Boxing and BJJ are two separate combat systems that do not share much in common. In fact, you will have a hard time finding two martial arts that differ more in just about every aspect. But despite all the differences, boxing versus BJJ and which one is better remains one of the hottest topics.
BJJ is a more versatile system that allows you to deal with the opponent in a more efficient way. It is superior to most other styles, including boxing, and gives you a big advantage in any type of freestyle combat. Since there is no striking, jiu jitsu is much safer than boxing, which is just one of the reasons why it so popular.
On the other side, boxing is a more popular option among people who want to improve fitness and get in shape. Also, it takes much less time to master as it is not as complex or advanced as BJJ.
This is just a brief explanation of how these two systems differ from one another, so be sure to read this article to learn more about it.
Boxing vs BJJ — What Are The Main Differences?
The main difference is that BJJ focuses on takedowns and ground fighting, while boxing focuses only on standup and striking with punches. Here is a detailed look into how these two systems differ in other aspects.
History and Origins
The sport of boxing has been around since ancient times. It first appeared as an official sport at the 23rd Olympiad in 688 BC in Greece, and it has been a part of the Olympic Games ever since. The modern version emerged with the birth of the famous “Queensberry rules” in 1867, which are still in place.
BJJ emerged in the 1920s in Brazil and its origins come from Judo. At the time, judoka Matsuo Maeda traveled to Brazil to spread judo in South America. His loyal students, Carlos and Helio Gracie would later use Judo as a base to develop their own unique style of fighting. In contrast with Judo, their system focuses more on advanced ground fighting rather than powerful throws.
Concept and Techniques
Boxing is a striking martial art where the main objective is to hurt or knock the opponent out using punches, or win a match by a decision. There are no takedowns, grabbing, or grappling of any kind. The key is to mix punches with footwork, blocks, and upper body movements to create openings and do damage. It is limited in terms of techniques, but there are many combinations and variations of each move:
BJJ, on the other side, is all about taking the fight to the ground from the standing position, and securing a dominant position on the ground from which you could submit the opponent with chokes and joint locks. It does not include any striking at all, but rather techniques such as:
- Wrestling takedowns (single leg, double leg)
- Various trips and throws that originate from Judo
- Positions (full mount, back mount, side control, half guard)
- Chokes (rear-naked choke, guillotine choke, D’arce choke)
- Joint locks (armbar, kimura, knee bar)
Equipment and Protective Gear
Boxers compete wearing shorts, shoes, full padded gloves, mouth guards, hand wraps, and groin protectors. In training, students also wear a head guard to prevent facial injuries and brain damage.
BJJ students wear a “Gi” uniform that consists of a cotton jacked similar to the “judogi top”, long pants, and a ranking color belt around the waist. They must wear a gi uniform both in training and competition. The only exception is the “No-Gi” style where students train and compete wearing rush guards.
Pros and cons
|BJJ Pros||BJJ Cons|
|· Highly practical in real life
· Focuses on leverage and technique rather than power
· Matches well against other martial arts
· Improves mental and physical health
· Safe to train in as there is no striking
|· Takes a lot of time to master, close to a decade
· Modern practices focuses too much on competition and rules
· Does not include any type of striking
· Not useful against multiple attackers
· Putting your body in various awkward positions and hyperextending your joints can be painful
|Boxing pros||Boxing Cons|
|· Relatively easy to learn
· Teaches you all about the physical and mental aspects of real fighting
· Great for improving overall fitness and weight loss
· Highly accessible as just about every town has a boxing gym
|· Limited techniques as it focuses only on striking
· Embraces hard methods of training and a lot of hard sparring sessions
· The rate of injuries is quite high
· There is no grappling, kicks, or advanced self-defense tactics
Boxing vs. BJJ – Which One Is Better For Self-Defense?
