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What Is The Difference Between Muay Thai And Kickboxing/K1

What Is The Difference Between Muay Thai And Kickboxing/K1

There are a lot of similarities between Muay Thai and Kickboxing which can sometimes make it hard to distinguish between the two arts. There are many techniques that will crossover between Muay Thai and Kickboxing but there are definitely more differences than similarities between the two.

What Is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai (pronounced Moo-aye Thai) literally means Thai boxing.

Muay Thai is a Martial Art that has been refined over centuries of practice and is the national sport of Thailand. There are stadiums all over the country where fighters compete regularly using punches, kicks, knees and elbows which is how Muay Thai gets the name ‘The Art Of 8 Limbs’.

Muay Thai made its way into the mainstream globally in the Seventies and Eighties, with several International fighters making the trip to challenge the Thai champions.

What Is Kickboxing/K1?

Kickboxing’s roots can be traced back over hundreds of years but the actual term ‘Kickboxing’ was derived in Japan in the 1960’s with modern day Kickboxing as we know it being a hybrid mix of Karate, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and Savate.

As Kickboxing as a sport found traction globally numerous different styles can be seen today. Some of the more well known include Japanese Kickboxing, Dutch Kickboxing and American Kickboxing.

Much like Muay Thai, Kickboxing utilises kicks, punches and knees in flowing combination to inflict damage to the opponent. On the face of it the two sports seem the same, but the similarity ends there..

The Differences Between Muay Thai and Kickboxing/K1

Strikes Allowed

This is where the main differences between the two disciplines can be noticed.

Muay Thai is known as ‘The Art Of 8 Limbs’, this is because Muay Thai utilizes kicks, knees, punches and elbows, whereas, Kickboxing/K1 is heavily reliant on punch combinations often ending with kicks. Knees can also be utilized in K1 matches but they are less frequently.

Clinch & Sweeps

Here is again where the two sports differ. The clinch in Muay Thai is a huge aspect of the sport, fighters will be allowed to work in the clinch throwing knees and elbows until the referee deems the clinch to be ‘inactive’. Conversely, in K1 competition only 1 strike is allowed to be thrown before the referee will break up the clinch.

Sweeps in Muay Thai are also score big in the Judges eyes as on fighter will dump the other to the ground after catching a kick, catching a knee or by off-balancing their opponent from the clinch position. Sweeps/takedowns in K1 are not allowed.


In Muay Thai fights in Thailand fights are scored by the Judges who will decide on the winner based on the whole fight rather than round by round. The first 2 rounds are often not really scored by the judges unless the fight is one sided, these opening rounds are usually a ‘feeling out process’ where the fighters start slowly.

In Western Muay Thai fights are often scored round by round using a 10 point must system, this is dependent on the promotion and governing body.

In Kickboxing the number of rounds can vary but fights are generally scored using a round by round 10 point must system.

In terms of how fights are scored the two sports are very different. In Muay Thai, punches and low kicks don’t tend to score very highly in the Judges eyes. In Muay Thai, effective body kicks, knees, elbows and balance/control are considered high scoring in the eyes of the Judges.

In K1/kickboxing, all kicks and punches score in the eyes of the Judges with the fighter landing the more clean and damaging shots being awarded the round.


There you have it, this article should have given you a good guide to the differences between Muay Thai and K1/Kickboxing.

If you would like to see more, here is a great YouTube video by Laurence Kenshin breaking down the fight that changed history between Rick Roufus vs Kiatsongrit where we can see Kickboxing and Muay Thai go head to head!

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