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Kickboxing vs. Boxing  – Key Differences Easily Explained

For most people, the difference between boxing and kickboxing is simple. Boxing focuses only on hand strikes, while kickboxing adds kicking in addition to punching. But are there any more differences? And at the end, which one is better, kickboxing or boxing?

Kickboxing has more striking techniques than boxing because it combines kicking and punching techniques. In contrast, boxing is easier to learn and has fewer techniques because it only involves striking with hands. As such, kickboxing is considered a more robust combat system than boxing.

Kickboxing is more versatile and, to a greater extent, practical for self-defense or any freestyle combat. Fighters trained in kickboxing are also superior to boxers in a one-on-one matchup as they have more weapons. On the other hand, there are also areas in which boxing has the upper hand.

In the rest of this article, we will take a more in-depth look at the difference between these two combat arts, so let’s go!

What is the difference between boxing and kickboxing?

In a nutshell, boxing focuses only on hand strikes (punches), while kickboxing includes both punches and kicking techniques. However, these two combat systems differ in many other areas, such as rules, emphasis, and equipment. Here is a detailed look:

History and origins

Boxing is one of the oldest martial arts. The earliest depictions of boxing can be found in relief carvings from the third millennium BCE in Sumeria. But as an official sport, boxing first appeared at the 23rd Olympiad in Ancient Greece in 688 BC. The modern form emerged with the birth of “Queensberry” rules in 1867.

Kickboxing emerged in the 1950s in Japan. A boxing promoter, Osamu Noguchi, created kickboxing as a mix of karate techniques, and Muay Thai full-contact rules.

Objectives and techniques

Boxing is a combat sport where the main objective is to develop skills to compete in regulated matches, win prizes, and become famous. It is quite a limited system as it only includes striking with your hands and mixing punches with footwork and upper body movement.

Kickboxing is also a combat sport where people compete under strict rules to win matches, money, and fame. However, in terms of techniques, it is more versatile as it includes the same punching techniques as boxing and adds versatile kicking techniques.

Fighting Stance

Most boxers stand in a narrow bow-arrow stance and tend to put a lot of weight on the lead leg. This stance enables them to cover more distance and generate great power in their rear hand. Standing in this type of stance also allows them to attack using punches in a wide variety of ways.

The kickboxing stance differs a lot because of the kicks. Kickboxers can’t allow themselves to put a lot of weight on the lead leg, as it would be a matter of seconds before they get blasted with a hard kick. So instead, they stand more upright with their feet shoulder-width apart, with the lead leg slightly in front.


Boxers rely heavily on footwork in both offense and defense. Offensively, boxers with good footwork can tactically position their feet to strike their opponents from different angles without losing their balance. Defensively, good footwork helps boxers from getting hit by maneuvering to different positions rapidly, which enables them to evade a barrage of punches and move to the best position to counterattack.

Kickboxers also rely on footwork, but not that much. The only exception is the dutch kickboxing style where you can see athletes utilize high-level movement.


Boxers operate at a much closer range and are always in the face of their opponent. Since it only allows punches, boxers need to step in at close range to land punches effectively and do damage.

Kickboxers prefer to stay at a distance as they need a lot of space to land powerful kicks. Depending on the kickboxing style, you can often see them stepping into close range to land punches, usually when they have the opponent backed against the ropes. But most of the time, they operate from a distance.

Fighting Rules

The most important boxing rules are:

  • Match duration: pro matches can be between 4 and 12 rounds (high profile), with each round being 3 minutes long and there is a 1 minute of rest between each round.
  • Legal strikes: Punches to the upper body which is above the belt including the head.
  • Illegal strikes: kicks, elbows, knees, spinning backfists, and grappling attacks, any hit below the belt.
  • Equipment: full padded boxing gloves, boxing shorts, groin cup, mouth guard, and boxing shoes. 
  • Major organizations: WBA, WBC, WBO, and IBF

Kickboxing rules are as follows:

  • Match duration: 3 rounds or 5 rounds (title fights) with each round being 3 minutes long. There is a 1-minute break between each round.
  • Legal strikes: kicking the upper and lower body segments, punches, knee strikes (not in all styles).
  • Illegal strikes: Elbows, striking the back of the head
  • Equipment: boxing gloves, shorts, mouth guard, groin cup
  • Major organizations: WAKO, WKA, ISKA 

