What Is Dutch Kickboxing? Basic Guide to Dutch Kickboxing


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Dutch kickboxing” is one of the best styles of kickboxing. People who are not heavy into combat sports might have a hard time spotting how Dutch-style differs from other styles as they all look very much the same. But in reality, this is very easy to understand if you know what to look out for.

Dutch kickboxing emerged in the 1970s in the Netherlands and it is a mix of Muay Thai, Kyokushin, and western boxing techniques. It differs from other styles because the emphasis is on non-stop forward pressure, high output of punches, and low kicks. If a kickboxer is using punches far more than kicks in a fight, that fighter is probably trained in Dutch Style. 

Keep reading this article to find out more about this style and what makes it special. We will explore its history, how it compares with other styles, and of course, bring you the best fighters.

History of Dutch Kickboxing

The story of Dutch kickboxing begins in the 1970s. During this time, there was a big rivalry between two arts, Muay Thai and Karate. Fighters from both arts used to fight each other all the time under various custom rules. To find a balance between the rules and make matches fair, they created “Japanese kickboxing”, a mix of rules and techniques from both arts.

In the 1970s, a Dutch martial artist, Jan Plas, would travel to famous Mejiro Gym in Japan. This is a gym that pioneered kickboxing, and where Plas and his friends would learn this new art. They would go back to Netherland and open up another Mejiro Gym in Amsterdam, and found the first-ever “Dutch Kickboxing Association”.

Over the years, they would add more tools and weapons to create Dutch Style. They used Japanese Kickboxing as a base on top of which they added western boxing techniques. And the emphasis moved from kicks to hand strikes which is why Dutch-style differs so much.

In the decades that followed, Dutch fighters would enjoy a lot of success against Thai boxers and fighters from other styles of kickboxing. In the 80s and 90s, Dutch-style would emerge as, perhaps, the best style of kickboxing that is more than present in modern times as well.

What is the Difference Between Dutch Kickboxing and Muay Thai?

Dutch kickboxing has origins in Muay Thai which is a reason why these two styles look similar. But on the other side, these two styles differ a lot when it comes to emphasis, rules, and techniques. Here is a detailed explanation.

Emphasis and techniques

Also known as “the art of eight limbs”, Muay Thai is a total package when it comes to striking. Its fighters use all limbs as weapons to do damage with kicks, punches, knees, and elbows. The emphasis is on powerful kicks and fighting in the clinch using elbow and knee strikes. You will rarely see fighters throwing advanced boxing combos at all. They use punches just to set up kicks or get inside the range, and that’s it. And on top of that, they tend to throw single power strikes rather than combinations.

Dutch style, on the other side, differs a lot. Yes, fighters can strike with kicks, punches and knees, and fights visually look similar. But, they are not allowed to use elbow strikes, knees to the head, or use trips and throws. The emphasis is on western boxing techniques, high output, constant pressure, and fighting at a high pace. Fighters tend to explode with a barrage of punches and finish every boxing attack with a kick.

Differences in Rules Between Dutch Kickboxing and Muay Thai

Muay Thai rules are very much the same across all promotions and are easy to understand:

  • Length of the matches: every match includes 5 rounds of action, with each round being 3 minutes long. The rest period between the rounds is 2 minutes.
  • Techniques: fighters can strike with kicks, punches, knees, and elbows. They can also throw the opponent down using sweeps, trips and throws. 
  • Clinch fighting: fighters can clinch to land knee and elbow strikes as well as to throw the opponent down.

Dutch kickboxing rules are very similar with few exceptions:

  • Length of the matches: matches last 3 rounds with each round being 3 minutes long. The rest period between the rounds is 1 minute.
  • Extra round: If the fight ends in a draw, there is one extra round.
  • Techniques: Dutch kickboxers strike with kicks, punches, and knees. Sweeps, trips, and elbows are not allowed.
  • Clinch fighting: fighters can clinch only to land a knee strike to the body.

What’s the Difference Between Dutch Kickboxing and American kickboxing?

Dutch and American kickboxing do not have much in common. These two styles differ a lot when it comes to rules, emphasis, the way you execute techniques, and many other aspects. 

