Kickboxing has undergone a resurgence over the past few years through kickboxing fitness classes, and the rise of Mixed Martial Arts amongst the mainstream audience. Whether you are looking to utilize kickboxing as a means of exercise, or you are serious about kickboxing training and looking to compete in the sport, it is important to know and understand the different styles and origins of kickboxing. The two most popular styles are Muay Thai and American Kickboxing.

We spoke with Coachup Kickboxing trainer Sunshine F. to learn some of the main differences between American Kickboxing and Muay Thai. “When I think of American kickboxing, I think of the guys wearing the long kickboxing pants and the foam kickboxing boots on their feet.” She went on to discuss some of the fundamental facets of American Kickboxing. “Technique wise, knees and elbows are not allowed. In American kickboxing you can kick only above the waist, so no leg kicks allowed. The hand combinations thrown resemble western boxing.” American Kickboxing is more of a variation on boxing, that allows for the use of kicks, but only above the hip. Sunshine stated that, “This style of fight was popular in the 1970, 80s and early 90’s in the US. It is rarely seen anymore, as Muay Thai and MMA has become very popular in this country.”

After discussing American Kickboxing, Sunshine revealed some of the differences found in Muay Thai that she has learned through her Kickboxing training experience as both a fighter and coach. “In Muay Thai, kicks are allowed to the legs, body and head. Fighters can clinch. In the clinch a fighter can execute elbows, knees and certain throws or “off balancing” techniques. The punches thrown are less refined than western boxing.” While the origins of Muay Thai are rooted in self-defense and discipline, in competition, fighters are able to use a wider variety of striking methods to defeat their opponents. Additionally, Sunshine expressed the difference in scoring. “The scoring of a bout is very different in each style. Simply put, elbows score the highest, then knees, then kicks. Punches are worth the least in the scoring of a bout.” Based on the fact that punches yield lower scores in Muay Thai, it appears that one of the most fundamental differences between American Kickboxing and Muay Thai is the way in which hand striking is incorporated into a fighters repertoire.

Understanding the fundamental differences in fighting styles is imperative to determining which type of discipline you which to pursue. Muay Thai and American Kickboxing are just a few of the Kickboxing training styles available to those looking to take part in combat sports. Be sure to research a more comprehensive list of styles before embarking on Kickboxing training.