Guide to Kickboxing Rules

Kickboxing rules can vary, depending on where you're fighting (or watching). Here are some of the basic rules, organized by Japanese and American kickboxing. If you're considering getting into kickboxing or you've already started training, it's a good idea to be familiar with the rules. 

Japanese Kickboxing Rules

Kickboxing began in Japan as a derivative of several martial arts, most notably Muay Thai. Because of this, many of the rules of Japanese kickboxing are similar to those of Muay Thai. Over the years they have been tweaked to make kickboxing a separate sport, one that's safer for participants.

Kickboxing matches in Japan consist of five rounds of three minutes each.

Kicking below the belt is allowed, but the crotch area must be avoided. Japanese kick boxers may use their knees and elbows in a match. This is similar to Muay Thai but dissimilar from American kickboxing. Neck wrestling is allowed in Japanese kickboxing. Head butts and throws, which were originally introduced to separate kickboxing from Muay Thai, have not been allowed since the 1960s.

Kickboxing Rules in the U.S.
In the US, kickboxing matches last anywhere from 3 to 12 rounds, depending on the predetermined agreement of both fighters. Each round lasts approximately two to three minutes. Opponents in American kickboxing can hit each other above the hip using their fists and feet. Whether they can hit above the waist is up for discussion between competitors. Elbows and knees are not allowed to be used. Competitors may use front leg sweeps to their opponent's front foot.

To win a kickboxing match, a competitor's opponent must either quit or be knocked out. The referee may also end a match. If the match sees all rounds without a knockout, the winner is determined based on the judges' scoring.

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