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American Kickboxing vs. Dutch Kickboxing: What’s the Difference?

American-style kickboxing vs. Dutch-style kickboxing
Photo by Don Wilson (left), MAZA FIGHT GALLERY (right)

Kickboxing has many different styles out of which American and Dutch styles are among the most popular ones. Despite both styles being considered kickboxing, there are clear differences between these two kickboxing styles that make them unique in their own right. So, what are these key differences that set the two styles apart?

The key difference is that Dutch kickboxing allows fighters to kick both above and below the waist, while American kickboxing only allows kicking above the waist, so no low kicks are allowed. As such, the Dutch style allows more ways to attack their opponent than the American style.

There are also various other differences, such as the fighting gear and attire and the rules of competition. Keep reading this article to learn more about how these two styles differ from one another, which makes them unique in their own style.

What Is American Kickboxing?

American kickboxing is a hybrid combat sport that blends elements of Western boxing with kicking techniques from different traditional martial arts such as karate and taekwondo. It emerged in the United States in the 1970s as a form of Karate competition but under full-contact rules, with one of the pioneers being the legendary karateka Joe Lewis.

Joe Lewis, the legendary American karateka

At the time, kickboxing was spreading like fire all over the world, so naturally, Americans came up with their own variation of it, and there are two different sub-styles:

  • Semi-contact — is similar to point fighting in karate where the emphasis is on scoring points by landing kicks and punches to specific areas. The emphasis is on speed and technique rather than power.
  • Full-contact — is a style where fighters use full power to cause damage and knock the opponent out.

The actual name of the sport or discipline in the combat sports world is “Full Contact” or “Full Contact Kickboxing.” However, the term “American kickboxing” is often used as a way to distinguish the sport from other similar ones. 

What Is Dutch Kickboxing?

Dutch kickboxing is widely regarded as the most popular style of kickboxing and one of the most exciting as well. Back in the early 1970s, the Dutch martial artist Jan Plas traveled to Japan to master this new combat sport called kickboxing at Meijiro Gym.

Jan Plas (the pioneer of Dutch kickboxing)
Photo by Nanorsuaq

Jan Plas would then travel back to Amsterdam, Netherlands, to open the European Meijiro Academy to start teaching kickboxing in his unique way by mixing Japanese kickboxing with Western boxing techniques, focusing more on hand strikes.

This style is now known as Dutch kickboxing, and it has produced many world kickboxing champions. Kickboxing quickly became the most popular sport in the Netherlands, and it quickly became popular all across Europe.

Stylistically, Dutch kickboxing is essentially a hybrid mix of techniques from three different martial arts: boxing, Kyokushin Karate, and Muay Thai.

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Key Differences between American and Dutch style

The first obvious difference is the fighting gear, as American style kickboxers wear trousers and shoes while Dutch-style kickboxers compete barefoot wearing shorts. Following is a list of other notable differences between the two.

Striking arsenal

Dutch style involves striking with punches, kicks, and even knees both above and below the waist. They use regular boxing techniques and combine them with footwork, low-kicks, high kicks, and spinning attacks.

Low-kicks, in particular, are a very important and effective method they use to damage the opponents’ legs and limit their movement. The modern variation of Dutch kickboxing also includes limited clinch work where fighters are allowed to land a couple of knees to the head and body.

American kickboxing is very similar but different because there is no striking below the waist. Fighters are not allowed to use low-kicks, which completely changes other elements, such as the fighting stances and offensive and defensive tactics. As a result, they rely more on using their hands and landing different types of high kicks to the body or head. Any type of clinching and grappling is strictly forbidden.

Rounds and clothing

American kickboxing matches include between 2 and 10 rounds, depending on the importance of the match. Each round is 2 minutes long, and there is a 1-minute rest between each round.

Dutch kickboxing, on the other hand, very much resembles modern K-1 rules where there are 3 rounds, each one being 3 minutes long, and there is a 1-minute rest between each one.

Clothing is also different. American kickboxers wear long trousers, kick boots, and full-padded boxing gloves (see below). Dutch kickboxers wear shorts and padded boxing gloves and compete barefoot, closely resembling the look of a professional boxer with bare feet.

