History of Kickboxing

Brief Summary:

In brief, Kickboxing is a hybrid striking martial art comprising of punches and kicks and further (depending on the system) will also include elbows, knees and headbutts.

It developed in the 1960's from striking arts such as Karate (Japan), Muay Thai (Thailand), Western Boxing and Taekwondo (Korea). Kickboxing began to be practiced for self defence, fitness or as a contact sport. It is ranked like most martial art systems with an armband, belt or t-shirt colour starting from white to yellow, orange, blue, red up to black etc. depending on the school (for example, the British School of Kickboxing awards a red belt before the yellow).

By the mid 1970's, the popularity of Kickboxing spread across the United States and the western world via competition and cinema and major federations were formed.

By the mid 1990's, with the addition of wrestling and ground fighting techniques adapted from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the art of Kickboxing contributed to the development of Mixed Martial Arts.

Development of Kickboxing by region:

Southeast Asia:


During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Siamese soldiers of Thailand practiced a system known as Muay Boran. The martial art continued to develop through to the 1920s, when the style was prominently known as Muay Thai (The Art of 8 Limbs from the use of Punches, Kicks, Knees and Elbows).
GIANT Instructors with Muay Thai coach Anthony Perosh
GIANT Instructors with Muay Thai coach Geordie Lavers McBain
GIANT Instructors with Ajarn Daniel Sullivan (student to Don Inosanto under Bruce Lee)
Buakaw Banchamek, popularised Muay Thai around the world.
Saenchai, arguably the greatest pound for pound Muay Thai fighter of all time.
Tony Jaa, popularised Muay Thai through cinema. Known most for the "Ong Bak Series" and "The Protector".

A great goal for every Kickboxing practitioner should be to visit and train in Thailand!

The training strip in Chalong, Phuket does to Kickboxers and Fitness Fanatics what Vegas does for gamblers. It is a must for the bucket list. Over 15 different gyms to train and enjoy all sorts of Martial Arts and Fitness activities. Phuket also offers great beaches, restaurants and family fun activities. The training is for all levels and as you will see the sparring is very light and playful.

Enjoy the highlight below of Instructor Giorgio's experiences and training on the island and be sure to get on board for the next trip to gain further skill and knowledge directly from the motherland of Thai Kickboxing.


Two most popular Kickboxing styles are known as Yaw-Yan and the Bakbakan International Association system of Sagasa Kickboxing (developed by Guillermo Lengson Philippine Karate Federation). Similar to Muay Thai but differs in hip torquing motion, downward-cutting nature of kicking techniques and delivering attacks from long range. Sikaran is also another form of Filipino Kickboxing practiced as early as the 16th century, however is not that popular today.
GIANT Instructor Anthony with coach Ray Floro, Black Belt in the Sagasa Kickboxing system.


Lethwei - The Art of 9 Limbs (with the addition of the headbutt) is a traditional Burmese art with a strong emphasis on knee, elbow strikes and headbutt. Any part of the body may be used to strike and be struck. It is also known as Bando Kickboxing.

The Burmese style of Lethwei remains strictly traditional with a set of old fashioned style rules that have, so far, stood the test of time. It has also expanded into Singapore.

There are no judges: if there hasn't been a knockout after five three minute rounds, the contest is called a draw; fighters use hand wraps but not gloves and, in addition to all the strikes permitted in a conventional Muay Thai match, head butts are positively encouraged.

Other Kickboxing styles that have developed in South East Asia are Muay Lao from Laos,  Pradal Serey from Cambodia and Viet Vo Dao from Vietnam.


There was a "Karate vs. Muay Thai fight" on the 12th February 1963. Three Kyokushin Karate fighters under Mas Oyama went to the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Thailand and fought against three Muay Thai fighters. Karate won by 2-1.

Following this event a fighter emerged by the name of Tadashi Sawamura who is credited for sustaining the early boom in the popularity of "Japanese Kickboxing". He has an exceptionally high knockout percentage of 94.60% in combat sports. For comparison, in heavyweight boxing the two highest knockout percentages are 87.76% by Rocky Marciano and 87.23% by Vitali Klitschko. Mike Tyson who became famous for his knockout power retired with a knockout percentage of 75.86%.

Sawamura's knockout prowess earned him the nickname "The Demon of Kickboxing".

Kickboxing as a sport in Japan was widely popular and regularly broadcast on TV before losing traction in the 1980's. Kickboxing became popular again with the creation of the K1 tournament in 1993 and has since dominated the sport.


In Korea, the Kickboxing system of Kyuk Too Ki developed from elements of Muay Thai and Taekwondo. It is a full contact sport in Korea and involves punches, kicks, elbow and knee strikes. It is also known as Kun Gek Do, Korean Kickboxing, etc.

