Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: (What is the Difference?)

Muay Thai and kickboxing are two popular stand-up combat sports with a focus on fast, furious punches and kicks. But what is the difference between Muay Thai vs kickboxing?

Muay Thai is a combat sport from Thailand, while kickboxing is a martial art from Japan. Both involve striking techniques such as punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. However, Muay Thai also allows the use of clinching and throws. Additionally, Muay Thai has a greater emphasis on leg strikes than kickboxing.

But some kickboxing classes in the United States are more for fitness and a cardio workout than they are for competition or self-defense.

So while there are some definite similarities between Muay Thai and Kickboxing, there are some key things to consider if you’re looking to train one or the other.

In this article, we’ll discuss these common fighting styles and other major differences between Muay Thai and kickboxing.

And ultimately, we’ll look at whether Muay Thai is better than kickboxing, or vice versa.

Table of Contents:

Muay Thai Overview


Muay Thai is an ancient martial art and combat sport that originated in Thailand. It was developed as a form of self-defense for the country’s warriors and has been used in warfare since the 16th century.

In more recent years, it has become increasingly popular due to its effectiveness in MMA and UFC fights.


Muay Thai utilizes an eight-point striking system which includes punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and clinch work.

The strikes are powerful and can be used both offensively and defensively. Additionally, Muay Thai kicks are often employed to weaken an opponent’s stance or disrupt their balance.

Head movement is also important when defending against strikes or attacking with them.

Muay Thai has seen exponential growth in popularity over the past few decades, largely due to its success in mixed martial arts competitions such as the UFC and Bellator Fighting Championships.

Fighters who specialize in Muay Thai have had great success at these events, making it one of the most sought-after disciplines among aspiring MMA fighters today. But how do Muay Thai and kickboxing differ from MMA and which is used in MMA more often?

Click that link to read the answer here on my site.

Muay Thai is a powerful and popular martial art with a rich history. It has been used in self-defense, competitive fighting, and as an exercise for centuries. Now let’s take a look at kickboxing – another combat sport that shares many similarities to Muay Thai.

Kickboxing Overview


Kickboxing is a stand-up combat sport that combines elements of karate, western boxing, and Muay Boran (an ancient form of Muay Thai).

It originated in Japan during the 1950s when martial artists began to combine techniques from different martial arts. The first official kickboxing organization was formed in 1976 by Japanese martial artist Tatsuo Yamada.


Kickboxing involves punches and kicks as well as elbow and knee strikes.

In addition to these offensive techniques, it also incorporates defensive moves from boxing such as blocking, parrying, slipping, bobbing, and weaving. Kicks are usually performed with the shin or foot while punches are typically thrown with the fist or palm heel strike.

Over the years, kickboxing has become increasingly popular due to its effectiveness in MMA and UFC fights.

It is worth pointing out though that many gyms offer kickboxing classes that are much more fitness-oriented and not martial arts-oriented. So make sure you are clear on your goals before signing up.

Kickboxing is an exciting martial art but it is important to understand the key differences between kickboxing and Muay Thai in order to choose the best style for your needs.

Key Differences Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing

Both styles have their own unique techniques, strategies, and rules that make them distinct from one another. While they share some similarities, there are also key differences between Muay Thai and kickboxing that set them apart.

Striking System

The biggest difference between Muay Thai and kickboxing lies in the striking system used by each sport.

Muay Thai uses an eight-point striking system which includes punches, kicks, elbows, knees, headbutts as well as clinch work while kickboxing only allows punches and kicks to be used when fighting.

This means that Muay Thai fighters can use a wider range of strikes than those found in traditional boxing or kickboxing matches.

Elbow and Knee Strikes

Elbows and knees are allowed in Muay Thai but not permitted in traditional western style boxing or kickboxing matches due to safety concerns for both competitors involved.

In Muay Thai fights these strikes can be used to target vital areas such as the face or body which makes it more dangerous than other forms of martial arts like judo or jiu-jitsu where grappling is emphasized over striking techniques.

Additionally, elbow strikes can cause significant damage if landed correctly making it a very effective tool for self-defense purposes outside of competition settings too.

Leg Kicks & Head Movement

Leg kicks are also common within Muay Thai bouts with fighters using low roundhouse kicks to target their opponents’ legs during stand-up exchanges whereas this technique is rarely seen within Western-style boxing matches due to its effectiveness at disrupting balance when landed correctly .

Furthermore, head movement is often employed by Muay Thai practitioners when engaging with their opponent during stand-up exchanges which helps protect against incoming strikes while simultaneously allowing them to close distance quickly without taking too much damage themselves.

Overall, understanding how each discipline differs from one another will help you decide what type of martial art best suits your needs, whether it is for self-defense, fitness, competitive fighting, or just recreational training.

