Boxing vs Jiu Jitsu: Which Style is More Effective?

The effectiveness of boxing vs Jiu Jitsu has been a hotly debated topic in the martial arts world for the last few decades. Each fighting form has their faction that believes that one style is superior in every way to the other.

For beginners, it can be difficult to choose which style to train in. Both are great for self-defense, but they also have their strengths and weaknesses. 

I’m going to put these to fighting forms up against one another and break down everything about them. We’ll cover their differences, the difficulty level of learning each, which is better for fitness, and which is more effective in MMA.

The Differences Between Boxing and Jiu Jitsu?

When you match up boxing and Jiu Jitsu, they seem to be martial arts from two totally different worlds. That’s because they are. Boxing dates back thousands of years and was a popular sport in Ancient Rome. Jiu Jitsu on the other hand was brought to Brazil from Japan by Mitsuyo Maeda less than 100 years ago (in 1925).

Boxing is a striking based martial art and Jiu Jitsu is a grappling based martial art. Below is a quick rundown of each fighting style and all they entail.

The Objectives and Rules of Boxing

Boxing is strictly a striking martial art, where you can only use closed fist strikes on your opponent. All of the action in boxing takes place from the feet, standing.

It is one of the oldest martial arts in the world that is practiced on every continent in the world. Nearly every continent has their own style of boxing, but all follow the same rules and goals.

The rules and objectives of boxing include:

  • You are only allowed to use closed fists to strike your opponent.
  • You’re permitted to strike the opponent to the front of their body from their forehead to their beltline.
  • Punches to any other area will result, warning, point deductions, and disqualification.
  • The goal of a boxing contest is to hit an opponent as many times as possible without getting hit.
  • You can win a match 3 ways: KO/TKO, Decision, or Disqualification.

The Objectives and Rules of Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu is the complete opposite of boxing, as it’s a grappling based martial art. It is fought on both the feet and ground, but most of a Jiu Jitsu match predominantly takes place on the ground.

Compared to boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (commonly referred to as BJJ) is a relatively new martial art with about a century of practice. In that time, BJJ has grown dramatically and has been proven as one of the world’s most effective combat disciplines.

The rules and objectives of Jiu Jitsu include:

  • The goal of a Jiu Jitsu match is to get your opponent to the ground, control them, and submit them.
  • Submissions include strangulations and joint locks.
  • There are no strikes of any kind allowed in training or competition.
  • You can win a match 4 ways: Submission, Points, Decision, or Disqualification

Which is easier to learn?

This is a tough question to answer. Everyone is different, and things that come easier to one person may be extremely difficult for another. Someone that can pick up Jiu Jitsu easily may for the life of them be unable to put together the mechanics of boxing.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to say boxing is easier to learn – at least at a beginner level (no disrespect to boxers! I know your sport is extremely difficult and almost impossible to master).

The reason we are saying boxing is easier to learn than Jiu Jitsu is specifically for 2 reasons. 

  • Boxing is only fought in one plane.
  • You only use your hands in boxing.

Boxing is only fought in only one plane, and that is from standing. Anything in a boxing competition is done from standing, and only from standing.

It is also a one-dimensional combat sport. You only have to worry about one form of attack: punches. Not to say boxing isn’t complicated (it’s very complicated), but you don’t have to worry about the variety of attacks you’ll see in BJJ.

In Jiu Jitsu, you are fighting on multiple planes. You have to figure out to throw, takedown, or pull guard to get the fight to the ground. Once a Jiu Jitsu match hits the ground, the martial art goes into a different dimension.

BJJ is like an overly complicated game of human chess, where you have to figure out how to submit your opponent. All while you’re trying to avoid your opponent trying to submit you.

There aren’t any strikes involved in a Jiu Jitsu match, but you have to worry about way more things. You have to look out for takedowns, throws, sweeps, and a wide variety of strangulations. In the gi, Jiu Jitsu it gets even more complicated with attacks involving lapels and sleeves.

With regular training, most newbie boxers I see at the gym are at least somewhat proficient after about 6 months. In BJJ on the other hand, it’s pretty rare to get your blue belt (the first colored belt) in less than 2 years of training. To get a black belt in BJJ, you’ll typically need to train seriously for at least 10 years.

All in all, this is why I say boxing is “easier” to learn than Jiu Jitsu. They are both endlessly complicated martial arts though, that take a lifetime to truly master.

Which is better for self defense?

While any martial art is going to be useful in a self-defense situation, I’m going to have to go with Jiu Jitsu on this one and here is why… Boxing is a great sport and is beneficial for self-defense to a degree. However, it is better suited in a competition setting, where both competitors agree to use punches only.

In an altercation on the street, there are no rules and nothing is stopping a person from doing whatever they want. More times than not, there is usually grappling involved in a street fight.

This shows the huge flaw in relying on boxing for self defense. There is no grappling taught in boxing, whereas Jiu Jitsu is a grappling martial art.

