Kickboxing Rules


Kickboxing is a relatively modern, full-contact sport and martial art that has its roots in several other martial disciplines. With the modern sport of kickboxing beginning in the USA in the 1970s, it was an amalgamation of several other striking arts put into a more familiar American concept, manly by holding competitions in a boxing ring.

Japanese karate, Muay Thai, western boxing, the French kicking art of Savate and Korean Taekwondo are all in part responsible for the modern sport of kickboxing, with the sport taking off rapidly and being popular around the world. However, it was in America and Japan that were (and still are) kickboxing strongholds.

The American kickboxing scene was dominated by its home-grown superstars, such as Joe Lewis, Benny Urquidez, Chuck Norris, and Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace whilst in Japan, their K1 Kickboxing promotions gradually became a big box office draw, from the 90s attracting top competitors from around the world.

Today, kickboxing has been overshadowed somewhat by the emergence of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) but still remains popular around the world. Unlike some other sports, kickboxing has a multitude of different governing bodies and international and national associations. However, despite some slight discrepancies, the rules of full contact kickboxing remain the same regardless of association.

Object of Kickboxing

Like its close relative – boxing – the aim of kickboxing is to beat your opponent by using kicking and punching techniques to knock them out, force the referee to stop the fight or to display superior skills in both defence and attack to win on the judge’s points cards. Kickboxing is a full contact sport and, as well as being adept at striking with both their hands and feet, kickboxers need to be extremely fit and flexible, as some of the most effective techniques are kicks to the head.

Players & Equipment

Kickboxing requires relatively few pieces of equipment.

  • Boxing ring: Kickboxing almost always takes place in a boxing ring. The exact size may vary depending upon the different associations and promotions.
  • Boxing gloves: Kickboxers wear regulation boxing gloves and these may be in any colour. Underneath the gloves, kickboxers use hand wraps to help keep their fist in shape and prevent any injuries to the knuckles and wrist.
  • Footpads: Because kickboxing utilises the feet as a striking weapon, pads are worn on the feet to protect them. This is a fundamental difference between kickboxing and its close relative, Thai boxing, in which boxers do not wear foot pads (and are also allowed to strike with the knee and elbow).
  • Groin guards and mouth guards are also worn by all kickboxers.


There may be different methods of scoring depending upon each different individual kickboxing organisation, but the vast majority use the type of scoring as used in boxing. Judges (or in some cases, just the referee) score each fighter in each round depending upon their performance.

The better fighter in each round is awarded ten points, whilst the other fighter is awarded nine points. If both fighters are deemed to have performed equally well, then both are awarded ten points, whilst if one has significantly outperformed the other or has knocked them down, the round is scored ten points to eight.

Winning the Match

Like boxing and Muay Thai, there are several ways in which a fight can be won:

  • Knockout: This is where one fighter striker strikes their opponent rendering them incapable of carrying on. The striker is then declared the winner after a count of ten, which gives the other fighter a chance to get up and continue fighting.
  • TKO: This is a technical knockout and is when the referee decides that one fighter is no longer able to defend themselves, immediately ending the fight and declaring the other fighter the winner.
  • Points: If no knockout or TKO occurs during the fight, then the fight goes to points. The judge/referee’s points on a scorecard are added up and the fighter with the most points is declared the winner. If the points are equal at the end of the fight then the fight is declared a draw.

Rules of Kickboxing

  • All kickboxing matches should take place in a boxing ring.
  • Any competitor in full contact kickboxing must compete against a fighter in the same weight category as themselves to ensure a fair fight.
  • After listening to the referee’s instructions, both fighters touch glove and the fight begins.
  • Rounds usually last 3-minutes and the number of rounds depends upon the experience of the fighters involved. There is a 1-minute break between each round. Championship fights are usually over 12 x 3 minute rounds.
  • Each fighter must attempt to defeat their opponent by using punches and kicks to the body and head in an attempt to knock their opponent out.
  • If both fighters fail to knock their opponent out or force the referee to stop the fight, then the fight is judged on points. The fighter with the greater number of points is declared the winner.
  • If both fighters have the same amount of points, the match is considered a draw.