Karate vs Kung Fu for Self Defense & MMA

Both Karate and Kung Fu are two of the most popular traditional martial arts, they teach discipline and improve physical & mental health. The question is, which one is better for self-defense or MMA?

Similar to our previous entries: This is not going to be a long and winded out article that talks about the history of both arts. We will try to give our opinion about each martial arts as straight as possible.

Karate vs Kung Fu: Brief Overview

Karate is a striking based martial art where you can strike using punches and kicks. Karate has many sub-forms but all of them share the same idea: Karate predominantly strikes using their hands and only uses their kicks for distance management and secondary strikes. Karate uses a traditional orthodox stance with a slightly wider foot positioning to keep its balance.

Kung Fu is also a striking based martial arts but it has a special love of using strikes that uses circular motion. Different from most striking martial arts that rely on forward momentum to generate power, Kung Fu fighters tend to be more skilled when it comes to parrying due to their striking game that relies on parrying and deflecting incoming attacks. This particular focus tends to make Kung Fu fighters a more “developed” fighter when it comes to standing grappling. Keep in mind that both martial arts lack knowledge about grappling on the ground.

So to recap: The main difference between Kung Fu and karate is their emphasis in striking direction and grappling prowess

Karate vs Kung Fu: Street Fight Application

When involved in a street fight usually the calmer person is the one who will win. Thankfully any legit martial arts will teach us to be calm in a hostile situation. Nothing is changed in Karate or Kung Fu. If you have basic skills in Karate, Kung Fu, or any other martial arts in this case, you will have a better chance of coming out of the fight in one piece.

Karate in Street Fight

Kung Fu in Street Fight

Karate vs Kung Fu: Mixed Martial Arts

Many fighters in MMA came from a traditional martial arts background. Top tier fighters that have competed successfully in mixed martial arts. But those fighters always supplemented their training with other martial arts that is relevant for MMA, on their own Karate and Kung Fu specialist will have a hard time competing in MMA.

Former two-division UFC champion Georges Saint Pierre is a Kyokushin Karate black belt. Sadly I have yet to find any fighters in MMA that come from traditional Kung Fu background.

Karate vs Kung Fu: Conclusion

If you are looking for a definite answer to which martial arts are the best for self-defense or MMA then we are sorry because that is just not possible. Both martial arts teach great values and self-defense skills that have been proven effective from time to time.

The only determining factor in which martial arts is the best is a personal preference. Do you like to punch instead of kicking? Try Karate. Do you like jumping kicks or flashy striking techniques? Try Kung Fu. The only real way to find the best martial arts is to find the one that fits you the most. Do not forget that you might have to supplement the training with a grappling based martial arts to make sure you cover each base of self-defense adequately.