Muay Thai Training vs Kickboxing: What is the Difference?

Muay Thai Training vs Kickboxing: What is the Difference?

Both popular forms of martial arts, Muay Thai and kickboxing, are great forms of exercise that can teach you good self-defence skills and boost your confidence. But what is the difference?

These two combat sports have their unique roots, techniques and rules that set them apart, yet they often get conflated due to their striking similarities. In this blog post, we’ll dissect the key differences between Muay Thai, often referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs”, and Kickboxing, a hybrid martial art with influences from various disciplines. So, whether you’re considering which one to pursue or simply curious about these popular fighting styles, read on for an enlightening comparison.


Also known as Thai Boxing, Muay Thai training is said to have been developed by the Siamese army for self-defence, with roots tracing back to at least the 16th century. It evolved from Muay Boran, the traditional Thai martial arts, and Krabi Krabong, the weapons tactics of the Thai army. Over time, it transformed into a sport with rules and regulations. The art form was born out of necessity for unarmed combat during the war, and it played a significant role in the military training of ancient Thailand.

Kickboxing, on the other hand, has a more modern origin. This hybrid sport began developing during the 1960s and 1970s, mixing styles from Karate, Boxing, Taekwondo, and even Muay Thai. Its origins can be linked back to Japan and America. In Japan, it started when a top Karate fighter faced a top Muay Thai fighter in 1963, leading to the birth of Japanese Kickboxing. Around the same time in America, kickboxing evolved as a response to the popularity of full-contact karate matches.

While both sports involve striking and kicking, their origins have led to different techniques, rules, and cultural significance in the world of martial arts. Let’s explore some of these differences…

Striking System: Eight Limbs vs Four

One of the most striking differences (no pun intended!) between Muay Thai training and kickboxing training lies in their striking systems. Muay Thai is often known as the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it utilises eight points of contact – fists, elbows, knees, and shins. This gives practitioners a wide range of offensive techniques. Contrastingly, kickboxing generally employs a four-point system, using only punches and kicks. This focus on fewer points of contact allows for mastery of specific techniques.

Technique: Power vs Fluidity

When it comes to technique, Muay Thai fighters use their hips while kicking and land with the lower shin, keeping their knee relatively straight. This style emphasises power and stability. Instead, in kickboxing classes, you will learn to employ more fluid and defensive movements. This approach makes kickboxing a visually appealing sport that’s also highly effective in both offence and defence.

Blows: Simplicity vs Variety

Muay Thai is all about delivering powerful, straightforward blows. The game plan is usually centred around landing heavy punches, devastating knees, powerful kicks, and sharp elbows.

Kickboxing, conversely, offers a wider array of combinations. Fighters often throw high volumes of combos, making the sport fast-paced and exciting to watch.

Rounds: Endurance vs Speed

Most kickboxing fights consist of 3 rounds, making them quick but intense battles. This structure encourages fighters to be aggressive from the get-go. In contrast, Muay Thai fights usually have 5 rounds. This demands a more strategic approach, as fighters must pace themselves to survive the fight. You will learn how to build this strategy in your Muay Thai classes.

Striking Restrictions: Fewer vs More

Lastly, Muay Thai training has fewer striking restrictions compared to kickboxing. Techniques like elbowing and kneeing the opponent, often seen as too brutal for many martial arts, are allowed in Muay Thai. Traditional kickboxing training has more restrictions, which can make it a safer choice for beginners or those who prefer less physical contact.

In conclusion, both Muay Thai and Kickboxing offer unique benefits and challenges. Choosing between the two often comes down to personal preference and training goals. Whether you prioritise power and versatility or fluidity and speed will guide your decision. 

Regardless of your choice, both arts provide excellent physical conditioning and the opportunity to learn strategic thinking. Happy training!