Judo vs. Boxing – Which Style is More Effective?

boxing vs. judo

Boxing and Judo are two popular martial arts practiced by millions of people worldwide that differ from one another in just about every aspect of martial art philosophy and training.

Boxing is a combat sport with strict rules in place and a striking system that focuses only on hand strikes (punches). In contrast, Judo is a traditional, grappling-based martial art where the main goal is to take the opponent down from the standing position and subdue them on the ground.

But what are the other differences between boxing and Judo? Which of the two is more effective for self-defense, or MMA? Keep reading this article to find out all the answers.

What is Boxing?

Boxing is both a martial art and a very popular combat sport. At first glance, it is a simple system in terms of techniques as the emphasis is on hand strikes only. But it gets more complex once you add other elements such as footwork, and rules.

Each match is split into rounds and all boxers must wear protective gear such as full-padded gloves. They can strike each other only using their fists at the area above the waist, including the head. The main goal is to knock the opponent out, hurt them to the point they no longer can continue, or win by points.

Boxing is very popular in modern times as everyone can learn and it is not too physically demanding. It is also popular among people who are looking to get in shape as a boxing workout burns a lot of calories and improves upper and lower body strength.

Boxing is also an Olympic sport since the very first modern summer games were hosted in 1896.

What is Judo?

Judo is a grappling-based martial art developed by the legendary Kano Jigoro in Japan in 1864. Its origins come from Jujutsu, a brutal military system utilized by Samurai warriors. In some way, Judo is a safer variation as it involves only grappling and it doesn’t include brutal techniques and teaching methods.

Judo focuses on taking the opponent down from the standing position using different throws. The focus is on manipulation of the opponent’s weight, re-direction of energy, leverage, and technique. Once on the ground, the key is to subdue the opponent with pins, chokes, and joint locks.

Like boxing, it has been a part of the Olympic games since 1964.

Differences Between Boxing and Judo

Differences Between Boxing and Judo

Boxing and Judo differ a lot in just about every segment of martial arts and the following is a list of all the key differences.

History and origins

Boxing has been around since ancient times. The earliest origins go all the way back to 3000 years ago in ancient Egypt. However, it first appeared as an official combat sport at the 23rd Olympiad in 688 BC in Greece. The modern form emerged with the birth of the famous “Queensberry Rules” developed by John Chambers in 1888.

Judo was founded by Kano Jigoro, a trained Jujutsu practitioner who wanted to develop his own martial art system. He took Jujutsu as a base, got rid of strikes and brutal techniques, and added advanced grappling moves to create Judo in 1882.


Boxing is a mainstream sport where the main goal is to develop good enough skills to win matches, money, and world titles. The concept of training and teaching methods are designed to be in line with the official boxing rules and prepare you for competition. As such, boxing is also very practical in a form of self-defense.

Judo is also a combat sport but the overall concept is different than boxing. First, it focuses on overcoming oneself and becoming a better person through martial art practice, and then grow into a successful competitor. But in contrast to boxing, Judo is not a mainstream sport nor are the judokas “prizefighters”.


The main objective in boxing is to develop the required set of skills and fitness level to win a match by knocking the opponent out with punches, or outscoring them on the scorecards. The key is to mix punches with upper body movement, blocks, and footwork to create openings, and hit the opponent without being hit back.

The main objective in Judo is to throw the opponent down to the ground from a standing position utilizing throws, trips, and sweeps. A perfect throw can win you a match. But if it doesn’t, judokas can win a match by outscoring their opponents on points.


In terms of striking techniques, boxing revolves around four different punches. The key is to mix these strikes with other techniques such as footwork, positioning, angles, and distance management. Each punch has many variations and combinations which makes boxing quite versatile:

  • Hook punch
  • Uppercut
  • Jab (Direct)
  • Cross

Judo is more versatile as it includes throws, trips, sweeps, joint locks, and chokes. Senior students learn basic principles of striking defense, but only at the highest levels. Here is a group of the most important Judo techniques.

