|Country of origin||Ancient history, possibly prehistoric|
|Famous practitioners||see list of kickboxers|
|Descendant arts||Shootboxing, Vale Tudo, Mixed martial arts|
Kickboxing is a group of stand-up combat sports and a form of boxing based on kicking and punching. The combat takes place in a boxing ring, normally with boxing gloves, mouthguards, shorts, and bare feet to favor the use of kicks. Kickboxing is practiced for self-defense, general fitness, or for competition. Some styles of kickboxing include: Japanese kickboxing, Sanda (Chinese kickboxing), Savate, and Muay Thai.
Although since the dawn of humanity people have faced each other in hand-to-hand combat, the first documentation on the use of kicking and punching in sports combat is from ancient Greece and ancient India. But nevertheless, the term kickboxing originated in Japan, in the 1960s, and developed in the late 1950s from karate mixed with boxing, with Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and Savate also having some influence, with competitions held since then. American kickboxing originated in the 1970s and was brought to prominence in September 1974, when the Professional Karate Association (PKA) held the first World Championships. Historically, kickboxing can be considered a hybrid martial art formed from the combination of elements of various traditional styles. This approach became increasingly popular since the 1970s, and since the 1990s, kickboxing has contributed to the emergence of mixed martial arts via further hybridization with ground fighting techniques from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and folk wrestling.
There is no single international governing body, although some international governing bodies include the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (also known as WAKO), World Kickboxing Association, International Sport Karate Association, International Kickboxing Federation, and World Kickboxing Network, among others. Consequently, there is no single kickboxing world championship, and champion titles are issued by individual promotions, such as Glory, K-1 and ONE Championship among others. Bouts organized under different governing bodies apply different rules, such as allowing the use of knees or clinching etc.
The term "kickboxing" (キックボクシング, kikkubokushingu) can be used in a narrow and in a broad sense.
The term itself was introduced in the 1960s as a Japanese anglicism by Japanese boxing promoter Osamu Noguchi for a hybrid martial art combining Muay Thai and karate which he had introduced in 1958. The term was later also adopted by the American variant. Since there has been a lot of cross-fertilization between these styles, with many practitioners training or competing under the rules of more than one style, the history of the individual styles cannot be seen in isolation from one another.
The French term Boxe pieds-poings (literally "feet-fists-boxing") is also used in the sense of "kickboxing" in the general meaning, including French boxing (Savate) as well as American, Dutch and Japanese kickboxing, Burmese and Thai boxing, any style of full contact karate, etc.
Arts labelled as kickboxing in the general sense include:
Since kickboxing is a broad term, understanding the history can be somewhat difficult, since combat is an inherent part of being human. Kicking and punching as an act of human aggression have probably existed throughout the world since prehistory.
The earliest known depiction of any type of boxing comes from a Sumerian relief in Iraq from the 3rd millennium BC. Forms of kickboxing existed in ancient India. The earliest references to musti-yuddha come from classical Vedic epics such as the Ramayana and Rig Veda, compiled in the middle of the 2nd millennium BC. The Mahabharata describes two combatants boxing with clenched fists and fighting with kicks, finger strikes, knee strikes and headbutts. Mushti Yuddha has travelled along the Indosphere and has been a preceder and a strong influence in many famous martial arts of Southeast Asia such as Muay Thai, Muay Laos and Pradal Serey (of Cambodia).
In the Pankration, a mixed martial art from ancient Greece, a form of kickboxing was used in its Anō Pankration modality, being able to use any extremity to hit. In addition, it is debated whether kicks were allowed in ancient Greek boxing, and while there is some evidence of kicks, this is the subject of debate among scholars.
The French were the first to include boxing gloves into a sport that included kicking and boxing techniques. In 1743, modern boxing gloves were invented by Englishman Jack Broughton.  Frenchman Charles Lecour added English boxing gloves to la boxe française.  Charles Lecour was a pioneer of modern savate or la boxe française. He created a form where both kicking and punching was used.  Lecour was the first to view savate as a sport and self-defense system. The French colonists introduced European boxing gloves into the native Asian martial arts in French Indochina. The use of European boxing gloves spread to neighboring Siam.
It was during the 1950s that a Japanese karateka named Tatsuo Yamada first established an outline of a new sport that combined karate and Muay Thai. This was further explored during the early 1960s, when competitions between karate and Muay Thai began, which allowed for rule modifications to take place. In the middle of the decade, the first events with the term kickboxing were held in Osaka.
