Is Kickboxing Better Than Muay Thai?

Kickboxing and Muay Thai are two highly popular, and similar-looking striking martial arts with a focus on powerful kicks. But when comparing both, is kickboxing better than Muay Thai?

Kickboxing is not better than Muay Thai. Muay Thai offers more options because it is an eight-point striking system, while Kickboxing is a 4-point striking system. In short, Muay Thai has all the benefits of Kickboxing in addition to other powerful fighting techniques that Kickboxing doesn’t offer.

In real terms, you have more weapons at your disposal when it comes to Muay Thai. The reality is that both martial arts are very similar, and it’s understandable that many assume they are the same.

But, they are not the same. In fact, their similar techniques are implemented differently. One thing you can take to the bank is that either of them would get the job done. And sometimes kickboxing classes are just focused on fitness.

In this article, we’ll the differences between Kickboxing and Muay Thai.

But we’ll also look at whether kickboxing is safer, and which of the two is it the best fighting style. And we’ll also look at which one’s better for fitness and which one’s better for self-defense.

Let the fun begin.

Are kickboxing and Muay Thai the same?

Kickboxing and Muay Thai are different fighting styles. They are similar, but Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, has a larger number of techniques. Technically speaking, Muay Thai is a form of kickboxing because it is a mix of kicking and boxing.

Let’s check out some similarities and key differences.


Clinch fighting is common to both, seeing as it’s also allowed in some kickboxing rules.

But there’s a difference in that, in kickboxing, the parties are allowed to strike once before the referee separates them. In Muay Thai, there’s no separation. But clinch work is crucial to both.

Eight or Four Points Systems

The key difference is that Muay Thai also incorporates the use of elbows and knees. It is an 8-point system, while kickboxing is a 4-point system.

In kickboxing, fists and legs are the weapons, while in Muay Thai, fists, legs (actually the shins), elbows, and knees are used.

The Use of Boxing

Another difference is how proficient MT and KB fighters are in pure boxing.

KB fighters are hip to first-class boxing techniques and would clip MT fighters if boxing were the only thing on the table.

In other words, boxing is not the strong suit of MT fighters.

The above leads to another difference. You’ll notice that kickboxers rely a lot more on punches, while MT fighters kick more. So, there’s a difference in emphasis.

How Kicks are Used

Kicks are common to both.

But there’s a difference in how leg kicks are employed. In KB, you swing your hip as you lift your leg, and then you snap your foot. The lower shin or the top of the front foot is used as the weapon.

The torque of the hip and arms is the “power base” of a kick in MT.

It’s one smooth movement, and the leg is not bent but trained directly on the target. The opposite arm goes down in a swift motion as you swing the leg and twist your hip.

So, you’d like to start training Muay Thai? 

Check out a recent article of mine where I crafted a guide on its most vital pros and cons. I explained that it’s great for self-defense, it can be learned fast, and you’ll get in shape…But seeing as it’s a striking art, you’re vulnerable if you’re taken down unless you incorporate this 1 thing.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is kickboxing safer than Muay Thai?

Kickboxing is safer than Muay Thai, particularly in kickboxing classes where the focus is on fitness more than competition. Muay Thai practitioners have a concussion rate of 5.4%, and it can lead to internal brain injuries, lowered IQ, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

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But kickboxing, especially competitive, is not immune to injury. Kickboxers have an injury rate of 22.8% overall, and 11% of those injured were permanently injured. (source)

But I still think that overall, Muay Thai has the potential to be more dangerous.

That being said, Muay Thai does have a larger number of body parts to both hit as targets and use as a weapon. From that standpoint, you are spreading out the potential damage rather than targeting just a few key areas.

So, the blows are evenly distributed, as it were.

In truth, they’re often concentrated on the opponent’s legs, which is a lot safer than kickboxing, where there’s a lot of effort on punches to the head.

Now, Muay Thai also exposes fighters to brain-related injuries (which are the worst) but compared to kickboxing, the incidence is lower.

Is Muay Thai bad for your shins? 

That’s the theme of a recent article of mine where I showed that it’s not bad for one’s shins as they can be conditioned. But this takes time.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is kickboxing the best fighting style?

Kickboxing is not the best fighting style. It is highly effective because it is a 2-in-1 system that combines punching and kicking. However, fighting styles such as Muay Thai and Krav Maga are better. Muay Thai is good for competitive sports and self-defense, and Krav Maga is the best for pure self-defense.

Krav Maga is not a sport.

There are no competitions when it comes to Krav Maga because it is simply too lethal as the purpose is to incapacitate one’s opponent without being harmed. When it comes to self-defense, it is the best.

There are competitions in Muay Thai, but that makes it no less effective.

It’s so brutal, there have been cases of a few deaths. And truth be told, there’s a risk of some neurological disorders. The side-kick, knee kick, and elbow strikes in Muay Thai are so powerful and effective that, in the right hands, they can almost guarantee success in any fight.

But, if self-defense is the only consideration, Krav Maga is still a better choice because it incorporates the most effective techniques from any style, and there are no rules. A deadly kick in the groin, for example, is fair game!

It’s a “by any means necessary” fighting style.

Muay Thai vs. kickboxing for fitness

Both Muay Thai and kickboxing are effective if physical fitness is the goal. They are intense, full-body cardiovascular workouts. However, Muay Thai is a more intense workout with a larger number of drills and delivers better fitness results. 

