Martial arts used to be seen as something very exotic, specialist stuff that was great fodder for action films. Over the last few decades, however, many forms of martial arts have taken hold and become popular with all sorts of people. Be it for sport, self-defence, leisure, or to improve and maintain fitness, increasing numbers are turning to martial arts such as Muay Thai and kickboxing. Curious to try them, but not sure which is for you? Here are some points to consider.
What is Muay Thai?
Muay Thai is a form of martial arts that originated in Thailand. It’s Thailand’s national sport, and is widely practiced through South East Asia. Muay Thai is referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs”, simply because it uses eight points of contact – two hands, shins, elbows and knees. The modern form of Muay Thai varies quite a bit from the original version, Muay Boran, which included the head as a 9th weapon (yep, head-butting used to be allowed!). Muay Thai is now often practiced in a ring, with participants wearing boxing gloves, but usually no other protective clothing.
What is kickboxing?
While the roots of kickboxing also lie in Asia, modern competitive kickboxing sprang up in America in the 1970s. Karate had already become popular, but full-contact kicks and punches were banned in tournaments. When kickboxing began, these extra movements were allowed, but to ensure a safe environment, competitors were protected with padding and protective clothing. Some have described kickboxing as a fusion of karate, Muay Thai and boxing. Its focus is on the use of hands and feet (so it employs four limbs rather than Muay Thai’s eight limbs).
They sound dangerous
Well, maybe if you were in a ring with one of the ancient Thai masters, using their ‘9th weapon’. In fact, martial arts in general have a lower injury rate than many other sports. Participants also do wear protective clothing. If you are planning to take up either Muay Thai or kickboxing, it’s obviously a good idea to have a medical check-up first if you are overweight or over 40, and to take basic health precautions such as warming up beforehand, cooling down with stretches afterwards, and drinking plenty of water.
Are there any other differences?
While both Muay Thai and kickboxing are great forms of self-defence, Muay Thai is probably seen more of a fighting art for the serious competitor, rather than a sport or fitness regime. In contrast, there are several strands of kickboxing, including aerobic and cardiovascular (cardio) kickboxing, which do not involve any physical contact between competitors. Instead, these forms are a great cardiovascular workout that improves physical conditioning and toning. Kickboxing is popular with both men and women. In choosing to take up something like kickboxing, you have the flexibility to focus on it solely for fitness enhancement, or to take advantage of it as a martial art to learn self-defence and to improve overall confidence.
Like to know more?
If you’re image of kickboxing is limited to pictures of Jean-Claude Van Damm in that pretty forgettable move, you might like to see it in action. The International Sport Kickboxing Association lists upcoming tournaments around the country. Better still; why not sign up for a class? Kickboxing is a fun, high-energy way to see significant improvements in your fitness levels, and gain self-defence skills in the process. And it’s definitely not as scary as Muay Thai!