Muay Thai and Kickboxing are two of the most popular martial arts in the world.

However, both sports have several differences, and, if you’re trying to decide which to pursue, it’s helpful to know how they compare.

Let’s take a look at what Muay Thai and Kickboxing are, and how they differ from one another.


What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is a martial art which makes use of punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to create a total of eight striking points. For these reasons, it is sometimes referred to as the art of eight limbs. This is different from sports like boxing, which only have two points of contact.

Grappling is allowed in Muay Thai, similar to wrestling. Grappling in Muay Thai makes use of the knees and elbows.

Muay Thai is a very old martial art and is practiced across many countries across Southeast Asia.


What is Kickboxing?

Kickboxing is a newer martial art that originated in Japan. Kickboxing is incredibly popular in the United States. While many think Kickboxing and Muay Thai look very similar, they are very different.

Kickboxing combines elements of different sports, such as kicking from Muay Thai, Karate, and boxing.

In Kickboxing, grappling is not allowed. Instead, participants focus on punching and kicking. Knees and elbows are also not allowed in kickboxing.

Kickboxers tend to focus on improving their overall stamina and endurance, while Muay Thai fighters focus on improving strength, endurance, and the efficacy of their attacks.

In many aspects, Kickboxing is very similar to American Kickboxing.


Major Differences

Kickboxing and Muay Thai have several major differences, even if they look similar from the outside.

First, Muay Thai is an ancient sport and is the national sport of Thailand. On the other hand, Kickboxing was founded in the 1960s in Japan, and became popular in the west at a later date after being popularized by Bruce Lee.

In terms of the actual sports themselves, one of the primary differences is the number of contact points. Muay Thai allows eight points of contact whereas Kickboxing only allows four — punching and kicking.

Muay Thai also relies more on attacking than Kickboxing and is often taught as a self-defense technique while Kickboxing is generally just taught as a sport.

There are several elements of Muay Thai that are not permitted in kickboxing, including:

  • Using knees and elbows
  • Grappling
  • Below waist kicks


These are many of the major differences between these sports.

Even though Kickboxing is a much more recent martial art than Muay Thai, it is a much more popular sport across the world. Muay Thai, while popular in Southeast Asia and still practices in the west, is not quite as famous as Kickboxing.

Both Kickboxing and Muay Thai are fantastic sports which take time, effort, and dedication to master. While the sports have a wide array of major differences, they are both popular and well-respected sports that are sure to continue growing.

When deciding which martial art to pursue, it’s important to understand these differences in order to make a more informed decision.

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