By the 1970s and 1980s, the sport had expanded beyond Japan and had reached North America and Europe. It was during this time that many of the most prominent governing bodies were formed.
Since the 1990s the sport has been mostly dominated by the Japanese K-1 promotion, with some competition coming from other promotions and mostly pre-existing governing bodies.
Along with the growing popularity in competition, there has been an increased amount of participation and exposure in the mass media, fitness, and self-defense.
On December 20, 1959, a Muay Thai match among Thai fighters was held at Asakusa town hall in Tokyo. Tatsuo Yamada, who established "Nihon Kempo Karate-do", was interested in Muay Thai because he wanted to perform karate matches with full-contact rules since practitioners are not allowed to hit each other directly in karate matches. At this time, it was unimaginable to hit each other in karate matches in Japan. He had already announced his plan which was named "The draft principles of project of establishment of a new sport and its industrialization" in November 1959, and he proposed the tentative name of "karate-boxing" for this new sport. It is still unknown whether Nak Muay was invited by Yamada, but it is clear that Yamada was the only karateka who was really interested in Muay Thai. Yamada invited a champion Nak Muay (and formerly his son Kan Yamada's sparring partner), and started studying Muay Thai. At this time, the Thai fighter was taken by Osamu Noguchi who was a promoter of boxing and was also interested in Muay Thai. The Thai fighter's photo was on the magazine "The Primer of Nihon Kempo Karate-do, the first number" which was published by Yamada.
There were "Karate vs. Muay Thai fights" on February 12, 1963. The three karate fighters from Oyama dojo (kyokushin later) went to the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Thailand and fought against three Muay Thai fighters. The three kyokushin karate fighters' names are Tadashi Nakamura, Kenji Kurosaki and Akio Fujihira (also known as Noboru Osawa). The Muay Thai team were composed of only one authentic Thai fighter. Japan won by 2–1: Tadashi Nakamura and Akio Fujihira both KOed opponents by punch while Kenji Kurosaki, who fought the Thai, was KOed by elbow. The only Japanese loser Kenji Kurosaki was then a kyokushin instructor rather than a contender and temporarily designated as a substitute for the absent chosen fighter. On June of the same year, karateka and future kickboxer Tadashi Sawamura faced against top Thai fighter Samarn Sor Adisorn, in which Sawamura was knocked down 16 times and defeated. Sawamura would use what he learned in that fight to incorporate in the evolving kickboxing tournaments.
Noguchi studied Muay Thai and developed a combined martial art which Noguchi named kick boxing, which absorbed and adopted more rules than techniques from Muay Thai. The main techniques of kickboxing are still derived from a form of Japanese full contact karate where kicks to the legs are allowed, kyokushin. In early competitions, throwing and butting were allowed to distinguish it from Muay Thai. This was later repealed. The Kickboxing Association, the first kickboxing sanctioning body, was founded by Osamu Noguchi in 1966 soon after that. Then the first kickboxing event was held in Osaka on April 11, 1966.
Tatsu Yamada died in 1967, but his dojo changed its name to Suginami Gym, and kept sending kickboxers off to support kickboxing.
Kickboxing boomed and became popular in Japan as it began to be broadcast on TV. By 1970, kickboxing was telecast in Japan on three different channels three times weekly. The fight cards regularly included bouts between Japanese (kickboxers) and Thai (Muay Thai) boxers. Tadashi Sawamura was an especially popular early kickboxer. In 1971 the All Japan Kickboxing Association (AJKA) was established and it registered approximately 700 kickboxers. The first AJKA Commissioner was Shintaro Ishihara, the longtime Governor of Tokyo. Champions were in each weight division from fly to middle. Longtime Ilyushiner Noboru Osawa won the AJKA bantamweight title, which he held for years. Raymond Edler, an American university student studying at Sophia University in Tokyo, took up kickboxing and won the AJKC middleweight title in 1972; he was the first non-Thai to be officially ranked in the sport of Thai boxing, when in 1972 Rajadamnern ranked him no. 3 in the Middleweight division. Edler defended the All Japan title several times and abandoned it. Other popular champions were Toshio Fujiwara and Mitsuo Shima. Most notably, Fujiwara was the first non-Thai to win an official Thai boxing title, when he defeated his Thai opponent in 1978 at Rajadamnern Stadium winning the lightweight championship bout.
By 1980, due to poor ratings and then infrequent television coverage, the golden-age of kickboxing in Japan was suddenly finished. Kickboxing had not been seen on TV until K-1 was founded in 1993.
