No matter what your motivations are for learning a martial art, you first need to select a sports style that works for you. There are so many different kinds of combat sport to select from, however boxing and kickboxing are two of the most popular in the world.
In this guide, we’re going to explain concisely what boxing and kickboxing involve, and then compare them so you can decide which is best! When someone asks you about martial arts, you can use this guide to beat them to the punch.
Let’s dig right in.
Short Summary: Boxing vs Kickboxing
If you don’t have time to read our full article and explore some of the more intricate aspects of boxing and kickboxing, here’s what you need to know:
- Both boxing and kickboxing are incredibly popular combat sports that can be used to maintain fitness,
- Boxing relies solely on your fists to land punches, while your feet move about to position your body,
- Kickboxing uses both the hands and the feet to land attacks, requiring full body strength to move into position,
- Kickboxing is considered the most effective for street fighting, however it also carries a much higher injury rate than boxing,
- You can find real-world and online classes for both sports easily around the world.
What is Boxing?
Boxing is a very popular sport across the world and here in the US too. There was approximately 5.24 million kids and adults practicing boxing for fitness in the US in 2021, according to Statistica.
The rules of boxing date back centuries, like many other martial arts. The origins of boxing can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks in 688 BC. In the modern world, boxing is a competitive and professional sport, with tournaments and a category in the Olympics.
A boxing match consists of multiple 3-minute rounds, where two opponents use their fists to strike each other above the belt. There will be a referee in the ring to count knock downs, declare knockouts and generally ensure the rules of boxing are followed.
As a fitness regime, boxing requires you to be physically fit and strong. You must be agile on your feet to avoid blows and move position quickly, but have the most strength in your upper body so you can land very powerful punches.
Some people may choose to follow a boxing fitness regime solely to stay fit, rather than to compete and box against an opponent. However, we see this happen more with kickboxing than traditional boxing.
What is Kickboxing?
Kickboxing is a form of boxing that involves kicks as well as punches. It is one of many different kinds of boxing that have diverted from traditional boxing rules over the years. Although it is practiced all over the world and is quite popular (though not as popular as traditional boxing), it isn’t an Olympic sport.
Furthermore, kickboxing champions are rarely household names – unless you’re a dedicated fan of martial arts. On the other hand, boxing legends tend to go down in history as public figures too.
The rules of kickboxing are fairly similar to boxing. Combat begins in a ring, with two opponents and a referee. Except rather than just punching, opponents can kick as well. Typically, they will wear gloves but remain barefoot.
As you can kick in kickboxing, the sport requires agility, balance, and more strength in the legs than traditional boxing does. Practicing kickboxing targets your whole body for strength and muscle.
On the whole, you should choose kickboxing if you’re looking to develop self-defense and street-fighting skill, as well as competitions. If it’s fame as a martial artist that you’re after, then boxing may be a better option.
Comparing Boxing vs Kickboxing
Now we will compare more intricate differences between kickboxing and boxing. Bear in mind that there are so many subvarieties of both kickboxing and boxing that have different rules, so these comparisons are not definitive.
Both kickboxers and boxers will need to be agile on their feet and move around to find the best position. However, in general there are some differences between the stances that a novice might not spot.
Boxing: a boxer will not stand straight on, using more of a blade angle. This means that blows should glance off, and it also gives more space to dodge punches. The dominant arm can also be positioned away from the opponent, so there’s more space to build up a powerful swing and punch.
Kickboxing: the stance for kickboxing requires a more equal weight distribution between the feet, and it’s also more upright and tauter throughout the body. This enables better balance and power with kicks, as well as better kick defense.
The padded gloves used for boxers and kickboxers are virtually identical, so there’s no real difference here. When choosing gloves, or mitts as they are sometimes known, measure carefully. The gloves should be a little snug on the sides, to keep them firmly in place.
For Fitness and Workouts
Both boxing and kickboxing require whole body strength, with boxing focusing more on upper body strength as this is where punches are taken and handed out.
Boxing: training will strengthen the whole body but focus on upper body strength and arm strength for landing punches. You will need to be agile, but not to the lengths that a kickboxer will go to.
Kickboxing: training strengthens your whole body, so your legs can deliver powerful kicks and you maintain balance. This is why kickboxing tends to be more popular for fitness and workouts (especially with women) because it tones the whole body.
For Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, if you want to burn fat then both the boxing and kickboxing fitness regimes can be used to do this. However, kickboxing tends to be more popular for weight loss, while boxing is more associated with bulking up so you’re strong enough to take a punch.
For Self Defense
Learning boxing or kickboxing skills will give you more confidence when in a compromising position. However, boxing limits you to only use your upper body… and your attacker won’t be constrained by such rules.
Learning how to kick as well as punch therefore puts you in a stronger position to fend off attackers no matter the setting.
For Street Fighting
Just like with self-defense, the versatility of kickboxing which uses all four limbs to attack, is considered more advantageous. If your street fighting is organized with rules similar to boxing, then the upper body strength gained from boxing training will be more beneficial.
Other Types of Boxing to Explore
Traditional boxing and kickboxing aren’t the only types of boxing that you can try. In fact, there are many types of combat sports that you might enjoy, whether you like to fight or just want to stay fit and strong.
Here are some of the most popular and similar to kickboxing that you should explore next:
- Muay Thai – also known as Thai boxing, muay Thai uses fists, elbows, knees and shins in a combat sport setting. As it uses more limbs than both boxing and kickboxing, it’s great if you’re looking for a total body workout.
- Shoot Boxing – this is a sport created by a former kickboxing student in Japan. Shoot boxing involves a combination of shoot wrestling and kickboxing techniques. It is not an ancient martial art, but it’s quite fun nonetheless.
- Shadow Boxing – rather than being an entirely new sport, shadow boxing is the act of punching and practicing your boxing against an empty space – like you’re fighting a shadow! It’s good for building muscle and technique before facing an opponent.
- Cardio Boxing – cardio boxing often refers to cardio workouts that use some boxing techniques and shapes, to help you stay fit and/or lose weight. Rather than being a competitive sport, cardio boxing is often an at-home practice.
- French Boxing – better known as savate, French boxing is a style of kickboxing that is a little more graceful than traditional kickboxing. It uses both the hands and feet to strike.
- Title Boxing – rather than a style of boxing, Title Boxing create supplies for boxers, including gloves. Many people recommend their boxing equipment!
- MMA – this acronym stands for mixed martial arts and is most commonly associated with a website that reports on many combat sports. You can also practice and study mixed martial arts if a single style doesn’t suit you.
In conclusion, while there are many small subtleties between boxing, kickboxing and various other combat sports, the main difference is which body parts you are allowed to use. With boxing, your feet are moving constantly, but only your fists will land punches. With kickboxing, you use both your hands and feet to attack your opponent.
While both sports require a high level of physical fitness, the use of your feet in kickboxing often means it’s more popular for many as a whole-body fitness regime. Boxing remains popular as a combat sport and spectator event.
Is boxing better than kickboxing?
Boxing is better if you want to learn how to land powerful punches, however kickboxing focuses more on using all parts of your body and landing attacks with both your hands and feet – that’s why it’s an increasingly popular choice for a fitness regime.
Is kickboxing safer than boxing?
Both sports should be as safe as possible if practiced in a controlled environment, following the rules. In general, boxing is considered safer than kickboxing due to a lower injury rate and the fact that only fists are used, rather than fists and feet. Although, that doesn’t mean that professional boxers are any less dangerous in the ring!
Is kickboxing effective in a street fight?
Kickboxing is more effective than some of the more restrictive combat sports, simply because it gives you more strength throughout your whole body and uses both your hands and feet. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a failsafe. It’s effectiveness in a street fight primarily comes down to your personal skill and your opponent.
Which is more popular, boxing or kickboxing?
Boxing and MMA remain the most popular sports, because they are most well-known. Boxing has a long history and professional fights have been widely televised. MMA is also popular due to the versatility of it. Kickboxing is by no means unpopular though and is likely very close behind boxing in popularity ratings.
What is the hardest fighting sport?
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is considered one of the hardest sports by many, as it requires an in-depth knowledge of the human body (and its weaknesses) as well as physical strength. Boxing is on the easier side, but it’s still not considered easy. If you are looking for a very easy combat sport to lose weight or maintain fitness, we recommend cardio boxing instead.