Just like Muay Thai fighters, Kickboxers use their hands and feet, but their style however bares a greater resemblance to traditional queensberry rule boxers than nak muay fighters. They sit down on their punches and punch in bunches, often ending their long hand combinations with strong low kicks. Because of this, kickboxers would most likely feel quite comfortable in a pure boxing ring, something you could not usually say about a Muay Thai fighter.
Kickboxers focus more heavily on footwork and movement in general, as you will often see them circling, angling and advancing in and out with fluid ease. While using their head movement to dodge and counter off of misses. In a kickboxing ruleset fight one cannot clinch their opponent and if they do the fight is stopped and reset at range, causing almost constant action. It is also scored in a similar way to boxing, on a 10-9 system where punches are scored highly.
Muay Thai Fundamentals
Muay Thai is a powerful and aggressive art form, where the entire focus is laid on handing out powerful blows, with each technique being thrown at 100% to cause maximum damage. Elbows are thrown to open up cuts on the opponents face, clinching is allowed and used to control the opponent, limiting damage to oneself, and knees are thrown heavily directly to the midsection.
Muay Thai is more of a linear martial art where practitioners move forward and backwards but not as much side to side. Fighters often stand in front of each other, exchanging blows and while the art form is certainly more about damage, defensive tactics are taught. Scoring always effects stance, and in this sport the focus is high on kicks, which are scored higher than punches. So they are in turn thrown more often, leading to a narrower stance where fighters can more easily lift their lead let to 'check' leg kicks.
Main Similarities Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing
Muay Thai and kickboxing both are very strategic, teaching footwork, setups, and other techniques needed in order to evade blows from the opponent and land blows oneself. They also use similar weapons, jab, cross, uppercut, hook and swing kicks. Therefore many of the techniques taught in Muay Thai are similar to the techniques taught in kickboxing, especially the fundamentals. Both sports are striking arts and are proven effective at the highest levels of competition.
Main Differences Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing
The most glaring difference is the difference in ruleset and weapons. Firstly, Muay Thai has a eight-point striking system where they use not only punches and kicks, but also knees and elbows, while also being able to clinch. While Kickboxing has a four-point striking system that teaches only punches and kicks without the ability to clinch.
Another large difference is the fighters movements, since kickboxing uses many traditional boxing techniques. They use much more angles and footwork to control their movements and their opponents. While Muay Thai fighters have a much more aggressive linear attack where moving backwards is a sign of losing. There is also little head movement, weaving and circling, something you would see quite a bit in kickboxing or boxing, because of this Kickboxers tend to be much more fluid and defensive in nature.
A Muay Thai fighters narrow stance can take power off of their strikes by not being able to sit down on their punches, something kickboxers do well because punches are scored much higher in their sport.
Since power is prioritized in Muay Thai, you will not see as many spinning or artistic kicks, as these throw you off balance if you miss. Instead, they keep their feet planted and instead focus on throwing their strikes as hard as they can. Therefore with Kickboxing you will most likely learn a much wider range of artistic kicks.
Lastly, the way in which practitioners of each sport throw kicks can differ. In Kickboxing there is a larger array of kicks that can land with the foot, lower shin and middle shin area. While in Muay Thai, fighters are taught to kick with the middle portion of their shins as they are almost only throwing with maximum power.
If you are looking for a definitive answer to what is the best martial art or what is better Muay Thai or Kickboxing? You most likely have the wrong idea on martial arts and how to implement them. You can practice under one art form, and if you are taught something that works for you from another art form you should use it! It is ignorance to think that a technique does not work just because it is not the martial art you are indoctrinated into.
Therefore one is not better than the other, it is the practitioner and how they implement the techniques! If you can combine the base, hard hitting swing kicks, knees and elbows of Muay Thai with the angles, combination punching and footwork of Kickboxing to make yourself a much harder opponent to fight, then you should.
This is because both Muay Thai and kickboxing are two highly efficient martial arts and arguably the two most applicable striking martial arts around. Though they have key differences, you really can’t go wrong with either one.
If you are looking to give either one a go, don't leave without checking out our shin guards, boxing gloves and head gear to get you fully ready for training. For all else you can check out our shop. If you like this article, you may also like our Ultimate Guide to Striking.