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But It's Not Boxing!

A judoka and boxer fighting

Every so often, someone sees a video of Eizan Ryu Jujitsu practitioners working on striking combinations – maybe hitting the heavy bag or focus mitts, maybe trading back and forth with a partner, maybe just working individually to get the form right – and comments that what they are doing is not good boxing practice. They have been taking boxing classes for six months, and have their instructor’s words fresh in their mind. Or they may be an experienced boxing coach with solid knowledge about what does and does not work in the boxing ring. They may critique technical details of how the hook punch is being thrown or maybe just point to something as basic as that the hitter does not have their hands wrapped when working on the heavy bag. The thing is, they are often absolutely correct. Because while we practice punching combinations that may look, at first glance, like boxing, we are not a boxing school. Eizan Ryu Jujitsu utilizes punches, elbow strikes, open hand strikes, kicks, sweeps, chokes, joint locks, throws and pins. The punches may be reminiscent of boxing, the elbow strikes may remind one of muay thai, the joint locks are similar in some ways to those done in aikido, and at first glance the throws may look like judo throws. However, because of the self-defense orientation of the style, the context in which those techniques are being taught – and therefore the details of how they are executed – will differ from the context in which various other martial arts are taught. A boxing coach prepares their students to fight using punches only, wearing boxing gloves, in a ring of a certain size. The opponents are usually of similar weight and skill, the rounds last three minutes, and the referee oversees the action. A judo instructor will teach their students what will work best while training on a mat, against an opponent who is barefoot and wearing a judo gi, within a rule set that does not allow strikes of any kind.

Every martial art is designed to work within a set of assumptions about the context in which the practitioner will be called upon to use it. That, of course, affects what strategies are emphasized, what techniques are considered most effective, and the optimal way to apply those techniques. So how one practices and utilizes punches will be influenced by whether one is training to punch with gloves on or with a bare fist. If one is training to utilize throws and takedowns on hard surfaces, one will want to execute those techniques differently than if one will always be working on a mat. If one is looking for techniques that may be effective against a significantly larger opponent, one will prioritize joint locks and developing leverage advantages.

In our dojo, we train for many different reasons, and strive to become well rounded martial arts practitioners. But because we always keep in mind the context of urban self-defense, we execute throws differently from the way a judo practitioner would, and our punch combinations do not look like classical boxing combinations. So if you have training and knowledge of a particular martial art, and you see that practitioners of other styles are doing things differently than you do them, rather than just concluding that they are “doing it wrong,” try figuring out why they do it the way they do. They may have good reasons.

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Cheng-Jih Chen
Cheng-Jih Chen

I started boxing over the summer, and restarted judo about a month ago. I had a related thought with the judo: this is a more competitive dojo, compared to the one I did most of my training in in Cleveland. So, there's always time spent on grip fighting, since that gives a competitive edge in shiai. This is essentially an elaborate body of judo knowledge that is only useful for judo. There's no need/use for this outside of judo competition, where your opponent is a skilled judoka trying to grab your gi. In a self-defense context, there's absolutely no need for this, as the other guy isn't a skilled judo trying to throw you in a contest, while you're both wea…


most martial arts styles that have a competition element have a lot of that, of course. and some of those skills that are taught and practiced specifically for use in the competitions in that style are actually not objectively "martial" skills at all. BJJ practitioners are awesome on the ground, but the butt scoot makes no sense outside of BJJ competition. and kyokushin-type karate typically training to fight with the assumption that there will be no punches to the face, or the practice many TKD practitioners have of deliberately turning their back on an opponent so the opponent has no legal target actually go against what is sensible in any combat outside of those rules. nonetheless, one can find combat use…



Great blog and great point. People get too caught into their own way of doing things they miss the artistic portion of martial arts. The expertise one has in a specific style/form normally fails to recognize that any similarities seen does not mean they're trying to achieve the exact same goal. It's the similarities yet difference in execution, application and outcome that makes it an art.


Beautifully written, Sensei.


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