Boxing vs Karate

Boxing vs Karate: Different Stances, Gloves, Punch (For Fitness, Self Defense, Street Fighting )

Are you a fan of boxing, or do you prefer karate? Whether you’re a martial arts expert or a complete novice, you might be unaware of some of the subtle differences between the many combat sports practiced around the world.

This guide focuses on the differences between boxing vs karate… although we are going to briefly explain some other sports (Thai boxing, taekwondo, jeet kune do) below too.

So, pull on your gloves and get ready to spar!

Short Summary – Boxing vs Karate

Not got time to read our full article? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Boxing trains your body for strength, so you can attack your opponent,
  • Boxing has a close stance and only uses fists to inflict damage,
  • Karate trains your body as well as mind in self-defense so you can both attack and defend,
  • Karate uses a wider stance, as you need space to kick as well as punch and take-down,
  • Boxing is better for overall fitness and weight loss,
  • Karate is a better option for self-defense and street fights.

What is Boxing?

Boxing is probably the most recognizable combat sport. If you showed anyone a boxing ring or gloves, they’ll be able to identify them. The biggest names in boxing – current and historical – go down in history. Muhammad Ali, a heavyweight boxer, is considered one of the most significant sports figures of the 20th century.

Other boxers, such as George Foreman, have gone on to start businesses and become celebrities in their own right.

Boxing is competitive and even has featured in the Olympics. Compared to the likes of other martial arts, boxing is fairly simple to understand and certainly looks simple to watch.

This is because boxing has strict rules – you can only use your fists to strike your opponent, and it must be above the belt. In comparison, combat sports that use more limbs require more movement, more balance, and more overall body strength.

As a sport, boxing relies on knowing how to respond to your opponent, holding the right stance, and landing powerful punches. Although you need to be strong from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, training will still focus on strengthening your upper body (as it both gives and takes punches).

Many people use boxing training (e.g., cardio boxing) to stay fit, however other full-body combat sports like kickboxing are also very popular for this purpose.

What is Karate?

What is Karate
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Karate is actually derived from ancient Chinese martial arts that were used for self-defense when a weapon wasn’t available – karate literally means ‘empty hand’. However, unlike boxing, karate doesn’t just use the hands to attack.

Modern karate uses a variety of punches and kicks to attack an opponent and defend the attacker. The style of karate is visually very different to boxing.

While boxers stand close together and strike with fast short punches, karate has a totally different stance that puts more space between opponents. This gives you more room to kick with your feet.

Karate also teaches throws, take-downs, and hand maneuvers besides just punches. There’s more to learn here and being agile and lightweight is more beneficial than being heavy (another contrast to heavyweight boxing in particular).

If karate is at one end of the spectrum and boxing is at the other, kickboxing and MMA would be somewhere in the middle.

Most ordinary people associate karate with Hollywood films like Karate Kid rather than the actual practice. Those that do practice karate (a student of karate is known as a karateka) know that the physical aspect is only part of it.

Going to a karate dojo should also train your mind with situational awareness and other self-defense tools, whereas boxing training is much more hands-on and all about punching. While karate is more about choosing the right technique at the right time, boxing is very repetitive with punches and strikes.

That’s the biggest difference between boxing and karate!

Comparing Boxing vs Karate

Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between boxing and karate.

Different Stances

As mentioned above, boxing and karate have very different stances:

Boxing: there are a variety of stances you can take, but mostly the boxers stand closer together. Giving your opponent more space also gives them more room to get a good swinging punch.

Karate: there’s more distance between opponents who can use a variety of stances to enable karateka to kick as well as punch. There’s also a lower center of gravity as well, for balance.

Also Read: Southpaw vs. Orthodox: Which Stance is More Effective?


Both boxers and karateka wear gloves when fighting/sparring.

Boxing gloves are more rigid than karate gloves, however. Karate gloves tend to have flexibility that’s similar to MMA gloves and the padding of boxing gloves. Visually, there’s not much difference between the gloves so shop carefully.