  • Nage-Waza (throwing techniques)
  • Katame-waza (pins, strangles, chokes, locks)
  • Ukemi (breakfall techniques)
  • Uke-waza (blocks)
  • Atemi-waza (striking techniques)


Boxing rules:

  • Match duration: 4 to 12 rounds for professionals. Each round is 3 minutes long and there is 1 minute of rest between each round.
  • Gear: Boxing shorts, shoes, full padded gloves, groin guard, mouth guard
  • Illegal strikes: striking the back of the head or below the waist, and utilizing kicks, elbows, or knees
  • Ways to win: knockout, decision, disqualification

Judo rules (Olympic):

  • Match duration: 5 minutes for men and 4 for women. If there is no winner when the time expires, judokas compete in a “golden point” over time.
  • Gear: each judoka must wear a judogi uniform that consists of long pants, a jacket, and a rank belt around the waist.
  • Scoring: Ippon (100 points), Waza-ari (10 points), Yuko (1 point). Judoka who executes a perfect throw and wins an Ippon wins the match.
  • Ways to win: core Ippon, score two Waza-ari, chokehold, joint lock, injury, disqualification

Boxing vs Judo For Self Defense

Boxing or Judo For Self-Defense?

Both of these martial arts are rooted in self-defense and will teach you highly practical skills that all work in real life. Which one is better and more effective for self-defense is hard to tell. These two systems differ a lot, with each one having pros and cons in certain situations. Here is a detailed explanation.

Though limited as it focuses on hand strikes only, boxing remains one of the most effective martial arts for self-defense, and the reason is simple. Most street fights and attacks begin with one person throwing a punch, or a barrage of punches. Jumping kicks and spinning elbows work only in movies. A punch is the most efficient and natural way to hurt a person.

Boxing will train your fighting instincts, and automatic reactions to defend against any hand attacks. You will know how to keep the attacker in the center, read their reactions, and respond the right way.

You will know how to block, dodge/slip shots, use angles to position yourself, and blast the attacker with fast and precise blows. Training includes a lot of hard sparring and after a year of training, being in a real fight will feel natural to you.

Judo is somewhat the same but for grappling. It is very practical at close range and spaces where you can quickly get a hold of the attacker, secure a strong grip, and slam them down to the ground. It is even more practical than boxing as the majority of people don’t know how to defend against these attacks.

Striking involves natural motions. But grappling is all about weight distribution, leverage, and technique, and it takes years to learn how to perform the right way.

Overall, both of these systems are equally practical in real life. Judo might have a slight edge as it makes you superior to non-grapplers, and enables you to neutralize the attacker without causing injuries.

Boxing vs. Judo — Who Would Win in a Fight?

The only fair answer is that fighters from both boxing and judo have all the skills to beat each other in a 1 on 1 fight without any rules. Which one would come out on top is based on many factors, but primarily, on where the fight takes place.

Boxing and Judo are two totally different martial arts with one focusing on striking and the other on grappling. Thus, it would be quite easy for both fighters to impose their will as neither of the two has good enough skills to defend the attack. But this is based on whether the fight takes place in a closed space, such as a bar, room, or a small hall, or an open space like a parking lot or street.

Judokas have the upper hand in the closed space where they can quickly close the distance, duck under the punch and grab a boxer. Once they secure a strong grip, a boxer would hit the ground in a split second. Boxers don’t have the skills nor know the procedures to defend the throw or get back up. It would be all over in a few seconds. That’s how superior judokas are in the grappling department.

Boxers have an advantage if the fight takes place in an open space. This enables them to apply footwork to angle away from the attack and catch judokas out of balance and position. Judokas would have a really hard time closing the distance without taking hard shots right in the face and a well-trained boxer needs only one to land clean to shut your lights out.

In conclusion, street fighting is chaotic and there is an infinite number of variables and possible scenarios that may happen. This is just a brief explanation of what each style brings to the table.

Boxing or Judo — Which One is Harder to Learn?

On one side, judo is a more complex martial art as it involves more techniques, and is physically more demanding. On the other, boxing might be simpler, but is harder on your body and imposes a greater risk to your health.