Muay Thai and Kickboxing have distinct differences in their striking system, elbow and knee strikes, leg kicks, and head movement. While both are effective martial arts styles, understanding the key differences can help you determine which style is best suited for your needs.

Next, we’ll discuss common fighting styles of Muay Thai and Kickboxing.

Key Takeaway: Muay Thai and kickboxing have distinct differences such as the striking system used, elbow and knee strikes allowed, leg kicks utilized and head movement employed. Muay Thai offers a wider range of techniques than other martial arts making it suitable for self-defense or competitive fighting.

Common Fighting Styles of Muay Thai and Kickboxing

Dutch kickboxing is a hybrid style of kickboxing that combines elements from both Muay Thai and western boxing.

This style was developed in the Netherlands during the 1970s. It has since become popular among fighters looking to combine different techniques into their fighting style for maximum effectiveness in the ring or cage.

Dutch kickboxing focuses on using punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and clinch work to gain an advantage over opponents. It also emphasizes footwork and movement as well as defensive strategies such as blocking strikes with one’s arms or legs.

Japanese kickboxing is another popular fighting style that focuses on punches rather than kicks like traditional muay thai does.

Japanese kickboxers use a variety of techniques including punching combinations, body shots, low kicks, sweeps, and throws to defeat their opponents.

They also rely heavily on defense by using blocks or parries to deflect incoming attacks while simultaneously launching counterattacks when possible. Additionally, they employ tactics such as feints and fakes which can be used to confuse opponents before delivering powerful strikes at close range.

Muay Thai and Kickboxing are both popular forms of martial arts, but they differ in their fighting styles. The next heading will explore the differences between street fights and contact sports like MMA and Muay Thai.

Key Takeaway: Muay thai and kickboxing are two distinct fighting styles that both have their own advantages. Muay thai emphasizes the use of kicks, knees, elbows, and clinch work while Japanese kickboxing focuses on punches with additional defensive strategies like blocking strikes or parrying attacks. Both styles can be used to gain an advantage in a fight.

How Do the Competition Rules Differ Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing?

In a Muay Thai fight, the use of elbows, knees, and clinch techniques is allowed.

In contrast, American kickboxing does not allow these techniques; instead, it focuses on punches and kicks only. This means that in a kickboxing fight, the fighters must stay at a distance from each other to avoid being taken down or clinched by their opponent.

Another difference between Muay Thai and kickboxing is the scoring system used in each sport.

In Muay Thai fights, points are awarded for strikes landed on an opponent’s body or head as well as for successful takedowns or throws. In American kickboxing fights, points are awarded only for strikes landed on an opponent’s body or head; takedowns or throws do not count toward the score.

Finally, there are some differences in the techniques used by Thai boxers compared to those used by American kickboxers.

Muay Thai fighters use more aggressive techniques such as elbows and knees to attack their opponents while American kickboxers rely more heavily on punches and kicks to score points in a fight.

Additionally, Muay Thai fighters often use clinch techniques to control their opponents while American kickboxers typically do not use these techniques in competition.

Overall, there are several key differences between Muay Thai and American kickboxing when it comes to competition rules.

While both sports involve stand-up striking techniques such as punches and kicks, Muay Thai also allows for the use of elbows, knees, and clinch techniques which are not allowed in American kickboxing fights.

Additionally, there are differences in how points are scored during each type of fight as well as differences in the types of techniques used by each fighter during competition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Muay Thai easier than kickboxing?

Overall, Muay Thai is harder to learn than western Kickboxing since it also incorporates clinches and elbow and knee strikes. Muay Thai also has more rules to learn than Kickboxing. But both require strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Muay Thai and kickboxing are two martial arts that have a lot of similarities, but there are also some key differences. Muay Thai is a form of Thai boxing that has been around for centuries, while western kickboxing is a more modern martial art.

One of the biggest differences between Muay Thai and kickboxing is the techniques used.

Muay Thai incorporates strikes with the hands, feet, elbows, and knees, while western kickboxing only uses punches and kicks. This makes Muay Thai a more complete martial art than western kickboxing.

Another key difference between these two martial arts is the way they are practiced.

Muay Thai has a strong emphasis on conditioning and technique development, while American-style kickboxing focuses more on sparring and competition. This means that Muay Thai can be easier to learn than western kickboxing because it requires less physical contact with an opponent.

But does that mean kickboxing is hard to learn? Click that link to read the answer here on my site.

Is Thai kickboxing the same as Muay Thai?

Yes, Thai kickboxing and Muay Thai are the same.

Both refer to a martial art that originated in Thailand and combines stand-up striking with various clinching techniques. It is known for its powerful kicks, punches, elbows, and knees as well as its use of elbow strikes.

The sport has been adapted into different forms of competition including amateur kickboxing leagues and professional MMA organizations such as the UFC. Muay Thai is also used by many people for self-defense purposes due to its effectiveness in close combat situations.

Is Muay Thai More Dangerous Than Kickboxing?