In 1993, as Kazuyoshi Ishii (founder of Seidokaikan karate) produced K-1 under special kickboxing rules (no elbow and neck wrestling) in 1993, kickboxing became famous again. In the mid-1980s to early 1990s, before the first k-1, Kazuyoshi Ishii also partook in the formation of glove karate as an amateur sport in Japan. Glove karate is based on knockdown karate rules, but wearing boxing gloves and allowing punches to the head. In effect, it is oriental rules kickboxing with scoring based on knockdowns and aggression rather than the number of hits. As K-1 grew in popularity, Glove karate for a while became the fastest growing amateur sport in Japan.
Further information: Full contact karate § American
Count Dante, Ray Scarica and Maung Gyi held the United States' earliest cross-style full-contact style martial arts tournaments as early as 1962. Between 1970 and 1973 a handful of kickboxing promotions were staged across the USA. The first recognized bout of this kind occurred on January 17, 1970, and came about when Joe Lewis, a Shorin Ryu stylist who had also studied Jeet Kune Do with the legendary Bruce Lee, and noted champion in the Karate tournament circuit, grew disillusioned with the point-sparring format and sought to create an event that would allow martial artists to fight to the knock out. Enlisting the help of promoter Lee Faulkner, training in boxing and combining the techniques of boxing and Karate for the first time in America, Lewis arranged the bout to be held at the 1st Pro Team Karate Championships. Lewis faced Kenpo stylist Greg "Om" Baines, who had defeated two opponents in years pasts. Lewis won the fight by knockout in the second round. The event was advertised as "Full contact" but the announcers referred to it as Kickboxing, and rules included knees, elbows and sweeps. Lewis would defend his U.S Heavyweight champion title 10 times, remaining undefeated until he came back from his retirement. In the early days, the rules were never clear; one of the first tournaments had no weight divisions and all the competitors fought off until one was left. During this early time, kickboxing and full contact karate are essentially the same sport.
The institutional separation of American full-contact karate from kickboxing occurred with the formation of the Professional Karate Association (PKA) in 1974 and of the World Kickboxing Association (WKA) in 1976. They were the first organised body of martial arts on a global scale to sanction fights, create ranking systems, and institute a development programme.
The International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) and the International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA) have been the only organizations to have thrived in the modern era.
The International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) was founded in 1992 by Steve Fossum and Dan Stell. Stell eventually stepped down to go back to fighting while Fossum continued with the organization. In 1999 Fossum and Joe Taylor of Ringside Products created the first amateur open North American tournament for Kickboxing and Muay Thai, now the IKF World Classic.
After ending its venture with K-1 in 2006, ISKA co-operated the World Combat League with Chuck Norris, and Strikeforce MMA in partnership with Silicon Valley Entertainment (SVE), an investor group who also own the San Jose Sharks. Norris passed the WCL to his son-in-law Damien Diciolli in 2007, and it has since become inactive. Strikeforce MMA was sold to UFC in 2011.
The ISKA expanded into sport (tournament) martial arts about 15 years ago,[when?] and is a co-operator along with WAKO and Global Marketing Ventures (GMV) in the global Open World Tour (OWT) the first worldwide pro circuit of sport karate professional competitors. It sanctions and assists in the annual US Open & ISKA World Championships that anchors the OWT and the North American-based NASKA Tour. The US Open & ISKA World Championships is broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3 each year.
Other kickboxing sanctioning bodies include World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (primarily amateurs) and KICK International.
Further information: World Association of Kickboxing Organizations
In West Germany, American-styled kickboxing was promulgated from its inception in the 1970s by Georg F. Bruckner, who in 1976 was the co-founder of the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations. The term "kickboxing" as used in German-speaking Europe is therefore mostly synonymous with American kickboxing. The low-kick and knee techniques allowed in Japanese kickboxing, by contrast, were associated with Muay Thai, and Japanese kickboxing went mostly unnoticed in German-speaking Europe before the launch of K-1 in 1993.
By contrast, in the Netherlands kickboxing was introduced in its Japanese form, by Jan Plas and Thom Harinck who founded NKBB (The Dutch Kickboxing Association) in 1976. Harinck also founded the MTBN (Dutch Muay Thai Association) in 1983, and the WMTA (World Muay Thai Association) and the EMTA (European Muay Thai Association) in 1984. The most prominent kickboxing gyms in the Netherlands, Mejiro Gym, Chakuriki Gym and Golden Glory, were all derived from or were significantly influenced by Japanese kickboxing and kyokushin karate.
