Is Kickboxing and Muay Thai the Same?

Article | TEAM SMAI


If you're thinking about trying Muay Thai or Kickboxing and want to know how they're different, this blog post is for you! We'll explain the key distinctions between Kickboxing and Muay Thai, helping you decide which one to practice!

What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai, or "Thai Boxing," is Thailand's national sport. It originated from military use around the 13th century during the Sukhothai Kingdom. It is often referred to as the “Art of 8 limbs” as it uses 8 points of contact including punches, kicks and elbow and knee strikes.

Muay Thai fighters (Nak Muays) train by completing intense, thorough workouts. These workouts usually consist of skipping, running, shadowboxing, thai pad work, heavy bag training, clinch work, sparring, conditioning and stretching and meditation to finish. 

What is Kickboxing?

In the modern Western world, when people talk about "kickboxing," they're usually talking about the American style that came about in the 1970s. This type of kickboxing started off as a mix of karate and then turned into what's called "Full Contact." It's like boxing, but with kicks thrown in – that's why they call it kick-boxing.

But, in recent times, there's been a different kind of kickboxing that's grabbed a ton of attention. It's called K-1 kickboxing, and it started out in Japan back in 1993. People all around the world are really digging its exciting setup. And because of this, the older style of kickboxing is getting overshadowed by K-1's popularity. 

Kickboxers typically workout in a way that improves their fitness, coordination and strength. Their workouts consist of exercises like jogging, weight training, pad/bag work and compound exercises to improve agility, speed and reflexes. 



The difference between Kickboxing and Muay Thai

Although Muay Thai and kickboxing share a lot in common, they've got some pretty noticeable differences.

First off, kickboxing is all about using kicks and punches in a 4-point system. On the other hand, Muay Thai takes it up a notch, throwing in kicks, punches, elbows, knees, and a 'full' clinch in its 8-point system.

The types of strikes found in Muay Thai and kickboxing are one of the key factors that separate the two sports. With kickboxing, fighters are taught a wide range of more complex strikes. On the other hand, Muay Thai typically favors simple, powerful strikes that aren't as artistic as those used in kickboxing. 

Kickboxers and Nak Muays throw their kicks differently too. In Muay Thai, fighters learn to hit with the middle of their shin. But in kickboxing, various kicks can hit with the foot, lower shin, or middle shin.

Another key difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing is the level conditioning they do in training. In Muay Thai training, shin conditioning is considered essential, and fighters often participate in demanding workouts to strengthen their shins. In comparison, kickboxers may perform light shin conditioning or skip it altogether.

Finally, Muay Thai and Kickboxing teach different attacking strategies. Muay Thai fighters are trained to be patient when making strikes, often waiting till their opponent leaves an opening. They are also taught to wear down their opponent by repeating attacks to the same area. Alternatively, kickboxers typically use their footwork and angles to set up their kicks and aim to knock out their opponent. 



Choosing a Sport

So, what should you choose?
There are many factors to consider, such as your purpose for training, location availabilities, personal interests, and more. If possible, we recommend trying both Muay Thai and Kickboxing, and going with whichever Martial Art suits you best.

When it comes to mastering a martial art, it's all about finding the right teacher. Whether you're deciding between a Muay Thai or Kickboxing or taking up another martial art, one of the most important thing to consider is the instructor's expertise. To truly excel in kickboxing or Muay Thai,  it's crucial to go for a school that has a top-notch instructor who really knows their stuff. So, when you're on the hunt for the perfect training spot, make sure to put finding a knowledgeable instructor at the top of your checklist.

Finding a Place to Train

If you’re looking for place to train, its a great idea to read reviews on the different dojos in your area. This can give you a good indication of what places have good instructors and options for your personal goals. Most places will offer class schedules on their website so that you can see what each class has to offer. You may be able to try out Muay Thai and kickboxing at the same place, or even take a class that teaches a combination of both. We recommend signing up for a free trial at local dojos in your area so that you can experience the culture of their classes and find the right community for you!

Still unclear about the difference between kickboxing and Muay Thai?

Check out these videos of a kickboxer vs a Nak Muay.