Muay Thai vs Kickboxing

Mixed martial arts has exploded in popularity over recent years leading to a growing interest in all types of martial arts. This blog post will break down Muay Thai vs Kickboxing to help you understand the similarities and differences between the widely recognized martial arts with their own unique history, techniques, and fight styles.  


Muay Thai and Kickboxing are two striking styles of martial arts that are well known all over the globe, both of which originated in Asia. Muay Thai, also referred to as the art of the eight limbs, is a martial art from Thailand that emphasizes strikes using hands, legs, knees, and elbows. Kickboxing, similarly, focuses on the use of hands, legs, and knees depending on the style of kickboxing. This blog post will contrast the two styles discussing their history, culture, techniques, and training methods. 

History of Muay Thai

Wai Kru Dance

Muay Thai is a traditional Thai martial art that has been around for centuries. Its intended use was for Thai soldiers to use in hand-to-hand combat but then was recognized as a sport with rules and regulations in the early 1900s. Muay Thai is deeply rooted in Thai culture and has been passed down from generation to generation, preserving its cultural significance. As the world became more globalized, Muay Thai spread beyond Thailand and the sport was recognized internationally. Muay Thai quickly gained popularity among practicing martial artists and today is one of the most widely recognized styles of martial arts in the globe. Muay Thai has become a cultural symbol of Thailand and many martial artists travel to Thailand to learn the martial art and experience the culture simultaneously. 

History of Kickboxing

Old School Kickboxing

Kickboxing originated in Japan in the 1960s as a sport that was a hybrid of Karate, Muay Thai, and Boxing. Kickboxing gained popularity in japan and spread to many other countries over the years. Kickboxing started to evolve and new styles emerged such as American Kickboxing and Dutch Kickboxing. In 2012, one of the largest kickboxing promotions, Glory Kickboxing, was founded and Kickboxing practitioners from all over the world competed to showcase their skills on the world stage. There are now numerous professional kickboxing organizations all over the globe.

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: Key Differences

The key difference between Muay Thai and kickboxing is that Muay Thai has an eight-point striking system compared to kickboxing’s four or six-point system. Muay Thai allows you to strike with your hands, feet, knees, and elbows while kickboxing focuses on kicks and punches, and depending on the rule set, such as K1, knees are allowed. Another difference is that Muay Thai involves the use of clinch fighting while kickboxers will be separated by the referee if a clinch situation arises. The use of sweeps is also used in Muay Thai and is a part of their scoring system while kickboxing doesn’t allow the use of sweeps. 

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: Stances 

Traditional Muay Thai Stance

Stances will vary from fighter to fighter in both martial arts but there are differences between a basic Muay Thai fighter stance and a basic kickboxing fighter stance. 

Muay Thai fighters will generally have more upright stances with their arms a little forward and their elbows flared in order to throw elbows and block kicks with their shins.

On the other hand, kickboxers tend to have tighter stances where they aren’t as upright and have their elbows placed tightly to their ribs to help protect themselves from body shots and to be able to use their hands more efficiently. 

Kickboxers generally block kicks with their arms but Muay Thai fighters prefer to use their shin to block kicks as a kick to the arm is scored under Muay Thai rules, regardless if it’s blocked or not. 

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: Kicks to Punches Ratio

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing

When you watch a professional Muay Thai fight, punches generally are only used to set up kicks and knees. However, when watching a professional kickboxing bout, you will notice punches are utilized quite more and more knockouts tend to be delivered via punch. This is mainly due to the scoring curriculum of each martial art. 

In Muay Thai, kicks are scored the highest, followed by knees, elbows, and then punches. So if someone throws 100 punches in a bout and their opponent throws 20 kicks, the competitor who threw the kicks will be victorious on the scorecards. 

Kickboxing scores all strikes more evenly and bases the scoring on effectiveness. Harder shots that have a visible effect on the opponent are what will be rewarded by the judges. 

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: Similarities

The similarities that Muay Thai and kickboxing share is that they are both pure striking martial arts. Neither allows any grappling techniques and if someone is knocked down in competition, there is a standing count for the fighter to recover and continue on. Both martial arts are also kick-heavy, you will notice that practitioners of these martial arts will have quite strong and developed leg muscles and shinbones. 

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: Popularity and Culture

Muay Thai and Kickboxing have different cultures and traditions. Muay Thai has a deeply rooted cultural heritage dating back centuries and its practitioners follow strict customs and rituals to this day, such as the Wai Kru dance and the use of traditional headbands and arms. Kickboxing, on the other hand, is a more modern sport and is still relatively new and lacks the traditions that Muay Thai has. 


In conclusion, Muay Thai and Kickboxing are two distinct striking styles of martial arts with their own unique histories, cultures, techniques, and training methods. Muay Thai is deeply rooted in Thai culture with a rich heritage dating back centuries, while kickboxing is a more modern sport with a focus on punches and kicks. The key differences between the two include the striking system, use of clinch fighting and sweeps, and scoring criteria. Both styles are popular and have developed strong followings worldwide. Ultimately, both Muay Thai and kickboxing provide a challenging and exciting form of self-defense and competition for martial artists.

By Emil

Emil is a currently active professional MMA fighter. He was ranked 1st in the Aus/Nz region in his weight class as an amateur, with the most KO’s, and is now actively working up the professional ranks.

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