Boxing vs. Taekwondo: Who Would Win?

November 21, 2021

Boxing and Taekwondo are two well-known martial arts. But if we place these two against each other, which one is better and why?

Boxing is a martial art where the emphasis is on hand strikes only. It will teach you all about punches, footwork, blocks, and how to knock out the opponent. Taekwondo, on the other hand, is a much younger art where the emphasis is on kicking techniques and point fighting.

Interestingly, the initial version of Taekwondo included punches and even grappling moves, but the modern form is all about the kicks. Keep reading this article to find out which one is better. We will explore how these two arts differ from one another in various aspects and see which one is better and why.

What Is Boxing?

Boxing is one of the oldest martial arts that was also a part of the ancient Olympic Games. Back in those days, boxing matches used to be very brutal and dangerous due to the lack of rules and safety.

The boxing we know today emerged in 1867 with the birth of the famous “Queensberry Rules”. This set of rules made boxing much safer which allowed it to grow in all parts of the world.

When it comes to techniques and rules, boxing is quite simple and easy to understand. Boxers use only their hands to strike above the waist while wearing full padded gloves, shorts, and boxing shoes. They are not allowed to use any other strikes like kicks, elbows, and knees, or pull grappling moves such as trips and throws.

What Is Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a South Korean martial art and an Olympic sport that was founded in the 1950s. After World War II had ended, many martial art schools called “kwans” began to pop up all across South Korea.

Each kwan used to teach their own unique techniques, with most of them having origins in Chinese martial arts. At one moment, nine main kwans have decided to unite and work together on creating a unified fighting system.

The final result of their work was an art called Taekkyeon, but they would change the name to Taekwondo in 1959. In its initial form, Taekwondo was an all-around fighting system created for self-defense and real combat. The traditional form included striking with all limbs and even some basics of grappling.

But as Taekwondo started to grow as a sport, its emphasis has changed a lot with time. Due to rules that favor kicks, modern Taekwondo barely includes punches at all and it is all about leg strikes. It moved from self-defense and real fighting to point fighting and competition.

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Boxing vs Taekwondo — What Are The Main Differences?

Boxing vs Taekwondo What Is The Difference

No matter if we are talking about the rules, emphasis, or history, these two arts differ a lot in every aspect. You will have a hard time finding two arts that differ more than Boxing and Taekwondo, that’s for sure. Here is a detailed comparison:

History And Place Of Origins

Boxing is one of the oldest martial arts. Its origins go back to the 3rd millennium BC. There are many wall paintings from that specific time showing people trading punches with their hands being wrapped. But the first time boxing appeared as an official sport was at the 23rd Olympiad held in 688 BC.

Taekwondo is a modern martial art created in the 1950s in South Korea. The founders were nine main “kwans” (schools) that worked together on creating a unified Korean martial art. The man in charge of this project was Choi Hong Hi who is often seen as the father of Taekwondo.

Strategies And Emphasis

Boxing is an art where the entire focus is on hand strikes. The main goal is to land hard punches to the head or body of your opponent and win a fight via knockout or decision. Though it sounds simple, boxing is a versatile style and really hard to master. It is often seen as a chess match on the feet where fighters need to think three steps in advance, be methodical, and be very technical.

Modern Taekwondo focuses on kicking techniques and point fighting. The main goal is to learn how to score as many points or knock the opponent out using all types of kicks. They can use punches but just to strike the torso as punches to the head are not allowed. Training covers the self-defense aspect as well, but it’s fair to say that the emphasis is on competition.

Different Techniques

Boxing techniques are quite simple and easy to understand. The entire focus is on stances, footwork, head movement, blocks, angles, and of course, different punching techniques:

On paper, Taekwondo is much more versatile than boxing because it includes kicks and punches. But in reality, however, the entire focus is on kicking techniques. On top of that, students learn various types of stances, basic hand strikes, and blocks. Here are some popular Taekwondo kicks:

  • Jumping kicks
  • Spinning kicks 
  • Axe kick
  • Sidekick
  • Tornado kick

Different Clothing

Although it has a long history, boxing doesn’t include any type of Gi uniform that you can find in traditional martial arts. Instead, boxers wear:

