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In the modern era of combat sports there are multiple styles that are equally as formidable as each other. Artforms like kick boxing, brazilian jiu jitsu, wrestling, muay thai or boxing are all solid forms of Martial Arts. Pitting each style against each other is a factor that began in the early 1990's. The culmination of Mixed Martial Arts saw iconic fights between different styles like shoot fighting vs judo, and boxing vs jiu jitsu. Mixed Martial Arts became the breeding ground for professional Martial Artists to battle test their own styles of combat against each other.

What this article covers:

Boxing, and Karate became two of the most iconic styles that have infiltrated Mixed Martial Arts, and in the modern era champions like Connor McGregor, Nate Diaz, Junior Dos Santos, George St Pierre, Stephen Thompson, and Lyotto Machida have represented each style of combat with precision, and ferocity. Traditionally pitting these two styles against each other has only happened during Mixed Martial Arts events, and figuring out which style is more effective can prove difficult. A boxer has a more dynamic series of footwork skills, which allows them to step into range, and throw combinations in a circular motion. A karate fighter will traditionally be more evasive, and bounce around in and out of range, as they throw a combination of linear punches and kicks. 


Boxing is an iconic form of combat that has become one of the world's most recognised combative arts. The boxing art dates back centuries, as depictions from early Sumerian culture have shown ancient civilizations fighting with their fists. Throwing fists between men has been around since the dawn of time, and as the centuries rolled on so did the innovation of combat sports. Ancient Greeks would battle in Olympic style contests in 600 BC, as they would often fight each other to the death for pride, and glory. Ancient Greek boxing would start to showcase the beginnings of certain rule sets, but in most matches the rules were still extremely brutal by nature.

Learn the FUNDAMENTALS OF KARATE from the first family of Karate for MMA Chinzo and Lyoto Machida!

boxing versus karate

Centuries later, boxing reached the shores of Britain, and bare knuckled prizefights began breaking out throughout the underground. Many illegal fights began being showcased by shady casino organisations, and as the combat began to grow so did the evolution of gambling. The rise of gambling on combat sports became synonymous with underground boxing, and as many lower class citizens began fighting to make money, many others began trying to legitimise the art of boxing. In 1867 the introduction of the Marquess of Queensberry Rules changed the boxing landscape forever, as the introduction of timed rounds, with the use of boxing gloves, and the addition of the fight taking place in the middle of a boxing ring, pushed the art of boxing towards a more civilized combat sport.

Throughout the nineteenth century boxing and prizefights was still considered a dubious sport, and was still outlawed in England, and most parts in the United States of America. Many fights were still being broken up by the police, and many fighters found themself at the centre of discrimination, and isolation. Many boxers would struggle to achieve legitimacy, and as they pushed towards a future in the sport, certain promoters like Tex Rickard aided in the legitimisation of professional boxing. By 1892 the first champion under the Queensberry rules was Jim Corbett against the famous John L Sullivan, as speed vs power boxing was on display. Boxing would now move into the twentieth century, as many cultures around the world would pick up the gloves and contest in this newly legitimised combat sport.


The history of Karate dates back over fourteen hundred years, as the teachings of Buddhism in Western India brought in many foundations of Martial Arts. Daruma was a known Buddhist monk that introduced Buddhism into China, as he incorporated teachings of spirituality, and extensive combat. These teaching methods were extremely demanding on the students body, and it was reported they would often pass out from exhaustion. Daruma would develop a more systematic training system that would give the student a greater strength and endurance, and he recorded his teachings into the Ekkin Kyo, which was thought to be the first ever book of karate.

Daruma had a high intelligence, and his integration of physicality in his training, with the philosophical qualities he possessed, became famed in China. In 500 AD Daruma's ideologies were taught in the Shaolin Temple, and kung fu came out of China with a more dynamic, and systematic form of Martial Arts. The cohesion of these two styles of combat became infamous in China, and this powerful form of combat made its way into Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa's original fighting systems were called Okinawa-te, and the influence of Karate, and Kung Fu on Okinawa-te was exponential. For two rather long periods in history in Japan the nationwide ban of weapon use contributed to the development of these hand to hand forms of combat. 

All of these styles together have formed the backbone to karate, and the people of Okinawa, and throughout all of China have built a reputable style of Martial Arts. All of these combined styles explains why karate is a simple, but highly effective method of combat. Modern Karate may be watered down for competitive sport, but in its traditional form it was used for centuries in eastern cultured war conflicts. The simple, and effective combat combined with the philosophical principles of Daruma's Martial Art explains why karate has almost a split personality. The violent nature of karate, combined with the heavily effective and systematic form of its origins, as well as its philosophy of spirituality have made karate what it is today.


Karate and boxing are two completely different styles of combat, and aside from the major difference, which is karate allows kicking, where boxing is purely a punching art. There is a difference in both of these arts in how they utilise their footwork. Boxers will use their footwork to move in a lateral direction left or right so they can move out of the punching line, and this enables them to use angled counter strikes. Karate's main focus is moving in and out of range quickly in a forward, and backwards motion, so they can utilise their ability to execute kicking techniques. This is a vast difference in the make up of each style of combat, and seeing that footwork is a key factor, this can determine the outcome of many fights.

There is a difference between stances in both of these combative arts, and a boxer will use a more squared up stance with their power hand, and power foot slightly backwards, so they can utilise rotation through their hips. A boxer can also differentiate between orthodox boxing vs southpaw stance, and this can be a determining factor. A karate fighter will use a side on stance, and this will enable them to throw an extensive range of kicking maneuvers. The side on style of a karate practitioner is also used to close, and lengthen the distance between them and their opponent quickly. 

