Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: which style is more effective?

Muay Thai vs kickboxing: some people consider it to be the same - or a very similar - martial art. Nothing can be further from the truth. I will explain to you why I hold this opinion and then compare both styles to demonstrate why they are different and which one is more effective in a real fight.
To be perfectly clear: I'm not writing here about Dutch style Kickboxing, which is far more capable striking style, but about an old school of American Kickboxing style based on Karate.

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing: 8 things that make them different

Let's start with similarities:

In both sports, you use your fists for punching and your legs for kicking and...that's about it.

OK, I am simplifying a bit but these two martial arts don't have as much in common as you would expect. American Kickboxing is in many ways more similar to Karate than to Muaythai, some people even refer to it as "Karate with boxing gloves". Both styles meet halfway in K1/Glory formula which is dominated by Dutch Style Kickboxing.

Let's check what the differences are:

  • First and foremost: there is No clinch game and no neck wrestling in Kickboxing. This greatly reduces possible ways of hurting or finishing your opponent in a close combat situation. Clinch techniques give you a chance to strike with your elbows, to strike with your knees or to throw your opponent on the ground.
  • Which brings me to a point no 2: kickboxing doesn't allow and doesn't employ short range techniques. That means no powerful knee strikes, no smashing elbows, no techniques to control your opponent's posture or ways of grabbing his neck or a head, no leg sweeps also.
  • #3 Kickboxing underutilize leg kicks. Leg kicks are a great way of wearing your opponent down and crippling his movement and abilities to kick back. It makes him less agile and it slows him down. That is why it is used so often by Thai fighters.

K1 federation introduced a cross version of kickboxing and Muay Thai in which leg kicks are more often used and knee strikes are allowed. No clinch work or elbow attacks are permitted thought.

  • #4 More versatile striking. Apart from leg kicks Muay Thai utilize push kicks, a more powerful high kick - a round kick - and other kicks which are unavailable in kickboxer's arsenal.
  • #5 Muay Thai employs different punching techniques and special strikes like the Superman Punch. The situation is more complicated here since modern hybrid Muay Thai heavily utilizes Western Boxing punching techniques and same goes to Kickboxing more or less. You can analyze it by watching K1 fights between Thai fighters and Western kickboxers.
  • #6 All >Muay Thai kicks are delivered with a shin, which makes them more powerful and decreases a risk of an injury for a kicker. Kickboxers kick with a foot, which gives them a slight reach advantage but may cause a foot injury. This may happen when the opponent checks the kick with his shin or a knee. A foot may also suffer when hitting a hard bone - like pelvis - in the opponent's body.
  • #7 Different stance. Muay Thai stance is lighter, with less pressure on a front foot. This allows the fighter to stand more firm on the ground and be less vulnerable to sweeps.
  • #8 Footwork: Muay Thai fighter is rather walking and 'sliding' than 'jumping' like an old school kickboxer. This makes Thai stance more stable and the fighter is less prone to be knocked down by a push kick or swept down by a leg kick.

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