The Difference Between Kickboxing And Muay Thai

It is easy to be confused when trying to figure out the difference between kickboxing and Muay Thai, as many practitioners and coaches of the sports in Brisbane use both names interchangeably. It is starting to become more common now that Muay Thai clubs and coaches actually refer to their sport by its real name (Muay Thai instead of calling it kickboxing) because the sport is slowly becoming more recognisable. This could be due to the UFC gaining popularity, and people are starting to recognise different fighting styles, or it could also be due to the amount of Australians travelling to Thailand and being exposed to Muay Thai, which is the country’s national sport.

Although it may come across as arrogant when someone says “ I train Muay Thai, not kickboxing” the differences are big enough that the two styles of fighting deserved not to be lumped under the same category.

Kickboxing is a name that could refer to many different sets of rules. Some people when they hear the word “kickboxing” will think of men in the 80’s and 90’s with handlebar moustaches, hairy chests, long hair, wearing long pants and throwing roundhouse kicks. Other people might think of the massive arena events in Japan, with 90,000 people in attendance and some of the world’s toughest athletes competing. Both would be correct!

Kickboxing rules are adapted depending on the promotion, the sanctioning body, and if they are fighting for a title or not. going back 2 or 3 decades, kickboxing fights had all sorts of strange rules, many of these rules rarely ever get implemented at any fight promotions in Brisbane these days.

Some of the rules that are rarely used anymore include:

No leg kicks – Kicks were only allowed to be thrown above the waist

No knees – Unlike K1 and many of the kickboxing shows today, the strikes were limited to punches and kicks

No clinching or holding – The idea behind many of the rules in kickboxing was to keep the action flowing in a hope to keep it entertaining. When two fighters would clinch in the early days of kickboxing, it was usually to get a break or to get into a close-range where strikes weren’t as powerful.

Minimum kicks per round – Some kickboxing event implemented a rule where a minimum number of kicks had to be thrown each round or penalties were applied. This would sometimes see a fighter throw a few kicks to begin the round to meet the minimum requirements then only throw punches for the remainder of the round.

The rules for Muay Thai are almost always the same every time (especially in Thailand).

Muay Thai is also known as “the art of 8 weapons”, referring to the use of punches, knee strikes, kicks, and elbows strikes. The rule that has the most impact on the different style of fighting in Kickboxing and Muay Thai is the use of the clinch. In Muay Thai, as long as a fighter is still throwing strikes (mostly knees and elbows) whilst in the clinch, the referee will allow the clinch to continue, sometimes resulting in a fight that spends more time in the clinch than standing apart and striking.

Promotions like k1 outlawed the use of the clinch, as they wanted to keep the fights “cleaner”. This results in a better flowing fight and more entertaining for a viewer who isn’t very familiar with the sport, but in Thailand where most of the crowd is very familiar with Muay Thai, there are sometimes bigger cheers when a knee is landed by a fighter in the clinch, than a clean punch out of the clinch.

In Queensland, Muay Thai has become far more popular than kickboxing, to the point where promoters will match a fight under what is basically kickboxing rules, where they take away the use of elbows (usually for beginner fighters) and refer to it as a “Modified Thai Rules bout” rather than a “Kickboxing bout”.

It all may seem very confusing and may leave you wondering whether you would rather train kickboxing or Muay Thai. In Queensland, you won’t find many schools that teach specifically kickboxing and don’t teach Muay Thai. If you do find a kickboxing school and are tossing up between the kickboxing school and a Muay Thai school, remember that it is easier to take weapons away than to add them in. meaning; if you have never been in a Muay Thai clinch and have never thrown elbow strikes in training, you can not expect to do well against someone who trains them every day, but if you train in punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and clinching, it is easier to adjust to not using elbows and the clinch, than to learn these techniques on short notice.

Come down and try a class for free today!