The predominant reason Jiu Jitsu was created was to subdue an attacker from assaulting you in a fight. By training Jiu Jitsu in self-defense situations, you’re able to cut the distance and avoid an attacker’s strikes. Jiu Jitsu is also particularly effective if you’re fighting against a larger opponent because of the way it uses leverage, and pits your opponents’ movements against themselves.

Not to say Jiu Jitsu doesn’t have its flaws in a self defense situation. Particularly if you try to use sport Jiu Jitsu techniques in an altercation on the street it could go bad. Don’t ever try to pull guard on the streets or you’ll be waking up in a hospital.

But in my opinion compared to boxing, Jiu Jitsu is a better option for self defense. Knowing grappling will make you better equipped to protect yourself against an attacker. At the end of the day, most street fights end up on the ground pretty quickly and if you don’t have a solid base of grappling you’re going to be in trouble.

One final consideration for self-defense is that boxing is more of a “high variance” fighting style than Jiu Jitsu. If you’re trading punches, even someone untrained has the potential to land a lucky devastating blow. In a ground fight however, a blue belt or higher in Jiu Jitsu is going to dismantle an untrained opponent 99% of the time.

With boxing, even if you “win” in a self-defense scenario, the outcome might not be favorable for you. There are likely going to be some serious legal consequences for turning your opponent’s head into a watermelon, regardless if they deserved it. By using Jiu Jitsu in a street fight, you leave yourself with more options. Sure, you could snap an opponent’s shoulder with a kimura. But you could just as easily safely hold them down in mount like UFC legend Matt Cera did to this drunk dude at a restaurant:

Which is better for fitness?

For a beginner, the better option for fitness would be boxing. The reason why I choose boxing over Jiu Jitsu here is you can get in great shape through boxing without getting hurt.

To some, this may sound crazy that you’re less likely to get hurt in a striking martial art. But here me out for a minute and I’ll explain why.

If you want to do martial arts for fitness, you can actually train in boxing without taking a single punch. Everything from bag work, solo drills, and doing road work will get you in phenomenal shape. The best part is that you’ll never sustain an injury from sparring.

Jiu Jitsu is also great for fitness, but BJJ training will bang you up. It’s called “the gentle art,” but everyone that trains knows that is an outright lie.

Jiu Jitsu is not a martial art you can do on your own. You have to train with partners to learn the techniques during live rolling. You’ll definitely get in shape, but you’re also going to get beat up. Everything from tweaking your muscles, joints, and definitely giving your hand a beating in training. This is why I consider boxing to be the better option for a beginner, if their goal is fitness.

Which was proven more effective for MMA?

If you’ve spent a good amount of time watching MMA, the obvious answer here is Jiu Jitsu. Time and time again, Jiu Jitsu and wrestling have proven to be the most effective element of MMA. Boxing is a fantastic skill to have for MMA, but without a solid ground game the skill is neutralized by an opponent that can take you down.

For proof, look know further than this highlight reel of Royce Gracie in the early days of the UFC:

As you can see, whenever a pure grappler goes against a pure striker the outcome is usually the same. The grappler typically takes down the striker with ease and submits them with their superior ground skills. 

If you look at the current list of UFC champions, nearly all have a background in grappling: 6 of the 8 champions have a background in amateur wrestling and are highly skilled ground fighters.

To be an elite fighter in MMA, first and foremost you need to have a solid ground game. Being a great boxer is nice, but without at least a strong defensive Jiu Jitsu strategy it will be extremely difficult to succeed in MMA.

What gear do I need for each sport?

To start boxing, the two fundamental things you’ll need are hand wraps and a pair of boxing gloves. If you’re doing any sparring, a solid mouthguard and headgear are also mandatory.

To train Jiu Jitsu, first you need to decide if you’re going to train Gi or No-Gi. There is no wrong answer here, but if you’re a beginner I’d recommend choosing one format and sticking with it for at least 6 months. If you’re training in the gi (the uniform traditionally used in BJJ) you’ll need a Jiu Jitsu gi and white belt. If you decide to go with No-Gi, you’ll need a rash guard and a good pair of fight shorts. No-Gi shorts are designed without pockets and zippers, so they won’t snag on your opponent during training.

One other piece of equipment I’d recommend for both boxing and Jiu Jitsu is a martial arts specific gym bag. There are some really solid backpacks and duffel bags on the market now that are specifically designed for combat sports, and will make organizing your gear a lot easier than just throwing it all in the bottom of your usual gym bag.

Boxing vs Jiu Jitsu: The Final Word

Here is a quick recap of everything we’ve covered so far:

  • Jiu Jitsu is a grappling based martial art, while Boxing is striking based
  • Boxing is easier to learn than Jiu Jitsu
  • Jiu Jitsu is better for self defense
  • Boxing is more ideal for fitness (especially for beginners)
  • Jiu Jitsu has proven to be more effective than boxing in MMA competition

Both of these fighting styles have their pros and cons, and are great skills to learn. For a beginner in MMA, it will be crucial to learn both in order to be a well rounded fighter. Get your base on the ground by learning Jiu Jitsu first. After that, develop your skills in boxing so you’re comfortable on the ground as well as standing.

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