Muay Thai vs Kickboxing - What’s The Difference Between The Two And Which Should You Choose?

Either Saturday's UFC event just ended and you’re feeling pumped and ready to shadowbox like Mystic Mac himself, or you’ve been thinking about finally joining that MMA gym that offers Kickboxing and Muay Thai classes, but you’re quite not sure whether you should start with Kickboxing or Muay Thai. Not to worry! We’ve set up this quick guide discussing the advantages and disadvantages of Kickboxing and Muay Thai to help you narrow your choice.

Before we get into the details of which martial art is right for you, we strongly encourage you to sign up for both classes and figure out which one appeals to you the most. Kickboxing and Muay Thai offer incredible workouts that are sure to shed fat and build mental discipline.

Enough blabbering, let’s dive in!

What’s The Difference Between Kickboxing And Muay Thai?

The short answer to this question: Kickboxing is boxing with kicks added to your striking arsenal, and Muay Thai adds kicks, elbows, knees and sweeps (a sweep is the maneuver of tripping your opponent to the ground).

The long answer: Kickboxing and Muay Thai are almost similar with differentiating styles and tactics involved. If you’ve ever seen a boxing match, you’ll notice that instead of both opponents charging at each other and trying to take each other’s heads off, they’re tactically picking their strikes in order to win points, unless the knockout opportunity presents itself. Kickboxing is pretty similar with the only difference being that there’s more active use of angles, positioning, and precise strikes. When comparing Muay Thai and Kickboxing, Kickboxing is a more technical striking art.

Muay Thai, on the other hand, adds a new set of tools not available in Kickboxing. Muay Thai practitioners and fighters learn how to throw and set up combinations using their hands, feet, elbows, knees and clinches. You’re provided with additional strikes to allow you to be as creative as you want during a fight. Muay Thai practitioners are traditionally more aggressive in their striking and execution of their gameplan.

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So Is Muay Thai The Same As Kickboxing?

Definitely not. While they share similarities, they’re vastly different in both approach and style of striking. Sharing from experience, facing a Kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter are totally different vibes and your gameplan changes drastically as they pose differing threats that can easily punish you if you’re not familiar with the martial art.

Should I Do Muay Thai Or Kickboxing For Self Defense?

Choosing between taking Muay Thai and Kickboxing classes really depends on what your fitness and personal goals are. Kickboxing classes (commonly referred to as Cardio Kickboxing classes) are offered primarily as a class that focuses on cardio and intensity. The main goal your new Kickboxing coaches will have is to tire you out and ensure you have a killer workout.

Muay Thai classes, on the other hand, focus more on technique first, then practical application. Depending on the gym you attend, you won’t be thrown into the class and be expected to start throwing Thai kicks with full power on day one. Your instructor will be focusing on showing you the basic fundamentals of striking, including throwing your jabs and crosses, hooks, Thai roundhouse kicks, knees and elbows.

Now how do you determine which is right for you? If your goal is simply to cut some weight and hit something with no real emphasis on developing as a martial artist, then a standard Cardio Kickboxing class is the best option for you. If you are determined to grow as a martial artist and are willing to take the time to learn the fundamentals with proper form, we would recommend you join a Muay Thai class, or find a dedicated Kickboxing gym that has a reputation for developing competitive students.

Is Kickboxing And Muay Thai A Good Combination?

Absolutely! Now knowing that these two martial arts consist of vastly different skill sets, having an understanding of both would elevate your skills even more as a martial artist. By learning both Kickboxing and Muay Thai, you’re developing an understanding of the technical style in Kickboxing while being able to apply the vastly aggressive techniques in Muay Thai which makes for a killer duo. Imagine in a self defense scenario if you had both Kickboxing and Muay Thai in your arsenal - no one’s messing with you ever again!

How To Get Started In Muay Thai

The best way for you to get started is by first finding a Muay Thai gym near you and taking a free class. We recommend you find 3-4 different gyms and try them all out. During the class, take note of the gym environment, quality of coaching/instruction, and most of all do you feel safe in this new gym? From our personal experience, we’ve been in gyms where you have some of the nicest practitioners that are more than happy to help you, but then there are some gyms who have the need to develop an overly aggressive culture, which we like to call the just bleed gym. Don’t train at these gyms, unless you’re all in to become a pro fighter. 

Secondly, you’re going to need some Muay Thai gear - gloves, hand wraps, and the occasional Muay Thai tee that shows you're about that life. Lucky for you, we’ve got all of these available for you! Check out our collection of Muay Thai gloves, gear and accessories which we have curated based on our experience testing these products.

Lastly, arrive to class without the ego and come equipped with the determination to succeed. Success in the gym starts by showing up to class every day.

How To Get Started In Kickboxing

If you’re wanting to join a Kickboxing gym with the sole focus of losing weight, getting in shape, but not wanting to focus too much on developing as a martial artis, we recommend you go out and sample a number of gyms that offer these Cardio Kickboxing classes and see which environment you enjoy being in the most. Many times, students stop showing up to class because they don’t feel comfortable with the students around them or maybe they think the coach is too much of a bully. If this is something that turns you off, keep taking those free trial classes until you find a gym that you settle into that you can call home.

If you’re goal in Kickboxing is to remain dedicated not only to get in shape, but also to develop in this Martial Art and eventually get into sparring (because this is critical to your development), we recommend the same steps as Cardio Kickboxing, except we would advise you pay close attention to the quality of instruction/coaching and ensure you feel like your coaches are giving you the attention you need to adjust your techniques to maximize your learning so that you can best execute your newfound skill sets later on as you continue to develop.

Secondly, you’re going to want to get some quality gear for your training, starting with boxing or Muay Thai gloves and some quality hand wraps - we have an entire collection of gear specifically for your kickboxing needs (just click the link to check out the collection).

Final Thoughts

While Muay Thai and Kickboxing share many similarities, they have their own differences that make both fighting styles unique and practical. If you’re thinking about joining a gym to try out either Kickboxing or Muay Thai, we strongly encourage you to do so. Let us know in the comments which style you prefer!

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