Master Kang (pictured with GIANT instructor Giorgio), the founder of Gongkwon Yusul is a practitioner of Kyuk Too Ki.


Sanshou, or Sanda, (also known as Chinese boxing) is a form of Kickboxing originally developed by the Chinese military based upon the study and practices of traditional Kung Fu. It combines rapid successive punches and kicks with takedowns, sweeps, kick catches, and in some competitions, even elbow and knee strikes.


French Savate, a historical sport which developed in the 19th century. It is mostly known for its foot-kicking techniques. If you can relate the typical Muay Thai round kick to a "baseball bat", the Savate style of kick is like a "hammer".

Dutch Kickboxing incorporates styles of Muay Thai, Boxing and Kyokushin style of Karate. Made popular by Ramond "The Diamond" Dekkers and mixed martial artist Bas Rutten.

Bas Rutten

Michel Casseux, the founder of Savate.

United States of America

In the U.S.A the prominent striking styles prior to the 1970's were Taekwondo, Kung Fu and Karate. The art of Kickboxing essentially came from these styles.

The creation of Kickboxing occurred when Joe Lewis, a Shorin Ryu Karateka who also studied Jeet Kune Do with the legendary Bruce Lee and was a champion in the Karate tournament circuit, grew disillusioned with the point-sparring format and sought to create an event that would allow martial artists to fight full contact.

Enlisting the help of promoter Lee Faulkner, Lewis arranged the bout to be held at the 1st Pro Team Karate Championships on 17th January, 1970. Lewis faced Kenpo stylist Greg "Om" Baines, who had defeated two opponents in years pasts. Lewis won the fight by knockout in the second round. The event was advertised as "Full contact" but the announcers referred to it as "Kickboxing", and rules included knees, elbows and sweeps. Lewis would defend his U.S Heavyweight champion title 10 times, remaining undefeated until he came back from his retirement.

Joe Lewis, Karate Black Belt.

Joe Lewis with Bruce Lee.

Joe Lewis with Chuck Norris.

Joe Lewis at age 60.

During this early time, kickboxing and full contact karate are essentially the same sport.

The rules ranged from Semi-Contact which was similar to many Karate competitions where the purpose is to score points with an emphasis on delivery, speed and technique, to Full-Contact which was essentially a mixture of Western Boxing, Karate & Taekwondo skills. The males fight bare chested with kickboxing trousers, gloves, shin guards, groin guards and mouth guards (headgear for amateurs or children under 16). Full contact rules had a general range consisting of just punches and high kicks, then low kicks could be allowed, eventually building up to allowing sweeps, knees and elbows. Females could wear sports bra's and chest gear.

The institutional separation of American full-contact Karate from Kickboxing occurred with the formation of the Professional Karate Association (PKA) in 1974 and of the World Kickboxing Association (WKA) in 1976. They were the first organised body of martial arts on a global scale to sanction fights, create ranking systems, and institute a development programme.

The PKA went into financial decline in the mid 1980's and as a response to these legal and revenue issues, the International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA) was formed.
ISKA along with the International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) has continued to thrive into the modern era.

Notable Kickboxers who popularised Kickboxing from the USA are:

Benny "The Jet" Urquidez (pictured with GIANT Instructors)

Chuck Norris (Pictured with Instructor Giorgio's family)

Van Damme (Kickboxer Series (1989-2018)

Don "The Dragon" Wilson

GIANT Instructors with Pancrase, Pride, UFC and WWE legend Ken Shamrock "The worlds most dangerous man"


In line with the U.S.A the general population in Australia enjoys the art of Kickboxing for fitness, self defence and competition. The International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA), is the biggest amateur level martial arts tournament circuit in Australia. Paul Zadro is the current president of ISKA Australia who also happens to be coach Anthony Perosh's first teacher in Kempo Karate and Muay Thai Kickboxing.

There are a number of different Kickboxing tournament platforms to compete in such as World Association of Kickboxing Organisations WAKO and Muay Thai Australia MTA.

Some of our students have fought and had success in these Muay Thai and Kickboxing competitions.

Instructor Anthony with a GIANT team competing at an ISKA tournament.
GIANT Students Kamal Mourad and Chris Gregoriou competing at WAKO nationals in Canberra.
GIANT Student Arthur competing at the Muay Thai Australia amateur promotions in Sydney.
On a professional level, the land down under has also had a fair share of Kickboxing champions on the world stage such as Stan Longinidis, Mike Zambidis, John Wayne "The Gunslinger" Parr and Sam Greco just to name a few.
Below is a pic of GIANT Instructors and students with famed Australian Martial Artist and actor, Richard Norton


International Kickboxing Association

World Association of Kickboxing Organisations

Muay Thai Australia

International Sport Karate Association (ISKA)

World Kickboxing Association

International Kickboxer Magazine

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