Among the hundreds if not thousands of martial arts on this planet, there have been a few that have survived the most difficult of pressure testing and are still known today as great martial arts, even if they are many decades or even centuries old. Two great martial arts that have stood the test of time are taekwondo and Capoeira. They are vastly different martial arts with a completely different history and a radically different set of techniques and styles, yet they still managed to thrive in today’s world of MMA and other modern fighting styles. In today’s article, we will be looking into the difference between Capoeira and Taekwondo.
Capoeira and Taekwondo are vastly different martial arts, since Capoeira is a dance-like, rhythmic fighting style with a lot of movements in a crouching position, whereas Taekwondo is a kicking-based, traditional Eastern martial art, with a lot of emphasis on stability and high kicks.
Interestingly, there are almost as many things about Taekwondo and Capoeira that are similar as there are that are different. In this text, we will focus on what sets these two arts apart in order to help you choose the art which is the best for you or your children, friend, parent, etc., depending on who it is who wants to start training. Read on for a discussion of the differences and some of the history of these two wonderful martial arts!
What Are the Differences Between Capoeira and Taekwondo?
In order to fully understand the differences between these arts, we have to look at the histories of both arts first. Knowing the history of each art is crucial to understanding the philosophy and the mindset that went into the creation of each of these martial arts, which is why we will first give you a short breakdown of Capoeira and Taekwondo history, and then talk about their differences more.
Let’s start with Capoeira. Usually, if you mention martial arts to the average person, they will only think East. They will think of Japan, Okinawa, China, the Philippines, or Korea, but they would usually never mention South America as a birthplace of any larger martial art. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art, which was developed by African slaves who were working there as a way to defend themselves, around the 16th century. When looking at a Capoeira demonstration or even fight, one could easily mistake it as a dance, since the slaves used this to cover up the fact that they were actually practicing martial arts to be able to fight against their oppressors. In 2014, Capoeira was granted a special protected status as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
The movements of Capoeira look nothing like Eastern martial arts do, since they are very fluid, constantly in motion, and usually are performed in a crouching position, or sometimes even from close to the ground. This art also emphasizes using the lower part of the body to strike, sweep, and kick with immense power. The ginga is one of the most basic “stances” (it isn’t really a stance, it is a standard motion that capoeiristas start out from), and it is a movement which is consisted of crouching and rocking left and right on the feet in wide steps. This, just like much of Capoeira, serves both the purpose of making the capoeirista a harder target to hit and also to trick or fool them into not expecting attacks. To compare it with most Eastern martial arts styles (especially Japanese ones), Capoeira would be like a leaf floating on a waving ocean, whereas karate and other Japanese martial arts would be like chopping wood with straight motions.
The history of Taekwondo doesn’t stretch as far back as Capoeira’s does. In the middle of the 20th century, during and after the second world war, the 9 traditional Kwons in Korea (Korean dojos which practiced a non-unified, diverse combination of Japanese, Chinese, and indigenous Korean martial arts) and a couple of influential martial artists and military figures joined their efforts to create a unified martial arts system of Korea. The leader of this movement is most widely considered to be Choi Hong Hi, a Korean military general. He is also the person who came up with his Theory of Power, which is a collection of observations using Newtonian physics and rational thought to explain the theoretical basis of the physical force that can be exerted by a human.
This theory aligns with the fact that Taekwondo is heavily kicking-based. Yes, traditionally there are punches, some grappling, etc., but realistically, if you go to your local dojo, you will find that they spend 90% of their time learning and improving their kicks, and the rest is mostly resting or stretching. The punching present in Taekwondo, even though it does exist, is quite poor. Even though we could say that Taekwondo is similar to Capoeira in the fact that both are kicking-based mostly, but the style of these kicks is immensely different.
Capoeira is circular, constantly in motion, using the legs to deliver powerful, really acrobatic blows to various body parts of the opponent, whereas Taekwondo is never performed from the ground, and kicks are rarely thrown at the head (usually at high levels only). Taekwondo is also more linear and more direct and much less like a dance. There are many places that are transitioning to teaching Capoeira as exercise and dance only, and not as a martial art. This transition is very easy to make, seeing as Capoeira is very dance-like.
Which is Better for Self-defense: Capoeira or Taekwondo?
Martial arts were created and are practiced for one major goal: self-defense. Yes, there are many philosophical and personal development aspects of martial arts that comprise a world of their own, but if we are being realistic, the reason most people even think of going through such pains and discomfort is to learn how to fight properly. So, how do Capoeira and Taekwondo compare in terms of self-defense effectiveness?
This is a tough one. Neither of these martial arts would end up at the top of our list of the most effective martial arts worldwide. Martial arts like Western Boxing, Kickboxing, Wrestling, Muay Thai, and perhaps Jiu-Jitsu would take those places. However, just below these highly effective and dangerous styles, Capoeira and Taekwondo could take their places. The reason neither of them is as good as the previously mentioned styles is that they are unrealistically focused on kicks, and Capoeira is quite unrealistic in general.
Before the angry comments, we are aware that a high-level Capoeira practitioner is a force to be reckoned with. However, this doesn’t mean that the average Capoeira martial artist (also called capoeirista) could do much damage to the average kickboxer. The same applies to Taekwondo. It is effective and can be vicious if trained at a high-level, but an average Taekwondo practitioner would not fare well against an average Muay Thai fighter.
Compared to each other, however, there is not that much difference in terms of effectiveness. Both of these arts take years to learn properly, both of them are kicking-based and also somewhat unrealistic in these terms. Nevertheless, we believe Taekwondo has a slight advantage. Many UFC fighters got their awesome kicking skills from Taekwondo, but you don’t really ever see a successful UFC fighter boast about their Capoeira background. That might have a ton of different reasons which don’t have to have anything to do with the art’s effectiveness, but one can make the assumption that the movements present in Capoeira just wouldn’t find their place in an octagon. It is likely due to the dance-like nature of the style.
Which One Should You Choose: Capoeira or Taekwondo?
Choosing a martial art, especially out of these two options, might be a very hard decision. If you don’t have a clear passion for either of them, it might be hard to make the decision, but we are here to help. We will shortly outline some of the main things you should pay attention to when making the decision.
The most important factor to take into consideration is the quality of the dojos and schools near you. If you are passionate about Taekwondo and think it to be better, but the TKD school near you is McDojo, whereas the Capoeira school down the block is reputable, definitely go for the Capoeira, and vice versa. It is much more important to have a good community to learn in which actually gives you proper skills and knowledge than to train your preferred art under a sloppy teacher who usually charges more.
The second most important are your goals. Capoeira might be a daunting martial art to start learning for most due to the acrobatics involved, but it will give you insane mobility, flexibility, and usually an awesome community to learn, dance, and fight in. Taekwondo is more structured and more formal, and if you want to fight in the style that people like Valentina Shevchenko and Bas Rutten got their martial arts base from, Taekwondo is your best bet.