Pros & Cons of Kickboxing

Full body workoutHigh injury rate both in training and competition
Relatively easy to learn (beginner-friendly)Too much of an emphasis on hard sparring
Highly practical in self-defense scenariosRepeated blows to the head lead to brain damage
Training burns a lot of caloriesDoes not teach you how to grapple or fight on the ground
Strengthens the upper and lower body muscles
Improves balance, coordination, and posture
Boosts confidence and self-esteem
Reduces stress and anxiety 

Pros & Cons of Boxing

Mix of aerobic and anaerobic workouts in oneFrequent injuries
Very practical combat system High risk of brain injuries due to repeated strikes to the head
Easy to learn as it focuses only on hand strikesOne-dimensional as it focuses only on punches
Improves overall body strengthTraining may become monotone after some time
Increases hand-eye coordination and balance
Boosts stamina and endurance
Improves cardiovascular health and sleep quality

Kickboxing vs. Boxing  –  Which is better for self-defense?

On paper, kickboxing has the upper hand as it is a more versatile style and covers all ranges. Still, there are scenarios in which boxing is more practical and may help you get out of trouble faster. The only fair answer is that these two arts will prepare you mentally for the fight and physically condition your body for intense combat.

On one side, kickboxing offers you a wide variety of techniques and ways to attack using kicks and punches. You will know how to keep your distance and do damage with kicks, as well as how to block strikes, and land hard blows with your hands at close range. The key advantage are the kicks, which when landed with proper technique and power, could instantly finish the fight.

Conversely, boxing is often considered the best self-defense for one simple reason. The most common way of getting attacked is by getting punched in the face. Hitting the face is the most natural instinctive way for humans to hurt a person standing in front, and boxers are masters at utilizing their hands to defend against these attacks and counter-punch them.

However, you won’t make a mistake choosing any of the two because they both will teach you how to fight in the end. You can always switch from one to the other whenever you want to.

Kickboxing vs. Boxing  – Which is better for fitness?

Neither is better than the other when it comes to fitness. Training in any of these arts is considered a full-body workout that will activate and improve every muscle group in your body. Which one is superior in this segment is hard to tell. The answer is based mainly on which style you prefer more as the benefits are very much the same.

Kickboxing burns a lot of calories, around 500–700 per hour; when combined with intense workouts on the bag and bodyweight exercises, it will get you in top shape in a very short period. You may also expect to improve balance and coordination and become more flexible since the emphasis is on utilizing legs for hard kicks.

Boxing is an intense cardio workout that burns similar calories per hour to kickboxing. It also strengthens all the muscles in your body, notably the back, shoulders, arms, and core. It also improves hand-eye coordination, balance, and posture.

Kickboxing vs. Boxing  – Which is harder to learn?

Which one is harder to learn is based on numerous factors and here is a detailed look into some of the most important factors:

Number of techniques – kickboxing

Boxing is quite one-dimensional as the emphasis is on hand strikes and mixing punches with footwork and head movements. Kickboxing is more versatile as it covers both punches and kicks, which opens up a wide variety of combinations and variations of each move. 

Takes longer to learn – kickboxing

On average, students need around two years to develop solid kickboxing skills, the ones they will be able to apply in a real fight or amateur competition. However, on average, students need less time to achieve the same level in boxing, around one year of training.

More dangerous – neither

Regardless of which one you pick, training and competing in this art poses a high risk of severe injuries. It is almost certain that physical injuries are bound to occur because hard sparring is necessary when you train in either of the arts. But the main concern is the possibility of suffering brain damage due to repeated blows to the head.

Kickboxing vs. Boxing  – Which is safer?

As aforementioned, the training and competition in these two martial arts carry a high risk of serious injury. The rate of minor and severe injuries is very high no matter which style you choose.

Kickboxing will likely lead to more injuries as there are more ways to hurt the opponent by striking the different parts of the body. But boxing imposes greater risk when it comes to severe brain damage, as repeated blows to the head are more common since the head is the most targeted area in boxing. In a nutshell, neither is safer because these two combat arts can cause physical injuries at some point.