BJJ is a better option for self-defense as it enables you to deal with the attacker in the most efficient way possible, and without causing any injuries. Boxing is also very practical as students develop good reactions, reflexes, timing, and mental toughness. Yet, BJJ clearly has an edge in this aspect because:
- Most people don’t know how to defend against BJJ attacks
- Styles like “Gracie Jitsu” focus entirely on self-defense while boxing is a combat sport
- Allows you to defend without causing huge damage
- Keeps you safe from strikes and counterattacks
First of all, most people do not know how to grapple as takedowns and positioning on the ground is all about leverage, balance, technique, and coordination. Defending against strikes is much easier as these movements are part of our natural reactions and instincts. Or at least are easier to master.
Next, most street fights are chaotic brawls that include a lot of grabbing and pulling at close range, which is where boxers look lost and BJJ shines. If you combine all of this with the fact that most fights quickly end on the ground, you get why BJJ is a far better option.
Above all, BJJ enables you to defend without causing any injuries. Just taking them down and establishing dominant position is often more than enough to finish the fight. Boxing is a brutal system where the main goal is to hurt the opponent’s face and knock them out. This is the last thing you need in a street fight where a single clean punch to the head may kill a person.
BJJ vs. Boxing – Who Would Win In a Street Fight?
The only fair answer is that the fighters trained in BJJ have much better chances of beating boxers in a street fight. Whether the flight is in an open or closed space, in a bar, parking lot, jiu-jitsu matches well against boxing in most street fighting scenarios. Are there scenarios in which boxers may win? Of course, there are, but overall, BJJ techniques are superior in this matchup.
Boxers have a chance if the fight is in the open space where they can apply footwork to keep their range and long-range punches to do damage. But still, BJJ fighters have the ability to close the range, block strikes and quickly level change for a takedown. All boxers, no matter how skilled they are, would look confused when they see a person grabbing their legs in an attempt to take them down.
Once a trained grappler secures a strong grip, it would be over. Boxers do not have the ability to defend a takedown, neither have they have the ability to fight on the ground. It would take less than half a minute for a grappler to secure a dominant position, and place one of the submissions.
Of course, street fighting includes an infinite number of variables. There can be weapons, flying chairs, tables and glass bottles, multiple attackers, and many other elements. But in pure boxing vs. BJJ freestyle matchup, grapplers will always have the edge.
Do not look any further from the early UFC events back in the 90s if you need any proof. Back in the day, UFC events brutal street fighting venues where there were no rules such as rounds, weight classes, or even time limits. It truly was a barbaric slugfest, a very dangerous one too. Though brutal, these events included a lot of style vs. style matchups where the main goal was to determine which martial art is the most effective one, and BJJ emerged as the best.
Royce Gracie, who represented BJJ, beat the fighters from all other martial arts such as wrestling, Muay Thai, and of course, boxing. Bear in mind that Royce was around 170 pounds at the time, and he often shared the cage with the fighters twice as big and twice as physically stronger than he was. His success will forever be proof that BJJ is superior to most other martial arts in freestyle combat.
BJJ or Boxing For MMA?
MMA is a hybrid combat sport where both BJJ and boxing play a key role, with BJJ having the slight edge. If you look at the official stats, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has produced the second most UFC champions in history, with wrestling being in the first place. Having the ability to take the fight to the ground and submit the attacker has proven to be the most efficient way to win the MMA match, and it has been like that since the UFC 1 event.
First, grapplers are the ones who choose where the fight takes place, and it is very hard to stop them from imposing their will inside the cage. Taking the opponent down is all about technique, leverage, balance, and coordination. Or in other words, you can’t use sheer force to defend, and that’s why so many strikers have a hard time fighting against elite grapplers.
The second reason is the learning curve. To succeed in MMA, you must have all-around skills, meaning that boxers need to develop good BJJ skills, and vice versa. On average, strikers need to spend a minimum of 5 years of consistent training to learn how to defend takedowns and fight on the ground. Grapplers, on the other side, need much less, around 1 year to develop the same level of boxing skills. This is one of the key reasons why elite grapplers tend to rise much faster than top-level boxers.
