What Is Kickboxing and What Are Its Different Styles?

The origin of American Kickboxing dates back to the 1970s. At the time, a few karatekas (i.e., Karate practitioners) branched out to create a more realistic fighting system. Several decades later, it has grown to become a popular sport practised all over the world. But how exactly did Karate evolve to become a different sport altogether? Well, before that, let’s answer this question first: what is kickboxing?

A kickboxing match.

Muay Thai is one of the many forms of kickboxing.


  • What Is Kickboxing

    The term kickboxing refers to any martial art or combat sport that incorporates punching and kicking. People may practice it for general fitness, self-defence, and as a contact sport. It has several forms, the most popular of which are the following:

    • Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) is also called The Art of Eight Limbs. There are eight points of contact—pairs of hands, elbows, knees, and feet. 
    • American Kickboxing (Full Contact) combines Boxing and Karate with some elements of other martial arts.
    • Dutch Kickboxing is the result of the combination of K-1 rules and Western Boxing.

    (Read this article to learn about the differences between these styles in detail.)

    The list can be pretty extensive, though. Aside from the above, there are also:

    • Semi-contact (Points Fighting)
    • International (Freestyle or Low Kick)
    • Oriental (Japanese, Unified, or K-1 rules)
    • Sanda or Sanshou (Chinese Boxing)
    • Shoot boxing (Standing Vale Tudo)
    • Lethwei

    When people use the term kickboxing, they typically refer to specific styles. Usually, these are the ones that self-identify as such—American, Dutch, and Japanese. Let’s take a look at the beginnings of Full Contact and the most prominent sanctioning bodies in the world.

  • The History of American Kickboxing

    Full Contact Karate

    Historically (and unfortunately even presently), martial artists and enthusiasts alike have criticized the practicality and real-world applicability of Karate. Admittedly, the same is true for any point-fighting martial arts system. Tactics in such systems gear more towards scoring points than defeating an opponent. 

    Point-fighting systems are strictly regulated. It comes as no surprise that they may be restrictive for more ambitious players.

    When the opportunity arose, Mike Anderson, Don Quine, and Judy Quine broke off to play by their own rules. These people are karatekas and promoters. Thus, the Professional Karate Association (PKA) came to be. The year 1974 saw the first World Championships of Full Contact Karate in Los Angeles. It brought together a wide array of diverse fighting styles. 

    PKA unified these systems by instituting a standard set of rules. This institution marked the beginning of American Kickboxing.

    In 1986, PKA declined due to legal and revenue reasons. Retiring PKA executives came together and established the International Sport Karate Association (ISKA). Today, ISKA is still a significant sanctioning body. It covers sports karate, mixed martial arts, and several kickboxing styles.

    ISKA held the torch for a good decade or so. Still, the industry later fragmented into several governing bodies. Presently, there is no single organization covering all promotions. These organizations, for example, cover multiple rulesets:

    • World Kickboxing Association (WKA)
    • World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO)
    • International Kickboxing Federation (IKF)

    And these are exclusive to the Thai style: 

    • World Muay Thai Council (WMC)
    • International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA)
    • World Boxing Council Muay Thai (WBC Muaythai)
    • World Professional Muaythai Federation (WPMF)
  • Join the Family

    In Person

    The Fight Centre incorporates multiple styles in every kickboxing workout, taught by WBC World Champion Ben “The Blade” Johnston. If you’d like to learn how to throw a roundhouse kick (or execute any kickboxing technique at all), come to The Fight Centre. 

    We offer kickboxing classes for all people of any fitness level. You can enjoy quality instruction from world-class instructors at no cost. Click here to sign up for our free trial classes.