10 Safest Martial Arts That Are Effective In Real Life

How dangerous is kickboxing?

According to studies, kickboxing has an injury rate of 40 injuries per 1000 minutes of playing time. Some of the most common injuries are among the most severe ones, such as concussions, contusions, lacerations, fractures, and joint dislocations.

Overall, kickboxing is a brutal sport. A skilled kickboxer has the ability to generate the same power in a kick as hitting someone with a baseball bat. Now imagine how much damage this kick does upon landing straight to the side of the head, ribcage, or leg.

How dangerous is boxing?

Things do not get any safer when you move to boxing which focuses primarily on head strikes. The injury rate ranges between 17.1 and 23.6 injuries per 100 exposures.

Facial lacerations account for 51% of all injuries, followed by hand (17%), eye (14%), and nose (5%). The other study suggests almost 90% of all boxers suffer a brain injury throughout their careers due to repeated traumas to the head.

Kickboxing vs. Boxing  –  Which is better for MMA?

It’s essential to learn proper boxing and kickboxing to become a complete MMA fighter to succeed. Therefore, the simple answer is that neither kickboxing nor boxing is better for MMA because they complement each other.

This is why most MMA fighters prefer to mix these two workouts. For example, they would spend striking workouts doing pure boxing drills, while the other week, they would put more emphasis on kicking and mixing it all together.

Boxing skills and the ability to utilize footwork and angles to create openings to land hard blows at close range are what often separates good fighters from the elite ones.

On the other side, delivering hard kicks from a distance has always been one of the most efficient ways to manage your distance and hurt the opponent without too much risks.

No matter from which angle you look at MMA, both punching and kicking techniques are an integral part of the game. Combining the two aspects will make you a complete striker, leading us to this article’s next section.

Can you do boxing and kickboxing at the same time?

It truly depends on what you want to achieve with your training. If you aim to develop all-around striking skills, then training in both boxing and kickboxing is a great combination. The same stands if your goal is to become an MMA fighter, where both of these systems play a key role.

But you will be advised against training in both if your goal is to become a pro boxer or kickboxer and you want to cross-train to make your workouts more dynamic. In this case, cross-training between boxing and kickboxing might do more harm than good. It may have a negative impact on your timing, reactions, and instincts and force you to develop bad habits.

For instance, fighting stances differ a lot between these two systems, as well as the range, the way you utilize footwork, and many other things. Therefore, switching between these two styles will actually “confuse” your brain and limit your ability to excel in one sport.

Training in both styles is highly beneficial if you want to be an MMA fighter or develop all-around skills. But if you want to pursue a career in one sport, stick with it and avoid cross-training.

Boxing vs. Kickboxing – Who would win?

Simply put, kickboxers have better chances of beating boxers in a one-on-one fight as they have more weapons at their disposal. Still, be sure not to over-underestimate the power and effectiveness of boxing techniques in a fight.

Kickboxing includes the same punching combos and blocks, very much the same as there are in boxing. They all know how to attack using their hands, block punches, move out of the way and counter these attacks. They spend a lot of time drilling the same combos on the pads or heavy bags. But what clearly gives them an advantage are vicious kicks.

Boxers do not practice or condition their bodies to absorb full-blown kicks. With this in mind, if you consider that skilled kickboxers can generate kicking power similar to hitting someone with a baseball bat, you get why most boxing vs. kickboxing matches would end quickly.

A boxer, who has never been kicked before, would crumble down to the ground in pain after receiving just one well-placed kick. In contrast, a boxer increases their odds of winning if they can close the distance fast and use their advantage in speed and power to knock the kickboxer out.

Boxing or kickboxing – Which one is better for you?

Both of these systems are similar and you won’t make a mistake choosing any of the two. If you are a total beginner, boxing might be a perfect fit as it is less complex. You can fully focus on developing a strong base and solid skills in between 6 months and 1 year, before moving to kickboxing where you can quickly adapt to new techniques.

Or, you can do it the other way around as these two systems do complement one another to a great extent.