Dutch athletes have been very successful in the K-1 competitions. Out of the 19 K-1 World Grand Prix championship titles issued from 1993 to 2012, 15 went to Dutch participants (Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost, Remy Bonjasky, Semmy Schilt and Alistair Overeem). The remaining four titles were won by Branko Cikatić of Croatia in 1993, Andy Hug of Switzerland in 1996, Mark Hunt of New Zealand in 2001 and Mirko Filipović of Croatia in 2012.
Main article: List of kickboxing organizations
Some of the top kickboxing promotions in the world are:
Some of the notable kickboxing promoters in the world are:
Kickboxing has a number of different rulesets. For example, Oriental/K-1 rules allow punches, high and low kicks and even knee strikes, while American kickboxing is limited to punches and kicks only above the belt (high kicks).
In the first two decades of the 21st century, several larger kickboxing promotions such as Glory, One Championship and Bellator Kickboxing have adopted the k1/oriental rule set, which allows knee strikes, kicking and punching.
Full Contact (also referred to as American Kickboxing) is essentially a mixture of Western boxing and traditional karate. The male kickboxers are bare-chested wearing kickboxing trousers and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10 oz (280 g) boxing gloves, groin-guard, shin-pads, and kick-boots and protective helmet (for amateurs and those under 16). Female kickboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear.
Notable fighters under full contact rules include, Dennis Alexio, Joe Lewis, Rick Roufus, Jean-Yves Thériault, Benny Urquidez, Bill Wallace, Demetrius Havanas, Billy Jackson, Pete Cunningham, and Don "The Dragon" Wilson
Semi Contact or Points Fighting, is the variant of American kickboxing most similar to karate, since it consists in fighting for the purpose of scoring points with an emphasis on delivery, speed, and technique. Under such rules, fights are held on the tatami, presenting the belts to classify the fighters in order of experience and ability. The male kickboxers wear shirts and kickboxing trousers as well as protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10 oz (280 g). boxing gloves, groin-guard, shin-pads, kick-boots, and headgear. The female kickboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear.
Notable fighters under semi-contact rules include Raymond Daniels, Michael Page, and Gregorio Di Leo.
International rules, or freestyle kickboxing (also known as Low Kick in the United States), contrasts with full contact rules in that it also allows low kicks. The male kickboxers are bare-chested wearing kickboxing trousers or shorts and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, shin-wraps, 10 oz (280 g). boxing gloves and groin-guard. The female kickboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear.
Notable fighters under international rules include Rick Roufus and Abraham Roqueñi.
Main article: Muay Thai
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, rules usually sees bouts contested over 5, 3 minute rounds and male fighters bare-chested wearing shorts and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, shin-wraps, 10 oz (280 g) boxing gloves, groin-guard and sometimes prajioud arm bands. 4oz MMA-style, open-finger gloves are sometimes used. The female Thaiboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear. Muay Thai is unique in that it is the only style of kickboxing that allows elbows, knees, clinch fighting, throws, sweeps and low kicks. Groin strikes were allowed until the 1980s in international Muay Thai and are still partially allowed in Thailand itself (though the boxers wear cups to lessen the impact). Kicking to mid-body and head are scored highly generating a large number of points on judges' scorecards. Moreover, kicking is still judged highly even if the kick was blocked. In contrast, punching is worth fewer points.
Notable fighters under Muay Thai rules include Apidej Sit Hrun, Buakaw Por. Pramuk, Changpuek Kiatsongrit, Rob Kaman, Ramon Dekkers, Coban Lookchaomaesaitong, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn, Saenchai P.K. Saenchaimuaythaigym, Samart Payakaroon and Yodsanklai Fairtex.
Dutch rules (sometimes referred to as Dutch Kickboxing) came about when Japanese kickboxing and Muay Thai were first introduced in Holland in the 70s. European rules began to be developed by the Netherland Kick Boxing Bond in the 1970s when the late Jan Plas brought the sport from Japan to his native country. The primary difference between Dutch rules and full Muay Thai rules was the prohibition of elbow strikes and the limited knees strikes (only to the body). However, elbows were allowed when both parties agree to it. These changes were aimed at reducing injuries and making bouts more accessible to TV viewers. Like the Thai counterpart, the fights are accompanied with the traditional Thai music during a battle. The Dutch kickboxing rules were instrumental to the development of the K-1 rules.
