Kickboxing refers to the sport of kicking and punching. Kickboxing is a standing sport and does not allow continuation of the fight once a combatant has reached the ground, although certain styles of Muay Thai make exceptions to this rule.
Kickboxing started in the US during the 1970’s when American karate practitioners became frustrated with strict controls on martial arts competitions that didn’t allow full contact kicks and punches. Many questions were raised when the sport began about the high risk of injury. As a result, safety rules were improved and protective clothing was added. As this is a relatively new sport there are no long-term traditions. The sport has undergone changes and been refined during the last two decades. Competitors use sparring, kicks, punches, kick blocks, shadow boxing, and wood breaking that is learned and applied under professional instruction.
Kickboxing is often practiced for self-defense, general fitness, or as a full-contact sport. In the full-contact sport the male boxers are bare-chested wearing shorts and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10-oz. boxing gloves, groin-guard, shin-pads, kick-boots, and optional protective helmet (usually for those under 16). The female boxers will wear a tank top and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear. In European kickboxing, where kicks to the thigh are allowed using special low-kick rules, use of boxing shorts instead of long trousers is possible.
In addition, amateur rules often allow less experienced competitors to use light or semi-contact rules, where the intention is to score points by executing successful strikes past the opponent’s guard, and use of force is regulated. The equipment for semi-contact is similar to full-contact matches, usually with addition of head gear. Competitors usually dress in a t-shirt for semi-contact matches, to separate them from the bare-chested full-contact participants.
Kickboxing is often confused with Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing. The two sports are similar; however, in Thai Boxing, kicks below the belt are allowed, as are strikes with knees and elbows.
There are many arts labelled kickboxing including Japanese kickboxing, American kickboxing, Indian boxing, Burmese boxing, as well as French boxing. The term kickboxing is disputed and has become more associated with the Japanese and American variants. Many of the other styles do not consider themselves to be ‘kickboxing’, although the public often uses the term generically to refer to all these martial arts.
The term kickboxing (キックボクシング) was created by the Japanese boxing promoter Osamu Noguchi for a variant of Muay Thai and Karate that he created in the 1950s. The term was later used by the American variant. When used by the practitioners of those two styles, it usually refers to those styles specifically.