American-style kickboxer
Don “The Dragon” Wilson (pictured)
Photo by

Pace and aggressiveness

Dutch kickboxing matches are shorter in duration, so fighters generally don’t have to worry too much about managing their cardio, often resulting in fast-paced action from both fighters. Apart from the high output of strikes, Dutch-style fighters are also more aggressive in their approach, and they tend to throw with more power and chase a finish.

American kickboxers primarily rely on landing long-range kicks from a distance. The concept is heavily influenced by karate fighting, so the fighters primarily rely on landing shots with speed and high accuracy instead of using full power, which makes this style less aggressive.

Stance and movement

Stance is also much different. Due to the lack of low kicks, American-style kickboxers usually stand in a bladed, side-on stance with the lead leg extended in front because their lead leg is not at risk. This also enables them to rely more on footwork and angles to defend or attack.

Dutch kickboxers constantly need to worry about the low-kicks, which can quickly damage their legs and limit their mobility. Thus, Dutch-style kickboxers stand in a more squared stance with the hips facing forward, which limits their movement to a certain degree.

Similarities between American and Dutch Style

American and Dutch styles of kickboxing are conceptually very similar and share more than a few things in common. Following is a list of notable similarities.

Punching techniques

Both of these disciplines put a lot of emphasis on hand-striking techniques that originate from boxing. They use very much the same punches from Western boxing, like hooks, jabs, uppercuts, and crosses, to create combinations, and they rarely use any other unconventional hand-striking techniques.

American-style fighters are a bit more advanced in this segment because they can put more weight on their lead legs (due to the lack of leg kicks), which enables them to throw boxing combos with better technique and more power.


High-kicks are among the most powerful techniques and are very important in both styles. American style emphasizes this aspect more because the only kicks allowed are actually high kicks.

But the Dutch fighters also use the same high kicks, such as roundhouse kicks you see in American style, to target the opponents’ bodies or heads, along with front kicks, spinning wheel kicks, and many others. And the way they execute and land those kicks with their foot instead of a shin is also the same.

Competition format

The competition format is also the same. In both disciplines, fighters compete inside the squared boxing ring, and the matches are split into rounds. There are three judges sitting in different corners of the ring, evaluating and scoring the match, and one referee controls the action inside the ring.

American vs. Dutch kickboxing: Which Is Better for MMA?

Dutch style is more in line with the rules and concept of MMA fighting, which makes the Dutch style far better for MMA fighting inside the cage than the American style. This is mainly because Dutch kickboxing is more versatile due to its allowance of low kicks and knees, while American kickboxing prohibits them.

In modern MMA fighting, low-kicks have become one of the most important fundamental techniques that every MMA fighter learns. A skilled striker can use kicks to the calf or thigh to damage the opponent’s legs, limit their mobility and balance, and create other offensive opportunities. And although calf kicks often look “soft,” you can’t take them as many, and most fighters crumble upon receiving a couple of hard ones.

Low-kicks are also low-risk because they can be landed from a distance without getting hit. MMA fighters often use them to keep their range or set up combinations.

But in MMA, American-style kickboxers won’t be prepared to throw or defend low-kicks as they lack the knowledge and experience for it. On the other hand, Dutch-style kickboxers are well-versed in delivering and defending low-kicks, making them more adept at fighting under MMA rules than their American-style counterparts.

The same stands for knee strike in the clinch, which is allowed in Dutch-style kickboxing but not allowed in American style. Although clinch time is limited, Dutch-style kickboxers still learn to use offensive and defensive clinch techniques effectively and inflict damage with their knees. This makes Dutch kickboxing a better option for MMA than American-style kickboxing, which does not teach clinching and knee strikes.

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American kickboxing vs. Dutch kickboxing: Who Wins?

If two kickboxers were to compete against each other using only their respective styles, the Dutch-style kickboxer would likely win due to their additional arsenal of low-kicks.

Although both styles utilize similar punching combinations and high kicks, it is the leg kicks from Dutch-style kickboxing that give them a definite edge in this stylistic matchup. American-style kickboxers may not be proficient enough to handle low-kick attacks, giving the Dutch-style kickboxer an advantage in a one-on-one match.