There is a big difference in the punching ability between both of these styles, and this is for good reason. A boxer can only use punches, so they are heavily focused on the rotational aspect of their hips. Because a boxer will rotate their hips when punching, it helps them to push more weight, and force behind each punch. A karate practitioner must use more distance, and therefore they will commonly be throwing lighter, more rangy punches, because of their transition into multiple kicking techniques. The linear nature of their straight on punches, as opposed to a boxer's more circular punching, gives a karate fighter more chance of maintaining distance between them and their opponent.

There is also a difference between each of these combat styles in the gloves they wear, as a boxing athlete will wear sixteen ounce gloves, compared to a karate fighter that will use a lot thinner gloves that are quite similar to MMA gloves. This can make a considerable difference in the effectiveness of each of these punches. Another difference between these combative arts is their effectiveness in Mixed Martial Arts, and because mma is better than boxing, all boxers must adapt their style to suit Mixed Martial Arts. Boxing athletes in MMA will commonly avoid a traditional boxing stance, because it can leave them exposed to takedown maneuvers, and leg kicks. Instead they will utilise more of a jabbing game, so they can steer clear of some of those fight ending techniques. Karate in MMA is also considerably affected, as most athletes will need to incorporate other styles in cohesion with their karate, and this has been seen with fighters like George St Pierre, and Lyotto Machida.


Training in a combat sport like boxing involves a variety of different aspects. Boxers will traditionally use shadow boxing workouts to enhance the quality of their form. A shadow boxing workout incorporates using footwork skills like lateral shuffling, forward shuffling, backwards shuffling, lateral jumps, level changes, and pivoting. Throwing punches in cohesion with their footwork is how they will improve their movements, and adding in significant head movements like slipping, rolling under, ducking, and feinting will help these athletes improve their fighting skills immensely.

Improving a boxer's skills in punching can happen a number of different ways, and using the focus mitts is the main tool. Throwing combinations into the mitts are pivotal in increasing an athlete's technique, accuracy, and overall combination form. The mitts will also help an athlete with their evasive movements, as they will commonly slip punches, parry the mitts, or roll underneath the mitts. Boxing bags are another great way to increase an athlete's power, as they will traditionally execute hard punches into the heavy bag. The speed bag will help them with their hand and eye coordination, their timing, and of course their speed. The double ended bag is a lighter bag, and because it is held up by elastic it is a great way to work on counter punches, as they will need to commonly evade the bag, which can simulate a real boxing match.

Boxing training also has a high element of strength and conditioning, as athletes will commonly work on their muscular strength, their muscular endurance, and their cardiovascular fitness. Running, sprinting, and skipping are used to improve a boxer's cardiorespiratory endurance, and this will help them emphatically with their cardio ability. Using weight machines to build strength is common for all athletes, but in terms of functionality there are better ways. Athletes should execute movements like squats, jump squats, multi directional lunges, burpees, mountain climbers, shoulder extensions, rotational leg and arm swings, push ups, sit ups, chin ups, and dips. Utilising these methods of strength and conditioning will only benefit the boxer in the long run, making them a more formidable opponent inside of the ring or the cage. 


Karate training is completely different to boxing, and incorporates a lot of evasive kicking maneuvers. Old school karate was full contact, compared to the new aged low contact carta forms of karate. In terms of a combat athlete that trains in full contact karate, they will utilise a high calibre of punching, and kicking techniques. Using focus mitts, and kick shields are extremely important for developing their combinations, and all karate practitioners will engage in these systematic training routines. Boxing bags are also used in karate, so they can work extensively on the power of their striking components, and they will also commonly practise their distance management, so they can attack from long range.

Striking techniques are also practised in a shadow boxing style of format, as they will throw their striking techniques into the air. This is the main way a karate practitioner can work their way through the belt ranking system, and perform their carta movements. Karate practitioners will also utilise real fight simulation, where they will spar against other training partners. This may not always be full contact sparring, but it does help them significantly in improving their striking ability. Karate practitioners may not have as much of a strenuous workout as boxers, but they do have a systematic form of combat that can help them considerably in a fight situation.

Learn the FUNDAMENTALS OF KARATE from the first family of Karate for MMA Chinzo and Lyoto Machida!

boxing vs karate

Strength and conditioning also plays a big part in a karate practitioner's lifestyle, as they will commonly use similar methods to all combat athletes. Strengthening an athlete's body is critical for developing themself into a formidable opponent, and this can be through weight lifting routines, traditional exercises like push ups, chin ups, sit ups, and twists. Leg strength is extremely important to a karate practitioner, as they will commonly improve their dexterity, their flexibility, their mobility, their muscular strength, and their muscular endurance. Cardio is also important to a karate practitioner, as they will use running methods, and highly energetic combat exercises like different forms of jumping.


Determining who would win between these two forms of combat is no easy task, as they both have their strengths and their weaknesses. Boxers have an advantage by being able to move in close, and execute rotational movements to gain powerful punching combinations. A karate fighter's advantage is their range of distance, and their kicking ability. A karate fighter could stay on the outside of a boxer and execute kicks, but a boxer is an experienced competitor in closing the distance and trapping an opponent in the pocket. A boxer also has an impeccable ability to evade strikes, which is much like a karate fighter, but in karate the evasiveness is all about range, compared to a boxers in close evasive movements.

The dynamic of who could win this fight has many elements attached, and on any given day each combat athlete has a good chance of winning the fight. Even though a karate fighter may have an edge because of their long range kicking ability, it is a boxer that perhaps has an even greater advantage with their up close and personal ability to evade strikes, and land fast, accurate, and powerful punching combinations. With all of these factors considered it is a boxer that would win this fight more often than not. Both styles of combat do have incredible versatility, and in terms of Mixed Martial Arts this dynamic would change again, and this is due to other factors like takedowns, elbow strikes, wrestling, and submissions. 

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