If you’re considering martial arts training, boxing and Jiu-Jitsu are two of the most popular fighting styles around. Both styles of fighting have die-hard fans and practitioners who can and will argue for hours about which fighting style is best.
So, is one “better” than the other? The answer depends entirely on what you hope to get out of your training.
What is boxing?
Although you likely have a good idea of what boxing is, let’s dive in.
A Brief History of Boxing
Boxing is the oldest fighting style, second only to wrestling. The first known record of boxing comes from ancient Egypt, around 3000 BC. It was introduced to the Olympic Games in 700 BC and has been a recognized martial art for over 5,000 years.
During this time, leather wraps were worn on the fists of boxers to protect them from unnecessary injuries. These rudimentary gloves offered much less protection than modern gloves as they contained far less padding.
Around 500 BC, the Romans began boxing as a way to strengthen the character and endurance of their soldiers. The Roman style of boxing was made far more dangerous than Egyptian style boxing with the addition of the cestus.
The cestus was a boxing glove that contained metal spikes designed to inflict further damage on the combatants. These gloves were used in gladiatorial style fighting, and matches often ended when one of the fighters died.
As we all know, the Roman Empire fell from grace, and boxing fell along with it. Societies outside of the Roman Empire found boxing too violent and unnecessary to keep the practice alive.
Despite its disappearance for over 1400 years, boxing made its resurgence in 17th century England. These early boxing matches no longer featured spiked metal gloves for maximum damage. Despite this, the fights were still considered too barbaric for the refined British society.
The boxers of the 1850s fought in secret. Out of the view of the general public and perhaps more importantly, law enforcement. They often fought without gloves and coined the term “bare-knuckle-boxing”.
After 30 years, society changed its point of view, and the first organized amateur boxing league was born. Organized professional boxing then, has its roots in England. This is where the standard boxing glove was introduced. The boxing gloves of today are similar in design while offering more protection to the fighters.
Boxing came to America shortly after it took hold in England in the 1850s. The Amateur Athletic Union was formed in 1888 to organize boxing matches, and the 1920s saw the creation of the National Boxing Association.
The National Boxing Association later became the World Boxing Association in 1962 due to its increasing popularity and scope. The WBA remains the primary governing body for boxing today.
Fighting Style of Boxing
Boxing is a very straight forward fighting style. Fighters are required to remain standing during the match and can only attack by striking their opponents with a closed fist. A failure to obey these rules results in a time out or disqualification for the offending party. As you can see boxing differs from MMA, Jit-Jitsu, and other fighting sports in that it’s straight forward when it comes to rules, how to determine the winner, how many rounds in a boxing match, etc. Learning how to box can be easy if you know the rules and follow them and study the different boxing techniques.
Boxing gloves protect both your fists and your opponent. They are heavily padded and support your wrists to prevent wrist injuries. Bare-knuckle boxing was popular in the 1850s but lead to gruesome results deemed unnecessary to the sport. Gloves have been required for boxing since the 1890s. Boxing gloves come in different sizes, 16 Oz, 14 Oz, 12 Oz. Some gloves are better for beginners than others.
Hand wraps further prevent wrist injuries by reducing their available range of motion and keeping everything tight under your glove. Wrists wraps are also required to participate in sanctioned boxing matches.
A mouth guard prevents your teeth from being knocked out when your opponent inevitably lands a punch to your head.
A head guard will not stop you from receiving a concussion from an expert boxer but will prevent you from unnecessarily endangering yourself in practice matches. Head guards are no longer used in professional men’s boxing. But if you are a beginner there is nothing wrong with considering boxing headgear. Boxing isn’t the only fighting sport that needs headgear, BJJ needs headgear, MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, etc.
What Is Jiu-Jitsu?
How and when did Jiu-Jitsu originate?
A Brief History of Jiu-Jitsu
Jiu-Jitsu was initially created in Japan for use by Samurai warriors. Samurai were well equipped with armor and a sword, but Jiu-Jitsu was created as a method of hand to hand combat in case they found themselves disarmed.
The first Jiu-Jitsu school was formed, and Jiu-Jitsu began the transition from a warrior’s combat method to a martial art.
This time was a period of peace in Japan’s history, and while there was no longer a war being fought, Japan continued to stress the importance of learning self-defense. Jiu-Jitsu was learned as a combat method to be used only for self-defense.
1900 AD – Present
Any history of Jiu-Jitsu is incomplete without mentioning the Gracie family. The Gracie family and their students refined Jiu-Jitsu into the form it holds today. The focus of Jiu-Jitsu switched from striking your opponent to getting them to the ground and using submission ground fighting.
This form of Jiu-Jitsu is the most popular today and is known as Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the form of Jiu-Jitsu practiced in competitions and MMA.
Submission ground fighting allows a well trained martial artist to defeat opponents much larger than themselves.
The first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was held in 1993 and was the first time various fighting styles competed against each other in a sanctioned format. Royce Gracie dominated the 1993 UFC, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s popularity exploded across the world as a combat sport.
