Boxing, Kick-Boxing or Muay Thai: which combat sport to choose?


Boxing, Kick-Boxing or Muay Thai: which combat sport to choose?

Let’s go back to this popular discussion on the and discover the increasingly close links between the two sports scenes. What is the difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing ? Which of the two is the best standing strike martial art ?

Kickboxing styles

Mickboxing is a generic term that encompasses a number of combat sports. These include American, Japanese, Dutch, Chinese boxing and, of course, Thai boxing, or Muay Thai.

As the name suggests, kickboxing involves / authorizes the use of punches and kicks. Knees are also accepted in most kickboxing styles.

There are a few more styles than those listed below, but here are some of the most important or popular kickboxing styles:

Muay Thai (Thai Boxing)

We can say that Muay Thai (Thai: มวย ทย) is a pioneer in kickboxing sport. It developed at the beginning of the 20th century by integrating the traditional Thai martial arts into the rules of combat in the ring inherited from Western boxing.

Thai boxing is widely regarded as the most effective martial striking art. These are simple techniques, direct and without frills, designed to hurt.

It is a sport developed from the ancient Thai military martial arts known as Muay Boran used on the battlefield, which explains its preference for strikes and simple movements.

The most distinctive feature of Muay Thai that distinguishes it from other kickboxing styles is the intensive use of elbows and clich.

The elbow is completely prohibited by modern kickboxing rules, while the clinch is severely limited. This may have limited the full range of weapons that Thai people have when they go to kickboxing. However, many of them have been able to work with what they have to achieve resounding success.

Japanese Kickboxing (K-1)

The roots of Japanese kickboxing go back to his Thai counterpart. The story began on December 20, 1959, when the first Muay Thai event featuring Thai fighters was held in Tokyo, Japan.

Shortly after, in 1966, a boxing promoter, Osamu Noguchi, was intrigued enough to organize the first kickboxing event. The event was so successful that it quickly became a weekly program broadcast on national television. Osamu is now widely recognized for creating the term and sport of “Kickboxing”.

Japanese kickboxers practice a style that has its roots in Kyokushin karate. Japanese kickboxing also draws its influence from western boxing and Muay Thai to become what it is today.

In the 1970s, Thai boxers were often invited to compete in Japan. Japanese kickboxers also moved to train and compete in Thailand. This intercultural exchange had a considerable influence on the evolution of the Japanese kickboxing style.

Japanese kickboxing tends to be more flamboyant with a range of diverse and theatrical strikes. This is due to its roots in karate that Japanese kickboxers can continue to practice.

K-1 was one of the world’s most successful kickboxing promotions. Promotion began in the early 1990s and reached its peak in the early 2000s.

It was also this promotion that made the Thai superstar of Muay, Buakaw, known to the world. Buakaw’s career on the K-1 has indirectly cemented the status of Muay Thai as an eminent striking art.

The K-1 found the perfect balance between the Muay Thai and all the other Kickboxing of the time by disarming some weapons from the first while introducing the knees of the second.

Modern Kickboxing, as we see in major Kickboxing promotions like or, is strongly influenced by the rules of K-1.

American Kickboxing

American Kickboxing is considered to be a derivative of the first Japanese Kickboxing format, created around the 60s because karate practitioners wanted to challenge themselves in the ring by full contact fights.

The main difference of this sport compared to other styles of kickboxing is its adherence to a rule of combat above the belt. So there are no kicks in the legs. No elbows, no knees, no push kicks either.

In addition, American kick boxing is very strong in punches, because it is also strongly influenced by the most popular combat sport in the country, boxing.

Dutch Kickboxing

Dutch Kickboxing is a particularly aggressive style, fraught with punches and powerful low kicks. Training is also fairly well known due to its bias towards hard fighting, especially in Amsterdam gymnasiums like Mike’s Gym.

This Kickboxing style has more in common with Japanese K-1 style kickboxing than Muay Thai.

The story goes that a group of Dutch kickboxers traveled to Japan in the 70s to teach Japanese kickboxing to the famous Mejiro Gym. They exported this style to Amsterdam, added western boxing and kickboxing, and that’s how Dutch Kickboxing was born.

In general, Dutch kickboxing fighters focus on power rather than technicality.

This style of combat is widespread throughout Europe, even among Western fighters who practice Muay Thai.

Dutch kickboxers have had significant success in kickboxing promotions everywhere, even during the transition to Muay Thai.

The late Ramon Dekkers is arguably the most famous of Dutch kickboxing exporters, having participated in many high-level promotions around the world, including a fight in the largest stadiums in Bangkok.

Chinese Kickboxing (Sanda / Sanshou)

Sanda was developed by the Chinese army, combining traditional Chinese martial arts and modern combat sports for more practical application. The name Sanda (in Chinese: ⵓ 命) or Sanshou (in Chinese: ⵓ 手) means “free combat”.

The full-fledged Sanda resembles Muay Thai in terms of the range of weapons allowed. In fact, it looks even more like mixed martial arts due to the inclusion of wrestling and judo in its repertoire.

