Taekwondo vs Boxing: Which is Better?


Taekwondo is known for kicking techniques, while boxing focuses on punches and upper body movements. And both are great. But many of us don’t have time or money to do multiple forms of martial arts or fitness workouts. So which is better? Let’s look at Taekwondo vs Boxing.

Here’s what I know from studying both:

Boxing is better than Taekwondo. Boxing produces greater muscle or core strength and is also excellent for self-defense. Taekwondo also builds valuable skills but is far less realistic as a means of self-defense.

Taekwondo involves punches, too, but that’s not its strength.

To be deadly at Taekwondo, you’ll need a lot of training, and you’ll need to be super-fast. Head-high, jumping, and spinning kicks are the main thing in Taekwondo, but they’re tough to execute.

With modest training in boxing, on the other hand, you could knock out an assailant in a few minutes!

I’ve done a lot of boxing training, but honestly never trained in Taekwondo. I did, however, work with a black belt in Taekwondo for quite some time. So I do have some familiarity with it.

In this article, I’ll share some vital distinctions which will help you make the right choice.

Let the fun begin!

Which is Better for self-defense or fitness: Taekwondo or Boxing?

Taekwondo is excellent for fitness and would encompass many of the benefits of kickboxing fitness classes. Boxing, by comparison, would be a better choice for self-defense as most Taekwondo moves could be hard to execute in a street fight situation, whereas boxing punches and head covers would work very well.

So as we saw in the intro, which one is better, depends on your rationale.

Why are you considering either? It’s the reason that will help you decide the one that’s ideal for you. Do you just want something that will help you improve your fitness, or are you also thinking of something that could also save your life if you were ever to get caught up in a street fight?

Straight-up, I’ll tell you if it’s the former reason, choose Taekwondo, while if it’s the latter (self-defense), go for Boxing.

Now, both are good. Boxing is essentially punching, while Taekwondo is a mix of kicks and some restricted punches. But, the context of a street fight might not allow you to adequately use your Taekwondo skills!

What do I mean? Taekwondo’s best strategy lies in aiming head-high kicks at your opponent’s head.

It’s a deadly move — when it works. Naturally, you’ll need to be a bit distant from the assailant to be able to kick them in the head. You’ll need space. And, you’ll need to do it super-fast.

When it works, it’s lethal!

If the kick to the head connects, you’ll most probably knock them down, and they’ll be too hurt and stunned to know what hit them.

At that point, you could double-down and finish them off, or better still, flee. After all, the goal is not to fight; it’s to defend oneself.

But, boxing will be far better for a down and dirty street fight.

The reality is that even in a tournament, it’s not so easy to unleash such kicks, how much more, in a chaotic street fight.

You’ll most probably lack the dexterity of a master Taekwondo practitioner to effortlessly execute the deadly kick, and you’ll also be too close to the target. (And, you’ll leave your groin exposed!)

Are Taekwondo and Boxing a good combination?

Yes, Taekwondo and boxing are great together. With Taekwondo, you’ll learn to execute deadly kicks and gain flexibility. Boxing brings self-defense techniques and excellent punch combinations. Together, both are excellent for both self-defense and fitness.

As you’ve read in the paragraph above, kicking is Taekwondo’s main asset.

Punches are also used. But, you’re restricted to the body and most practitioners are actually better at kicking. Punches are what boxers excel at.

It’s like having two complementary weapons if you decide to combine them.

The person who can punch and kick, all things being equal, is better than the person who can only kick, or the one who can only punch.

Boxers punch their opponents above the belt. So, it could be the face, the head, the torso, the neck. They also aim for the head often, and it’s also deadly when it connects, and it’s easier to achieve than a Taekwondo kick to the head.

It helps to further contrast both to see how they could be great together.

Having superb boxing skills is good because boxing works better in a close range, and it’s easy to defend and attack at the same time. You’re also more balanced and protected if you employ boxing.

You are nimble on your feet, and you can dodge punches and strikes.

If you employ Taekwondo, it’s hard to defend yourself. The deadly kick leaves you dangerously exposed. If you’re unfortunate to be fighting a swift seasoned street fighter, they could kick your other foot as they dodged the one you aimed at them!

And, you’ll land on the ground, and they could be the one finishing you off before you regain your balance!

