Muay Thai vs. Kickboxing: What are the Differences?

A lot of people believe that Muay Thai and Kickboxing are the same, with respect to styles in fighting and technique used. But there are disparities between the two sports in many ways. Even if there are common techniques shared by kickboxing and Muay Thai, there is a variation in applying the methods and fighter as well.

In general terms, Muay Thai falls into the category of kickboxing though there are lots of differences than the similarities. People describe Muay Thai as a kind of kickboxing using knees and elbows.

Depending on the personal background in martial arts and whether she or he train Kickboxing or Muay Thai, it is vital to know what makes these sports exceptional. You will learn more about these sports by having a proper understanding of the differences between the two.

You may find that your existing style of fighting leans more towards Muay Thai than Kickboxing or vice versa, and that is good, provided the fact that you are aware of what you’re doing.

It is vital to understand that every Kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter has his own style- it doesn’t matter if it is Traditional Muay Thai or Kickboxing or more of one than the other. This article will be going to review each sport to help you determine the differences.

Muay Thai Basics


Muay Thai is a relatively aggressive form of martial art with its whole concentration being laid in dealing with strong blows, using elbows, punches, kicks as well as knees.

It also takes account of strong leg kicks intended to hurt or harm the muscle of the opponents and to make it hard for them to move.

Elbows are utilized to hurt or damage the face of the opponents. Clinch, on the other hand, is used to controlling a fight and at the same time limit the injure you take. The elbows and knees are often used in close quarters.

Muay Thai teaches lots of defensive techniques. But, in reality, it should be more on offense. Muay Thai fighters depend on setting up strong, fight finishing blows to dispatch an enemy to fast. Muay Thai training is usually intense as well as feature close-full contact sparring, resulting in mental and physical toughness.

Kickboxing Basics

Kickboxing teaches a lot of similar fundamentals and tactics, as pure boxing sport does. A great kickboxer would probably feel at ease inside a ring fighting under usual boxing regulations.

Kickboxing also includes punches and kicks common in Muay Thai. Kickboxing also puts emphasis on the movement of the feet in general. You will see kickboxers turning and advancing in and out with ease.

The movement of the head is also a basic of kickboxing and is likely to integrate an extremely extensive array of strikes, sometimes verging into blows that are virtually unusual like spin kicks and axe kicks and many others.

Kickboxing vs. Muay Thai: The Similarities


Both sports, aside from being strategic, also teach fighter the right movement of the foot, proper setups, and other tactics required to evade punches from the enemy.

Likewise, a lot of methods taught in Kickboxing are the same as the methods taught in Muay Thai, most particularly the basics or fundamentals. Kickboxing and Muay Thai are considered excellent striking sports. Both have been efficient at the highest level of competition many times.

Kickboxing and Muay Thai: What are the Differences?

Striking System

The first and perhaps the most apparent disparities are that in Muay Thai, there is an 8-striking system. This takes account of elbows striking, knee striking, punches and kicks, while kickboxing there is only four striking systems that teach only kicks and punches.

Movement and Attack

Another obvious difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing is how the fighter moves and attacks the opponents. Muay Thai fighters were moving primarily forward, and they will be taught to wait for a perfect time until the enemy gives them an opening, then forcefully move forward and hits.

The opening usually comes after an opponent has thrown a punch, and counter-attack is a basic part of Muay Thai. Also, there is a bit movement of the head, turning and weaving like you’ll see in kickboxing and boxing as well.

With Kickboxing, the movement of kickboxers is a bit fluid and defensive, which is different from Muay Thai fighter. Kickboxer will make use of his footwork, and he will also angle a bit to make an attack instead of depending on the counter-attack and aggressive forward motion.

That is not to say that footwork is not common in Muay Thai. However, you can tell it is only a bit more famous in kickboxing.


There is also a difference in the kinds of strikes in Kickboxing and Muay Thai. There are extremely few exotic or artistic hits taught in Muay Thai. Rather, Muay Thai prefers powerful and simple hits that do not throw you off balance as much once the strikes miss.

On the other hand, with kickboxing, you’ll learn a wide array of hits and strikes. Some taught in this sport might be harder to do well and might throw off fighter’s balance once they miss.

But they put into a kickboxer’s arsenal and can be efficient once the enemy is not anticipating them.

Scoring System

There is also a difference in the scoring system. Kickboxing works on a point system while Muay Thai is the score by ringmanship, technique difficulty, power, number of hits affected its enemy, balance as well as the method used.


Muay Thai is composed of five rounds, while Kickboxing has only three rounds. In kickboxing due to the short rounds, fighters are often extremely active right from the bell rang. In Muay Thai, however, the first and second rounds are considered warm up or feel out rounds.


Another factor that differentiates Muay Thai from Kickboxing is the regulations used to the sports. In kickboxing, regulations can differ a bit from promotion to promotion. On the other hand, in Muay Thai, regulations stay largely the same in all organizations.

Music and Culture

Muay Thai has a remarkable amount of customs and traditions behind it, and it is very obvious in how the fight or the show is structured and planned.

Usually, there is a lot of admiration and value between the fighters and wait to each other prior and after the fight. They often walk into the right with a mongkol on the head as well as prajioud wrapped on the arms. The fighter will perform wai kru ram mua as a respect to the trainers and to the gym as well.

Typically, this custom is not witnessed in kickboxing fight unless the combatant made the transition from Muay Thai. Even then, it will just be the combatant wearing only the mongkol strolling into the right.

They are not allowed to perform wao kru ram muay.

During the Muay Thai brawl, there is a customary music background to make the fight more intense, and there may even be someone with a mic announcing and commenting on the brawl out loud. It could get pretty loud with those actions taking place and with the trainers and spectators screaming and shouting.

On the other hand, a lot of kickboxing fights are relatively quiet with the anticipation of the cornering, which is happening.

Last but not least, the way wherein Kickboxers and Muay Thai fighters throw kick also different. It is extremely uncommon to kick with the lower shin in the sport of Muay Thai.

Rather, the fighter is taught to strike blows using the middle portion of the shin. On the other hand, with kickboxing, there is an extensive array of kicks which land utilizing the lower shin, foot as well as the middle shin.

To Sum Up

Time and again, Muay Thai is seen as a more comprehensive type of martial art. This is because it integrates the knee strikes, elbow strikes as well as clinch, which cannot be seen in kickboxing. On the other hand, you gain more techniques by being taught in kickboxing and Muay Thai.

Fighters in Muay Thai can utilize kickboxing to boost foot movement as well as know some more techniques and skills taught in conventional boxing sports.

Also, they can utilize kickboxing to put on a broader array of more complicated blows to their arsenal that can be utilized to overwhelming effects in the appropriate scenario.

On the other hand, a kickboxer training the techniques of Muay Thai would gain from aggressive nature and counter-attacks of Muay Thai.

They will learn how to put destructive power behind their punches as well as how to be efficient from using knees and elbows as well as clinch to harm the enemy in close quarters.

In general, both kickboxing and Muay Thai are an extremely effective form of martial arts- without a doubt, two of the most striking martial arts today. Even if they have key differences, you will never go wrong with kickboxing and Muay Thai.

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