Oriental rules (also known as K-1 rules or unified rules, and sometimes referred to as Japanese kickboxing) was the first combat sport that adopted the name of "kickboxing" in 1966, later termed "Japanese kickboxing" as a retronym. Since the 1990s, many of the largest kickboxing promotions such as K-1, ONE Championship, Glory and Bellator Kickboxing adopted this ruleset. Oriental rules began to be developed by the Japanese boxing promoter Osamu Noguchi and Karate practitioner Tatsuo Yamada, and it was initially intended as a mix of Karate and Muay Thai, but it was later affected also by the Dutch rules, which were first formalised in the Netherlands in the 1970s. The primary difference between Muay Thai and Oriental Kickboxing was the prohibition of elbow strikes and throws. In addition, the amount of clinch fighting is drastically decreased. These changes were aimed at reducing injuries and making bouts more accessible to TV viewers. Oriental rules bouts were traditionally fought over 5, 3-minute rounds but 3 round bouts have since become popular. The male kickboxers are bare-chested wearing shorts (although trousers and karate gis have been worn) and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, shin-wraps, 10 oz (280 g) gloves.
Notable fighters under K-1 rules include Semmy Schilt, Badr Hari, Ernesto Hoost, Albert Kraus, Masato, Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky, Giorgio Petrosyan, Buakaw and Andy Souwer.
Main article: Sanda (sport)
Sanda or Sanshou (also known as Chinese boxing and Chinese kickboxing) is a form of kickboxing originally developed by the Chinese military based upon the study and practices of traditional Kung fu and modern combat fighting techniques; it combines traditional kickboxing, which include close range and rapid successive punches and kicks, with wrestling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, kick catches, and in some competitions, even elbow and knee strikes. The male fighters are bare-chested wearing shorts and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10 oz (280 g) boxing gloves and groin-guard. The female kickboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear.
Notable fighters under Sanshou rules include Wei Rui, Fang Bian, Jia Aoqi, Muslim Salikhov, Pat Barry, Zhang Tiequan, Liu Hailong, Cung Le, Shahbulat Shamhalaev and Shamil Zavurov.
Main article: Shootboxing
Shootboxing (also known as Standing Vale Tudo) is a unique style of hybrid kickboxing popular in Japan that utilizes standing submissions such as chokeholds, armlocks and wristlocks in addition to kicks, punches, knees and throws. The male fighters are bare-chested wearing skin tight trousers and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10 oz (280 g) boxing gloves and groin-guard. The female kickboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear.
Notable fighters under shootboxing rules include Rena Kubota, Kenichi Ogata, Hiroki Shishido, Ai Takahashi and Andy Souwer.
Main article: Lethwei
Lethwei is a type of kickboxing originating from Myanmar that features minimal rules and protective equipment. Lethwei not only allows the use of headbutts but actually emphasizes it, and fighters wear no gloves. Bouts can only be won with a knockout, either a proper or a technical. Uniquely, after one knockout and two minutes rest, the knocked out fighter may still choose to continue the fight once, unless they are knocked out in the final round. There are no points; if no knockout happens before the end of the fifth round, the fight is declared a draw. Male fighters are bare-chested and wear shorts. Protective gear consists of a mouth-guard, groin-guard, and wraps around hands and feet. Female fighters wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing and protective gear.
Notable fighters under Lethwei rules include Soe Lin Oo, Tun Tun Min, Dave Leduc, Too Too and Cyrus Washington.
Punching techniques are very much identical to boxing punches, including
The standard kicking techniques are:
There are a large number of special or variant kicking techniques, including spinning kicks, jumping kicks, and other variants such as
Spinning versions of the back, side, hook and axe kicks can also be performed along with jumping versions of all kicks.
The knee techniques in Japanese kickboxing, indicative of its Muay Thai heritage, are the main difference that separates this style from other kickboxing rules. See ti khao for details.
There are three main defensive positions (guards or styles) used in kickboxing. Within each style, there is considerable variation among fighters, as some fighters may have their guard higher for more head protection while others have their guard lower to provide better protection against body punches. Many fighters vary their defensive style throughout a bout in order to adapt to the situation of the moment, choosing the position best suited to protect them.
See also: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
Knocking a person unconscious or even causing a concussion may cause permanent brain damage. There is no clear division between the force required to knock a person out and the force likely to kill a person. Also, contact sports, especially combat sports, are directly related to a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, abbreviated CTE. This disease begins to develop during the life of the athlete, and continues to develop even after sports activity has ceased. In addition, repetitive and subconcussive blows to the head, and not just concussions, cause CTE.