Most people think that kickboxing and Muay Thai are the same, which exactly isn’t true. While both sports are similar, the two are different enough for you to not to confuse them with each other.


Muay Thai

For starters, Muay Thai is, at least, a thousand years old. It’s believed to have developed first in Thailand and is deeply rooted in the ancient boxing called muay boran, which was were taught to soldiers just in case they were disarmed.

Over the years, Muay Thai grow into a form of combat sport, with public matches dating as far back as a few hundred years ago. It also become art of choice for self-defense among Thai citizens and soldiers.

The 1800s and 1900s saw the significance boost of popularity of Muay Thai, all thanks to Thai royalty which modernized the arrange of matches and ultimately, how Muay Thai was taught.


Kickboxing was developed a little recently, somewhere around the 1960s and 1970s.

It’s basically a general term for all Indochinese fighting systems, Muay Thai included, and that the sport itself actually branched out from these systems. Though, when people talk about “kickboxing”, it’s usually the westernized version, or the one that became popular in North America.

Originally, the sport was referred to as “full contact karate”, because it first started with a group of Japanese martial artists studying Muay Thai and other related systems back in the 60s.

What really adds to the confusion between “kickboxing” and “Muay Thai” isn’t that the latter basically came from the former, but rather, Muay Thai fighters often participate in kickboxing matches, which, by the way, carry a different set of rules.

Main Differences

  • Muay Thai is has an “eight-point” pointing system, while kickboxing only has four. This is because Muay Thai fighters can use their fists, feet, knees and elbows (a total of eight), while kickboxers are allowed to use only their fists and feet.
  • Clinching and grappling are also handled very differently in both sports. In Muay Thai, grappling and clinching are part of the sport. However, in kickboxing, grappling is not allowed and referees will break up any clinching.
  • In Muay Thai, fighters are allowed to throw kicks below the waist. Though, groin attacks are obviously still strictly forbidden. In kickboxing, any attack below the waist is prohibited, just like in Western Boxing.
  • Muay Thai is often touted as the better form of combat sport of the two and is often said to be a more practical form of self-defense since it teaches you to use just about every inch of your body. However, it is worth noting that kickboxing is rarely taught as a means of protection and is usually only taught as a combat sport.

Now, there you have it, the key differences between Muay Thai and kickboxing.

So, the next time you’re deciding whether you’re looking for a kickboxing school or a Muay Thai school, you know what exactly you’re getting from either one of them.