Kickboxing vs Muay Thai: The Real Differences

There is two martial art technique that’s getting a lot of popularity these days, and those martial techniques are Kickboxing and Muay Thai. Many people believe that muay Thai & kickboxing are much the same. But here’s the Kickboxing vs Muay Thai story.

While many people think that Kickboxing and Muay Thai are very similar, but in terms of technique and fighting styles, they are completely different in many terms.

And there are lots of successful mixed martial arts fighters who participate in both martial art techniques.

Even though they have a lot of similarities, but they are quite different in many aspects including fighting styles and the techniques they used. But the differences are more than the similarities.

And, their difference can’t be stressed enough through their definitions. There is a big thing between Kickboxing vs Muay Thai.

What is Kickboxing?

Kickboxing is basically any sport that includes the use of kicks and hands in a full-contact environment.

Kickboxing offers many same fundamentals and techniques as pure boxing use. In fact, a good kickboxer would feel very comfortable in the boxing ring fighting with a pure boxer under regular boxing rules.

While doing kickbox, the kickboxer will need to have a good head movement to avoid getting a knockout shot.

If we look very closely at the history of kickboxing we will find that muay Thai played a role in the influence and foundation of many of the kickboxing styles (we can call them kickbox muay Thai).

what is muay Thai?

Muay Thai is described best as a fast, brutal combat sport from originally Thailand. It’s mostly used as stand-up striking mixed with different clinching techniques. And it’s also known as Thai boxing or Thai kickboxing or kickboxing thai.

Muay Thai is known as the Art of Eight Limbs because the fighters or muay Thai kickboxers may use eight contact points – kicks, knees, elbows, and punches.

muay thai stance

The best fighters can place kicks right to the opponent’s head with pure accuracy and can leave the opponent pretty bloody wounds and scars.

Muay Thai teaches plenty of defensive tactics, but the real deal is the offense.

Muay Thai fighters need to set up powerful, finishing blows to quickly get rid of an opponent.

So, in broad terms, Muay Thai fits under the category of kickboxing but there are lots of differences between kickboxing and muay Thai,

which are discussed in this article.

The Real Differences between Kickboxing and Muay Thai? Kickboxing vs Muay Thai


As already noted, both two martial arts seem very same, and admittedly so,

many of the techniques used during kickbox and muay Thai training are very common.

Both these arts are very strategic – they both teach footwork, setups, and other techniques to avoid powerful blows from the opponent. You definitely want to be the one who blows the powerful blows to your opponents.

This can be understandable, but there are lots of strikes you can’t compare at any point.

The most common difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing is that while muay Thai is an 8-point striking system involving the use of not only punches and kicks, but also makes use of elbows, knees, and upper body grappling (full clinch) and the other hand kickboxing is a 4-point striking system that involves only kicks and punches.

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1. Moves and Attacks

This is one of the first differences between Muay Thai and kickboxing, the difference between moves and attacks.

Muay Thai: In a Muay Thai fight, they stay patient until they watch an opening opportunity from their opponent’s strikes, then they only move forward with their aggressively advanced strikes.

This opportunity comes after the opponent’s first strike as a counter-attack, to slay the opponent down. A counter-attack is a very important move in muay Thai, it’s basically the fundamental part of muay Thai. In Muay Thai you will not see much head movement, circling, and weaving as kickboxing.

Kickboxing: kickboxing is mostly the use of hands and legs with a lot of head movements, circling and weaving around their opponents to defense from their next strike.

yes, kickboxers are generally a bit more fluid and defensive with their movement during the fight compared to muay Thai fighters.

Kickboxers utilize a volume of combos whereas Muay Thai fighters prefer a timed single weapon.

In simple words, the kickboxing fighters use footwork angles and a little more to set up attacks instead of relying on well-coordinated and aggressive forward motion and counter-attacks as seen in Muay Thai.

kickboxers use the footwork and the angle movements a lot in their fights. But that does not mean Muay Thai fighters don’t use footwork and angles.

