Boxing vs Wrestling for Self-Defense

Boxing or Wrestling for Self-Defense Boxing vs Wrestling for Self-Defense

It’s a pretty old debate: Wrestling vs Boxing for self-defense? Is striking hard and fast better than dominating on the ground? The answer is more complex than a simple yes or no. The real answer is; it depends. It depends on factors like the size of the fighters, the combat environment, and each person’s expertise level.

We all end up in situations where we can’t talk our way out. Sometimes it’s our fault while other times we are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. When that moment arrives, it pays to be ready. So, it makes sense to learn an art for self-defense like wrestling or boxing. But these two fighting styles have drastically different gear and paths to victory.

Wrestling uses locks and holds to overpower an opponent while boxing focuses on using punches to knock an enemy out. So, is it better to deliver a quick volley of strikes to incapacitate an opponent or grapple them into submission? In feature matches with referees and rules, wrestling often wins. But there are some factors that make one style more attractive than the other. So let’s go over the most important factors when deciding which is right for you.

Size is an important factor

Wrestling or Boxing for Self-Defense

Small people tend to fare better with strikes than grapples. Their lighter weight makes them faster and helps them dance out of enemies’ reach. With less mass to move around, light combatants use less energy dodging and evading. They can then put that energy into footwork and delivering a precise and powerful strike.

Boxing is great for people with long arms or small hands. Long arms make closing the distance difficult without taking a couple of blows. Small hands reduce the area of impact, making strikes hit with more force. Boxers are known to cause concussions and sometimes even death from a single blow.

But gravity lends large people a natural advantage in grapples. Wrestling focuses less on speed and more on technique to manipulate an enemy. Long arms and big bodies become powerful levers to apply bone-breaking pressure with little effort. Using joint locks and pressure points to incapacitate an enemy is easier for large people.

The environment can tip the scales

There is a big difference between fighting in a ring with a referee and defending yourself in the streets. Tapping out doesn’t stop a fight and losing can easily result in death. There are also no illegal moves in a street fight. There is always the possibility that other people have weapons too.

The lack of rules means the environment is dynamic. Every bystander is a potential enemy, ready and willing to pounce if the right opportunity presents itself. Nothing stops one of the bystanders from jumping in and delivering a kick to the face if their buddy is getting beat. A skilled fighter might be able to win in a fair fight against an equally skilled opponent. But they will almost certainly lose miserably once a second or third person jumps in. The more uneven the situation, the less individual skill counts.

In a situation where you are assaulted by multiple opponents, wrestling can be dangerous. The locks and grapples often require multiple limbs to disable a single opponent. This limits your ability to respond to additional attackers. It takes significant speed and skill to overcome multiple attackers, especially if one of them grapples with you so it is often better to seek escape.

Training counts more than anything

Big opponents are scary for a reason. Long-armed opponents make it hard to get close enough and heavier enemies can crush the life out of you. But there is a lot more to winning a fight than size. Every combat style requires many hours of training to become effective. That training is a great way to get or stay in shape, even if you never have to use your skills on someone.

Wrestling and Boxing both have specialized techniques that are difficult to master. Beyond that, they each have weaknesses and a variety of strategies to achieve victory. Learning these skills and applying them can be difficult so don’t expect to take a single class and call it good. It can take years to develop the skill and knowledge to effectively perform advanced techniques.

There is also a big difference between practice and reality. The closer to reality you can practice, the more prepared you will be for the actual thing. Without regular training, the body cannot react at peak performance. So deciding on Wrestling or Boxing for self-defense can come down to which one you enjoy practicing more.

It comes down to the individual

The sheer variety of individuals and defense situations make it impossible to say one style is objectively better than the other. No two fights are alike and it comes down to what works. The best choice is to practice everything but that often isn’t practical. But size, environment, and training can make one style more attractive than the other.

The internet is awash with examples of people using both Wrestling and Boxing to survive dangerous encounters. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses for self-defense. They are both designed for 1-on-1 fights but can be adapted to deal with groups. That’s good because street fights often become multi-target encounters where numbers can overwhelm.

There are few situations that can’t be solved with a quick wit and a little empathy. But when push comes to shove, it pays to have the skill and discipline to stand up for yourself. Taking either Wrestling or Boxing classes are a great way to stay in shape and be ready for anything. Don’t get caught unprepared if you can avoid it.


  1. – Rebecca Woice – What is more powerful: wrestling or boxing?
  2. – Dustin Filljoy- Will Elite Wrestling Always Beat Elite Boxing in MMA?