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Muay Thai Vs Kickboxing: A Detailed Comparison

Robert Green
Published: August 17, 2021
Updated: August 17, 2021

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Muay Thai and kickboxing are both integral fighting styles used in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and both styles are used as a foundation for fighters. While the two fighting styles can be used interchangeably in an MMA arena, they have vast differences. Here I will define the main aspects of Muay Thai vs kickboxing.

Understanding the two styles of fighting can help you decide which discipline to begin learning, as each discipline offers benefits and drawbacks. It is important to develop a fighting style that uses your body shape and size to your advantage. 

Here is how these two fighting styles weigh up against each other.

Comparison of Muay Thai Vs Kickboxing

  • Kickboxing uses a 4-point striking system, whereas Muay Thai uses an 8-point striking system. 
  • Muay Thai fighters usually attempt to land a powerful timed strike, whereas kickboxing utilizes combination attacks more often.
  • Kickboxers utilize the upper shin, lower shin, and their feet to land kicks, whereas Muay Thai fighters primarily use the middle area of their shin when kicking.

What Is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is directly translated as Thai Boxing and is the national sport of Thailand. This specific style of boxing was developed hundreds of years ago and aims to use the entire body during an attack. 

Muay Thai fighters can often be seen delivering powerful blows at their opponents, which often come after the fighter has patiently waited for an opening which usually presents itself after the opponent has attempted a strike.

The History of Muay Thai

It is believed the Muay Thai fighting style was developed by the Siamese (or Thai) army to use in addition to armed combat. Soldiers developed an explosive fighting style to use when they were disarmed during combat. 

The army was developed primarily to protect the capital city from enemy tribes and kingdoms. However, the art form became popular amongst the citizens and was used for self-defense, exercise, and discipline.

The Fundamentals of Muay Thai 

Muay Thai, often referred to as “The Art of 8 Limbs”, is an aggressive form of combat that focuses on offense through damaging blows aimed to break down your opponent’s defense. The aim of Muay Thai is to use your entire body as a weapon. 

The hands should act as the sword while the elbow is used as a hammer to deliver hard blows. The forearms and shins are toughened up during training to become shields for defense. While the knees and legs are meant to be used as an ax or staff. Moving the body as one unit allows fighters to become a weapon.

While Muay Thai focuses on these striking elements, there are grappling moves used in the fighting style. The full-body clinch is used to control the fight with the elbows and knees becoming an offense during the grapple.

The Rules and Regulations of Muay Thai

Muay Thai fighters don’t wear shirts and shoes, but the sport does include strict rules on the fighter's appearance. Fighters must keep their hair neat and have no visible beard. However, a tidy mustache is allowed.

A Muay Thai match lasts for up to five rounds with each round lasting three minutes with a two-minute interval between rounds. 

Each fighter must wear gloves that weigh six ounces or more and the fighter must not change the original shape of the gloves.

In matches, the fighters should wear an athletic cup to protect their groin if necessary and a gum guard over their teeth. 

A complete list of fighting rules is listed by the International Kickboxing Federation.

What Gear Is Used in Muay Thai

The dress code for Muay Thai is similar to Western boxing with shorts (and a sports bra or sleeveless shirt for women) allowed to be worn. The gloves worn by fighters are completely padded, which is different from boxing gloves. These gloves should weigh between six and 10 ounces.

During matches, hand wraps are used to protect the wrists from injury, and shin guards are used occasionally in matches or during training for added support.

What Is Kickboxing?

Kickboxing is a martial art form that blends boxing and karate and uses a 4-point striking system to attack your opponent. This means that fighters should only use kicks and punches to attack their opponent. Unlike Muay Thai, this discipline refrains from using elbows and knees during a match.

two person doing mix martial arts on white and blue stadium

Kickboxing is a sport on its own but is also used by MMA fighters and is often used as a strength and cardio workout or self-defense structure for ordinary citizens.

The History of Kickboxing

Kickboxing was developed in the 1960s in Japan as a hybrid martial art form with a combination of karate, boxing, and Muay Thai. The art form was designed by a boxing expert, Osamu Noguchi, who was set on developing a form of karate that encouraged full striking. 

Kickboxing became popular in the United States and is now seen as a popular international sport and method of fitness. While the foundation of kickboxing was heavily influenced by Muay Thai techniques, there are vast differences between the two.

The Fundamentals of Kickboxing

Kickboxing is made up of three basic components which are kicking, punching, and combining the two into one fluid movement. Along with these basics, fighters should practice and perfect the principles of kickboxing, which include defense, timing, sparring, feinting, power, distancing, and endurance.

The sport uses several types of punches, including jabs, uppercuts, hooks, and cross punches to attack opponents. These moves are taken from traditional boxing. 

The types of kicks used in kickboxing were developed from karate and include front, side, hook, and roundhouse kicks along with the spinning back kick.

The Rules and Regulations of Kickboxing

Kickboxing rules may differ slightly among the various organizations that govern the sport. However, the general rules state that matches are set between three and 10 rounds with each round being two or three minutes.

Fighters must wear protective gear and certain organizations prohibit kicks below the waist. Some matches involve the counting of kicks and state that each opponent must kick a minimum of eight times per round. Matches consist of two opponents from the same weight division and the winner is determined by knockout, draw, or decision.

What Gear Is Used in Kickboxing?

Fighters must wear protective gear on their feet and hands such as hand wraps, kickboxing gloves as well as mouth guards during matches. Beginners are required to wear headgear and shin guards.

The general attire worn in kickboxing matches is similar to boxing, with men wearing shorts only and women adding a sports bra or tank top.

The Last Strike

Kickboxing and Muay Thai offer some similarities, largely because kickboxing was developed based on the Muay Thai style of fighting. However, the differences are very apparent too. 

When choosing the best style for you, you should balance the amount of aggression you want in the fight and how much of your body you want to use as a weapon. These will help you determine the best discipline for you to begin with.

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