Boxing vs. Kickboxing: Which is Best for Fitness or Self-defense?

In the world of combat sports, there are a lot of disciplines, but kickboxing and boxing are the two most widely engaged practices. This results in decision paralysis, especially if you've just watched movies like Creed or Never Back Down, pitching one of these sports as the ultimate martial art.

Kickboxing and boxing are distinct sports and not suitable for everyone or every circumstance despite their superficial similarities.

Fortunately, this post provides the most important information on both disciplines, making it the ONLY guide you'll need to make an informed decision based on your objective, whether it is self-discipline or fitness.

Boxing & Its History

Boxing & Its History

Boxing is arguably the oldest and most popular close-quarters combat discipline. While most wrestling communities won't agree and get furious at this statement, boxing has a deep history that is more than a century old.

There is evidence that this pugilism started in 3,000 BC. Still, the modern era version only began around the 17th century in England.

Over the years, numerous rules have been strictly put in place; one of many is to prohibit striking below the belt. This has forced boxers to improve their head movement, distance management, and footwork, which is crucial to penetrate defenses and evade deadly punches.

To the layperson, the nuances and complexities of boxing may be obscure. For enthusiasts of the sport, they are both intriguing and captivating. Hence, this fist-fighting sport is referred to as the sweet science.

Emergence And Evolution Of Kickboxing

Emergence And Evolution Of Kickboxing

Kickboxing, which dates back to Japan in the 1950s, combines several other fighting styles like Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and karate. About 20 years later, this combined stand-up combat became a sport with strict regulations and rules in the United States.

Its popularity can be linked to its unique use of elbows, knees, kicks, and punches to make fierce impacts. However, this blended, fast-paced discipline comes in different forms. The K-1 kickboxing, the finest form of this sport, is a modern-era, unified version of this sport.

Other versions include and are not limited to cardio, point, and light-contact kickboxing. Keep in mind that they are less combat-oriented and best for fitness. So, the only valid comparison will be K1-kickboxing vs. boxing in terms of self-defense.

Boxing vs. Kickboxing: Interesting Health Benefits

With the ever-growing stress index or sedentary lifestyle, it's no surprise you might be interested in combat sports. Punching heavy bags is a great way to relieve repressed wrath or bottled frustrations.

However, several studies have linked these contact sports to numerous health benefits, such as significant weight loss, stronger muscle, and better cardiovascular health.

Still, people wonder which of them offers the maximum health gains. Both sports are great workouts. Boxing is an excellent full-body aerobic workout involving lots of movement that would leave you out of breath in a couple of minutes. Hence, every match lasts about 3 minutes, with both fighters sweating profusely and nearly burnt out.

On the flip, kickboxing demands a lot more from the fighter, which leads to faster fatigue. You will be throwing more than punches since it borrows more body parts. In terms of intensity, kickboxing can be a clear winner, but it poses more risk than boxing to the fighter.

More importantly, both practices strongly recommend engaging in other cross-training exercises, such as jump rope, jogging, squats, push-ups, calisthenics, etc., to foster proper body shape and conditioning.

Unpopularized Pros and Cons of Boxing and Kickboxing

Pros of Boxing

Lucrative enterprise: boxing is, by and large, the most popular stand-up combat sport. Suppose you are interested in tapping into the vast opportunities of combat sports. In that case, you can't go wrong heading in this direction.

Remember that the enormous amount being paid by fighters does not extend to low-level boxers. Comparatively, it's much higher than the potential earning for the same level in kickboxing and others.

Popularity: if you live on the western side of the world, you are more likely to find a standard boxing gym nearby. They are easily more accessible, unlike kickboxing. Besides, you might be forced to stick with a kickboxing gym or instructors you really don't like because of limited options.

Excellent choice for fitness: as pointed out earlier, boxing is a good option for cardio. Except you are already fit, boxing would tire you out quickly. Also, there are fewer techniques or stances to master than kickboxing since it's based on striking alone. Thus, it's more fitness-friendly, and you can find a striking class in a nearby gym.

