Boxing vs. Judo: What’s The Difference?

March 14, 2022

Boxing and Judo have been an essential part of the combat sports family in the Olympic games. The two have many more differences than they have in common, but they both compete for practitioners.

Boxing is a combat sport in which two opponents fight with only their fists under a set of rules. In contrast, Judo is a martial art and sport centered on throwing and controlling the opponent on the ground.

A night and day difference, you would say, and you would be right. Both, however, have a lot to offer, and the easy choice would be to train in both and develop a well-rounded unarmed fighting skill set. I am guessing the single sentence answer is not sufficient for you, so let’s dive in at these fine combat sports in more detail.

What Is Boxing?

Boxing is a combat sport that pits two fighters against each other in a fistfight. Modern boxing established the standard for most other combat sports, including dividing a fight into rounds, using padded gloves, using judges to score rounds, and many other innovations. Boxing, also known as pugilism, has long been regarded as a gentlemanly form of combat.

The only strikes permitted in boxing are punches aimed above the waist. Aside from punches, footwork and head movement are essential for boxing success.

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This results in a particular type of combat that requires both creativity and precision. Because of the emphasis on tactics and strategy at the higher levels of competition, boxing is affectionately referred to as “the sweet science.”

Fist fighting is one of the oldest sports globally, and we have evidence of a form of boxing from ancient Egypt dating back to around 3000 BC.

However, the modern version of the sport was created a lot sooner. It began as bare fist fighting in the 17th century in England until it finally took the form we know today with the acceptance of the Queensbury rules in 1867.

What Is Judo?

Judo is a grappling-based martial art and combat sport, with the object of throwing the opponent to the ground, immobilizing or submitting him. In the traditional form, there were even some strikes included and defense against them. Still, the focus has always been on throwing and ground control.

Judo was created by Japanese martial arts master Jugoro Kano. He transformed his skills and knowledge of traditional jiu-jitsu into what became Judo. He created his art in 1880 with one main motto in mind- maximum efficiency with minimum effort.

His creation’s philosophy and training methodology became the blueprint for almost all modern Japanese martial arts that were created in the 20th century. 

Essential for success in Judo is breaking the opponent’s balance. Many of the throws are done by manipulating the center of gravity of yourself and the opponent. And on the receiving end, a key element is effectively breaking the falls. 

Judo practice and competition are always done while wearing a special uniform, called a judogi. The judogi is essential to the strategies and tactics of Judo as it is constantly used for gripping.

Judo is part of the Olympics and sports Judo took away many of the things that were integral parts of the martial art of Judo. The Olympic committee gradually implemented rules that should have made the sport “more exciting,” but in reality, bastardized the noble martial art into a husk of what it once was. 

You can execute submissions from standing positions in Judo, unlike in sports judo. In the original Judo, joint locks were done against most of the joints in the body. Sports judo eliminates almost all of them.

The only submissions currently permitted are straight arm locks and chokes (which are strictly regulated in what is allowed). The most controversial rule that changed sports judo was the ban f touching the legs of the opponent while throwing or defending.

Key Differences Between Boxing and Judo

Judo vs. Boxing


Boxing and Judo take opposite approaches to combat. Boxing limits its practitioners to using only punches—straights, hooks, and uppercuts—and boxers take what is given to them to perfection. Footwork and distance management are essential, as is proper positioning concerning the opponent.

On the other hand, Judo has no strikes whatsoever, but it does all its work in close quarters. Judo splits its arsenal into categories for better categorization. Nage Waza are throwing techniques (divided into standing throws and sacrificing throws), including hip throws, shoulder throws, and various sweeps and trips.

The ground techniques are called Katame Waza. There are two main types- controlling techniques to pin the opponent down. In the submissions department, the sports ruleset allows strangulations and straight arm locks.

There are so many more techniques in traditional Judo, both on the feet and on the ground. Still, the limited rules of modern sports judo do not allow them.


Boxing equipment is well known. The boxing gloves that most other striking combat sports have adopted are the most critical piece of gear. Special boxing shoes and a mouthguard and groin protection are required for training and fighting. Other than that, any comfortable clothes can do the job.

Judo is practiced in a traditional uniform called a judogi comprised of a shirt, trousers, and a belt. The gi is mandatory and essential for training, not only for etiquette and tradition but also for gripping in almost all of the moves in Judo.

Boxing vs. Judo for Self Defense

Boxing vs. Judo for Self Defense

Judo is the forefather of modern Japanese martial arts. All of them were created with a few crucial pillars in mind, and self-defense was the central one. Early in its inception, it emphasized throws and ground control.

