hat is the difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing?

So you’re new to the world of martial arts, and there are so many names to memorise. You’ve watched a few Youtube videos of different fights but can’t quite tell why they’re named differently? Sometimes you can tell by their attire and environment, but other times not. Two of the hardest styles to distinguish between are Muay Thai and Kickboxing, and sometimes these terms can be interchangeable.

We’re going to break down for you!

What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is a martial art and combat sport that is thousands of years old. It is the national sport of Thailand and is known as the “Art of 8 Limbs” as it utilises Hands, Feet, Elbows & Knees. Similar to Kickboxing, it is fought within a ring with rounds. It specialises in using these “extra limbs” utilising the elbows, knees and a system of grappling called “the Clinch”.

Gyms in Thailand are infamous for their Kru’s (coach) ability to give their students specific tools. Some gyms are known for their clinch work (stand up grappling strikes thrown simultaneously), or maybe they excel in throwing elbows & knees. Some gyms are known as Boxing specialists, using their hands better than their foes.

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With such an open ruleset, it allows for innovation to occur between athletes and academies. Muay Thai athletes are known for combining this large amount of techniques together beautifully as if it was a dance. This is poignant when seeing a live match and experiencing the Sarama or the pre-fight ritual paying respect to the coaches and audience.

So how about Kickboxing?

Kickboxing is an umbrella term for a combat sport that is more like a rule set than a specific martial art from a particular part of the world. Kickboxing has many different rule sets across the globe, but the most common and popular is K1 style kickboxing.

K1, like Muay Thai, is fought in a ring with multiple rounds. Athletes can punch and kick their opponent anywhere on their body beside the back of the head and in the groin. Unlike Muay Thai, athletes cannot use their elbows or hold onto their opponent to deliver a strike. Interestingly, 1 single knee strike can be thrown in an exchange, but otherwise, multiple knee strikes are forbidden. Like Boxing, if the competitors are too close or start to grapple, the referee will separate them.

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Due to the lack of grappling or “the clinch”, matches are generally more dynamic. K1 encourages fast punches and thunderous kicks. Knockouts in K1 are generally more common as athletes cannot use the clinch to minimise damage from strikes if they are getting pummeled.

Athletes who train either K1 or Muay Thai have the ability to fight in the other style but will admit they specialise due to their own personality and preference.

So if it is so much faster and it comes down to a handful of key ideas and basic combinations.

I hope that helps, and we’d love to see you in a class trying either of these soon!

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