In an ideal scenario, you will train both BJJ and boxing at the same time to become a skilled cage fighter, which brings us to the next section of this article.
|Famous BJJ fighters in MMA||Famous Boxers in MMA|
|· Charles Olivera (UFC lightweight champion)
· Fabricio Werdum (UFC heavyweight champ)
· BJ Penn (UFC lightweight and welterweight champion)
· Royce Gracie (UFC 1,2,4 tournament winner)
|· Conor Mcgregor (UFC lightweight champion)
· Max Holloway (UFC featherweight champion)
· Brothers Nick and Nate Diaz
· Junior Dos Santos (former heavyweight champion)
Can You Train BJJ And Boxing At The Same Time?
Absolutely. If you have extra free time in your schedule to train two martial arts together, then boxing and BJJ might be a great combo. On one side, jiu-jitsu is the king when it comes to grappling and ground fighting while boxing is a highly practical striking system. Training in both of these arts enables you to develop all-around skills, and cover most scenarios that you may encounter on the streets or inside the MMA cage.
These two martial arts do not share much in common, which is a good thing. Training in both enables you to develop hybrid skills and style that would not be pure boxing or pure BJJ, but the one that works in any type of surroundings. You will be capable to deal with any threat on the feet, inside the clinch, or on the ground.
However, be sure to start in ONE martial art to get your body in shape and develop a strong base. Training in two martial arts at the same time is too much of a workload, and you just won’t handle it well physically and mentally.
You should start in BJJ as it is a far more versatile and complex system. After around 2 years of training, maybe less if you are comfortable, you may begin cross-training in boxing. In an ideal scenario, you will train BJJ 3 times per week and hit the boxing gym twice, and leave one day for strength and cardio workouts.
Which One Is Harder To Learn?
Overall, BJJ is much harder to learn as it is a more versatile and advanced system. Boxing is a bit limited in terms of main striking techniques since it focuses only on hand striking which makes it quite easy to master. Let’s compare these two in a couple of different aspects to see which one is harder and why:
More techniques — BJJ
Though the emphasis is only on ground fighting, BJJ includes far more techniques. There are many variables and variations of each move, so much that people also refer to it as a “human chess” match. Not to mention how harder it is for people to master grappling moves than to throw punches and kicks.
Takes more time to master — BJJ
BJJ is, perhaps, one of the hardest martial arts when it comes to how much time it takes to reach a black belt rank. On average, people need between 10 and 15 years to earn a black belt, often even more than that. Boxing needs far less. In fact, 1–1.5 years of consistent training is more than enough for people with average talent and fitness to develop solid skills.
Higher injury rate — boxing
According to data, boxing is the most dangerous combat sport when it comes to severe injuries such as concussions and brain damage. One study performed by “The Association of Neurological Surgeons” showed that 90% of boxers will suffer a concussion at some point. In jiu-jitsu, the injury rate stands at 9.2 injures per 1000 exposures, which is much less than in any striking martial art. The key to why BJJ is safer lies in the fact that there is no striking at all.
Final Thoughts – Which One Is Better For You?
Boxing and BJJ are two martial arts that differ from one another in just about every aspect. Thus, deciding which one suits you the best should not be a hard task. It all comes down to which style you prefer, grappling or striking?
BJJ is an absolute king when it comes to grappling and ground fighting. Each technique you learn is designed to neutralize the opponent in the most efficient way possible and help you defend yourself. It is close to ideal for self-defense scenarios, and on top of that, plays a key role in modern MMA. But above all, it is much safer than boxing when it comes to injuries, which is a big factor.
Boxing should be your choice if you want to develop proper striking skills. Yes, the concept is a bit one-dimensional as you “only” learn how to strike with punches. But boxing is a good starting point and you can always switch over to more advanced systems later on your journey.
If you have extra free time, training in both is an ideal solution as it helps you develop an all-around set of skills.