Muay Thai is Not Kickboxing

Muay Thai and kickboxing are similar in a lot of ways. Muay Thai is a form of traditional boxing from Thailand, while kickboxing is a combat sport that combines elements from various martial arts.

In modern competition settings, both Muay Thai and kickboxing require fighters to wear gloves and a mouthguard as they compete against each other inside a ring. With these similarities in mind, it's easy to think that Muay Thai and kickboxing are essentially the same thing... but are they really?

In this article, we'll examine some key differences between Muay Thai and Kickboxing so that you can decide for yourself which type of fighting style might be right for you!

Let's Start at the Beginning...

There are quite a few differences between Muay Thai and kickboxing, but the basics are easy to understand.

Muay Thai is a martial art that originated in Thailand. It was developed as a form of self-defense and is still used today for this purpose. Muay Thai is also used by amateur, hobbyist, and professional fighters who want to earn a stand up striking advantage in the ring with their opponents.

While some people may argue that there's not much difference between Muay Thai and kickboxing other than how they're executed, others will tell you that these two sports require completely different techniques and approaches.

Kickboxing, on one hand, was created as a sport rather than as self-defense training like Muay Thai was, and thus has evolved over time into something entirely different from its predecessor: one where fighters aren't just trying to knock each other out but also score points based on their effectiveness at landing strikes without getting hit back too hard themselves!

Muay Thai: History and Tradition

Muay Thai originated in Thailand. It's an ancient martial art that's also known as "the art of eight limbs," because it uses all of the body's weapons (hands, elbows, knees, and feet) to strike opponents. In addition to being a martial art and combat sport, Muay Thai is a way of life for many people in Thailand and around the world.

Muay Thai is known for its powerful strikes and roundhouse kicks--plus devastating knee strikes--which can be used offensively or defensively depending on how they're applied. One of the main goals of Muay Thai practitioners is to knock out their opponent by landing blows with force on sensitive areas like the face or body parts such as ribs or legs; these areas are often referred to as "soft targets."

Kickboxing: History and Development

Kickboxing is a combat sport that allows both punches and kicks. It's a modern martial art that evolved out of a combination of karate, boxing, Taekwondo, Muay Thai and Savate. Kickboxing was developed in the 1960s in Japan, and has since spread to many other countries around the world.

Today, most kickboxing matches consist of three to five, three-minute rounds with one minute rest periods between rounds (except for championship fights which can vary). A winner is declared when one fighter has had enough points deducted from his/her scorecard by judges' decision or referee stoppage due to injury or exhaustion before time runs out on him/herself during an exchange within any given round.

Another way to win is by Technical Knock Out (TKO)--this means if you get knocked down three times in a single round, then your opponent automatically wins!

Different Rules For Different Sports

Kickboxing rules are generally more strict than Muay Thai rules, and there are several key differences between the two sports. In Muay Thai:

  • The number of rounds is generally shorter (3-5 rounds) than kickboxing matches (some professional bouts lasting between 3-10 rounds)
  • Clinching is allowed
  • Knee strikes and elbows are legal

Under some rulesets, kickboxers may also be allowed to strike with knees. Elbows and knees are always allowed in professional Muay Thai bouts (unless otherwise specified).

Training for Muay Thai vs Kickboxing

Muay Thai and Kickboxing are both martial arts that require a lot of physical conditioning. Muay Thai shin conditioning is one example of this. The best way to condition your shins is by kicking a heavy bag or pad held by someone else.

Woman kicking a heavy bag while a coach and young man watch.
The more time you spend kicking a heavy bag - the better prepared you'll be to work through the pain of live competition.

In professional Muay Thai and kickboxing competitions, you won't have any padding on your shins. The more time you spend kicking a heavy bag and Thai pads - the better prepared you'll be to work through the pain of kicking your opponent or blocking their kicks with your legs.

Short vs. Long Range Fighting Techniques

While both sports employ the same basic techniques, Muay Thai and kickboxing differ in how they use them. In Muay Thai, fighters are traditionally trained to use their legs as weapons and tend to rely more on kicks, knees and elbows for damaging blows. Kickboxers tend to focus more on punches but will incorporate kicks into their arsenal if necessary (and often do).

Both disciplines require you to learn how to defend yourself while also training your body so that you can attack your opponent effectively with kicks or punches when necessary. You'll also need some skill at countering attacks so that you don't get caught off guard by someone else's counterattack!

Unique Offensive and Defensive Styles

Muay Thai fighters will often use their hands to clinch with their opponent and throw knees to the body or head when they are in the clinch position. They also use elbow strikes and sweeps, or trips, to knock their opponent off their feet.

Two professional Muay Thai fighters clinch fighting in the ring.
Muay Thai fighters engage in clinch work to land close range attacks.

Kickboxers usually stand a little bit further back from each other when striking instead of clinching up like Muay Thai fighters do. Due to the lack of clinching techniques available to them while standing up against an opponent, kickboxers have to utilize more close range boxing techniques and shorter, snappier kicks to set up their boxing.

Long range Muay Thai fighters are known for extremely powerful, rib-cracking roundhouse kicks. Effective roundhouse kicks are usually thrown to the head, body, or legs.

Kickboxers also have a long range arsenal that involves head kicks, spinning kicks, and from the mid-range, "Dutch-style" leg kicks.

Rules and Techniques Shape the Execution

With these differences in mind, you can see that each martial art comes with its own set of rules, techniques and philosophical origins.

Muay Thai has been around for centuries as a traditional martial art that originated in Thailand. Kickboxing, on the other hand, started as a modern sport in Japan before making its way to America in 1962.

Which Style Should You Learn?

Now you know the difference between Muay Thai and kickboxing, but you might be asking yourself, which one should I learn? Both styles have their pros and cons, and both martial arts have world class fighters among their ranks.

Both Muay Thai and kickboxing are excellent for learning practical techniques that work, and for getting into the best shape of your life. If you lean more towards the idea of traditional boxing, kickboxing is right up your alley.

If you'd rather learn how to throw punishing roundhouse kicks and sharp elbows in the clinch, try Muay Thai. No matter which style you prefer, both martial arts offer great skills to learn!