Fighting Style of Jiu-Jitsu
Jiu-Jitsu, literally translated, means “gentle art”. The focus of this fighting style is the use technique and exploit your opponent’s weaknesses through grappling, submissions, and to a lesser extent, striking.
BJJ is differentiated from Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts by its focus on ground fighting. With little focus on standing fighting techniques, it uses takedowns and throws to get your opponent on the floor.
Once on the floor, BJJ holds the advantage over most other martial arts that teach striking combat styles.
A Gi is one of two items needed for practicing Jiu-Jitsu. The rest are optional.
The Gi is the clothing on jiu-jitsu and is similar to what you picture when you think of someone practicing karate. A gi for Jiu-Jitsu will be made of fabric that can withstand aggressive pulling and grabbing that comes with grappling.
A Jiu-Jitsu belt is worn to inform others of your rank in the martial art. This is important for sparring exercises so that you are paired up with a similarly skilled opponent.
While you technically only need a gi and belt to practice Jiu-Jitsu, a rash guard is highly recommended. You will be on the ground for the majority of your training, and rug burn will make practicing your chosen martial art much less comfortable. Your choice for a Jiu-Jitsu mat also impacts how interacting with the ground will affect your body
Boxing vs Jiu-Jitsu: How They Compare and Which Is Better for You
Now that we have a better idea of the focus of each style of martial art, which one should you choose?
Well, that depends on what your intentions are.
Which Is Better for Self-Defense?
This commonly asked question is very situational and depends on a few factors.
With One Attacker
If you had to choose between boxing and jiu-jitsu in a one on one encounter with an attacker, it is likely better to know Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu is a fighting style that excels at one-on-one combat, and also allows you to defend against someone larger than yourself.
Through the use of takedown techniques, grappling, and joint holds, an attacker who is unfamiliar with Jiu-Jitsu, judo, or wrestling will be completely out of their element. Most untrained attackers will only know how to throw punches and have put no through into ground fighting.
With Multiple Attackers
Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ fall on their face when dealing with multiple attackers. Sure, you may be able to get one of them to the ground to choke them out, but dropping to the ground when there are several other attackers is not smart.
Boxing would give you a better chance of defending against multiple attackers by allowing for knockout punches to be delivered in short succession. Provided you are a similar size to your opponents, boxing will have more opportunity to defeat all of them, which is extremely unlikely with Jiu-Jitsu.
With a Physically Larger Attacker
In a situation where the attacker is significantly larger than you, Jiu-Jitsu will allow you to fight back effectively. With proper technique, you will be able to submit untrained opponents without as much regard to size.
The primary reason for this is that Jiu-Jitsu relies on takedowns and using your opponent’s weight against them. A successful choke or redirect is not as dependent on size as a knockout punch. While both sports have weight classes, the advantage of boxing someone in a lighter weight class is larger than that of Jiu-Jitsu.
Attacker with A Knife or Melee Weapon
This one is a bit tricky. You should always avoid fighting someone with a knife. No matter how good you are at your martial art, you can still get a single cut that will kill you.
With this disclaimer out of the way, Jiu-Jitsu holds a slight edge when going up against an attacker who is armed with a knife. The main reason for this is that some Jiu-Jitsu gyms specifically teach these scenarios.
Having any experience in this specific situation will help you more than a specific combat style. There are not many boxing gyms that put you in the ring with an opponent who has a fake knife.
Attacker with A Gun
Unfortunately, if the person holding the gun is competent, neither fighting style will be helpful as they both rely on being close enough to your opponent to strike them.
Even the cheapest handguns are effective at ranges of 40-50 feet. You’re better off running away.
If you think running is for losers, and you can close the distance and disarm your opponent, refer back to the section regarding the number of attackers.
It’s important to remember that every self-defense situation is different. Your attacker may be trained in martial arts as well which changes the situation entirely.
The best advice, however boring or wimpy it may be, is to remove yourself from the situation entirely when possible. Don’t fight unless it’s necessary because you have no idea who your opponent is or what they are armed with.
Who Would Win in A Street Fight?
Here’s what you really came for.
This hotly debated topic is one that does not have a definitive answer. It depends largely on the skill level of both parties, which can vary wildly in a street fight. Remember, you have no idea who you’re fighting or how long they’ve been training. Your opponent won’t give you their fighting resume or be wearing a colored belt.
Advanced vs Beginner
In either situation, the advanced fighter will come out victorious. Both boxing and Jiu-Jitsu provide the skillset to take your opponent out of the fight. Being able to accomplish this depends entirely on relative skill levels.
Advanced vs Advanced
In this situation, there is a slight advantage given to Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu fights begin with both participants standing, and the goal is to get them to the floor for the fight. The main objective of Jiu-Jitsu can be accomplished when fighting a boxer.
In boxing, according to the rules, you are required to remain standing for the fight. Boxing matches are put in time out when fighters are on the floor, and a trained boxer will have no experience in ground fighting.
