Female Muay Thai fighter bowing in a boxing ring with traditional muay thai garments and boxing gloves

10 Differences Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing

1) Muay Thai allows elbows, clinch (upper body grappling) and leg trapping while kickboxing does not.

2) Kickboxing often refers to any full contact form of fighting with punching and kicking. Practitioners may come from boxing, karate, taekwondo, kung fu, hybrid of styles etc. backgrounds while Muay Thai is a specific Martial Arts style.

3) Muay Thai is very rhythmic art. The “Ram Muay” or “Round Music” is played during a Muay Thai fight and fighter’s rhythm is often in sync to this song. Fighters often look to establish their rhythm before throwing heavy.

4) Kickboxing is often 3 rounds while Muay Thai is often 5 rounds. In kickboxing because of the short number of rounds fighters are often very active right from the beginning while in Muay Thai the first and sometimes second round is often considered to be “feel out” or “warm up” rounds.

5) Kickboxing tends to be very boxing based using active hands, angles/movement and volume combos while Muay Thai tends to be more timing based relying on quick and powerful counters and timing. Kickboxer’s will often throw volume combos while Muay Thai fighters will often look to time single weapons.

6) Muay Thai has a heavy cultural component attached to it. Being the national sport of Thailand, a country with deep Buddhist and spiritual roots, it incorporates a lot of traditions and practices of the culture. Fighters often wear a head piece called a mongkon which is meant to bring the fighters luck and protects them from possible dangers. So the mongkon is a highly spiritual object in Muay Thai. Fighters often do a ceremonial dance before their fight.


Female Muay Thai fighter bowing in a boxing ring with traditional muay thai garments and boxing gloves
Muay Thai fighter performing Wai Kru Dance before fight
2 Muay Thai male fighters fighting in a boxing ring with boxing gloves and traditional Muay Thai Shorts on. One fighter is kicking the other while the other is blocking
2 Fighters Competing in a Muay Thai Match
two kickboxing fighters competing in a boxing ring. The fighter wearing red is executing a kick to the head while the fighter in blue is trying to block it
2 Fighters competing in a Kickboxing Match
Muay Thai fighter in blue elbowing Muay Thai fighter in red in a Muay Thai Boxing Match
A fighter executing an elbow in a Muay Thai fight
Red corner executing an axe kick on the blue corner opponent in a professional kickboxing fight
Fighter executing an axe kick in a kickboxing bout







7) The Muay Thai scoring system is different from the kickboxing scoring system. Kickboxing often works on a point system while Muay Thai is scored by things such as ringmanship, difficulty of technique, power/ amount the strike affected its opponent, balance/technique.

8) Techniques in Muay Thai are often executed differently from kickboxing e.g. a Muay Thai kick comes from turning the hip and connecting with the shin bone while various forms of kickboxing often “snap” the knee to throw their kick and often connect on the foot. The predominant kicks in Muay Thai are a “Thai Swing Kick” and a “Teep Push Kick”, however various forms of kickboxing often incorporate spinning kicks. Axe kicks, etc.

9) Muay Thai was developed from Muay Boran which is a traditional unarmed combat that was used in war. Muay Thai was developed in approximately 1930’s as a ring sport which is when modern style equipment was introduced and rules were changed to promote safety of athletes.

10) Muay Thai fighters wear traditional “Muay Thai shorts” while competing whereas kickboxers will often wear long pants, tights, Kimono (gi) pants, “Muay Thai shorts”, or “MMA Shorts”.

While Muay Thai is similar to kickboxing to the naked eye, as you can see by the points listed above the 2 sports are quite different. At Lanna MMA we have a hybrid style of striking which incorporates which is based in Muay Thai but incorporate elements of boxing and kickboxing. K1 or Dutch kickboxing has become very popular lately which is a hybrid between kickboxing and Muay Thai. While the full Muay Thai arsenal is not allowed to be used (no elbows, no trapping kicks and striking back, no sweeps in the clinch, only 1 strike from the clinch, 3 rounds) they have modified the rules to allow knees, low kicks, and one strike from the clinch. Several famous Muay Thai fighters such as Saenchai, Buakaw, Georgio Petrosyan, John Wayne Parr and Sittichai Sitsongpeenong have began crossing over to K-1 rules due to its popularity and similarities between K-1 and Muay Thai often allow for a smooth transition.

If you interested in seeing an example of the difference between the 2 styles of striking, make sure to check out the legendary fight between Rick Roufus, consisdered by many to be the great American Kickboxer vs Cahngpuek Kiatsongrit, one of the first Muay Thai fighters to go abroad and show the effectiveness of Muay Thai in an international setting: CLICK HERE TO WATCH

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