As UFC gains popularity among viewers, so is the interest in engaging in combat sports, whether as a fan of a celebrity fighter or to simply just learn something new. There is a handful of combat sports out there, and it will be worth your time to choose one that works for you. Know that it takes a lot of perseverance to absorb the discipline that these sports impart, so one must decide if the learning is for fitness or to become a real-life fighter.
So, what’s the difference between Kickboxing and Muay Thai? What would be the best for you?
Let’s dig in and examine the similarities and differences between those two martial arts.
Kickboxing is a general term used to describe combat sports or martial arts that involve kicking and punching. The sport has developed numerous styles from various disciplines. Muay Thai falls under kickboxing as it applies to many other techniques other than kicks and punches.
Kickboxing originated in America in the 1960s where it started to appear as a sport, though it was a combination of Japanese karate called Kyokushin which involves full contact karate and boxing. Therefore, its roots can be traced back to Asia in feudal Japan.
Full contact kickboxing traditionally requires the participants to wear boxing gloves and padded foot protectors. Unlike most styles, kicks are prohibited to the legs and are mostly about flexible kicks, aggressive fighting and put focus on boxing. Other kickboxing styles include: K1, which is known to have originated from Japan and permits kicks to the legs and other parts of the body; Kyokushin, also known as glove karate where punches to the head and knockdown styles are permitted; Seidokaikan, a more soulful version of Kyokushin; Dutch kickboxing; Wushu Sanshou, a Chinese martial art developed from traditional Kung fu and modern combat fighting techniques; and Muay Thai.
Muay Thai is a martial art that originated from Thailand during the ancient battlefield arts between Muay Boran and Krabi Krabong. It literally translates to "Thai boxing" and is occasionally referred to as the "science of eight limbs," as eight limbs are encouraged to be used, including the elbows and the knees in addition to the hands and legs as allowed in kickboxing. It also focuses on slowing down an opponent by applying lots of kicks to his legs, as well as a lot of clinch work, which is one of the attributes of Muay Thai that involves the control of your opponent’s upper body using your arms to enable you throw them to the mat or make them land on the mat with their knees and elbows.
Having examined kickboxing and knowing where Muay Thai had derived its origin, let us explore the key differences between the two.
In kickboxing, especially the K1 Dutch variety, you will often observe the heavy use of hands which is completely opposite in Muay Thai, which usually features more kicking. Also, as the clinch, knees and elbows are not allowed in kickboxing, there is a high tendency to engage in striking your opponent without being straight kneed, elbowed, or clinched. Additionally, kickboxing tends to have longer hand combos and more boxing-style footwork compared to Muay Thai.
In terms of the low and high kicks, kickboxing is totally different from Muay Thai. Literally, kickboxing kicks involve the swinging of the hips while lifting the legs up, then snapping out the foot with the impact felt at the top of the front foot, while Muay Thai kicks have the legs erupting from the ground without being bent with the power being driven from the hips and arms as they are swung in a downward direction while twisting the hips. The leg needs to be kept relaxed until impact for maximum speed, with the impact on the lower part of the shin, which when combined technically is equivalent to the force of a baseball bat. Kickboxers do not often defend shin kicks but in Muay Thai, kicks are readily checked or else the fighter will lose points and get injured.
Dutch kickboxing fighters have the tendency to step more to the side, placing their head down and forward, thereby reducing their center of gravity while kicking around the body, as they hit with the side of their shin instead of the center, unlike Muay Thai. This type of kick is more powerful and is cut at a reduced angle since the full body is driven downward as the kick. This is a devastating low kick and since you can throw it much closer than you can with a Thai low kick, it works well with punch combos when you get in very close.
Fighting stance varies between kickboxing and Muay Thai. Muay Thai fighters don’t slip, duck and weave punches as they do in kickboxing. A kickboxer moves forward and backward unlike in Muay Thai where the fighters move forward to engage. Different rhythm of movement is also observed in kickboxing as the fighters become overwhelmed with each other’s rapid flurries compared to Muay Thai which portrays a very patient art.
As to the fight pace, Muay Thai tends to have the first two rounds slower with the intensity increasing in the third round as both fighters start attacking each other, while kickboxers go hard on their opponent from the first round so the fight is rounding up between the third and fifth round.
Muay Thai is referred to as a complete fighting art with the inclusion of full clinching, elbows and knees to increase attacking possibilities while kickboxing has a dominantly boxing style of movement suited more for tournament sports.
In choosing any sport to get into, make sure to prepare yourself physically and mentally. Most of them will test how fit you are to join the club, so be ready to do extra hours in the gym as being fit enough can prevent injuries along the way. In learning martial arts comes discipline and obedience, so psyche yourself up with maximum tolerance for they will also test you where you least expect it. Lastly, enjoy it with a friend! It sure comes handy when you do get into a fight.