Assuming the Jiu-Jitsu practitioner can get in range and complete their takedown, the fight is over. A boxer has no ground fighting skills.
The only hope for the boxer is to land a knockout blow before they are taken down. This remains possible, which is why we cannot call this fight completely one-sided. Boxers are also quick on their feet, and while they don’t train in takedown prevention, they will be able to keep their distance for a while.
The above assumes that both parties have only been trained in a strict single-discipline environment. Many gyms now also teach the basics of other types of martial arts with the popularity of MMA.
A boxer with minimal takedown countering experience would likely come out victorious over a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner with minimal striking training. The boxer would be much more effective if both chose to stand and fight. They would then likely be able to avoid being taken down long enough to put the opponent out of the fight.
Which Is Better for Beginners?
If you’re here because you’re considering learning one of these two fighting styles, consider the following.
Which Can You Get Better at Faster?
If you’re looking to become a proficient fighter quickly, boxing is typically the quicker and easier of the two to learn. Boxing has fewer techniques and core moves to learn than Jiu-Jitsu and can therefore be learned faster. Get a pair of gloves and a punching bag for beginners and you can start boxing, it’s that simple
Becoming an intermediate boxer can happen in as little as a year, whereas it commonly takes 2-3 years to progress from your white belt to your blue (or green) belt in Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ. There are 4 more belts in Jiu-Jitsu that typically take an additional 3-4 years of practice each.
Which Is Safer?
Well, this also depends on your intentions as a practitioner.
Safer to Practice
Boxing is typically considered the safer martial art to practice. In boxing, sparring with opponents when learning technique is not usually done at maximum strength or power levels. In fact, if you were to go all out on your unsuspecting training partner, you may be asked not to come back to the gym.
In Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ, once you have a technique down, sparring sessions are often performed at close to maximum effort. Training in this way is allowed because you are not striking your opponent which leaves less room for accidental traumatic injuries.
The exception to this rule is when beginners are practicing takedowns in Jiu-Jitsu. If both parties are not familiar with the move, it’s quite easy to throw or be thrown incorrectly leading to injury.
Safer to Compete In
It’s important to remember here, that Jiu-Jitsu does not have sanctioned competitions so we are comparing BJJ to boxing.
When competing, both opponents are assumed to have a solid knowledge of the sport. BJJ explicitly forbids striking. Because they focus on takedowns and grappling as means of submission, BJJ is considered one of the safest martial arts to compete in.
Brain injuries, arguably the worst type of injury, are much more common in professional boxing than in BJJ competitions.
Which Is a Better Workout?
Both fighting styles are extremely good workouts. Martial arts are great sports not just fighting sports. They both involved physically exerting yourself to a degree that will leave you a sweaty mess.
Boxing workouts often include cardio work that is not directly involved in fighting your opponent. Boxing may be better for someone who is looking at the overall experience as a way to burn some calories. I use the Century Cardio Wavemaster punching bag all the time for cardio and also the Century Wavemaster XXL.
In Jiu-Jitsu, most or all of your physical exertion is directed towards your opponent. You will be primarily engaged in grappling exercises that will also leave you extremely tired.
The main difference then is that boxing includes many exercises that are not punching your opponent, whereas Jiu-Jitsu is mostly direct combat practice.
Decide for yourself which experience you prefer and will stick with if you are looking to mainly get a good workout in.
Which Is More Popular?
Let’s break it down into size and recognizable names.
Which Is Larger?
Boxing is undoubtedly a larger sport than Jiu-Jitsu. It’s not even close. It has been around in an organized competitive fashion for about 100 years, whereas the first UFC match occurred only 30 years ago.
If you look only at the pay-per-view totals of top-selling boxing events in the last 15 years, boxing title fights accrued over twice as much revenue when compared to MMA fights (22m vs 12m).
It’s important to remember that MMA and the UFC do not only contain Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ practitioners, so the total for Jiu-Jitsu specifically is much less than the MMA total mentioned above.
Another way to confirm boxing is more popular is that most people would be able to name a legendary boxing superstar when asked. The last 50 years saw legends such as Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, and Muhammed Ali go through the ring. These larger-than-life characters generated enormous interest in the sport.
If you asked those same people to name a legendary Jiu-Jitsu fighter, they would likely come up blank.
Looking to The Future
While boxing holds the title for most popular combat sport at the moment, it’s popularity is in a slow decline. MMA on the other hand, which includes Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ, is only gaining in popularity.
The UFC heavily promotes their fights, and recent title fights have generated the same revenue as boxing. This trend is expected to continue, and we may see MMA overall surpass boxing’s popularity at some point in the near future.
So, Which Should I Choose?
You’ve probably noticed a lack of clear advantages of one style over the other in all of the scenarios we’ve explored.
Unless you need to become a proficient fighter in the next year, choosing the fighting style that you’re most interested in is the best way to go. You’ll enjoy your time, and stick with it.
If learning one over the other isn’t good enough for you, just remember you’re not limited to one single discipline. MMA gyms teach different aspects of all fighting styles if you want a more well-rounded experience.
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