But, if you’re good at both, you could use boxing first. Aim many fast punches at them, so much that they’ll be dazed. Naturally, they’ll move back, and then you could quickly unleash the head-kick and finish them off!

Is punching allowed in Taekwondo?

Yes, punches are allowed in Taekwondo, but they are restricted to the body, and you can only punch a certain number of times. Then, you have to pause before you can continue, and punches are scored lower than kicks.

You can see why most Taekwondo practitioners naturally focus more attention on kicks. Kicks are allowed to the torso and the head.

As I said, punches are allowed on the body. You can’t punch others below the waist or on the face. Punches there will actually cost you points.

Let’s look at a list of the punches in Taekwondo (some may not be allowed in a tournament) then, I’ll explain one or two. Shall we?

  1. Palm Heel Strike
  2. Tiger Claw
  3. Knife Hand Strike
  4. Spear Hand Strike
  5. Ridge Hand Strike
  6. Extended Knuckle Punch
  7. Hammerfist
  8. Backfist
  9. Spinning Backfist
  10. Uppercut
  11. Hook Punch
  12. Jabs
  13. Cross Punch

The Jab can be used as bait.

Or, you could decide to strike the opponent straight-up. It’s impactful if it’s unexpected. It’s a straight punch direct to the face. Pow! You could also decide to use it simply to prod them, measure the distance, and how ready they are.

But, it’s better when it’s used as a “trick”. You touch them lightly on the face, they move back. Then they relax a bit and before they can say “Taek…”, you connect a head-high kick to their head!

Is Boxing more useful than Taekwondo?

Boxing is far more useful than Taekwondo unless the primary goal of the practitioner is tournaments or Olympic Taekwondo. Boxing is excellent both for fitness, self-defense, and to pair with different martial arts.

So once again, I’ll say it depends on what you’re aiming for.

Boxing is about punching, while Taekwondo is mainly about kicking. You can learn styles where the emphasis is placed on both kicking and punching.

But, the reality is that most Taekwondo practitioners place emphasis on kicking. Taekwondo is cool. No doubt. It’s also more involved than boxing, in the sense that there is a lot to learn.

Boxing is crude. The goal is to knock out your opponent, using only your hands. That’s it.

There are no fancy punches. You’ll also learn how to move and defend yourself. So, it’s not as interesting as Taekwondo, where you’ll see some awesome kicks and moves.

It’s more elemental, and you don’t need to spend years before you can acquire the most fundamental skills.

Can you learn Boxing faster than Taekwondo?

Yes, boxing is faster to learn than Taekwondo. To execute a head kick in Taekwondo can take 1-2 years to learn, and 5 years to really master. Boxing basics, by comparison, can be learned in under a year and mastered within 1-2 years.

Ultimately, Taekwondo is more involved than boxing, as I have explained in the previous paragraph. That means there are a lot of things to learn. It’s also not easy to learn.

You’ll need between 3 to 5 years to master it.

Boxing, on the other hand, as we noticed, is largely a question of learning to use one’s hands and defending oneself. A devoted student can become very good in a year. The main punches you’ll need to know are the jab, cross, hook, and uppercut.

There are other skills to learn, such as how to move your feet, the right stance, how to stand relative to your opponent, and a couple of others.

But, they are not skills you’ll need years to master. If you can train in a good school, twice or thrice per week, in a year, you’ll be pretty good.

But boxing isn’t the only other choice when deciding what physical art to practice. What about Aikido and Taekwondo, which one is better?

That’s what I explored in a  recent article of mine.

In it, I explored the differences between both, why Aikido has a bad reputation, what each name means, how BJJ compares to Aikido, why some consider Taekwondo a fake martial art, and how effective Taekwondo is in real life.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

As I often say, any martial art, or physical art since boxing isn’t martial arts, is better than none.

And there are a lot of great fighters with Taekwondo moves in their toolbox.

But if you’re just looking for 1 thing, boxing is better, especially if your goal is self-defense.

In the paragraphs above, I explained why. I also explained that both could be great if you combine them. I explored whether punching in Taekwondo is allowed and I clued you in about which one is faster to learn.


Photos which require attribution:

Taekwondo by m shaff and Kick Boxing… by Claudio Gennari are licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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