Still, strikes and defense against them were included, making it very effective for real-life defense. Competition has also been an integral part of Judo, which is also a good thing. It prepares the body and mind to fight against an unwilling and fully resisting opponent.

Physical strength and endurance are essential in Judo, so a skilled judoka is always in excellent fighting shape.

But as Judo progressed as a sport, many aspects of the martial art were removed. And with each rule change, Judo lost a bit of its practicality. Practitioners usually want to compete, so traditional techniques and methods were let go, even in training, as they had no use in competition.

This, of course, does not mean Judo is not effective in self-defense. Control in a clinch or very close position is essential, as street fights often end up there. It’s no coincidence that many police forces use Judo techniques because they offer great control without harming the detained person.

The primary deficiency of Judo for self-defense is the lack of striking. Once a judoka grabs hold of someone, they are in deep trouble, but before getting there, things are different.

Another possible problem with the street effectiveness of Judo is the heavy reliance on the grip of the judogi. A person rarely wears clothes that you can grab and manipulate with any efficacy.

We’ve spoken many times about the practicality of boxing in a street fight. Punches are the fastest strikes that can be thrown and are usually the safest. Landing a devastating one-two will end a fight very quickly.

The competitive nature of boxing, even in training, prepares each practitioner for the feeling of getting hit or attacked. Of course, the lack of kicking and grappling makes boxing quite limited on the street as well. Against untrained opponents, a boxer has an unsurmountable advantage.

Still, against a person with some more well-rounded skills, there are just too many possibilities that the boxer will have difficulty answering.

Boxing vs. Judo For MMA

Boxing vs. Judo For MMA

Although MMA incorporates techniques from all martial arts, it is an entirely different game. Boxing and Judo both have a lot to offer in the cage, but everything has to be adjusted accordingly.

Boxing punches, head movement, and ring generalship are essential in MMA. Still, you must change the stance to respond to takedowns and low kicks.

Due to the lack of corners, you must transform the ring movement, and the head movement must be made subtler in case a knee or a kick is coming behind the slipped punch. Boxing, with enough modification, can provide some of the most valuable skills to MMA.

Fighters with a judo background frequently use trips, and most fighters are unprepared to defend them. Ronda Rousey’s trips and armbars single-handedly put women’s MMA on the map.

However, you must modify the judo moves as well. With the gi no longer available, judokas must learn to use under and over hooks and other techniques to destabilize their opponents.

All in all, it’s safe to say that boxing and judo skills are essential in the arsenal of a good MMA fighter.

Can Boxing Beat Judo?

Yes, it can. But it depends on too many details. Is there enough space for the boxer to move and keep a distance? At what distance does the fight start? Can the boxer punch the judoka before he grabs him? Can the judoka actually manipulate and keep a hold of the boxer if he wears only a t-shirt?

History and the internet have clearly shown us that a pure grappler wins against a pure striker in a one-on-one fight. But there are just too many variables to predict every outcome.

Which Is Harder – Judo Or Boxing?

Can Boxing Beat Judo

Both sports are physically demanding and highly competitive. They have different physical demands, but fighters must be in peak condition in both cases. Olympic sports have traditionally had very stiff competition. Both are still included in the Olympics, so reaching the top will require overcoming many very ambitious competitors.

Nonetheless, boxing is far more popular than Judo. There is a lot of money in professional boxing, and where there is money, more people are trying to get their hands on it. Getting to the top of boxing will undoubtedly be more complicated than getting to the top of Judo.

Compared to each other physically, both are very demanding. The requirements are different but equally challenging. With a good training regimen and an adequate diet, you will get into great shape regardless of your chosen sport.

Boxing vs. Judo – Which Should You Learn?

It all comes down to personal goals and motivations. Boxing is unquestionably more accessible in the Western world, both in training and as a spectator sport.

Boxing has been a part of mainstream culture for more than a century, and it’s easy to see why you’d want to give it a shot. But have in mind that boxing is a violent sport, and you will take quite a few punches to face.

And if you are looking for a more traditional martial art with a strict philosophy and hierarchy, Judo is a good choice. The softer approach to combat is also easier on the body and mind. Furthermore, the control of another person, you will learn, may give you the choice of how to resolve a conflict- more or less violently.

About the author 

Plamen Kostov

Plamen has been training for the last 14 years in karate and kickboxing, before settling in for MMA for the last 5 years. He has a few amateur kickboxing fights and currently trains with and helps a stable of professional and amateur MMA fighters.


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