other things.
I would like to add that you should also talk with your daughter about hard and soft forms, and see which she would prefer. Hard forms generally focus on strikes of various sorts, and dramatic impacts (example: Kempo). Soft forms are more subtle, and focus more on throws and holds (example: Judo). Which is better depends mostly on personal style; some folks are better suited for hard, and some for soft.
Also, don’t be so sure that kids can’t effectively defend themselves. I have a friend who refuses to spar with his 8-year-old daughter because he can’t stand up against her anymore-- and he’s taken more martial arts than she has. Maybe this is an exceptional case, but it’s not impossible.
OK, I’ve been holding back, but I just can’t take it any more. Here it goes!
Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world. – Dave Barry