So, in terms of fitness, Muay Thai is a slightly better option.

Kickboxing is effective if you want to get fit. It’s estimated that you’ll lose about 450 calories per class. That’s not something to sneeze at. And, depending on your goals and level of fitness, that may be good enough.

But Muay Thai offers more intense training that I must say is not for the faint-hearted.

The lean and mean look that most MT fighters have is because they undergo a lot of conditioning, which, apart from helping them lose weight, also helps in sculpting their bodies. It’s estimated that you’d lose about 1000 calories at each class.

Say you’re wondering if karate is better than kickboxing for self-defense. 

In a recent article of mine, I explained that kickboxing is better because it’s a blend of Karate, Boxing, and Muay Thai. So, it’s deadlier in a self-defense scenario.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Muay Thai vs. kickboxing for self-defense

Muay Thai is better than kickboxing when it comes to self-defense. It offers more ways to fight, which can be a crucial variable in how a street fight turns out. A street fight is often a chaotic event. Muay Thai offers some simple but lethal moves that could help one crush one or more attackers.

Fights are won because someone had an edge.

Two people could be “equally matched”, and then one party does one thing and trounces the other. Muay Thai is a form of kickboxing, but it offers more than Kickboxing.

Both have shared techniques, so they are similar. What makes MT better is that it’s more aggressive and offensive, and forward-focused. There is no fancy footwork or cool moves.

The goal is to incapacitate the other. To KO them. 

The flying knee and elbow strikes are two of the moves that give MT an edge. Apart from being highly painful, they are also uncommon, which means your attacker would most definitely be caught off guard. They won’t know what hit them!

What martial art can beat Muay Thai?

This is what I explored in a recent article of mine where I showed that Krav Maga can beat MT because it incorporates the most effective techniques in other arts, and the goal is to quickly subdue or incapacitate an attacker.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How does American kickboxing compare to Muay Thai and western boxing?

Kickboxing can be confusing.

That’s because there are some schools such as the ones under the “I love kickboxing” website that is focused mostly on physical fitness. In that sense, it’s not much different than a gym.

There are no competitions and the focus is not on self-defense.

Then we have what’s known as Japanese kickboxing which is more of a combat sport. These matches take place in a boxing ring much like a regular boxing match.

So-called American kickboxing is actually a mixture of Karate and regular boxing. And sometimes you’ll see it called full-contact kickboxing.

As with other contact sports, there are rules in a kickboxing fight. Strikes must be above the waist. And unlike Muay Thai, the use of elbows and knee strikes are not allowed.

Then we also have Dutch kickboxing.

This was created in the 1970s when Holland was first introduced to martial arts such as Muay Thai as well as traditional Japanese kickboxing.

It is probably closer to Muay Thai than other forms of kickboxing as elbow strikes are sometimes allowed if both practitioners agree to it first.

Muay Thai is more of an anything-goes sport, so below the waist is considered acceptable. And unlike most forms of boxing, clinch work is allowed for Thai boxers. But there is some definite overlap between Muay Thai kicks and kickboxing kicks.

Traditional western boxing, of course, focuses exclusively on punches with the goal of knocking out an opponent.

What are the main differences between Muay Thai and Kickboxing?

The major difference, and again, there are different styles of kickboxing, is that there are far fewer rules for Muay Thai. Kickboxing being more rules-based places a lot of emphasis on only allowing “sporting” moves.

In Muay Thai training, you can use any combination of the following above or below the belt:

  • Kicks (front, straight, roundhouse kick, low kick, axe kicks, etc)
  • Knee strikes
  • Elbow strikes
  • Blocks
    • Various clinching techniques
  • Punches (uppercut, jab, hook punch, haymaker, straight punch, backfist, etc)

By comparison, a kickboxer (who is following the rules), has lot fewer options at their disposal and must (in most cases) stay above the waist. The main kickboxing techniques include:

  • Kicks (roundhouse kick, high kick, low kicks, spinning back kick, etc)
  • Punches (straight, uppercut, hook, cross, jab)
  • Knee strikes (in certain variations only)

So again, as you can see, the biggest difference is that a Muay Thai fighter just has a lot more options. So if your goal is self defense, Muay Thai will win every time and is the best martial art when choosing from these two.

But both are a full-body workout and are capable of delivering powerful blows.

How are Kickboxing and Muay Thai different from BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an off-shoot of Judo, which itself is an off-shoot of traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

So even though kickboxing has its origins in Japan too, it’s fairly different. BJJ employs very few kicks or punches. Instead, it focuses on using takedowns to get an opponent on the ground. Then, once on the ground submissions, joint locks, or chokes are used to tap or incapacitate an opponent.

In a Muay Thai match or a kickboxing match, opponents would rarely, if ever, go to the ground.

Instead, they would use a variety of strikes, and especially employ the use of kicks to knock out or incapacitate a would-be attacker.

What’s the difference between Kickboxing & Muay Thai?


Muay Thai is a form of kickboxing but the two have a lot of differences.

In the article, we looked at whether Muay Thai and kickboxing are the same, whether kickboxing is safer than Muay Thai, and which one is better for fitness.

We looked at whether kickboxing is the best fighting style. We wrapped up by looking at which one’s better for self-defense.

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