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What Is The Difference Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing?

muay thai vs kickboxing

Did you know that there is much difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing? If you find yourself shaking your head “no” right now, not to worry because I am still figuring out the difference between rugby and What Is The Difference Between Muay Thai and Kickboxingfootball! In today’s article, we are going to look at the differences between the sports, and by the time you have it read, you will be fully versed in the reasons why Muay Thai and Kickboxing are different.

To someone who is new to martial arts, or may not have a lot of knowledge on them, the two sports may look very alike, (but try not to mention that to a Muay Thai Fighter or Kickboxer, of course!)

They do have some similarities but when you look a little closer, it becomes easier to notice these differences, such as the techniques used in each sport, the scoring system, movements, and more. So, let’s get right into it!

Scoring System Difference Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing

The most obvious difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing is how the scoring system works during a fight. It always amazes me how the scores are kept so accurately during a fight in both of these sports, seeing as I feel like the fighters are moving at what looks like 100 miles an hour, (but enough about me.)

There are 5 three-minute rounds in Muay Thai and uses an 8-point system. In this system, elbow and knee strikes (ouch!), as well as kicks and punches are allowed. This differs in kickboxing as the system used is a 4-point system, and each fight lasts for 3 three-minute rounds, which only involves kicks and punches, and there are no elbow strikes allowed.score

In the Muay Thai scoring system, judges look for Effective Aggression, Ring Generalship, and Pure Aggression. Moves and strikes are scored depending on how powerful and clean they are, the judges even listen to the sound of the strikes! And remember, like most martial arts, strikes to the back of the head are not permitted, as well as to the groin.

Fighting Techniques

Another difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing is the way the fighters move and attack. In Muay Thai, fighters are taught to move mostly forward, compared to kickboxing where the movements are more fluid and defensive.

You will notice that Muay Thai fighters will wait for an opening and then move to attack, like a cat watching a mouse! Whereas, the difference in Kickboxing is that Kickboxers use head movements, and circling (which reminds me of dancing a bit.)

Footwork is also a little bit more prominent in Kickboxing, compared to Muay Thai, there is footwork in Muay Thai too, but in Kickboxing you will see more set up attacks, and less aggressive counter attacks. Muay Thai fighter’s stances are considered more composed, whereas Kickboxers may seem a little bit livelier.

Another difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing under fighting techniques is the strikes. Strikes used in Muay Thai tend to not throw the fighter off balance, (so fewer bruises from falling for them hopefully) and tend to use more powerful, yet simple strikes. The variety of strikes in Kickboxing are a lot wider, and some might even say they require more skill to pull off properly, and if they are missed, can throw the fighter off balance easily.

By now, you are most likely aware that both sports involve kicking, (but if not, you know now!) The way kicks are taught in both Muay Thai and Kickboxing differ. Muay Thai fighters will use the middle portion of their shins to throw blows at their opponent, but Kickboxers will use their feet and all parts of their shins.

Another aspect of fighting techniques or styles, which differs is the use of clinching. Muay Thai allows fighters to be locked in a clinch, as long as they are still moving, like throwing an elbow or knee blows (not for the faint-hearted!) The referee or ring official will break up a clinch if the fighters are holding each other with no other actions, i.e. no hugging allowed. This is different in Kickboxing as clinching (whether it be hugging or not), is not allowed.

Culture of Each Sport

We are going to move on to the third difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing, which is the culture. Muay Thai is rich in culture, from its traditions, music, and everything in between. If you have ever watched a Muay Thai fight, or even on TV, you might have noticed how the shows are structured a lot around culture. Before the fight starts and afterward, fighters wai (or “bow” if you’re not fluent in Thai like me) to each other as a sign of respect.muay thai dance

Giving a sign of respect to your opponent is common in not only martial arts but in a lot of sports across the globe. They will often walk around the ring wearing a headband, and an armband. They will also pay respect to their gyms and trainers before the fight.

These traditions are not as common in Kickboxing unless the fighter has experience in Muay Thai also (they want to get straight into the fight). Kickboxing has a mixed heritage, with less focus on culture and traditions, and I guess you could say, is just a little more modern. Whereas Muay Thai is a sport distilled from the traditional Thai martial art Muay Boran, so it brings a lot of its culture, and values into the countries national sport.


In short, although Muay Thai and Kickboxing may seem similar from a glance, there are many differences between the two sports, ranging from how they are scored and judged, the style and techniques used during fights, and of course the background and culture of both Muay Thai and Kickboxing – they are arguably the two of the best striking martial arts around, maybe give them both a go and see for yourself sometime, seeing as you’re now well versed in the difference between Muay and Kickboxing!

Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Deni

Picture of Deni


Hi, I started training Muay Thai back in 2016 and fell in love with it. So I decided to create this blog in the pursuit of this passion and share my experience with you.

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