What’s The Difference Between Judo And Karate?

Karate and Judo practitioners training together

Judo and Karate are the two most known and practiced of all of the Japanese martial arts. They often get compared to one another with people wanting to know what their main differences are.

Let’s go ahead and answer that question along with facts about both Judo and Karate. We’ll also list some of the similarities between these two martial arts.

What’s the difference between Judo and Karate? The difference between Judo and Karate is that Judo is a grappling art, while Karate is a striking art. One is designed to get an opponent to the ground, while the other’s objective is to immobilize them with strikes.

The Histories of Judo and Karate

Judo and Karate may be polar opposites, but their histories do coincide with each other. Here is a quick rundown of the histories of Judo and Karate. 

The History of Judo 

Judo was created in the late 1800s by Jigoro Kanu. Jigoro Kanu was a man of small stature, who was constantly bullied as a child.

This drove him to learn jujutsu grappling styles. Throughout his time in studying in the university, Kano has learned jujutsu styles along with western wrestling techniques that he read.

After years of developing his own grappling ability, Kano would begin developing his own grappling style. One that he would decide to call Judo.

In the 1880s, Kano would open the Kodokan Judo Institute in 1882. At first, Kano had a low number of students, but Judo would quickly catch on.

By the early 1900s, Kano had thousands of students at the Kotokan. He had even gotten Judo clubs to be added into schools and universities throughout Japan.

But Kano was not satisfied with this and wanted to bring Judo to the world. He sent his best students around the world to teach the art of Judo.

Before Kano’s death, he would see his martial art be taught throughout the world.

The History of Karate

The story of the development of Karate begins on the island of Okinawa. Karate was primarily based off of martial arts styles that were developed on the island and particularly Ryukyu Kempo.

Also various styles of Chinese martial arts that were shared by Chinese fishermen that came to Okinawa. The martial art was initially called “toudi” which translates to “Chinese Hand.”

There were many martial artists that had a hand in developing Karate, but two in particular were vital in its development. Itosu Anko and Gichin Funakoshi.

Itosu Anko was a lifelong toudi practitioner who became secretary of the last king of the Ryukyu Kingdom. He would be instrumental in getting toudi(Karate) introduced into Okinawan schools in the 1900s.

Anko also wrote the 10 precepts of Karate along with the Pinan forms of Karate. Modernized versions of basic katas that he felt were easier to learn than the older forms.

Gichin Funakoshi was the person responsible for spreading Karate across Japan and later the world. His first step in marketing the martial art was changing the name toudi to Karate.

This was to remove the Chinese aspect of the name in order for the Japanese to accept it. He would also include martial arts Gis, which he took from the art of Judo.

After these changes, Funakoshi was able to hold various Karate demonstrations within Tokyo. Even holding one demonstration at the Kotokan after being invited by Master Kano.

These demonstrations would lead to Karate being widely embraced by the Japanese. It would soon be held in the same regard as Judo and be included in all Japanese schools and universities.

Later becoming one of the most practiced martial arts in the world.

The Main Differences Between Judo and Karate 

Judo and Karate have a wide range of differences between them. Here are the four main differences between Judo and Karate.

The Techniques of Each Martial Art 

The most obvious differences between Karate and Judo are the techniques of each martial art. Karate is a strictly striking martial art that is all done from standing.

Teaching a wide variety of kicks, hand strikes, and elbows. All of which are performed in 2-3 hit combos that are designed to quickly dispatch an opponent.

Judo is a strictly grappling martial art that does not teach striking. It consists of throws and submissions that are set up with grips, footwork, and leverage.

Karate is Aggressive and Judo is defensive

Karate is considered to be an aggressive style of martial art. All of the techniques are delivered with power and force, which are designed to end a fight quickly.

Judo is considered a defensive martial art, where you react to an opponent’s movements. Using technique and leverage to take an opponent to the ground.

Although, anyone that has seen a Judo competition will probably disagree with this difference.

The Gis That They Train In 

Both Judo and Karate train in martial arts Gis, but they are very different from one another. A Judo Gi is made of thicker material to withstand the grappling demands of the martial arts.

Karate Gis are more lightweight and usually made with a light cotton or cotton blend. The sleeves and lapels of the Gi tops are also noticeably shorter than those in Judo Gis.

Different Belt Systems

Both Karate and Judo use belt systems, but they are very different from one another. To show the difference we listed the belt system of Shotokan Karate and the Judo belt system used in the US.

Karate Belt System

  • White Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Orange Belt 
  • Green Belt
  • Blue Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • Black Belt

Judo Belt System

  • White Belt 
  • Yellow Belt
  • Orange Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Blue Belt
  • Purple Belt
  • Brown Belt 
  • Black Belt

The Similarities Between Judo and Karate

Even though Judo and Karate seem vastly different, they do share some common traits with one another. Here are the main similarities between the arts of Judo and Karate.

Judo and Karate are Both Japanese Martial Arts

Judo and Karate may have different techniques and philosophies, they are both still Japanese martial arts. Not just Japanese martial arts, but they are the most practiced and known throughout the world.

Both Styles Train In A Gi 

Judo and Karate share the similarity that both arts are practiced in Gi uniforms. They may be different, but Gichin Funakoshi was actually inspired by Judo to add Gis into Karate.

This was to show that Karate was a formal and respectful martial art. Not a fighting style practiced by thugs on the street.

Before the development of lightweight Karate Gis, early Karatekas would train in Judo Gis. Master Funakoshi even did the famous Karate demonstration at the Kodokan in a Judo Gi.

Both Use A Belt System

Even though Judo and Karate use different belt systems, the two martial arts do share the commonality of a belt system. This was another part of Judo that was adopted into Karate along with the Gi. 

Karate also initially used the original Judo ranking system before developing their own. Now each style of Karate has their own belt system.


Even though the arts of Judo and Karate are different, they hold many things in common. Both of their stories intersect and the art of Karate would look a lot different without the influence of Judo.

Both went on to become globally practiced martial arts that are practiced by millions.

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Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years. Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.


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