Furthermore, it is usually mandatory for karateka to wear other protective gear. Boxers also wear some gear (mouthguards, for example) but not as much.


While boxing is geared towards a very strong punch, karate uses punches as well as kicks, takedowns, and movements to avoid as well as attack your opponent.

If you want to develop your punch, boxing is the sport to choose. If you’re more interested in fighting – the mental training as well as the physical training – then karate is a better option.

For Fitness and Workouts

If your goal is to get fit and maybe enjoy a few fight matches, then boxing is the sport to choose. Every time you train for boxing, you’ll get physical. While the sport does focus on your upper-body strength, it still requires overall body strength. You’ll get a workout!

Karate does also require bodily strength, but also mental strength and knowledge. It’s more about strategy.

For Self Defense

Speaking of strategy, karate is the sport you want to take if you’re interested in improving your self-defense. Boxing follows strict rules and mostly focuses on attacking your opponent.

Karate, on the other hand, is all about self-defense and is designed to help you stay aware of your surroundings. If you’re under attack by multiple attackers or in a dangerous situation, karate will serve you better than boxing skills.

For Street Fighting

For street fighting, it’s hard to judge. While karate is a good skill because it teaches you to use your feet as well as hands to attack (while boxing is limited to just hands) it is more geared towards self-defense. Your opponents in professional karate will keep their distance too, so they have space to kick you…. But a random attacker on the street won’t do that.

Boxers, on the other hand, can land a very heavy punch. This could be good for knocking back an attacker so you can make an escape… however it’s less effective if you’re fighting multiple attackers.

Ultimately, it depends on your personal skill level as well as the skill of the attackers. If you’re really concerned about self-defense, you can find classes specifically for defense that will teach you techniques that may not be limited to just one fighting style – this gives you the best chances of defending yourself successfully.

Other Types of Martial Arts to Explore

Besides boxing and karate, there are some other martial arts that people are often interested in after learning about these two:

  • Kickboxing – uses both punches and kicks but remains closer to boxing in style than karate. It’s very popular for fitness and weight-loss.
  • Thai boxing – uses both striking and clinching, with fists, elbows, knees, and shins to inflict damage.
  • Taekwondo – this Korean martial art involves kicks as well as punches. It is best known for very fast kicking techniques, head kicks and spinning jump kicks.
  • Jeet Kune Do – this hybrid martial art was born from Bruce Lee’s experiences and practices. It combines a variety of techniques from kung fu, grappling, boxing and more.


Overall, boxing and karate are on far ends of the combat sport spectrum. While karate focuses on physical and mental skills that you can use for self-defense, utilizing the feet as well as the hands, boxing is more restrictive. Boxing requires more strenuous body strengthening and uses very different stances and rules when in combat.

Both are very popular and taught widely around the world.


Boxing vs karate, who would win?

Most people agree that the boxer will win if he can land a punch, as much of the boxing training focuses on landing a very hard and strong punch. The karate practitioner can kick as well as punch, however. It really depends on the skills of the individuals… but it’s more evenly matched than you may think.

Can a boxer beat karate?

Yes, a modern boxer could beat a modern karate practitioner. This is because much of modern karate practicing doesn’t inflict damage on your opponent or relies on point fighting. If a boxer can land a blow, it could easily take out the karate master!

Again, it really depends on the skills of the individuals in the fight.

Did boxing destroy karate?

No, both boxing and karate are still popular and strong. Boxing is likely the most popular combat sport in the world, and karate is the most well-known martial art. Both styles have been the inspiration for blockbuster movies, and both are arguably popular with amateurs and professionals today.

What’s the best fighting style?

If we go by popularity, boxing or MMA is the best. However, if you want the most effective fighting style then karate or any other martial art that uses more body parts is going to help you win a street fight, for example. The best fighting style also depends on your personal abilities – you may be more suited to kickboxing than karate or boxing.

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