What Is the Difference Between Karate and Boxing?

What Is the Difference Between Karate and Boxing?

According to Karatecity, there are more than 170 martial arts. Many of them are ancient, while others were created recently, by combining old skills and new knowledge. You’ve probably never heard of Brazilian Vale Tudo, Nigerian Dambe or Canadian Wen-Do, but you’ve probably heard of karate and boxing. Karate and boxing are very popular martial arts (10 most popular martial arts in the world) which you can train in every city worldwide. What makes the difference between karate and boxing?

The biggest difference is in the way you fight. Each martial art has its specifics, primarily when it comes to the way of punching. The difference is also what is allowed in a particular skill and what will get you disqualified. While boxing uses only fists, karate uses the hands, open palm, and legs.

To decide what will best suit your body and mind, you need to know the similarities and differences between these two martial arts. Amateur karate, unlike professional karate, doesn’t have as much fighting. If you do fight, you will likely avoid all injuries because you will know blocking techniques. Boxing is a combat sport that provides adrenaline and pleasure through sparring and direct fighting. 

Both ways of fighting certainly stand out for their popularity and have numerous admirers. Each of them claims that the martial art they practice is the best. It is up to you to judge for yourself which one to choose.

A little bit about Karate 

Karate is an ancient martial art that originated in Okinawa in the 17th century and later spread to Japan. Karate developed in conditions where a ban on the use of weapons was often present. The term karate comes from the Japanese words Kara – empty and Te-arm. It is an art of self-defense and counterattack, using fists, open palms and legs.  

Basic training is called Kihon. Before a student fights an opponent, it is necessary to learn Kihon to be ready for a real fight. It can be learned as a unique technique or as a combination of offensive and defensive techniques. Each student has a colored belt. Training levels are marked with different belt colors that vary from white to black. Read here more about the belt system in Karate.

There are two groups of karate: Kumite and Kata. Kumite karate is a type of karate in which the goal is to strike a blow to the opponent’s neck, head or torso in the direct fight. The kick is not meant to injure the opponent, but to carry it out in a controlled manner. The judge evaluates the punch and assigns points based on the success of it.

Unlike Kumite karate, Kata karate is a type of karate in which an individual performs punches against imaginary opponents to demonstrate their skills and abilities. Tameshivari is a special type of karate in which an individual breaks the tiles by using a special technique.

Karate isn’t just about fighting and the right technique. Karate is the way of living that trains a person to be peaceful, concentrated and aware. If a fight does occur, the practitioner should defeat the opponent with one final-blow which will end the fight.

A little bit about boxing

Boxing evolved from ancient fist-fighting 4000 years ago. Modern boxing developed in England in 1719. This sport involves fighting only with fists covered with gloves. Fighters are trying to knock down the opponent with as many strikes to the head and torso as possible. The ultimate goal is to disable the opponent for further fighting. If it is not possible to disable the opponent, the winner is the one with more scored points.

In amateur boxing, the head of the boxer is protected by a special protective headgear to avoid any serious injuries. Amateurs fight for four rounds of two minutes. Between each round, there is a one minute for the rest.

In professional boxing, fighters do not have protection other than mouth guards. Depending on the fight, professional boxers agree on the number of rounds between 3 and 12, also with minute breaks.

Boxing is a high-intensity sport. It speeds up the metabolism and the whole body participates in it, even though only fists are used for direct strikes. Nowadays, boxing has become one of the most popular fitness sports because it brings the body into exceptional shape by accelerating the melting of fat.

What are the differences between Karate and boxing?

Punching technique

The main difference is the way of punching opponent. As mentioned earlier, karate uses fists, open palms and legs. Virtually any body part in karate can be considered a weapon. Boxing uses only fists covered with gloves.

Here you can find the list of basic boxing combinations, and here the list of basic karate moves.

Fighting with one or more opponents

While boxing involves fighting a single opponent, karate teaches techniques to fight multiple opponents so that a person is ready to defend at any given moment.

Number of blows

The philosophy of karate is to defend with one finishing-blow that will serve as a defense and disable the opponent. Boxing uses several blows that try to disable the opponent and to stop the fight. The knockout is difficult to achieve. Before disabling him, the opponent suffers numerous blows.

Teacher and hall

Boxing is trained in the gym or club where the coach teaches fighting techniques. The karate student is trained by Sensei in rooms called Dojo. Karate is trained with other students of different levels, and Sensei must be able to pass on his knowledge to students who do not speak the same language as him.


In boxing, the fighter trains in shorts and gloves, while in karate fighter trains in a kimono.

Here is a complete list of equipment needed for boxing and here is the complete list of equipment needed for karate.

What are the similarities between Karate and boxing?

Olympic sport

Both sports entered the competition program of the Olympic Games (the rest of the martial arts that take place at the Olympics). The fights take place in direct contact with the opponent.

Fighting belongs to the training

The philosophies of both sports defend the fight with unprepared opponents. The punches and techniques learned by martial arts students can cause serious injuries, so it’s important not to fight outside of training. However, if it is a matter of self-defense, it is allowed to stand up for oneself.


Karate is not only a sport but also a life philosophy that requires patience and concentration. Boxing also requires a high level of concentration to anticipate the opponent’s next kick and avoid injury. Of course, you should also concentrate on moving in the ring and breathing properly.

Improving mental health

All sports improve mental health and help to expel negative feelings, but martial arts stand out in this area. According to research by BMC Psychology, martial arts help reduce stress and depression.

Boxing can help get rid of anger and sadness because the body secretes higher levels of endorphins, good mood hormones, during hitting.

Karate, on the other hand, helps you calm down and concentrate, moving away from negative emotions and concentrating on the present moment.

Which is better for self-defense: Karate or boxing?

When it comes to self-defense, there is a lot to talk about. The subject of self-defense is really important so we decided to write a specific article about both boxing and karate and how good are they for self-defense. Also, we made a complete list of martial arts and ranked them how good they are for self-defense. Be sure to check it out!

Stefano Secci, French Savate Boxing, and Martial Arts champion
Article by

Stefano Secci

Stefano Secci was born on the outskirts of Genoa. He began practicing sports at 11 by enrolling in a Ju-Jitsu class; from there, I have not stopped playing sports until today. At 16, he switched to French Savate Boxing, which I married and has remained my first and only true love. Our testing and reviewing method.
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