Emphasis and techniques

Also known as full-contact, American Kickboxing emerged in the 1970s. It is a mix of techniques from traditional karate, and western boxing which makes it similar to the Dutch style. But it differs a lot because it doesn’t include any Muay Thai techniques, and fighters are not allowed to strike below the waist. Also, there are no knee strikes in the clinch.

Dutch Style differs a lot because it puts more emphasis on western boxing, and techniques from Muay Thai and karate. The main goal in Dutch style is to outbox the opponent and destroy their legs with fast and powerful low kicks. Throwing high kicks is also important, but not as much as in American kickboxing. Fighters can strike both below and above the waist using kicks punches and knees. 

Differences in Rules Between Dutch Kickboxing and American Kickboxing

Although these two styles may look similar when it comes to techniques, American and Dutch styles differ a lot when it comes to rules and here is a detailed comparison. 

American kickboxing rules:

  • Length of the matches: matches include between 2 and 10 rounds with each round being 2 or 3 minutes long with 1 minute rest between.
  • Protective gear: fighters wear boxing gloves, trousers and kick-boots. 
  • Techniques: Striking below the waist, elbows, knees, clinch fighting and grappling are not allowed. Fighters can use sweeps, but this depends on the referee. Landing kick with a shin is rarely legal

Dutch-style rules:

  • Length of the matches: 3-3 minute rounds with 1 minute rest between. In case of a draw, there is 1 extra round. 
  • Techniques: punches, kicks, knees in the clinch. Elbow strikes and throwing opponent to the ground is not allowed.
  • Clinch fighting: fighters can clinch only to land a knee strike to the body.

Can you Clinch in Dutch Kickboxing?

Yes, you can clinch in Dutch kickboxing to do damage to your opponent. But bear in mind that this type of clinch differs a lot from the one in Muay Thai where fighters can clinch as much as they want. In Dutch kickboxing, fighters can clinch only to land knees to the body. And they can do that for up to 5 seconds before the referee separates the fighters. You are not allowed to clinch to take a rest, stall the action, or land any other strikes rather than knees to the body.

Although five seconds don’t sound like much, it is more than enough to do serious damage. One of the masters of the clinch battle in Dutch kickboxing is Alistair Overeem. He finished a lot of his opponents with knees both in kickboxing and MMA.

Is Dutch Kickboxing Used in MMA?

Yes, Dutch kickboxing is more than present in modern MMA fighting. In fact, you can’t expect to succeed or do well in MMA without, at least basic kickboxing skills. There are some cons to Dutch style in MMA like the lack of clinch. But on the flip side, not a single style will teach you how to better mix kicks with the punches than Dutch Kickboxing. And this is crucial for MMA.

One of the best Dutch style techniques in MMA are fast low kicks. This technique is very effective in cage fighting and has become one of the main weapons. In modern days, it is a common thing to see fighters finishing a fight with this specific technique.

Though they look simple, low kicks play a big role in MMA for various reasons. First, it is a simple technique that doesn’t burn a lot of energy, and second, you can use them against wrestlers. The biggest downside of any style of kickboxing is that wrestlers can catch their leg and high kicks in motion. But Dutch Style low kicks come so low and fast that wrestlers just can’t catch it.

The other great skill that the Dutch style brings into MMA is footwork and head movement. For instance, Muay Thai fighters tend to stay flat footed and in the center line all the time. This leaves them open for a takedown against wrestlers. But Dutch style is more versatile in this aspect because it puts more focus on footwork, head movement, and angles.

Dutch Style Kickboxing concepts explained by Alistair Overeem

Is Dutch Kickboxing Effective for Self-Defense?

Yes, Dutch kickboxing will teach you all about real fighting and it is great for self-defense. You will learn how to fight at all ranges using kicks, punches, and knees in the clinch. Although it doesn’t include any grappling, every single striking technique you learn works in real life and is often enough to keep you safe.

In training, students spend a lot of time drilling the moves on the heavy bag, hitting the pads, and sparring. In fact, they spar a lot as this is one of the best ways fighters can prepare for real combat, both in the ring and on the streets. Sparring gives you that same rush of adrenalin and fear you feel when someone attacks you on the streets. But over time, you will learn how to control your emotions and stay calm. 

