What is MMA Kickboxing?

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  • Written By: Douglas Bonderud
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2019
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MMA kickboxing is a fighting style used in mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions which utilizes traditional boxing punches as well as kicks and foot sweeps to defeat an opponent. This type of kickboxing differs from its traditional roots in that it allows a larger variety of kicks as well as submission holds. MMA competitions seek to pit fighters of various disciplines and traditions against each other in combat to determine what the most advantageous unarmed fighting style is. The first such competitions were held in Japan in the late 1980s, and soon after came to the United States (US).

Originally, MMA competitions had little in the way of rules or regulations, allowing competitors to forego the use of gloves or other protective equipment and to take as long as they wanted to achieve victory by causing their opponent to submit. Facing public anger at the lack of safety and general derision as being barbaric, the rules were changed to include the use of open-fingered gloves for striking and timed matches to prohibit competitors from conserving their strength. It was during these rule changes that the term MMA was supposedly coined, and competitions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) were born.


MMA fighting does not limit its competitors to any specific discipline or training regime, and allows all types of ground, clinch, and stand-up fighting techniques to be used in the ring. Kickboxing, originally developed in Japan and then to a greater extent in the US in the 1970s, is a style of stand-up fighting which allows the typical strikes found in boxing to be combined with kicks. These kicks are required to be delivered above the hip, and while leg sweeps are permitted, the use of elbows or knees is forbidden. In MMA kickboxing, however, no such rules are present, and while some competitions prohibit the use of elbows in general or knees on a downed opponent, there is no absolute standard.

Kickboxing was originally developed in Japan as a counter to Muay Thai, which is a similar sport often confused with kickboxing. American kickboxing practitioners were the first group of martial artists to develop a worldwide governing body known as the World Kickboxing Association, which regulated all aspects of the sport. In traditional kickboxing, the round is complete when one of the fighters is knocked to the ground; however, a fighter competing in MMA kickboxing must continue until he has caused his opponent to submit, or the referee calls for a stop to the bout. This means that MMA kickboxing competitors will also have to train in other styles of fighting, most notably submission wrestling, in order to avoid being pinned and to keep the fight on its feet, where they can be the most effective.


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