Karate: What is the difference between karate-do and karatedo?

Karate is a martial art that developed in Okinawa, Japan, in the late 19th century. It is known for its fast and powerful strikes, kicks, and blocks, and emphasizes discipline and respect. However, there are two different ways to spell karate’s name, and these variations are not merely spelling differences – they represent two distinct styles of practice.


Karate-do is the traditional form of karate that originated in Okinawa. The ‘-do’ suffix means ‘way’ or ‘path’. Thus, karate-do is ‘the way of karate’. This style of karate places great emphasis on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of martial arts. Practitioners of karate-do are expected to conduct themselves with honor, respect, and humility, both in the dojo (training hall) and in their everyday lives.

In karate-do, the focus is not just on technique and physical prowess, but also on building character, improving one’s mental and emotional states, and finding harmony between the mind, body, and spirit. The goal of karate-do is to develop well-rounded individuals who can contribute positively to their communities.


Karatedo, on the other hand, is the sport-focused form of karate that emerged in Japan in the early 20th century. In this spelling, there is no hyphen and no ‘-do’ suffix. This style of karate places less emphasis on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of martial arts and more on competition and athleticism.

Karatedo practitioners are often more focused on winning tournaments or sparring matches than on personal development or self-defense skills. While there is still a great deal of discipline and respect involved in karatedo training, the ultimate goal is more geared toward achieving success in a specific context, rather than building a holistic set of skills and values.


While the difference between karate-do and karatedo may seem minor, it actually represents two different approaches to the practice of karate. For those interested in pursuing martial arts as a way of building character, spiritual growth, and self-awareness, karate-do may be the more appropriate choice. For those who are more interested in the competitive aspects of martial arts, or who prioritize physical fitness and athleticism over character development, karatedo may be the better fit. Ultimately, the decision of which style to pursue depends on one’s individual goals, values, and priorities.

Karate: What is the Difference Between Karate-do and Karate-dō?

Karate is a popular martial art that originated in Okinawa, Japan. The word ‚karate‘ means ‚empty hands‘ and refers to the fact that this martial art primarily uses the hands and feet for striking, blocking, and other techniques. Karate training can help improve physical fitness, mental toughness, and self-defense skills. However, many people have questions about the different styles of Karate, including the difference between karate-do and karate-dō. In this blog post, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about these two styles of Karate.

What is Karate-do?

Karate-do, also known as ‚the way of the empty hand,‘ is a style of Karate that emphasizes the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the martial art. This style of Karate is often associated with dojos (training halls) that focus on character-building and personal growth as much as physical training. Karate-do places a strong emphasis on etiquette, respect, and self-discipline. Practitioners of Karate-do aim to improve their physical and mental health, develop self-confidence and integrity, and cultivate a sense of humility and compassion towards others.

What is Karate-dō?

Karate-dō is the same as karate-do; it is just written with a different type of character. In Japanese, there are two systems of writing characters: Hiragana and Kanji. Karate-do is typically written in Hiragana characters, while Karate-dō is written in Kanji characters. While there is technically no difference in meaning between the two spellings, some practitioners of Karate and Martial Arts historians believe that the use of Kanji characters better reflects the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the martial art.

Which style of Karate is Right for Me?

The style of Karate that is best for you depends on your goals and personal preferences. If you are interested in improving your physical fitness, learning self-defense techniques, and challenging yourself mentally and physically, either style may be a good fit. However, if you are interested in developing a strong sense of personal character, improving your self-discipline and integrity, and cultivating a respect for others, Karate-do may be more aligned with your goals. It is important to research different dojos in your area and speak with instructors to get a better understanding of their teaching style and philosophy before committing to a particular type of Karate.

What are the Physical Differences Between Karate-do and Karate-dō?

In terms of physical techniques and training methods, there is little difference between Karate-do and Karate-dō. Both styles emphasize striking and blocking techniques using the hands, feet, elbows, and knees. Both also incorporate kata (pre-arranged sequences of movements) and kumite (sparring) into their training. However, the approach to training may differ slightly between dojos that focus on Karate-do versus those that focus on Karate-dō. Karate-do dojos may place a stronger emphasis on developing physical strength and conditioning, while Karate-dō dojos may place a stronger emphasis on the mental and spiritual aspects of the martial art.

Is There a Difference in Ranking Systems Between Karate-do and Karate-dō?

The ranking systems used in Karate-do and Karate-dō are essentially the same. Both styles use a colored belt system to indicate a practitioner’s level of training and skill. Beginners typically start at the rank of white belt and progress through various colored belts (such as yellow, orange, green, blue, and brown) before achieving the rank of black belt. The specific requirements for each belt rank may differ slightly between dojos and styles, but the general structure is consistent across both Karate-do and Karate-dō.


In conclusion, Karate-do and Karate-dō are two styles of Karate that are essentially the same, differing only in the way they are written in Japanese. Both styles emphasize physical training, mental discipline, and character-building. Choosing between the two styles depends on an individual’s goals and preferences. Regardless of which style you choose, practicing Karate can be a rewarding and challenging journey that leads to personal growth, physical fitness, and self-defense skills.

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