2. Kickboxing & Muay Thai Stances

Although the stance basically differs from fighter to fighter in both combat sports. There are some major differences between kickboxing and muay Thai fighter’s stance.

Kickboxing: In kickbox, a fighter has to through the powerful volume of punches, and also at the same time they have to protect themselves from the opponent’s strikes, so their hand always sticks with their ribs. It helps them protect from powerful body shots and doing box more easily.

Usually, they don’t use their elbows as a guard or to attack because there are no elbows under kickboxing rules.


Muay Thai: On the other hand the muay Thai fighters stance their elbows out to through their elbows as effectively as they can and their front leg stands a little up for blocking kicks, and their back leg supports their full weight.

3. Balance During Fight

This is one of the differences between Muay Thai & kickboxing, the balance while throwing their brutal strikes.

One of the moves during a fight is the kicks, and it also differs a little bit.

Because both of them strikes very hard with their leg. In some matches, fighters miss some strikes, which can be hard in a match if a fighter loses a shot.

Basically, if a muay Thai fighter misses a powerful strike it won’t affect the balance of the fighter, But if a kickboxer misses a strike he/she will be off-balanced from his/her stance.

In kickboxing, they throw very wide-ranged strikes which are quite difficult to pull off, and can easily cloud throw the kickboxers off-balance when they miss.

4. Boxing Skills

It’s accurate to say that kickboxing is very influenced by western boxing, specifically the K1/Dutch variety boxing.

If we take a good kickboxer/k1 fighter they can compete in a ring with a pure boxer, but in Muay Thai the fighters are typically less trained in the art of pure boxing.

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If we watch a kickboxing fight we will see the fighter will use a heavy amount of use of hands with kicks(sometimes a lot more than the kicks).

But in traditional muay Thai they feature far more kicking, clinch, forward knees, and elbows. But in kickboxing they don’t have to worry about these heavy strikes, so they can easily focus on using only hands and power kicks.

5. Kicking Techniques.

There is a lot of differences between the kicks of both martial arts. The muay Thai fighters usually shoot their kicks from the foot or with the lower shin. But in kickboxing, they use their whole leg to shoot their powerful kicks, like upper shin, medium shin, lower shin. There is a wide range of kicks used in kickboxing.

While kicking the muay Thai fighters rotate their hips to make the kick more effective, but in kickboxing, they don’t use that much hip rotating like muay Thai fighters.

6. Kicking Rules of Kickboxing vs Muay Thai

There are several different kicking rules between both sports.

In muay Thai, powerful strikes and shin kicks are allowed below the waist but they avoid kicking on the groin area because of sportsmanship.

In Kickboxing, fighters are allowed to apply a broad range of kicks including using their feet, but the fighters are completely not allowed to kick below the waist.

The Final Words

Kickboxing and Muay Thai both are two completely different martial arts. While there is a lot of crossover between the two, they are not the same at all.

They both have their own kind of styles, movements, and all of that things.


What is better in street fighting Muay Thai or kickboxing?

Muay Thai is more effective in the street because of the deadly techniques they use, and they have a lot of weapons to use in a street fight.

Which is More Effective For Self Defense?

Both are good for self-defense but Muay Thai gets a lot of advantage in self-defense because the fighter gets additional ways to attack which kickboxing doesn’t.

Do Muay Thai kicks are powerful than kickboxing kicks?

The karate kicks using in kickboxing are not effective as the Muay Thai kicks.

Is Muay Thai Dangerous?

In short Yes, Muay Thai is dangerous. As with all competitive contact sports, there is a health risk involved. The keyword in this situation is “competitive”. In Muay Thai ring fights between professional fighters can be very brutal and bloody with sharp elbows, strikes, flying knees, hard kicks to the guts, and swinging heavy punches.
As far as fighting sports go muay Thai will be the hardcore level of ports.

Which is more dangerous boxing or Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is safe in comparison to boxing, because they have more targets, so you’ll get less hit in the head. Also, extended clinching being permitted in Muay Thai means you can avoid a lot of head damage compared to boxing.

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