  • Fight trunks (boxing shorts)
  • Pair of full padded gloves that come in different sizes
  • Boxing shoes (for comfort, speed, and mobility)
  • Mouthguard
  • Groin protector
  • Helmet (amateurs)
  • Boxing Jersey (amateurs)

Taekwondo students, on the other side, must wear a uniform called “dobok” and a rank belt around their waist. Dobok consists of pants and a jacket made out of thick cotton, and the style varies between different organizations like ITF, WT, and traditional Taekwondo. In training, competition, participants wear:

  • Dobok uniform
  • Head guard
  • Groin guard
  • Mouthguard
  • Shin Guards
  • Sensing Socks
  • Chest protector
  • Hand protector (open fingered gloves)

Rules

Boxing rules are quite simple and do not vary between different promotions and organizations. Here is a detailed explanation of boxing rules:

  • Pro matches have from 4 to 12 rounds while amateur matches have as little as 3 rounds.
  • Boxers can win a match via knockout, decision, or if their opponent gets disqualified for breaking the rules.
  • Each match includes one referee and three judges sitting beside the ring scoring the fight.
  • Pro boxing judges use a 10-point scoring system to determine the winner. They decide the winner of each round by giving the winner 10 points while the losing fighter gets 9 or less.
  • Amateur boxing judges decide the winner of the round based on the number of strikes landed. A boxer who lands more punches usually wins the round.

Taekwondo rules differ a lot between organizations. For the purpose of this article, we will explain Olympic taekwondo rules:

  • Contestants compete in an octagon-shaped area that is 8 meters in diameter.
  • They must wear a white uniform or dobok, rank belt around their waist, gloves, helmet, forearm and shin guards, sensing socks, and mouthguard.
  • The main goal is to outscore or knock out the opponent with strikes to the head and torso.
  • Fighters get 1 point for a punch, 2 points for a kick, 3 points for a head kick, 4 points for a spinning kick, and 5 points for the spinning kick to the head. 

Boxing vs Taekwondo For MMA

Boxing vs Taekwondo For MMA

MMA is the most versatile combat sport where boxing plays a much bigger role than Taekwondo. Yes, it won’t teach you how to grapple or how to throw kicks, but boxing is far more than throwing punches. Not a single fighting system out there will teach you better footwork, angles, and head movement.

These are the crucial skills when it comes to any type of freestyle fighting, whether that is MMA or fighting on the streets. Knowing how to change angles, slip/dodge the strike, and counter, or keep your range using footwork are the skills that often separate great fighters from the average ones.

On top of that, the main goal in boxing is to knock your opponent out cold. There is no light contact or point fighting like there is in Taekwondo. Speaking of which, Taekwondo is also good as it teaches you how to fight from both stances, which is important in MMA. It is the best when it comes to kicking techniques and how to keep your range.

But the biggest downside is the lack of advanced hand strikes and defense. Taekwondo fighters tend to keep their hands really low simply because there are no punches to the head in their sport. They don’t have to worry too much about punches and how to protect their head.

In the end, both arts represent a solid base for MMA. There have been many great UFC fighters, even champions, who had a strong background in both of these arts.

Boxing vs Taekwondo For Self-Defense

Boxing vs Taekwondo For Self-Defense

When it comes to self-defense and scenarios you may face on the streets, it’s fair to say that boxing would help you much more. This may sound a bit odd since Taekwondo is a self-defense art while boxing is a sport. But there is a good reason why boxing is better.

First of all, let’s not forget that punches are the most common attack in most self-defense situations. An average person won’t dive for a takedown or throw a flying knee or a head kick. You need to spend years on the mats to learn these moves. But on the other hand, throwing a punch is a natural motion and a much easier thing to do than throwing kicks.

Boxing is better as it teaches you all about how to block, dodge/slip, angle away, and counter this type of attack. On top of that, boxing classes are among the hardest where the emphasis is on hard sparring. In some way, sparring against the other students from time to time is the only way you can train your mind, reflexes, and reactions for real fighting.

Taekwondo, on the other hand, also includes a lot of hard sparring. But there are a couple of downsides mainly when it comes to weapons and ranges. You need space and distance to execute most Taekwondo kicks, and when it comes to close range, you only learn how to punch to the torso. Once the fight breaks out on the street, there are no rules and maybe you won’t have a space to move around.

