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What is American Kickboxing?

By Contel Bradford
Updated May 23, 2024
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Also referred to as full-contact rules kickboxing, American kickboxing is a very popular combat sport. It is believed to have originated in 1970, as a result of fighting styles that combined the key elements of boxing and karate. The first official American kickboxing event was held on 17 January 1970, pitting former world heavyweight karate champion Joe Lewis against Greg Baines.

What separates American kickboxing from muay thai and other variations of the sport is a special set of rules that dictate virtually every aspect of competition. These rules govern how fighters present themselves, and how the fight itself is to be conducted. Most importantly, they help to ensure that the competitors are protected when engaging in physical, full-contact combat.

American kickboxing bouts are compromised of three to 12 rounds of action. Rounds typically last between two and three minutes, depending on whether the competitors are amateurs or professionals. Amateur fights usually have two minute rounds, while professional fighters usually compete in three minute rounds. Competitors receive a one minute rest period between rounds. Any match can be stopped by the assigned referee or a doctor, should a competitor be injured during the match. A fighter or his trainer can also end the bout by throwing in the towel.

One of the most important rules in American kickboxing pertains to strikes. Competitors are allowed to strike their opponent with punches and kicks to the upper part of the body. The fighters, however, are not permitted to strike with elbows, knees, or shins at any point in the match. Doing so could result in a loss of points or disqualification, depending on the severity of the infraction. Wrestling maneuvers, such as throws and leg sweeps, can also result in a loss of points.

Each match in American kickboxing is scored on a 10-point system. In order to be declared the winner of a given round, a competitor must land at least 10 kicks to their opponent in each round. The winner of the round is automatically given 10 points, while the loser is awarded points based on the number of successful kicks landed. Fighters are penalized with a deduction of one point per illegal strike, or inappropriate move.

American kickboxing academies can be found throughout the United States, and competitions are held in several major cities there. While some academies openly accept inexperienced students, having at least some background in martial arts is recommended for those interested in becoming a professional kickboxer. This is very important because most reputable schools will not allow students to participate in sanctioned competition until they have developed a strong foundation of fighting skills.

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Discussion Comments

By anon239130 — On Jan 07, 2012

Is this the same as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)?

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