Choosing a martial art is a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Knowing the specific pros and cons of each will help you narrow down the field a bit, as well as give you an idea of what to expect out of each.
If you're looking into either BJJ or boxing, then you've come to the right place! Both carry specific risks when it comes to how safe they are to train, but they both also carry significant boons that are well worth mentioning.
Today, we'll lay out what exactly you need to know about both BJJ and boxing in order to make a choice between the two. Hopefully, having all this available information available will help you make a much better, much healthier informed decision on which martial art is right for you.
What Is Boxing?
Boxing is actually a fairly broad discipline. Many variations of it exist, each with different rulesets and mechanics. Some allow the use of kicks, headbutts, sweeps, and the like. Some don't even involve protective gear for the hands, such as bare knuckle boxing.
At the very least though, boxing involves striking with your hands. Western boxing, which is the most common and well-known way the sport is played, allows that and only that.
Boxing as a discipline is actually incredibly old and has likely existed for thousands of years, several hundred at minimum.
And we don't mean that just because humans have fought in organized hand-to-hand combat since the dawn of civilization, no; there are actual records of boxing competitions dating all the way back to 600 BC, in ancient Ethiopia.
During competitions, boxers circle around a square ring (I know, "square ring" doesn't make sense, but that's not on us). They fight for a set amount of time per round, typically barely lasting more than a minute, before returning to the center of the ring, resting up, then going at it again.
Winners are decided by knockout or unanimous decision from judges. Scores are based on punches landed and knockdowns done, among other deciding factors.
As a sport, boxing has grown a massive following and enjoys an incredibly vibrant and prosperous competitive setting. The boxing industry in the United States alone is worth a whopping 1.2 billion dollars, housing 27,000 employees over 3,400 businesses.
And that's just the US. Many other countries have lush boxing cultures, from Mexico, to Cuba, all the way to the Philippines. It's an incredibly popular sport that has long-established itself as one of the most riveting, effective, and entertaining martial arts out there.
What Is BJJ?
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an intense combat sport that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It has its roots--and you won't believe this--in Brazil, when the Gracie brothers learned judo from prizefighter Mitsuyo Maeda in the 1920s.
It shares many of the same principles as its sister sport, judo, but it doesn't involve nearly as many throws.
There are two important distinctions, gi and no gi, that practitioners keep in mind in BJJ. Training with a gi involves wearing the eponymous uniform while rolling, while no gi has the opposite.
It's a small change, but one that drastically affects the way jujitsukas spar, especially since both offer different avenues from grabbing and subduing an opponent.
Points in competitions are earned through securing things like takedowns and submissions. Takedowns occur when you manage to make your opponent land flat on their back, while submissions happen when you get your opponent to tap out.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu may not be as big of a household name as boxing, and it may still be relatively young, but it has enjoyed a staunch rise in popularity in a mere century.
No longer primarily enjoyed only by people in Brazil, it is now a world-renowned martial art with millions of practitioners all over the globe.
The Differences Between Boxing and BJJ
Jiu-Jitsu is Safer
The verdict is simple: if we're looking solely at safety, then absolutely BJJ is much safer. Its grapples and holds don't exert anywhere near as much sudden impact force as boxing punches do, so you have less to worry about when it comes to injuries.
In fact, BJJ is often referred to as "the gentle art," and it's a name that it rightfully deserves. Its techniques, when practiced properly and when done with proper supervision, are almost risk-free and unlikely to cause serious bodily harm.
This makes a fair bit of sense when you've actually hit the mats. Professors are extra careful around their jujitsukas, the only sudden impacts are from people hitting mats (which themselves are designed to withstand impact), and everyone is taught to tap out from holds before any lasting injuries occur.
The same can't be said for boxing. It's often a violent sport that can really seriously rough its practitioners up.
You've likely already seen how badly some boxers need patching up after a competition. Even though that's unlikely to happen to you when all you're doing is sparring, it still certainly isn't an encouraging sight!
However, there should be more considerations that you should look into before picking either sport. You'll find that they'll likely matter just as much in your own personal martial arts journey.
Boxing's main focus is on punching. Two combatants strike each other with powerful punches in a ring, equipped of course with protective gear in order to prevent long-lasting damage. Kicks, sweeps, grapples, and anything else of the sort are illegal.
BJJ has equally stringent rules, but it's based more on a different specialty. Instead of a focus on punches, BJJ prioritizes ground fighting and grappling. It does not allow strikes of any kind.
This dichotomy between the two presents an interesting dynamic for anyone eager to learn either. Both martial arts are heavily specialized combat sports. It's mostly a matter of what you want to specialize in!
Boxing Is Easier to Learn
BJJ is incredibly complex. With over 600 techniques, a huge variety of factors to consider for each technique, and incessant drilling necessary before mastering even one, it's one of the most difficult martial arts to learn.
In fact, it's notorious for being incredibly hard to master, with black belts normally taking up to 10 years of consistent practice to earn.
Boxing is complicated in its own right, but it just isn't nearly to the same degree as BJJ. There are only four major punches here: jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. Meanwhile, defensive moves are mostly limited to slips, blocks, and ducks.
The decreased complexity means that if you don't want to give yourself a headache from thinking too much, then boxing is the way to go.
Jiu-Jitsu Is Better for Self-Defense
BJJ is one of the most effective martial arts for self-defense, and it's actually built around that. Helio Gracie, one of the founders of BJJ, needed a way to circumvent his smaller frame in order to better compete with larger opponents. His solution was to focus on grappling and ground work.
Mind you, it's not that boxing is bad for self-defense. It's actually great for teaching you how to block and doge attacks, as well as how to counter with your own.
But boxing still requires a hefty amount of strength at the end of the day, which isn't always available to everyone, such as children or the elderly. Jujitsukas, on the other hand, are taught how to dismantle a stronger, larger opponent, even if they themselves may be significantly weaker.
Principles like leverage and techniques like choke holds allow them to overwhelm an enemy with sudden pressure centered around specific areas, immobilizing them and preventing them from properly fighting back.
It's one of the most popular options out there for anyone eager to defend themselves--and it doesn't disappoint.
Boxing Is Better for Fitness
Finally, boxing is the better choice if you're looking to take care of your body. Both options are actually great here, and you can burn a significant number of calories doing either. Boxing, however, still takes the lead.
In just an hour of boxing, you an expect to lose around 800 calories, which is an incredibly impressive figure. It's an intense aerobic exercise that provides an excellent cardio workout, all the while still teaching you wonderful self-defense techniques.
BJJ, in comparison, only burns about 400 to 600. It's still an impressive figure by all means, but it can't quite compare to the aerobic intensity that boxing provides.
Conclusion: Boxing is Safer, but You're Good with Either!
- Focus on Punches
- Easier to Learn
- Better for Cardio
- Focus on Grappling
- Safer to Learn
- Better for Self-Defense
So, when it comes down to deciding between boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, it boils down to a few select differences, mostly based on what you actually want out of your combat sport.
What would you rather specialize in? What's your goal, to lose weight or to better defend yourself? How tolerant are you of difficulty? How tolerant are you of injury?
Regardless of which one you pick, rest easy knowing that both are stellar options. You really can't go wrong with either, and you'll likely be very satisfied regardless of your choice.
Whether it's jiu-jitsu or boxing that captures your interest, there's never been a better time for aspiring fighters to hop into either sport. Just rest easy, do your best, and most of all, just enjoy yourself!
Curious to learn more about Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Click here!