Boxing vs Taekwondo — Which One Is Harder To Learn?

boxer vs taekwondo who would win

It takes a lot of time and effort to get good at any martial art. Which one is harder depends a lot on your talent, how dedicated you are, and the quality of the gym and coaches you work with. No matter if you choose boxing or Taekwondo, do not expect to reach a high level of skill without spending years working hard on the mats.

Boxing is beginner-friendly as its techniques, at least the basic ones, are not that hard to learn. You won’t struggle too much learning stances and drilling basic combos on a heavy bag. On average, people need around 6 months of training to get familiar with all the basics. And they need about one more year of sparring to learn how to apply these moves in a real fight.

This skill level is enough for you to deal with the attacker in a self-defense situation for instance or to start competing as an amateur. But to become a master, you need to train boxing a minimum of three times per week for 3-5 years.

Taekwondo, on the other hand, includes a belt ranking system and has strict promotional criteria. On average, it takes around 6 months to learn the basics, and 3–5 years of continuous training to earn a black belt.

Boxing Pros And Cons Against Taekwondo

Pros

Power — boxing puts more emphasis on finishing the fight and throwing power punches. There are no scoring points and the aim is to hurt or knock out the opponent with every punch. This approach transfers well into the self-defense aspect and cage fighting as well.

Hard sparring — boxing classes are hard on your body whether we are talking about cardio sessions or sparring. Students spend a lot of time sparring against each other as that is the best way to learn how to fight. You can’t expect to develop automatic reactions, timing, or feeling for distance without it. 

More practical — Boxing is simple and each technique is designed to hurt the opponent as much as possible. Its techniques are more practical and easier to apply in a real fight. There are no katas, breaking boards, or flashy techniques like there are in Taekwondo.

Cons

Injuries — boxing is one of the most dangerous combat sports where the risk of injuries is very high. Since the emphasis is on hard and long workouts and sparring, your body is going to suffer a lot. If you dedicate yourself to classes, it would be just a matter of time before you get hurt. 

Lack of kicks — boxing won’t teach you how to use kicks or any other limbs besides your hands. This is bad because people who know how to throw kicks with proper technique would drop a boxer with a single one. Although boxers have strong legs, leg or body kicks hurt a lot when your body is not trained to absorb them.

Taekwondo Pros And Cons Against Boxing

Pros

Stances — in training, all students learn how to fight from both stances and this is much better than in boxing where fighters usually fight from one stance. This is the reason why Taekwondo fighters in MMA are so versatile and unpredictable on their feet.

Kicks — Taekwondo teaches you, perhaps, the best kicking techniques. Students learn all types of spinning and jumping techniques, and how to throw them with a lot of speed and power.

Flexibility — Taekwondo will make you flexible in a very short time. You can’t expect to execute most of the techniques the right way without being very flexible.

Cons

Lack of advanced punches — On paper, Taekwondo includes hand strikes, but we are talking about basic punches. On top of that, the rules forbid punches to the head, and you can only strike the torso. 

Point fighting — Taekwondo puts too much emphasis on kicks and point fighting. The main goal of training is to teach a person how to win matches by outscoring their rival while knockouts rarely happen.

Which One Is Better For You?

Boxing and Taekwondo differ a lot in just about every aspect so it shouldn’t be hard for you to decide which one suits you better. If you are a fan of kicks and want to get flexible, then Taekwondo should be your choice. Training is fun, includes a lot of sparring, and you will learn valuable self-defense tactics.

Boxing, on the other hand, is for people who want to learn advanced punching techniques and to get a full-body workout. It is a great option if you want to learn self-defense, or you maybe want to switch to MMA later. You will learn all about the mental and physical aspects of fighting but bear in mind that this comes at a certain price as training is very hard. 

About the author 

Tomislav Zivanovic

Since 2017, Tomi has been working within the martial arts media, writing unique and creative articles about martial arts, and covering the most famous combat sports events. He works with some of the biggest martial arts blogs and websites like Middleeasy and Martial Arts Unleashed.


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