Is Muay Thai Kickboxing? (Differences Explained)

Two of the most popular forms of martial arts currently are Muay Thai and Kickboxing. Because of the similarities these two forms of combat have, it is common for people to conflate these two sports and see them as the same.

This is not helped by many Muay Thai and Kickboxing fighters crossing into each other’s discipline and sometimes mastering both. A lot of techniques are shared by both discipline and the process of training can look quite similar.

It is clear to see how these two sports get mixed up so often due to all these similarities, however, they are definitely not the same sport and have some key foundational differences that differentiate them from each other.

Is Muay Thai Kickboxing?

This article is going to examine the foundational philosophy of both of these combat styles and then examine what exactly they have in common and what makes them differ.

If you want to find out more about Muay Thai and/or Kickboxing and you want to see which one might be a better fit for you to learn, keep reading to get all the details you will need!

What Are The Fundamentals Of Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is seen as one of the most aggressive forms of martial arts, this is because it has a strong focus on very strong blows that are made using kicks, knees, punches, and even elbows.

A key part of Muay Thai is using incredibly strong kicks that are made with the aim to damage an opponent’s muscles usually in their thighs or calves.

This is done with the aim to make it more difficult for their opponents to maneuver and weaken them for the fight.

There are also very few rules banning certain areas from being hit, for example, using elbows to irritate cuts on an opponent’s face to gain control is allowed.

It is understandable how people perceive this form of combat as so brutal. Like many other forms of martial arts, the aim is to gain control and dominate your opponent while minimizing any damage you take yourself.

While Muay Thai is definitely very offensive, defensive techniques are taught to help take less damage. But keep in mind, the focus is on staying on attack. Muay Thai fighter aim to set up as powerful blows as they can to quickly incapacitate their opponents. 

If you want to train in Muay Thai keep in mind that the training and sparring can be very mentally and physically draining and will likely be very intense. If this does not appeal to you, Muay Thai is likely not the best choice.

What Are The Foundations Of Kickboxing?

As the name suggests, Kickboxing has a lot in common with its more mainstream counterpart; boxing, and because of this it shares many of it techniques as well as fundamental values.

If a Kickboxer were to engage in a regular boxing match, while they may not be fully acquainted, they should be able to adapt quite quickly. The similarities to boxing are what help differentiate Kickboxing from Muay Thai.

What makes Kickboxing different from regular boxing is how it incorporates kicks in combination with punches. It has a very strong focus on footwork and the movement that is needed to maneuver a fight efficiently.

Moving in a fight is very important to Kickboxing with proficient Kickboxers able to move and evade fluidly with relatively little effort. 

What also make Kickboxing unique is the importance placed on head movement as this is a key type of movement to help be an effective Kickboxer.

Kickboxing also includes a lot of different types of strikes with many being unique to this sport often being interpreted as very unconventional. Some of the techniques which make this sport so unique are spin kicks and axe kicks. 

What Makes Muay Thai And Kickboxing Similar?

One of the biggest similarities between Muay Thai and Kickboxing that is not immediately apparent is how much each sport incorporates strategy.

Muay Thai fighters and Kickboxers both have to focus on their step work and movement to set up their own blows and avoid the strikes of their opponents.

And as has been previously mentioned, there is a lot of crossover and similarity between techniques that are taught in both practices, especially considering the fundamental skills. 

Both of these fighting styles are highly regarded and are used by a wide variety of martial artists.

What Makes Muay Thai And Kickboxing Different?

One of the most glaring differences between Muay Thai and Kickboxing is that Muay Thai uses an 8 point striking system that revolves around using elbow and knee strikes in combination with punching and kicking.

Kickboxing, however, only uses a 4 point strike system with just punches and kicks.

Another difference is how differently practitioners will move during fights as well as how they carry out attacks. In Muay Thai fighters are more gradual in their movement waiting for an attacker to make an opening for them to exploit.

These chances usually come in the form of counterattacks. Muay Thai fighters do not need to use head movement nearly as much and do not weave or circle nearly as often as in Kickboxing.

When Kickboxers move there is a much more obvious focus on fluidity and defense. The footwork used in this sport is used with the aim of setting up attacks and less based on countering like in Muay Thai.

Kickboxing tends to teach a wider variety of techniques while Muay Thai relies on more simple strikes. This makes Kickboxing sometimes harder to learn but can make the sport more unpredictable.

Also in Muay Thai, kicks are usually made with the intent to hit with the skin while in Kickboxing kicks can use a variety of parts of the leg.


This guide will have hopefully given you the information you need to differentiate these two styles!

A lot of practitioners of these two styles use the other to improve their technique, but the differences make it easy for people to choose which they would prefer to focus on!

Christopher Anderson
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