So, you’re thinking of starting with kickboxing.
Maybe, you’ve looked into kickboxing classes, enthusiastic about throwing a roundhouse kick. Maybe, your pals have told you about the thrills of the kickboxing workout, with its aerobic and cardio workout. Maybe, you’ve seen a kickboxing champion or two perform on the tv – and feel inspired to give it a go yourself.
Whatever the reason for your interest in this combat sport, you’re in for something really special when you get yourself into the gyms and can finally call yourself a kickboxer. It’s a wonderful sport: high intensity, full contact, and supremely elegant at the same time.
And if you are going all the way with it, you’re not letting yourself in for just an exceptional fitness program, but you’re going to building incredible balance and excellent self-defense skills too.
There’s hardly a downside – unless you consider receiving punches in the face a downside. The point, however, is a different one. Whilst, as a martial art, kickboxing receives either sneering dismissals as ‘too violent’ or responses that are just based on fear, if you are not too fussy about a few bruises, kickboxing is a great sport in so many ways.
So, don’t listen to the haters, and don’t fear too much about the fists you’ll receive (you’ll be wearing protection). Just enjoy it – and get in shape whilst you’re doing it.
A Guide to Kickboxing Rules
As with any sport – literally any sport from the combat sports or the mixed martial arts to football and tennis – there is little you can do in kickboxing without knowing the rules.
So, let’s start here with a brief run down of them – but note that you can find more information on this in our guide to kickboxing rules.
The aim of a kickboxing match is to win. And, to do that, you have a number of options. Firstly, you’re aiming to knock the other person out – either literally or through what is known as a ‘technical knock out’, in which either the ref, the doctor, or your opponent himself deems themselves unfit to continue.
The second way is through points. If neither of you have knocked the other out, then this is what is going to happen. At the end of the match, the three or five judges will reveal the scores that they have taken at the end of each round. These will either be ’10-10’, ’10-9’, ’10-8’, or ’10-7’, depending on the strength of the win (including the number of takedowns and the effectiveness of the respective boxers’ display).
That’s pretty much it. But watch out, because there are plenty of things that you can’t do, depending on what type of kickboxing you are doing. Whilst in Muay Thai, elbows are allowed, they ain’t in other forms – in which you can’t clinch or grapple either.
The Essential Kickboxing Equipment
Although the fundamental principles of kickboxing are fairly straightforward, the kit required can run to a pretty long list.
As you can expect, the majority of this is protective gear, covering all the different parts of your body. And whilst it immediately might seem like it’s all a bit over the top, it really isn’t – and you’ll agree soon enough.
The majority of this equipment is mandatory – meaning that you can’t participate in any bouts without them. Which is something well worth taking into consideration. Meanwhile, whilst your boxing gym may well provide boxing gloves and mitts, consider the smell: it’s just better to have your own.
Here are a few that you might need.
- Boxing Gloves – You won’t be allowed in any bout without them. Often fighters put hand wraps beneath their gloves too, for extra protection.
- Body Armour – That means headgear, shin pads, a gumshield and groin protection. You ain’t gonna last long in the ring without them.
- Clothing – Obviously, this one is a given. But you need to have specific length shorts and the right shoes to be able to kickbox.
Find out what other gear you might need in our article on kickboxing equipment.
Kickboxing, Muay Thai, or Savate?
Kickboxing, really, has a long and complex history, drawing its inspiration, rules, and movements from Muay Thai kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, full contact karate, taekwondo, English boxing, and French savate.
Really, it’s a mixture of styles from across the world – and this is both its beauty and its complexity for beginners.
Because where are you supposed to start if, at the gym, you see classes for savate, Muay Thai, Glory kickboxing, or oriental rules. These things should come with an explainer which, unfortunately, they rarely ever do.
But let’s take these three – Muay Thai, Savate, and kickboxing – in a bit of detail here. Their particular styles and histories are pretty different.
Check out more on the different styles of kickboxing.
Like other styles of boxing from east Asia – ‘Burmese’ boxing or lethwei from Myanmar and the Malaysian Tomoi – Muay Thai is ancient, dating back hundreds of years, and potentially even further. It simply means ‘Thai boxing’.
What’s striking about Muay Thai is that, unlike other forms of kickboxing, it uses ‘eight limbs’ – or elbows and knees as well as hands and feet – as well as grappling and clinching.
It remains fairly ferocious: full contact and risky, but completely exhilarating to watch and be part of.
In the fifties, in Japan, professional fighters started to look elsewhere for inspiration. Karate was publicly displayed all over the place, yet, at the time, it was very rare that anyone would actually make full contact.
This changed when kickboxers started to fuse elements of Muay Thai into their karate style. It was here that kickboxing was born – and it soon spread across the world, picking up elements from different combat sports as it went.
These days, kickboxing remains a generic term for combat sports that allow the punch and kick. So, whilst there are many varieties and lots of different rulebooks, it is a heterogenous discipline.
Developing from the shipyards and street fighting techniques in France in the nineteenth century, savate is often thought of as fencing without weapons. It is elegant, eloquent, and composed, with mesmerising shapes and movements.
The main weapon is savate is your feet – and you have to wear particular shoes for this. It, like Muay Thai boxing, get’s pretty brutal too.
Some of the Kickboxing World Champions
Unless you’re into the sport, there is little chance that you will have heard of the big names in kickboxing. In mainstream discourse, hardly even the world championships and the world champion get much attention – in the UK at least.
Yet, the great names in the sport are icons – and formidable athletes at the same time. And if you are starting out in kickboxing, you should look to these guys and girls for inspiration.
We have a larger list of kickboxing world champions and heroes, yet here we’ll just focus on a few – to whet your appetite.
One of the current heroes of kickboxing, Giorgio Petrosyan is known for his defense techniques and his lightning fast counters.
His record is a massive 101 wins to two losses and two draws – and he is hoping to continue on such form for a long time to come.
One of the legends of the female game, Cris Cyborg is a record-breaker in her field. Her specialty is in MMA – mixed martial arts – yet her kickboxing is incredible too.
Having won female fighter of the year more times than pretty much anyone else, she will remain a hero of the sport forever.
Completely at the top of his game right now, Sittichai Sitsongpeenong is a Thai fighter and lightweight hero. It seems to be fairly unanimous that he is the best lightweight fighter in the world right now.
If you’re looking for what contemporary kickboxing can be, he is your man.
Why Try Kickboxing? The Health Benefits
Kickboxing is a real physical workout. Like, a total body workout. If you have fitness goals towards which you are aiming – whether that’s to get fit, to reduce stress, or just to get your heart pumping a bit more often – then kickboxing can work wonders for you.
With the combination of fat-burning cardio and intense muscle toning, kickboxing really is, more than anything, just excellent exercise.
This is why it has become so popular in recent years, with gyms offering fitness kickboxing, fitness programs using parts of the kickboxing repertoire, and training of all the muscle groups.
And the beauty of exercise is that it does so many more things that we take for granted. Sure, you burn calories, enable fat loss, and develop your cardiovascular endurance. But you also build self-confidence and develop your self-esteem, concentration, and mental health too.
Follow the link for more information on the health benefits of kickboxing.