Often times students will have to choose between Tae Kwon Do or Karate but they do not understand the difference between the two arts. First of all, both are excellent martial arts that will develop the mind and body of any individual.
I chose Karate, specifically American Kenpo Karate, because it is an uniquely American Martial art and it is as American as drive in movies and cheeseburgers. Also, having 16 years in the Army with combat tours in Bosnia and Iraq I have learned that fighting is a brutal, ugly, chaotic event and I felt that Kenpo Karate prepared me for that kind of chaos.
Kenpo Karate is designed to close with your opponent and overpower him with multiple close range strikes controlling his height, width and depth. Each strike sets up the next strike and the goal is to use natural body movements to generate huge amounts of speed and power and that is what makes Karate street effective.
As you search and learn about the different styles of Karate and other Martial Arts you can see the focus of the martial art by what it says about itself. As you read about Tae Kwon Do you will read about things like sport fighting, fitness, and discipline but not often does it reference self defense or, if it does, it is almost a side note. For me, living in Buffalo, I don't want to rely on kicks, jumping, spinning, or pivoting in a real fight because there are conditions to consider, like ice and snow. Oftentimes something that might work great on the mat and in a sport tournament will send you straight to the hospital if done is real life. As a general rule of thumb, the more flashy it is, the less likely it is to work in real life.
Kenpo Karate It is learned through 100 techniques or movements, that teach the young karate student how to generate speed and power. At the same time that the movements learned it is practiced on compliant and non-compliant opponents so that they are not just learned but the student also learns how to use them.
The Karate movements are to be considered as references in a fight and are not meant to be used completely. Yet, at that moment in time, in a street fight, when there is no time to think and everything must be reaction/instinctual a Kenpo Karate student will have trained his muscle memory to react to the position he is in at that moment in time. The goal is to make that reaction instinctual, fast, and brutal.
Karate teaches self disciple, respect, fitness, and can enhance moral character just like most martial arts but it also prepares a karate student to defend themselves in any condition- not just on the mat.
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