How Is Muay Thai Different From Kickboxing?

Despite having almost the same recognition level and popularity, Muay Thai and kickboxing are different martial art forms. The average person can have a tough time noticing the difference between the two. The notion is understandable because the disciplines have similar striking moves and techniques.

Especially nowadays, every MMA fighter has a background in Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and Muay Thai and combines every skill to become the best that ever stepped into the octagon. Still, there are a lot of striking differences between the two that need to be mentioned. 

For that reason, our article will settle the score once and for all and explain how is Muay Thai different from kickboxing. Our breakdown will take a closer look at each martial art form, the similarities between the two, and explain where they differ.

How Is Muay Thai Different From Kickboxing? 

Muay Thai and Kickboxing Differences

The difference between the two disciples can be easily noticed after watching a couple of fights from each sport. The biggest difference between them is the striking system. Muay Thai uses an eight-point striking procedure, which is why it is often referred to as the “art of eight limbs”. On the other hand, kickboxing uses a four-point system

This means that kickboxers can only target four limbs with punches and kicks, while Thai boxers have eight limbs available for striking and implementing severe damage. 

The clinch work is another distinction between Muay Thai and kickboxing. Thai fighters use their elbows and knees, which allow them to strike from a preferable distance. Kickboxers also have many forms for landing strikes in the clinch. 

Thailand’s most popular martial art forms, Muay Thai and kickboxing, share the rules and a small portion of the striking techniques, but they are very much different. 

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The Principles Of Muay Thai 

This martial art form is quite aggressive and focuses on powerful kicks, punches, blows, and elbows. Thai boxers use leg kicks to produce a lot of energy and damage the opponent’s thigh and calf muscles. 

Regarding the upper body, the elbows are open and can produce many cuts. The defensive stance in the match helps control the fight and limits the amount of damage your body will receive

Being a Muay Thai fighter requires overcoming plenty of physical and mental challenges. The sport is almost full-contact, and you never know from where the next attack will come. 

The Principles Of Kickboxing 


Before we go any further, please do not picture Jean Claude Van Damme as the master of kickboxing. This martial art form is similar to boxing and utilizes the same fundamentals and techniques

In fact, under regular boxing rules, a kickboxer would be fine stepping into the ring, which is something that we cannot really say about Thai fighters. 

Kickboxing is a discipline that puts a lot of emphasis on footwork and movement in general. The profession tends to incorporate various attacks like axe and spin kicks. 

Muay Thai Vs. Kickboxing 

Muay Thai Vs Kickboxing

Similarities Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing 

There is a reason why people think that these two disciplines are the same thing. Muay Thai and kickboxing share a lot of similarities, and they both are very strategic. 

The forms teach the same footwork, techniques, and setup. Additionally, in both sports, they implement hard kicks and blows on the opponent. Lastly, fighters with Muay Thai and kickboxing backgrounds have managed to compete at the highest levels of competition. 

Differences Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing

As we briefly mentioned, the striking system is the number one difference between the two sports. Muay Thai uses eight points and involves striking with knees and elbows, whereas kickboxing utilizes a four-point striking system with punches and kicks. Other differences are:

  • Boxing skills
  • Kicks and blocks
  • Footwork

Let’s elaborate on the differences in a little more detail. 

Boxing skills

Throwing boxing combinations is a trait of kickboxers. Just as the name of the sport suggests, there are a lot of similarities between boxing and kickboxing, especially in the upper body, like the punching angles and head movement.

Muay Thai fighters have less technical boxing techniques and more often use their legs for kicking. This does not mean Thai boxers have bad punching skills, just that they prefer kicks over punches. In Muay Thai, the fighters block the strikes and wait for a leg counterattack. 

Kicks and blocks 

Throwing strikes and doing damage is where the two martial art forms differ the most. The kicks in Muay Thai are very different from those in kickboxing. The difference lies in the throwing and landing.

In Muay Thai, the fighters use their kicks as their primary weapon. They attach the shin and the tibia. 

On the other hand, kickboxers can keep their leg loose and bend their knee when throwing a kick. The power in these types of kicks is through the roof, just like hitting someone with a baseball bat.


There is a distinction in the footwork and the overall movement as well. Thai fighters are much more patient and calm when attacking and defending. There is no chance you will see a Thai boxer dancing around the ring. 

Kickboxers are like boxers and need to be light on their feet – “Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”. They move side to side to create a perfect striking angle. 

Additionally, kickboxers move their head and protect their chin to avoid a strike, while Thai boxers take the punches on the guard. 

Which Martial Art Is Better For MMA?

How is Muay Thai different from kickboxing? Which martial art form would get you closer to the UFC octagon? 

Experienced fighters choose Muay Thai for MMA because the sport focuses more on the clinch work. In today’s modern-day era, grabbing and striking the opponent from a close distance is very popular. MMA fighters with strong knees can use the clinch to come out victorious. 

Wrapping Things Up About Muay Thai Vs. Kickboxing

How is Muay Thai different from kickboxing? The main difference is in the striking system. The fighters from both sports have different boxing techniques and foot movements. Muay Thai and kickboxing are separate sports with varying paces of fighting.

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