Is Boxing a Martial Art? (Yes, 5 Reasons Why)

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Are you wondering whether boxing is a martial art?

In this article, we’ll look at the 5 reasons why boxing is a martial art, as well as the various reasons many people believe boxing not to be a martial art.

Is Boxing a Martial Art?

Yes, boxing is a martial art because it fits under the many different definitions of martial art. It has systemized techniques and moves for fighting, is designed for fighting with the intention of hurting an opponent, and has been part of different cultures throughout its long history.

In order to fully answer the question, ‘is boxing a martial art?’, let’s examine the 5 main reasons why boxing is a martial art.

1. Boxing Fits the Definition of a Martial Art

First and foremost, boxing is a martial art because it fits the definition of martial art. So, what is a martial art?

Merriam-webster defines martial art as ‘any of several arts of combat and self-defense (such as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport.’ Boxing is the most popular combat sport and is also learned for self-defense purposes – so as per this definition, boxing is a martial art.

The Collins dictionary defines martial art as a ‘method of fighting, often without weapons, that come from the Far East, for example kung fu, karate, or judo.’ Boxing has methods of fighting and was one of the first combat sports to do so, therefore making boxing a martial art.

The Vocabulary defines martial art as a ‘traditional East Asian form of self-defense, combat, exercise, and spiritual practice.’ The earliest evidence of boxing comes from a temple in modern-day Iraq, so, therefore, it can be considered to have originated in the east.

The most realistic and encompassing definition of martial art comes from Wikipedia. ‘Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practiced for a number of reasons such as self-defense; military and law enforcement applications; competition; physical, mental, and spiritual development; entertainment; and the preservation of a nation’s intangible cultural heritage.’

As can be seen, the definition of martial art can include a lot of different things and vary. However, common among all is that martial art is a system of fighting – whether that be for sport, self-defense, war, or any form of combat. Therefore, it’s without a doubt that boxing is a martial art.

Let’s explore this further.

2. Boxing Has a Codified System of Techniques and Moves for Combat

For something to be considered a martial art, it requires a codified system of combat techniques and moves. In other words, the techniques need to be written down so that they’re easily explained and taught to new students in a systemized way.

Boxing is systemized in a way that has allowed it to become the most popular martial art in the world. This boxing system has also made learning accessible to many and taught in a structured way where students are learning the same combat techniques and moves in a logical step-by-step journey.

Boxing is one of the most well-established martial arts in terms of how it’s systemized and structured, having gone through various rule changes which are documented as follows:

  • Broughton Rules 1743
  • London Prize Ring Rules 1838 (revised in 1853)
  • Marquess of Queensberry Rules 1867

3. Boxing Is Designed to Hurt an Opponent (Warlike)

Boxing has long been a method of fighting with an intention of hurting an opponent in order to win.

Not only in an organized setting but boxing can also be used in self-defense situations to defend against or hurt an aggressor.

Also, as boxing is a competitive sports-based martial art, it’s used extensively around the world with the main objective of winning. In order to win, a boxer must knock out their opponent or inflict more damage over 12 rounds as determined by the judge’s scorecards.

Essentially, boxing is a martial art because it’s actively used and applied as it was intended, to fight. On the other side of this, there are martial arts that don’t have competitive fighting and are based on theory and learning techniques that aren’t applicable in a fight.

Ultimately, boxing techniques are made for fighting, therefore it’s a martial art no matter the context in which it’s used.

4. Boxing Is One of the Oldest Forms of Fighting and Has a Long History and Culture

Boxing is one of the earliest martial arts in the world. There’s evidence of boxing from a terracotta relief carving found in the Sumerian Nunti temple in Khafaji, Iraq (Mesopotamia), roughly 3000-2340 BCE.

The carving shows two boxers facing each other with bent arms, clenched fists, and a band around the wrist for support. Clearly, early evidence of traditional boxing has continued into modern boxing.

Boxing was also the second martial art in the Olympics after wrestling, first introduced in Ancient Greece at the 23rd Olympiad, 688 BCE, in commemoration of Achilles’ fallen friend, Patroclus.

Boxing was also an important part of Roman culture, seen as a gladiatorial contest and form of entertainment in which willing and unwilling (slaves) participants would fight to the death in front of crowds packed into Roman amphitheaters.

Soldiers in the Roman armies were also trained boxers, where they’d practice it as a sport and for hand-to-hand combat.

Boxing then picked up again in popularity in western Europe during the 16th century as prizefighting or bare-knuckle boxing.

Overall, not only is boxing a martial art, but it can be considered a traditional martial art because boxing has been used for fighting for the past 2700 years, has been part of various cultures, and has been a staple in the Olympics.

5. Other Reasons Boxing Is a Martial Art

While less important than the four reasons above, boxing is also a martial art because:

  • Boxing has resulted in the deaths of many. This makes boxing very warlike and appropriate for hand-to-hand combat.
  • Boxers spar to practice like many other martial arts.
  • Boxing demands and improves power, footwork, cardiovascular endurance, reflexes, hard work, honor, mental clarity, and focus.
  • Boxing like many martial arts can be used as exercise and spiritual and mental enhancement.
  • Boxing teaches martial artists valuable lessons in life.
  • Boxing is 1 of only 5 martial arts currently in the Olympic Games.

Why Do People Say Boxing Isn’t a Martial Art?

Some people say boxing isn’t a martial art because it’s commercialized and revolves around money, it doesn’t come from the east, and it’s a combat sport and not a martial art.

1. Boxing is commercialized
Some say boxing has become all about money and has turned away from the traditional definitions of fighting techniques used for self-defense and war.

2. Boxing isn’t from the east 
However, while boxing is recognized as becoming popular in Roman times and later in western Europe (England), the earliest evidence of boxing was found in Mesopotamia – a southwestern Asian region which today is Iraq and Iran.

Ultimately, saying boxing isn’t a martial art because it doesn’t come from the east is factually incorrect.

3. Boxing is a combat sport and not a martial art
People believe boxing to not be a martial art because it’s turned into a sport with too many rules and restrictions, and it’s not designed for outside use.

However, boxing matches bring intense competition which is the best display of martial arts as it showcases the most skillful boxers against one another. Not only the best, but boxers of all skill levels can use this competition to improve themselves as boxers and as people.

Sport-based martial arts are much more effective in self-defense and outside use because of this pressure testing and highly actionable techniques.

The Bottom Line

So, ‘is boxing a martial art’?

Yes, boxing is a martial art because it fits many definitions of martial art. Boxing has systemized techniques and moves for fighting, is designed for fighting and hurting an opponent, and it has a culture and long history which is remembered and continuing.

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