Boxing vs BJJ - Which one is better and more effective?

Boxing vs BJJ is a classic striking vs grappling matchup that can play out in many ways. In fact, this is one of the hottest topics in martial arts circles and many have tried to find out which one is better. With the answer still up in the air, we have made a decision to give our view on it. And we must say it wasn’t easy as these two arts differ a lot.

Boxing is one of the oldest fighting styles that are very popular in every corner of the world. It is a standup style where fighters can use only their hands to do damage. BJJ, on the other side, is the best grappling style that doesn’t include any striking at all. The main goal is to use trips and throws to take the fight to the ground first. Once there, they use various chokes and joint locks to submit the opponent and win a match.

Keep reading this article to find out which one is better for self-defense, fitness, or would win in a street fight.

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Boxing vs BJJ – what are the main differences?

You will have a hard time finding two fighting styles that differ more than Boxing and BJJ. This is because boxing focuses on standup, while BJJ is entirely based on ground fighting. Here is all you need to know about how they differ from one another:

History and origins

People have been exchanging punches since the birth of mankind. This is why boxing is among the oldest fighting styles that have its origins in Ancient Greece (688 BC). These early events were bare-knuckle, brutal, and often seen as barbaric. The modern rules came in 1904 which made the sport much safer and allowed it to grow around the world.

BJJ, on the other side, is a much younger fighting style that emerged in Brazil in the 1920s. At the time, the famous judoka Mitsuyo Maeda came to Brazil to teach judo. His students Carlos and Helio Gracie would use Judo as a base to create their own style of fighting called BJJ. Although similar to Judo, BJJ focuses more on ground fighting and applying various chokes and joint locks.

Techniques and emphasis

Boxing is a striking art that will teach you all about how to use your hands to do damage or knock a person out cold. Yet, some people think boxing is not versatile enough as its fighters use “only” their hands to do damage. But boxing offers much more and here is what it will teach you:

  • Great footwork and how to keep your distance
  • How to use head movement to slip and dodge punches
  • How to throw various punching combos

BJJ is all about grappling and it won’t teach you any striking skills at all. Since each fight starts on the feet, you will learn how to use trips and throws from judo to take the fight to the ground. Once there, they will first secure a dominant position from which they know how to apply chokes and joint locks to submit the opponent.

boxing punch

Boxing vs BJJ  -  which one should you learn first?

Training in both arts at the same time is ideal. This is because boxing is great for striking while BJJ is the best when it comes to grappling. Or in other words, you will develop all-around skills which prepare you for any type of fight. Still, most people don’t have enough time to train in both arts and have to pick one. So, which one should you learn first?

First of all, both of these arts are great and you won’t make a mistake choosing any of the two. But we think BJJ might be better for beginners since it is more complex and takes more time to master. If you commit yourself to it, you will need up to five years to get good at it, and ten years to become a black belt , which is much longer than in boxing.

Even though the training is even harder, boxing takes less time to become good at. Yes, you need to train it for years to compete in pro matches. But a year of training is enough to develop solid striking skills. In a single year, you will learn good boxing skills like:

  • Solid footwork and how to keep the distance
  • Good hand speed and boxing combos
  • Improve fitness and strength

And you will also do some sparring in this time span. Sparring sessions will get your body used to absorb strikes, and give you that feeling of what it’s like to be in a real fight. It will help you grow both in terms of fighting skills and improve mental toughness.

To be honest, you can do it the other way around and won’t make a mistake. It’s all about your personal preference and which style suits you better. Some people are talented at grappling while others might be better at striking and vice versa.

BJJ vs Boxing for Self-Defense

Boxing vs BJJ – which one is better for self-defense?

Both boxing and BJJ are great fighting styles for self-defense. They will teach you valuable skills that may help you escape troubles on the streets. Even though they differ a lot, the concept of training and techniques is the reason why they are so good. Which one is better would really come down to details.

Both of these arts put a lot of emphasis on sparring. This is crucial for self-defense as it teaches you how to apply skills you know and get a feeling of how it is to be in a real fight. Sparring will trigger the rush of adrenalin and fear the same as when you are fighting on the street. But over time, you will learn how to control your emotions, stay calm, and make the right decisions.

Still, we must give a slight advantage to BJJ over boxing when it comes to self-defense. This is mainly because most average people don’t know how to defend a takedown or fight on the ground. On the feet, there’s always a risk that the opponent may catch you with a sneaky punch no matter how good you are at boxing. But it is a whole new world once the fight goes to the ground and you have a BJJ fighter on top of you.

In some way, the average person has zero chances of beating the BJJ fighter on the ground. And the other great thing about BJJ is that it allows you to beat the opponent without hurting them too much. The point of boxing, on the other side, is to knock the opponent out cold.

mma fighter training

Boxing vs BJJ – which one is better for MMA?