More techniques — Judo

Judo as a system is more complex as the standup grappling segment includes dozens of different throws, trips, and sweeps. Ground grappling consists of pins, chokes, and joint locks, and overall, there are more techniques than in boxing.

More time to learn — Judo

Judo has a belt ranking system and the promotional criteria are strict. On average, it takes around 7-8 years for a judoka to reach a high level of proficiency. A boxer may expect to reach the same level of proficiency in two years, or even less.

More intense — Boxing

Boxing workouts are as intense as it gets. Each class is a mix of aerobic and anaerobic workouts, and on top of that, students spar on a regular basis. Judo is not a walk in the park either, but it is less intense than boxing.

More dangerous — Boxing

According to studies, boxers suffer 17.1 injuries per 100 exposures, which is more than in Judo where the injury rate is 48.5 per 1000 exposures. However, there is a clear difference when it comes to the type and severity of these injuries which is why boxing is more dangerous. The majority of boxing injuries are facial cuts and concussions that can result in long-term brain damage. Judo is a much safer option as it does not include any striking and the most common injuries are strains and joint dislocations.

Boxing or Judo — Which One is Better For MMA?

Boxing plays a bigger role in modern MMA fighting than Judo due to the importance of hand-striking techniques and movement. Judo is also very practical and represents a solid base. But most MMA fighters prefer to adopt the majority of grappling techniques from other systems such as BJJ and Wrestling.

MMA is a versatile combat sport where fighters use all limbs as weapons to strike with kicks, punches, knees, and elbows. Yes, boxing is a bit limited as it focuses only on hand strikes. But, not a single martial art out there will teach you how to combine punches with footwork and upper body movement in the most efficient way than boxing.

In fact, it is often believed that the combination of a strong wrestling base and boxing skills is ideal for MMA.

Judo, on the other side, is more than present in cage fighting but not as much. It is highly effective at close range and inside the clinch where you can rely on explosiveness and technique to quickly take the opponent down.

However, most MMA fighters prefer to develop their grappling game in more suitable styles such as wrestling and BJJ. And since BJJ originates from Judo, you will learn how to execute throws and trips on the feet.

Best boxers in MMA:

  • Conor McGregor
  • Max Holloway
  • Stipe Miocic

Best Judokas in MMA:

  • Hector Lombard
  • Ronda Rousey
  • Valentina Shevchenko

Boxing or Judo for Fitness?

Boxing might be a more suitable option as the training concept, gym culture, and overall benefits are more in line with the demands of modern-day people looking to improve their fitness. Judokas are superior when it comes to raw strength and explosiveness but is not as popular for fitness as boxing and here is why.

Each boxing gym includes an amateur group where you can train boxing at your own pace, and for various benefits. You don’t have to spar if you don’t want to and can focus on burning calories and building strength instead. No one will force you to follow a strict or standardized learning syllabus.

On top of that, boxing does not adopt any philosophies, cults, or strict hierarchy. Most people who want to train in martial arts for fitness are not heavy into wearing gi uniforms or chasing color belt ranks, they just want to get a good workout, that’s it.

Judo, on the other side, includes a standardized learning curriculum and you can’t approach it at your own pace. You have to respect the gym culture, wear a uniform, and do everything other students are doing, including sparring.

Boxing or Judo — Which One is For You?

Boxing and judo differ in just about every aspect of martial arts. Thus, finding which one suits you the best should not be a hard task as long as you know what you are looking for. Here is our final tip for picking the right one.

Boxing should be your choice if you are interested in striking and learning proper stand-up skills. It will teach you all about the physical and mental aspects of real combat, and how to defend yourself on the streets. It is also a very popular sport that offers many life-changing opportunities and is a popular choice among people looking to improve their fitness.

Judo is one of the best grappling-based martial arts, very practical in real life too. In contrast to boxing, it is a much safer option as it includes a lower risk of injuries due to the lack of striking. It is a popular option among kids as their first introduction to the world of martial arts.

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