According to a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, Muay Thai is more dangerous than kickboxing.

The study looked at the injury rates of Muay Thai and kickboxing practitioners in Thailand.

It found that Muay Thai had a higher rate of injuries than kickboxing, with an average of 4.3 injuries per 1000 hours of training for Muay Thai compared to 2.7 injuries per 1000 hours for kickboxing.

The study also found that the most common type of injury in both sports was contusions, followed by sprains and strains. However, Muay Thai had a higher rate of fractures than kickboxing, with an average of 0.4 fractures per 1000 hours compared to 0.2 fractures per 1000 hours for kickboxing.

In addition to the higher rate of injuries, Muay Thai also has more contact between opponents than kickboxing does. This means that there is a greater risk of serious injury when participating in Muay Thai due to the increased force from strikes and kicks.

There’s nothing more deadly or painful than two shins colliding at top speed! Anyone remember that horrible Anderson Silva leg break in UFC 168?? Ouch!

So overall, Muay Thai is definitely more dangerous than kickboxing due to its higher rate of injuries and increased contact between opponents.

But no martial art is without potential injuries. And there are a lot of options for protective gear so you can learn them safely with minimal risk of injury.

Is Muay Thai Kickboxing Different From Regular Muay Thai or Kickboxing?

Muay Thai kickboxing is just another name for Muay Thai. It is also sometimes called Thai boxing; the national sport of Thailand. The main difference between Muay Thai and kickboxing is the use of Muay Thai techniques.

Muay Thai incorporates more clinch work and throws than traditional kickboxing, as well as more strikes with the elbows and knees.

This makes it a far more complete martial art than regular kickboxing.

But the reason behind the kicks is also another key difference. In Muay Thai, kicks are used to set up other strikes or to finish off an opponent.

In other words, they can be used to distract or unbalance an opponent so that a powerful strike can be delivered to knock them down or incapacitate them. In regular kickboxing, kicks are used mainly for scoring points in competition.

The last major difference between Muay Thai and regular kickboxing is whether they are used for offense or defense.

Muay Thai has a more aggressive style, referred to as the art of eight limbs, that focuses on using kicks, punches, elbow, or knee strikes to quickly attack an opponent.

By comparison, regular kickboxing has a more defensive style that relies on blocking and counter-attacking techniques.

Overall, while there are similarities between Muay Thai and regular kickboxing, there are also some major differences that make them distinct martial arts styles. The main differences include the use of different techniques, different types of kicks, and different styles of fighting.

Are Some Kickboxing Classes Mostly for a Cardio Workout?

Yes, some kickboxing classes are mostly for a cardio workout, and there are many kickboxing styles.

Kickboxing is a full-body workout that combines elements of boxing, martial arts, and aerobics. It is an effective way to burn calories and lose weight. Modern American kickboxing classes often focus on the aerobic aspects, rather than the traditional street fight or boxing ring style of kickboxing.

Kickboxing classes that focus on cardio will usually involve what’s called high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

This type of workout involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest. During these intervals, students will perform various kickboxing techniques such as a variety of kicks, jabs, hooks, and uppercuts. These exercises are designed to get your heart rate up quickly and keep it there for an extended period of time.

In addition to providing a great cardio workout, kickboxing classes can also help improve strength and flexibility.

Many classes incorporate bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges into their routines to help build muscle and increase flexibility.

These classes typically involve working with a heavy bag and not against an opponent.

Overall, some kickboxing classes are mostly for a cardio workout but they can also provide other benefits such as improved strength and flexibility as well as weight loss. Kickboxing is a great way to get in shape while having fun at the same time! But ultimately it depends on your goals and needs.

All that being said, there are definitely kickboxing schools that do focus on it as a sport and/or a martial art.

Those schools are more likely to be martial arts schools than gyms. And there will be a big focus on competition training and you’ll learn the rules and point systems.

MUAY THAI LEGEND VS. KICKBOXING LEGEND | Yodsanklai vs. Andy Souwer | On This Day 2019


Muay Thai and Kickboxing are two distinct martial arts that have their own unique techniques and strategies.

While they share some similarities in terms of strikes and kicks, there are several key differences between the two styles. Muay Thai is known for its eight-point striking system using not only punches and kicks but elbow and knee strikes too.

Kickboxing has its roots in Japan, but often in the US it is taught for fitness and not for competition.

So it’s important to be clear on your goals and then to make sure you find a school whose curriculum matches your goals.

But both Muay Thai and kickboxing are full-body workouts that require a great deal of energy, muscle, stamina, and flexibility. So just know going into either one that you will get pushed to your limits!

Image by Taco Fleur from Pixabay and Image by Claudio_Scott from Pixabayand Image by Jo Tomas from Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: (What is the Difference?)

  1. Your positive energy and enthusiasm radiate through your writing It’s obvious that you are truly passionate about what you do

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