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What Is the Difference Between Boxing & Kickboxing? Pros & Cons

Many people fall in love with boxing after seeing movies like Rocky and Creed or after hearing stories about greats like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and Floyd Mayweather. On the other hand, some build interest in kickboxing after seeing UFC fights or watching movies like Bloodsport and Never Back Down.

So what is the difference between boxing vs. kickboxing? And which one is right for you?

Before you sign up for a class in either fighting style, you need to be clear on what they each entail so you can get the most out of your training sessions.

Boxing and kickboxing may sound similar but they are entirely separate sports with very different rules and regulations. Learning the difference between boxing and kickboxing is useful if you want to determine which sport you want to learn. Kickboxing uses the hands, feet, shins, elbows, and knees as well as throwing people to the ground, while boxing simply allows fighters to use their fists.

Which Is Better: Boxing or Kickboxing?

If you ask anyone whether boxing or kickboxing is better, you’ll get various answers based on what you’re looking for and how you plan to use these techniques.

In boxing, the fighter uses blocks and punches to power through their opponent’s head and upper body. A kickboxer is able to throw punches like a boxer but they can also use kicks and knee strikes as well, hitting their opponent’s head, body, and legs. This difference between kickboxing and boxing is only one of the many variations between the two sports.

Before you dive deeper into the contrasts, it’s a good idea to also learn the advantages and disadvantages of each form of martial arts.

Pros of Boxing

As you learn the difference between boxing and kickboxing, you will also notice adjustments between the fighting styles and abilities each one uses. With boxing, you focus a lot on punching, footwork, and a much heavier emphasis on head movement. Because of this, many boxers are faster at throwing punches and delivering lightning-fast jabs or hooks than many kickboxers are.

A boxer stands in a traditional pose with his guard up.

Taking boxing classes can give you a number of impressive physical benefits like increasing your endurance and improving your hand-eye coordination. Over time, you can strengthen your upper body and core muscles. Boxing also helps you improve your balance, boost your mood, and sharpen your mental alertness.

While kickboxing focuses on a variety of things, boxing is really all about the punches you throw. If you get in a fight with an unknown opponent, it is easy to tell who trained as a boxer by how they throw their hands. As a boxer, you can strengthen your body and practice a time-tested fighting style.

Like most martial arts, boxing is also excellent for building your physical endurance and self-confidence. If you are attacked, boxing is a key self-defense tool. This added confidence can also boost your self-esteem and self-image.

Cons of Boxing

When researching the difference between kickboxing and boxing, it is important to consider potential drawbacks as well. The main disadvantage of learning to box involves your legs. While kickboxing builds leg strength, boxers focus their main training on the upper body.

One of the biggest drawbacks of only doing boxing is that it limits your skillset to using your upper body for striking. This means that you won’t learn things like basic takedown defense or how to block kicks thrown by an opponent.

If you do end up on the ground, you also won’t be prepared or know any techniques you can use to get an attacker off or to submit them. With this in mind, boxing tactics alone may not be enough to protect yourself in a self-defense situation.

Pros of Kickboxing

Many people choose to do kickboxing because they want to use their entire body when they fight. With kickboxing, you end up strengthening and training your entire body. You work with your knees, feet, elbows, head, and hands.

Because you use these weapons in the ring, you also learn how to defend against them. This is important because it means you are better at defending yourself against a range of different attacks inside and outside of the gym. If you get into an unexpected altercation where self-defense becomes necessary, you will be able to use your entire body both defensively and offensively.

Two kickboxers train with the striker sending a low kick into the training pad at shin level.

Much of the difference between boxing and kickboxing depends on the class you take as well. There are aerobics classes for people who want an intense, kickboxing workout. Because of the high-energy requirements of martial arts, many of these styles have training for people who are interested in fitness as well as people who want to develop their fighting abilities.

Kickboxing classes are an excellent option if you want to build your physical strength and balance. If you want to look like Bruce Lee, kickboxing will help you rapidly burn calories and promote muscle definition. Plus, kickboxing is a way to constructively use your frustration and anger.

Cons of Kickboxing

While kickboxing is a good choice if you want to get in shape or learn self-defense skills, it is also a major contact sport. Unlike boxing, kickboxing uses both kicks and punches in an official fight. This means you have to learn defensive moves to counter more offensive possibilities and be better prepared for anything an opponent throws at you.

A disadvantage of kickboxing is that you won’t learn how to move as well as boxers who are frequently practicing and improving their footwork. Your stance will be square which opens the middle of your body and your head movement also won’t be as good as someone who has trained in boxing.

With boxing and kickboxing, punches are fairly similar though boxers tend to have much more practice and expertise in this area. Both styles use jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts but someone who has extensively trained in boxing will have a larger advantage than a kickboxer to do damage when throwing these strikes. Because kickboxers spend so much of their time learning kicks, elbows, and knees as well, they won’t be as specialized in their punches.

Similar to boxing, someone who trains in kickboxing is also limited when it comes to fighting on the ground.

This is why the martial art form of Jeet Kune Do encompasses all of these techniques including hands, elbows, knees, and feet, as well as tactics for:

Should I Learn Boxing or Kickboxing?

Learning the difference between these two art forms is only the initial step in the process. Once you know how these martial arts differ, you can decide whether you should learn boxing or kickboxing. Ultimately, this decision is a matter of opinion and your long-term goals for learning.

A kickboxer strikes a pad held by a fellow martial arts student.

For example, kickboxing is an excellent workout for your legs so you may want to try kickboxing if you want a full-body workout during every session. While those who have aspirations to become the welterweight boxing champion of the world will need to place their focus on this specific fighting style.

There are some shared advantages and disadvantages to both options. Both martial arts will give you tools to use if you are attacked, so you will be able to counterattack and evade more effectively so you won’t have to take damage. And because you are used to taking a hit in sparring sessions, you are also less likely to panic when a real fight happens.

Training in any martial arts will help you become more prepared to face an attacker, so the decision between boxing and kickboxing is entirely up to you.

Develop Both Boxing & Kickboxing Skills at Our School 

Now that you know the difference between boxing and kickboxing, you can take some time to decide which martial arts form is right for you.

If you’d like to learn more about either boxing or kickboxing, make sure you check out the NY Martial Arts Academy blog!