Boost confidence: because of its vast popularity, most boxing gyms are more welcoming. It can be a great way to improve your social skills by making friends while working on self-defense techniques or fitness goals.

Instill good work ethics and discipline: regardless of the reason you signed up for boxing class, you will learn discipline, patience, and how to remain calm under intense pressure. These incredible skills will come in handy in all other aspects of life, from work to relationships.

Practical quotidian skills: one of the many lessons you will walk out of a boxing gym is how to stand up for yourself. This discipline helps you stand your ground and be protective in the face of potential danger. While these skills are best not used outside the ring, they can be valuable in real-life situations where you need to stand up for yourself.

Cons of Boxing

Dangerous: like most contact sports, boxing is extremely dangerous. Consistent hits to the head can lead to several health complications like concussions. Therefore, it's essential to invest in the proper protective gear like mouthguards, gloves, headgear, etc., whether you are boxing for fitness, self-defense, or competition.

Else, you might be dealing with broken teeth, broken eye sockets, and split eyes, among many other facial injuries, when sparring.

Limited disciplines: if you are looking to master martial art or be a versatile fighter, boxing might not be the best way to go. This combat sport is limited to punches, with strict rules on how and where to strike your opponents. It's not designed for self-defense or street fighting. While it might help triumph over some situations, it leaves you clueless when kicked or grabbed on the street.

Pros of Kickboxing

There are many shared benefits like discipline, great work ethics, confidence, and fitness. So, it's pointless to repeat the same advantage. Thus, we delve into the unique advantages of kickboxing and why you should consider this discipline over the fist-based fighting style.

Versatility: when it comes to incredibly dynamic combat sports, kickboxing is the way to go, provided you are not considering Muay Thai. It involves more disciplines than its first-restricted counterpart. As its name implies, you can kick, but even better, use your knees and elbows, which are more strings to your bow.

Balance and strength: although this is a fundamental technique for all fighters, kickboxers take it a notch further and farther. You would learn how to balance and maintain maximum control of your body while on one foot. This pure art helps build your body's core strength while improving your balance.

Ideal for self-defense - if you want to become lethal, you might want to enroll in a kickboxing class. Most troublemakers never expect a kick or understand how to defend against it, which can be an advantage to you. Besides, it helps maintain distance and stay on top of the situation.

Cons of kickboxing

Lower popularity: unlike boxing, kickboxing is only about half a century old. This means it's still relatively new in the western world. Hence, finding a gym where you can practice kickboxing is less likely. And, if you find one, it might be you and a very small circle.

Less financially rewarding - kickboxing may not be the place to start if you are looking to get into one of the combat sports for money. Don't get it wrong; several famous kickboxers are making a fortune but nothing compared to elite boxers. The latter is more promising and potentially a great place to make huge revenues.

Injuries: like any contact sport, there's a potential risk of severe injuries. But compared to boxing, kickboxing exposes the fighter to numerous injuries aside from sprained wrists, bruises, broken teeth, or jaws. While using protective equipment can help avoid most of these injuries, the potential for these risks is not eliminated.

Boxing or Kickboxing - Which Is Better?

Simply put, it depends on what you intend to achieve through these contact sports. For fitness, boxing offers plenty of advantages, from large communities to simple yet intensive training programs.

However, boxing isn't built for self-defense to turn every pointy body part into a lethal weapon. Thus, you are better off with kickboxing. Also, it helps you keep a reasonably safe distance from the aggressor, who can help you stay calm but still within striking range.

Regardless of your choice, you would enjoy massive health benefits, build confidence, and learn to stand your ground.

About the Author

Sifu Jon Funk

Direct 8th generation descendant in the Wong Hon Fun clan. Trained in Canada, Hong Kong, and China. Canadian forms champion, kung fu full contact fighter. Featured on the cover of Inside Kung Fu magazine and Karate/Kung Fu Illustrated.

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