Muay Thai vs Kickboxing. What are the Differences?

There is no doubt that there is a broader appeal and popularity in kickboxing as a sport to Muay Thai. Although both sports are on the rise in terms of fans worldwide, nevertheless, the fans of kickboxing are more often than not fans of Muay Thai also.

You might also likely think the two sports are the same considering the smooth transition of many Muay Thai fighters over to kickboxing. Such fighters like Tiffany van Soest, Petchpanomrung, Sitthichai, and many more have successfully crossed over from Muay Thai to kickboxing.

While both sports look similar in many ways, the differences between them are much more than the similarities if we have to compare the two together.

Differences Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing


The significant differences between these sports date back to its origin. As a ring sport, the two have some considerable differences in how they were organized, the rules of play, and how it has evolved to what it has become today.

The Muay Thai type of kickboxing dates back long before kickboxing itself came into existence. The sport was developed in Siam (Thailand), possibly earlier than 1500.

The sport was initially developed for the Thai soldiers during battle combat against enemies when there is an outbreak of war with neighboring countries. Muay Thai uses the combinations of punches, knees, elbows, and kicks to fight in combats, including clinching and sweeping their opponents with tactical precisions.

Today, the sport has transitioned into a well-organized ring sport with participants mandated to (sometimes) put on fighting gloves as well as adhere to new rules to improve the sport. Also, Muay Thai has gained popularity as a combat sport and has seen an increase of fans throughout the Asian continent, including other parts of the world.

What Is Kickboxing?

Kickboxing is a sport that has to do with using the hands and the legs (kicks) for organized combat. It’s a term that broadly describes the Japanese and American style of kickboxing. The sport was a blend of martial arts like karate, some elements of Muay Thai Fighting, and also western boxing. And it was developed in the ’60s and ’70s.

Kickboxing tournaments use the four-point striking system, which includes the punches and the kicks. While the Muay Thai recognizes the 8 points striking system, and these points are the kicks, knees, punches, and elbow and also the “full clinch.”

Although kickboxing and Muay Thai are entirely different sports games, and that Muay Thai was first developed over kickboxing. However, kickboxing is much more accessible and is organized all around the world.

Today, kickboxing is now commonly mentioned as the umbrella term to describe any combat sports that have to do with striking with kicks and punches.

Kick And Punch Use

The Muay Thia technique in the ring requires that you keep on kicking your opponent as often as it will demand the opponent to surrender. If you don’t kick, you cannot win.

In traditional Muay fight, kicks are more heavily awarded points.

On the other hand, kickboxing scores effective strike against the opponent with either punches, kicks, or the knees. However, a light jab is not scored the same as a weighted solid low kick, and also, a hard punch that throws the opponent off guard can score on the same level as a kick.

This is why in kickboxing, you can see people fighting using different punching tactics, and this is not often the same with Muay Thai, except you are sure you can knock down your opponent with punches. Read our list for the best boxing gloves for kickboxing.

Dumps, Kick Catching, Sweeps & Clinch

The two sports allow both fighters to clinch on each other. Although clinching is more attributed to the Muay Thai fighters, however, many people still have this thought that the same is not allowed in kickboxing. The truth is, under the K1 rule, kickboxers are also allowed to make a clinch on an opponent.

In kickboxing, you can clinch but only just for a short amount of time, and the referee will break the clinch only just after one strike from the opponent. In kickboxing, you cannot experience an entire round of clinching, and any fighter that clinches more than the allowed time gets some infractions.

But for experience, KB fighters, (under the K1 rule) they know how to effectively close down on the opponent and do damages with a knee or two.

The Dump and Sweep tactics can only be seen in a Muay Thai fight, and it’s a tactical off-balance technique that is commonly used during a clinch or when catching an opponent’s kick. The dump and sweep are not allowed in kickboxing K1 rule, and also in every other kickboxing event, there is no room for fighters to dump or sweep the opponent, including catching a kick from the opponent.

Fight Pace

Except for title fights, most KB fights under the K1 rule last for three rounds, whereas; the Muay Thai fights last for five rounds. In a KB fight, the fight is fought at a higher pace because every round count and every punch and kicks matter and adds up to the score.

In Muay Thai, the first two rounds of the fights are mostly for fighters to weigh and access each other, and not much is considered in these two rounds. These two rounds are commonly referred to as the “feeling out” process.

However, to witness where the meat of the action is, the third and fourth round is usually action-packed with the fourth round having the most action and weighing the most. The fifth round is where the fighters locked it out the most (if both fighters are at even), but mostly this round is where the one ahead on-point dance around the ring to avoid losing points using evasion techniques.


In a kickboxing tournament, fighters with quick, flashy kicks that exhibit athleticism are always in the judges’ favorite record book. So methods from different martial artists are always on display.

In Muay Thai, a good fight is one where the fighter has composure, has a proper fighting stance, and can give or take effective shots instead of rushing the opponent. The “rushing” aspect of the fight is often prevalent among kickboxers mostly because of the high tempo pace fight.

What many will refer to as “action-packed” in kickboxing match is sometimes referred to as a “sloppy” action from a Muay Thai trainer because a technical fighter is much more preferable to a sloppy and aggressive fighter.

This is why you see most of the Muay Thai fighters avoiding the flashy kicks and instead concentrate more on the basics of Muay Thai fight.

Muay Thai vs. Kickboxing Stances


This is one apparent general difference between these two sports. Although there is a different stance between two competing fighters in Muay Thai and the same two fighters in kickboxing, nevertheless, there is some significant difference between how a fighter in Muay Thai stands when in combat and how a kickboxing fighter make his stance.

Muay Thai fighters are known to fight with their elbows, so fighters in this sport generally have their elbows sticking out to hit the opponent and also to use it to block kicks from the opponent.

A kickboxer will generally have his elbows glued to his ribs as it helps to protect him from body shots and to help him to box more. Because the elbow rule does not apply to kickboxing, they don’t usually utilize a guard by sticking their elbows out.


The culture behind the two sports is a significant factor to consider when looking at the difference between the two games. Kickboxing is much more of a sport than a martial art. The kickboxing event is straight to the point event.

Muay Thai, on the other hand, has lots of unique cultures tied to it, and it can be seen during any Muay Thai events. The fighters show respect to each other by making the wai gesture before and after every fight.

Also, you see the Muay Thai fighters having a mongkol on their head and a prajioud before they step into the ring, and they also perform the wai kru ram muay as a sign of deep respect to their trainer and family.

Tradition is not evidence in KB shows except if the kickboxing fighter was once a Muay Thai fighter and has moved to do full-time kickboxing.

Also, the Muay Thai event is enveloped in Thai traditional music called the samara. The samara music is usually played so the fighter can keep up with the rhythm of the fight until the end of the match. Whereas, in kickboxing shows, the auditorium is always silent except from the trainers corners.


Kickboxing and Muay Thai are two completely different sports altogether. Although you can see fighters doing a cross over from one art to the next, especially now that the game is getting popular all over, however, the two sports are not the same.