During a fight, American-style fighters stand in a wide-bladed stance, which enables Dutch fighters to start attacking American-style fighters lead leg immediately. A fighter who does not condition their legs and train to absorb these strikes will crumble down to the ground in pain upon receiving two hard ones.

This is not to imply that American-style kickboxing is inferior; it just means that Dutch-style kickboxing has more weapons to choose from that would lead to a more likely win than American-style kickboxing.

5 Top Famous American Kickboxing Style Fighters

  • Benny “The Jet” Urquidez — is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of American kickboxing. He was known for his exceptional kicking techniques and amassed an impressive record of 63 wins and 1 loss in both full-contact and point fighting and he won many world titles.
  • Don “The Dragon” Wilson — is a legendary kickboxer who dominated the sport during the 1980s and ’90s. He held multiple world championships and was known for his powerful kicks and versatility in the ring. Wilson’s success helped popularize kickboxing in the United States and inspired many young people to join the sport. Wilson also became a very successful Hollywood martial arts action star and made a string of hit action movies in the 1990s.
  • Joe Lewis — is often referred to as the “Father of American Kickboxing.” He was a pioneer in bringing karate techniques into the world of kickboxing, and he played a crucial role in shaping the sport’s early rules and development.
  • Rick Roufus — is known for his exceptional striking skills and punching power. He held multiple world titles and was a dominant force in the kickboxing world during the 1990s. Roufus’ aggressive fighting style and knockout power made him a fan favorite.
  • Bill “Superfoot” Wallace — was a prominent American kickboxer known for his lightning-fast kicks and exceptional flexibility. He was a dominant force in the sport during the 1970s and he retired undefeated in full-contact karate with a record of 23 wins and 0 losses.

5 Top Famous Dutch Kickboxing Style Fighters

  • Ramon “The Diamond” Dekkers — is a legendary Dutch kickboxer known for his aggressive fighting style and powerful boxing. He competed in both Muay Thai and kickboxing and is often considered one of the greatest kickboxers of all time. Dekkers’ fearless approach and numerous world titles made him an icon in the sport.
  • Peter “The Dutch Lumberjack” Aerts — is a three-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion and a dominant force in heavyweight kickboxing. Known for his powerful leg kicks and striking prowess, Aerts is celebrated for his longevity in the sport and his remarkable achievements.
  • Ernesto “Mr. Perfect” Hoost — is a Dutch kickboxing legend who also excelled in K-1 competitions, where he won the prestigious K-1 World GP title 4 times. He was known for his exceptional combination of technique, power, and strategy, and the kickboxing world celebrates him as one of the most technical strikers of all time.
  • Andy Souwer — is a highly skilled Dutch kickboxer known for his speed and precision. He is a multiple-time K-1 and Shootboxing champion, and his striking abilities and adaptability in the ring have earned him a place among the elite fighters in the sport.
  • Semmy Schilt — is a multiple-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion, known for his powerful knee strikes and clinch work. Schilt’s dominance in the heavyweight division solidified his status as one of the best K-1 kickboxers of all time.

American vs. Dutch Style: Which One Should I Choose?

In the world of kickboxing, American and Dutch styles are among the most popular, each with strengths and weaknesses. Which better fits you depends on your personal preferences as well as your location.

The Dutch style is more popular and well-established in all parts of the world, while the American style is practiced primarily in the US, and you will have a hard time finding a school to train in other countries outside of the US.

Also, the American style puts more emphasis on technique, especially semi-contact variation, which is very popular among beginners because it enables them to develop proper technique, while the Dutch style is also technical but is a much harder style overall. So, most people in the US start by training in the American style before moving to more challenging styles.

In conclusion, either of these styles teaches combat-proven techniques that are very practical in real-life situations and will help you when faced with self-defense situations. Thus, if you want to learn how to fight, you won’t make a mistake choosing any of the two.

But if you are considering choosing either of two styles to become an MMA fighter, then go with Dutch-style kickboxing because it will prepare you much better for MMA fighting than the American style.