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"Unleashing the Art of Eight Limbs: Exploring the Differences Between Muay Thai & Kickboxing"

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

Muay Thai and kickboxing are two popular combat sports that are often compared and contrasted. While both sports involve striking techniques, they have distinct differences in terms of their rules, techniques, and origins.

Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, originated in Thailand and is known for its use of "the art of eight limbs." This term refers to the use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins, making it a more versatile martial art than kickboxing. Kickboxing, on the other hand, originated in Japan and combines elements of karate, boxing, and other martial arts, focusing primarily on punches and kicks.

One of the key differences between the two sports is the use of elbows and knees in Muay Thai. In kickboxing, strikes are limited to punches and kicks to the body and head, whereas Muay Thai allows for the use of elbows and knees to strike the opponent's body and head. This gives Muay Thai practitioners an advantage in close-range combat and allows for a wider variety of techniques to be used.

Muay Thai also permits strikes to the whole of the body including the legs, back and even the back of the head, however, it is considered a foul to turn your back on an opponent and the Referee will often step in and give a warning or an 8 count to a fighter who turns away from his opponent.

In Muay Thai pushing, pulling the opponent and catching the opponents leg are also permitted but these are all not allowed in kickboxing.

Another major difference is the clinch, which is a technique used to control an opponent's movements and strike them from close range. In Muay Thai, the clinch is an integral part of the sport and is used to deliver powerful knee strikes and elbow strikes. In kickboxing, the clinch is not allowed, which means that fighters are more likely to rely on long-range striking techniques.

Muay Thai also places a greater emphasis on strikes to the legs, particularly low kicks. These strikes can be used to weaken the opponent's mobility and balance, making it more difficult for them to deliver strikes or defend themselves. In kickboxing, leg kicks are used less frequently and are often used as a setup for more powerful strikes to the head or body.

In terms of rules, Muay Thai allows for more clinching, grappling, and striking techniques than kickboxing. Muay Thai matches are also longer than kickboxing matches, typically lasting five rounds of three minutes each. Kickboxing matches, on the other hand, usually last three rounds of three minutes each, although Championship fights can be 10 or more rounds.

Kickboxers will wear long trousers and foot boots but Muay Thai fighters, or "Nak Muay" have bare shins and feet and wear shorts.


Another key difference between the two sports is their training methods. Muay Thai training often involves a lot of conditioning and strength training, as well as sparring and practicing techniques with partners. Kickboxing training focuses more on cardio and endurance training, with less emphasis on grappling and clinching techniques.

Despite their differences, both Muay Thai and kickboxing are highly effective combat sports that require discipline, dedication, and skill. They offer a range of physical and mental benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, increased strength and endurance, and enhanced self-confidence.

So, while Muay Thai and kickboxing share some similarities in terms of striking techniques, they are distinct combat sports with different rules, techniques, and origins. Muay Thai is known for its use of elbows, knees, and clinching techniques, while kickboxing focuses more on punches and kicks. Muay Thai also places a greater emphasis on leg kicks and conditioning, while kickboxing training focuses more on cardio and endurance. Both sports offer a range of physical and mental benefits and are worth exploring for anyone interested in martial arts or combat sports.


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