As far as fighting in standup is concerned, Dutch-style will prepare you to deal with anything the opponent throws at you. But the biggest downside is the lack of grappling, and it also won’t teach you how to defend against dirty tactics or weapons.

Famous Dutch Style Kickboxers

In the 1990s and 2000s, Dutch-style fighters used to dominate the scene. Here are just some of the most famous Dutch Style fighters who are also the most successful ones.

Rob Kaman— used to train directly under the founder of Dutch style, Jan Plas, and is one of the first Dutch superstars. “Mr. Low Kick” has retired with 97 wins on his record, out of which 77 were vicious KOs, which gives you a good insight into how skilled Kaman was.

Ramon Dekkers— is perhaps the most violent Dutch kickboxer in history who had dynamite in both of his hands. He was a true legend of Muay Thai and one of the first foreigners to beat Thai fighters in their own game.

Ernesto Hoost— is a four time K-1 World Grand Prix winner often seen as the best fighter in the history of this promotion. Known for his crisp boxing and vicious kicks, Hoost retired from the sport with 99 wins and just 11 losses.

Andy Sauwer — is a two time K-1 World Max champ and multiple world champ across different organizations. He is an ideal example of the modern Dutch style and is one of the most technical kickboxers of all time.

Peter Aerts— is a true legend of Dutch kickboxing and a three time K-1 World GP winner. He competed at the top for over 2 decades, and he retired with 108 wins and 81 knockouts on his record.

Related Questions

What are the Different Styles of Kickboxing?

Kickboxing is a broad term that stands for all martial arts that mix punches and kicks together. Here is a list of different styles of kickboxing:

  • Muay Thai
  • Savate
  • Karate
  • Lethwei
  • Japanese kickboxing
  • Shoot Boxing
  • Sanda
  • Yaw Yan
  • Kun Gek Do

What are the Rules of Kickboxing?

Kickboxing as a combat sport and a fighting style on its own has emerged in the 1950s in Japan. Here are three major styles of kickboxing that are defined by different sets of rules:

  • American Kickboxing
  • Dutch Style 
  • K-1 Kickboxing

What is the Best Kickboxing Style?

The best and most versatile kickboxing style is Muay Thai and it’s really hard to argue against that. It is often seen as a complete striking art that will teach you how to use all limbs as weapons. This makes Muay Thai close to ideal for self-defense, or any type of fighting scenario, including MMA.

What makes Muay Thai better than other styles of kickboxing are a wide range of weapons, fighting in the clinch and concept of training. Muay Thai teaches you how to use all limbs as weapons to strike with kicks, punches, knees and elbows. Most other styles do not include elbow and knee strikes, which is bad for self-defense or MMA. The same stands for fighting in the clinch. Training is cardio intense includes a lot of hard sparring and will push your mind and body over the limits in every class.

Muay Thai is also good for self-defense because it a brutal art where the main goal is to knock the opponent out. In training, you won’t learn how to score points or win decisions. Instead, students learn how to throw each strike with a lot of power and knock the opponent out cold. 

What is K-1?

K-1 is the Japanese promotion that promotes kickboxing matches since 1993. The founder Kazoyushi Ichii founded K-1 with an idea to find out which striking art is the most effective, and which striker is the best in the world. 

Back in the early 90s, fighters from various striking arts have fought each other under unique K-1 kickboxing rules that later became an official style of kickboxing. Although K-1 is still present, the glory days of the promotion were between 1993 and 2010. During this time, there were two main formats of competition:

  • K-1 World Grand Prix — an openweight top 16 elimination tournament
  • K-1 World Max — middleweight top 16 elimination tournament

K-1 quickly became very popular all around the world. During the 90s and 2000s, it was the most popular combat sport, even bigger than MMA and boxing at the time. This was because K-1 rules favored a high pace fight which was the reason why K-1 fights are so exciting. The bouts included 3–3 minute rounds, and in case of a draw, there was one extra round. The most famous fighters who fought in K-1 were:

  • Ernesto Hoost
  • Buakaw
  • Semmy Schilt
  • Remy Bonjasky
  • Peter Aerts

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