In interdisciplinary competitions or exhibition fights where projections and withdrawals are allowed, Sanda fighters have been inclined to use them with great efficiency.

Sanda has never really achieved great popularity outside of China, either as a competitive sport or as a martial art practice for ordinary people. But for many Chinese kickboxing and MMA fighters, Sanda is often the basic martial art on which they build their careers.

With the rise of Chinese kickboxing organizations Kunlun Fight and Wu Ling Feng, the Sanda seems destined to be overshadowed by K-1 style kickboxing schools, which is more relevant in the ring.

The fact that Buakaw is a mega star in combat in China does not help, as it has led crowds of his Chinese fans to train at Muay Thai.

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing

Now let’s talk about the difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing and what happens in a showdown between the two strike sports. To do this, we compare Muay Thai with the rules of K-1 (also adopted by the Glory and ONE Super Series) because it is the most common form of kickboxing.

Difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing

The Muay Thai (Thai Box) and the Kickboxing both allow punches, kicks, knee knocks and sweeps.

The essential difference between the two comes down to two aspects: elbows and close combat. Simply put, kickboxing is a stripped Muay Thai, without elbows and without seizure.

The real clinching at Muay Thai allows you to lock up the fighters in the clich as long as there is still action like knees or elbows. The ring official does not end the fight until the two fighters stand together and do nothing else.

In Kickboxing, the clinch is authorized very briefly and a knee kick (or blows) must be launched immediately in the clich. A warning or fault will therefore be necessary for the clich without immediate attack.

Some kickboxing promotions (eg Glory Kickboxing) allow seizures of up to 5 seconds as long as there is a continuous attack between the two fighters. The referee instantly breaks the fight if there is no knee kick.

Another important difference is the rating system. The traditional Muay Thai promotes kicking rather than punching, while kickboxing marks all effective kicks more evenly. This is why you will see more kicks at Muay Thai.

Besides the rules and scores, the most visible difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing is the rhythm of the fighters.

Muay Thai fighters traditionally take a quieter stance, promoting kicking, elbows and knees. Kickboxing and Western fighters in general tend to favor punches and adopt a brighter footwork, similar to that of boxing.

The kickboxers fight at a faster rate and with a higher volume of blows, because the kickboxing fights are scheduled for 3 rounds (3 minutes each). Muay Thai fighting tends to take place more slowly due to the 5-round system (also 3 minutes each). However, some promotions from Muay Thai have been modified for 3-round fights to meet the needs of the general public.

Many competitors participate in both sports because of their similarities. Combatants bring this style with them when they cross other territories, with reasonable success in both cases.

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: Which is the most popular ?

Depending on who you are asking, most spectators will prefer to each other, even if the two disciplines are just as entertaining.

Most of the Muay Thai or Kickboxing fighters cross the border on either side.

Buakaw is of course one of the most famous fighters of Muay Thai to have crossed the world of Kickboxing. In fact, it was really in the promotion of Japanese kickboxing, K-1, that he made his big breakthrough.

It turned out that Buakaw has become the face of Muay Thai, the most famous icon of this sport even today. It was thanks to K-1 and Buakaw that many Muay Thai practitioners began to practice this sport.

The long format with 5 rounds of Muay Thai, its slower rhythm, the dance rituals (Wai Khru Ram Muay) of pre-combat and the soundtrack of traditional Thai music Sarama do not really please the majority of sports fans western.

In terms of global acceptance and popularity, Kickboxing is more popular than Muay Thai. Kickboxing is action for three full rounds without cultural aspects.

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: What is best ?

Whenever the subject of one style in relation to another arises, the politically correct answer to give is that each discipline is more effective in its own field.

Several Thais who have chosen kickboxing show that they are the best in this area (at least in their weight category). Examples include Buakaw, Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong and Petchpanomrung Kiatmoo9.

Many observers believe that this is a combination of several things. Muay Thai is effective because of its martial history, the guts of fighters from a difficult environment and the experience acquired on rings during competitions at a very young age.

However, kickboxers in general tend to outdo Thai boxers in English boxing. Western boxers have a bigger body and you will always see them trying to knock out

There are exceptions to this rule, such as aggressive Thai fighters like Rodtang Jitmuangnon, Kulabdam Sor Jor PiekUThai and Yodlekpet or Pitisak. These fighters are known for their firepower.

All things considered, the wide range of techniques in Muay Thai gives him an advantage because he has more weapons.

However, much of what is often presented as Muay Thai vs Kickboxing is essentially combated according to one set of rules or the other.

An experienced kickboxer will always have the advantage in a kickboxing fight over a Muay Thai fighter with little or no kickboxing experience. Likewise, the experienced Nak Muay will tear a kickboxer according to the complete rules of Muay Thai.

The fact is that many kickboxers train and compete in both Muay Thai and kickboxing. It makes sense, because it offers them more competitive possibilities. The same goes for Thai boxers who are looking for competitive opportunities abroad.

That’s all for us about the difference between the Thai Boxing and Kickboxing. We hope this article will give you a better idea of the difference between these two martial arts.


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