Muay Thai vs Kick Boxing: What Makes An Excellent Discipline For MMA?

(Last Updated On: August 2, 2019)

Is there really a difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing?  Many people have often mistaken “kickboxing” and Muay Thai as two interchangeable disciplines.  A closer look, however, will tell you that though there are shared techniques and fighting styles, execution and certain rules vary depending on the sport, the competition and fighter’s fighting skills.  Between these two disciplines, however, which will make an excellent training platform for MMA?



Let’s begin with kickboxing.  A catch-all term for any type of combat sport showcasing kicking and boxing or punching, kickboxing is a competition concocted by American karate fighters particularly actors like Chuck Norris and Joe Lewis, as well as Belgian martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Sporting karate kicks combined with boxing punches, a sort of hybrid combat sport which is a cross between freestyle karate and full-contact kickboxing came to life.

Kickboxing, as the name implies, makes use of both hands and kicks.  Instead of the usual 8 limbs striking technique in Muay Thai, traditional kickboxing only use a 4-point striking system.  There are different styles of kickboxing though.  There’s the popular kickboxing shown greatly in Van Damme, Chuck Norris and Steven Segal movies.  Dutch kickboxing and Chinese Sanshou are also considered styles of kickboxing.

Then, there’s K1 or Glory Kickboxing, a hybrid of Japanese karate styles Kyokushin and Seidokaikan, and one of the most popular kickboxing organizations today.  It is best to note though that rules in K1 competition allows leg and body kicks on top of knee strikes.  Muay Thai also uses kickboxing in its fighting style.  Basically, kickboxing is Muay Thai without the knees, elbows, and full clinch or the technique used in toppling one’s opponent with the aim of a positional reset.  Kickboxing, however, emphasizes more on high kicks and boxing.

Muay Thai


Muay Thai, on the other hand, is a category under the broad concept of “kickboxing”.  As mentioned, it’s kickboxing with the elbows, knees and full clinch.  Though its artistic fighting styles and techniques are largely rooted on Muay Boran and Krabi Krabong, it is best known as the Science of Eight Limbs which means perusing not just 2 or 4 but 8 points of contact during combat.  It focuses on precision movement with the knees, shins, hands and elbows used to deliver bone-crushing strikes.  Every pointed part of the body is basically used as a weapon with the aim of controlling your opponent’s upper body using your knees and elbows.

Often mistaken as a violent sport, Muay Thai also offers a string of psycho-social benefits.  Strongly tied to ethics and traditions, training helps to build character and inner strength.  Respect is afforded to each other when fighting on or off the ring with more focus on building brotherhood, respect, and camaraderie.  In a way, Muay Thai is a more complex, yet complete fighting art than that of kickboxing with the intention of building one’s fighting arsenal with tightrope discipline.

Which Discipline Is Best For MMA?


As the debate on Muay Thai vs Kickboxing heats up on which works best in MMA, so does the number of opinions.  While the effectiveness of kickboxing should not be discounted, there is a strong argument that Muay Thai techniques offer a wider range of combat techniques that add to ones capabilities in the ring.  Wherein kickboxing focuses on mobility, Muay Thai focuses on aggression via repeated yet strategic strikes using every bodily weapon available.  With this concept in mind, it comes as no wonder why many MMA fighters today turn to Muay Thai rather than traditional kickboxing to supplement their fighting skills.