STQI Downtown Toronto School

Popular Martial Arts Comparison – Karate vs Taekwando vs MMA vs Kung Fu vs Shaolin

admin | 17 November 2014 | STQI Toronto | | 0 Comments   


Martial arts is flourishing around the world and we take a look at some of the more popular flavours here in Toronto so that we can better understand the differences. If you are looking to take martial arts classes for yourself or for your child we hope this blog will assist you in making that decision.

Please be aware that these are generalizations only, and there are many flavours and exceptions.

Karate & Taekwando Martial Arts

Karate and Taekwando are the most popular forms of martial arts and are very similar. Predominantly they are sports and training is optimized for hand-to-hand combat scoring in a match. It emphasizes linear kicks, punches, and blocks with some takedown techniques, although in some rare schools they also teach ground grappling and general self defense. Points are awards for strikes to the chest and not the head. Taekwando has been around for 70 years, is an olympic sport, and emphasizes a little more on kicks than Karate. Karate has been around for about 200 years. These types of martial arts have a belt system and it can be very costly to earn your way to black belt.

MMA Mixed Martial Arts

MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is a recent phenomenon and well known as a televised sport (UFC) with relatively brutal open hand contact. Today there are a lot more rules for safety although injury is almost certain with any full out match. Grappling techniques are predominant due to the nature of the sport with a cage. There is little protection and generally no strikes are allowed to weak spots, such as poking the eyes and attacking the groin. Contestants wear gloves that offer some protection but also prevents the use of the fingers for grabbing and such.

Kung Fu Martial Arts

Kung fu is one of the oldest known forms of martial arts which dates back to over 4,000 years ago. With exception to Shaolin Kung Fu martial arts, the major surviving institutionlized forms of kung fu has been around for as long as 400 years. Unlike other forms of martial arts, anything goes in kung fu – it is essentially an open concept combat and self defense system with rules particular to a style of kung fu. Many forms of kung fu also have weapon techniques.

Traditional Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts


Traditional Shaolin Kung Fu martial arts is the oldest institutionalized kung fu system in the world, and dates back to over 1,500 years. Today Shaolin martial arts is divided into Traditional Shaolin and Performance Wushu Shaolin. Traditional Shaolin means the ancient arts of Shaolin for self defence and practice of peacefulness while Performance Wushu is designed for martial arts shows and competitions.

Traditional Shaolin is now rare to find anywhere in the world, and it differs from all the other martial arts and kung fu in general in many ways, for example:

  1. Shaolin Ch’an philosophy: Shaolin practices a philosophy called Shaolin Ch’an (which differs slightly from Ch’an and Zen) and its martial arts system emphasizes self defence.
  2. Moving Meditation: When practicing martial arts, Shaolin practitioners view taolu hand and weapons forms, and even drills, as a form of moving meditation as a means to practice peacefulness and self cultivation.
  3. No Rules: Anything goes in Shaolin. With its rich set of of over 200 taolu forms, one can learn to self-defend in any number of ways and using any body part
  4. Weapons forms: Shaolin also has a rich set of weapons forms and one can learn staff, broadsword, long sword, kwandao, spear, 9 section chain whip, twinhooks, three section staff, and the list is seemingly endless!
  5. Qi Gong: Shaolin considers Qi Gong to be a higher form of practice in martial arts. It deals with internal energy and moving that energy for more effective self defense and for health. Shaolin has kept the secret of Ba Duan Jin Qi Gong and Yi Jin Jing for over 1,500 years and only recently published images of this ancient art in the last 50 years. Ba Duan Jin qi gong is still largely misunderstood because the teachings and philosophy has not been shared publicly, and transmitted only from Master to Disciple. To further complicate things Qi Gong is also demonstrated in performance wushu.  As a result you will find many different variations of this art. Of course we are pleased to offer authentic traditional Ba Duan Jin classes at our STQI schools.
  6. No Belt System: Traditional Shaolin martial arts does not have a belt system. To attain higher levels, one simply strives and perseveres in training to be stronger and faster.  This is a fundamental philosophy of Shaolin – to look inwards to understand oneself, to look outwards to strive, and ultimately improve oneself.

It is the goal of our school to keep the 1,500 year tradition of Shaolin philosophy, qi gong, and martial arts kung fu alive!