Boxing and BJJ play a big role in modern MMA fighting and finding out which one is better is not an easy task. You need to have boxing skills to know how to fight in the standup, and BJJ is crucial when the fight hits the ground. But if you have to choose one skill, which one would be?

Boxing will teach you great footwork and how to circle around the cage. You will do damage using long strikes from the distance or catch the opponent coming in with counters. But it won’t teach you how to throw or defend against kicks, takedowns, and submissions, which is bad.

BJJ on the other side won’t teach you how to kick or punch. But you will learn how to close the distance, get the hold of the opponent and take them down. Once on the ground, you will know how to secure a top position and submit the opponent to finish a match. And we think BJJ should be your option when it comes to MMA.

This is mainly because BJJ is more versatile than boxing. Even though they lack striking, grapplers can always catch a kick or level change under a punch to score a takedown. It is much easier for a grappler to score a takedown and hold a boxer on the bottom than a boxer to keep the fight standing.

Boxing vs BJJ  –  who would win in a street fight? 

Without a doubt, fighters from both boxing and BJJ have all the skills to beat each other in a street fight. But people often think that BJJ fighters have a bigger chance of beating boxers mainly because of what took place in the early days of MMA. Can you recall what fight we are talking about?

BJJ became very popular for street fighting with the birth of MMA in the early 90s. The early UFC events were street-fighting matches without rules in place. At the time, the UFC didn’t have weight classes or time limits and we saw many styles vs style matchups.

This is where BJJ emerged as the best thanks to Royce Gracie who put it on the map by beating fighters from other styles. One of his wins came against a pro boxer, Art Jimmerson, whom he submitted within three minutes at UFC 1. This fight was a pure match between a skilled BJJ fighter and boxer, and the main reason why people think BJJ would win in a street fight.

But, this is just a single sample we are using and we don’t know what would happen if they fight more often. For sure, boxers have all the tools to use footwork to stay at distance and knock BJJ fighters out cold with a single punch.

Boxing vs BJJ – which one is better for fitness and weight loss?

We must go with boxing in this aspect as training is very intense and hard. Even though BJJ is not easy neither, boxing training is better for fitness and weight loss in our opinion. In fact, many people join boxing classes just to get in shape and lose weight.

First of all, boxing classes last from 1.5h hours to even 2 hours in some schools. Training consists of various cardio workouts like striking a heavy bag, jumping rope, or shadowboxing. And of course, you will do a lot of ab and push-up workouts on top of that.

This makes boxing close to ideal for weight loss and improving strength. A single boxing class can burn up to 1,000 calories which is a lot. I mean, you need to run around 2 hours to burn the same number of calories. You will get rid of belly fat and get in top shape after just a few months of training.

BJJ training, on the other side, is also intense and often seen as a full-body workout. Rolling on the mats will activate the muscles in your body you didn’t know you have. If you sign up for the classes, expect to do a lot of stretching, squads, and burpees. But still, we think boxing is better for fitness and weight loss.

Can you learn boxing and BJJ at the same time?

Training in both BJJ and Boxing at the same time is, perhaps, the best combination. In fact, most people who want to develop all-around skills choose to train in these two arts. But bear in mind that this is very hard and you might have a hard time keeping up with the training schedule. Still, the benefits of cross-training are great as these two arts complement each other really well. 

As a boxer, you will know how to keep the distance using footwork. But BJJ will teach you how to defend against trips or throws if a grappler cuts your movement and gets a hold of you. If the fight still goes to the ground, you will know how to use escapes and sweeps to get back up. Or to attack from the bottom with moves like armbar or triangle chokes.

BJJ, on the other side, does not teach any striking. What boxing allows them is to learn footwork and head movement which improves their defense on the feet. But the best boxing tool for BJJ fighters are punching combos which they can use to set up takedowns. In MMA, for instance, we can often see BJJ fighters jabbing their way in to grab the opponent and take them down. 

Still, there is a third option. Instead of training in both BJJ and Boxing, you can join the MMA classes. In MMA, you will have around 2 classes of boxing and BJJ per week along with Muay Thai and wrestling.




I'm Timmy and I'm the chief-editor and co-founder of Jiu-Jitsu Street. You'll usually find me on the mats and also cross-training Muay Thai. Besides martial arts I'm also into functional fitness and all things health. Jiu-Jitsu Street was created to provide useful information for BJJ beginners and seasoned practitioners alike to help you on your journey and love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Oss!

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Jiu-Jitsu Street is a community of fun loving and hard rolling BJJ enthusiasts. Born out of our passion for the gentle art, we have decided to create this blog and help you on your journey. Let’s grow and learn together on this never-ending journey. Oss!

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