Muay Thai Vs. Kickboxing: What’s Better For Beginners?


Kickboxing and Muay Thai have many similarities. They are both very tactical, teaching footwork, setups, and other techniques for evading blows from opponents while delivering one’s own. In the same way, many of the fundamentals of Muay Thai are similar to the fundamentals of kickboxing. They are both forms of fine striking martial arts that have been proven effective at the highest levels of competition time and time again.

For many people, they are both combat sports like boxing, they both use similar boxing equipment –  except that you are allowed to kick. But while the similarities are plain for all to see, there are many key differences between the two disciplines.

Kickboxing: A Short History

The Japanese martial art kickboxing is the result of blending elements of punching and kicking and fuses techniques from karate, traditional boxing, and Muay Thai.

Originating in Japan in the 1960s, it gained popularity in America during the following decade. By 1974, the Professional Karate Association held the first World Championship in the United States to symbolise the sport’s popularity.

It contributed to the growth of Mixed Martial Arts in the 1990s when it incorporated more ground fighting techniques from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The Origins Of Muay Thai

Muay Thai (Thai Boxing in English) has a much longer, traditional and more complex history. Thai boxing is Thailand’s national sport and is a martial art that traces its roots back to ancient battlefield tactics used by the Siamese (or Thai) army.

Early Muay Thai bouts usually featured unarmed combat (Muay Boran) between companies within the Siamese army with little or no rules or weight divisions. As a result, many stadiums across Thailand eventually showed Muay Thai bouts and the popularity began to spread around the world.

A uniform set of rules, time limits, and boxing gloves were introduced in the early 20th-century. The art of Muay Thai spread throughout many countries during the second half of the 20th century. Thousands of people now practice Muay Thai in different parts of the world.

There Are Very Different Styles Of Fighting Between The Two Disciplines

First and foremost, you will notice that kickboxing and Muay Thai are two very different striking systems. Muay Thai makes use of elbows, knees, punches, and kicks, whereas kickboxing only uses punches and kicks.

The way the combatants move and attack in the ring is very different as well. In Muay Thai, the fighters tend to move mostly forward. Muay Thai fighters are taught to wait for an opening before striking aggressively. Often, these openings occur after an opponent has thrown their own strike. Counter-attacking is an important aspect of Muay Thai. In contrast to boxing and kickboxing, there is little head movement, weaving, or circling.

The Kicks Use Different Techniques

Kickboxing and Muay Thai use different techniques. In Muay Thai, the kick is typically executed by turning the hip and connecting the shinbone, whereas, in kickboxing, the knee is often snapped in order to throw the kick.

When delivering these kicks, one must also realise that there is an important difference between the two sports in terms of where one can strike an opponent. Because of sportsmanship, shin kicks and strikes below the waist are allowed in Muay Thai, but groin strikes are not permitted. They are not permitted in kickboxing either but tend to happen more often by accident.

Fighting with a foot or lower shin is extremely rare in Muay Thai, whereas kickboxing allows fighters to apply a wide range of kicks, including using the foot, middle shin, and lower shin.

Which Sport Is Best For Beginners?

There are beginner classes available for both sports and it really comes down to preference. The key decider is whether you intend to study both disciplines. If that is the case, you should do Muay Thai first.

As they are both very different striking arts, learning boxing first may lead to very bad habits that will be difficult to change when you move on to Muay Thai.

While it is fine and effective for boxers to bob and weave to avoid hooks, it can easily lead to a knee to the face in Muay Thai because it leaves you very vulnerable.

You may find that it is very difficult to break certain habits, such as slipping very low to dodge hooks when you do Muay Thai.


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