Some of the earliest forms of kickboxing included the various Indochinese martial arts especially muay boran, which developed into modern muay thai. However in terms of modern competition, it was during the 1950s that a Japanese karateka named Tatsuo Yamada first established an outline of a new sport that combined karate and muay thai.
This was further explored during the early 1960s, when competitions between karate and muay thai began, which allowed for rule modifications to take place. By the middle of the decade the first true kickboxing events were being held in Osaka.
By the 1970s and 1980s the sport had expanded beyond Japan and had reached North America and Europe. It was during this time that many of the most prominent governing bodies were formed. In Japan the sport was widely popular and was regularly broadcasted on television before going into a dark period during the 1980s. In North America the sport had unclear rules so kickboxing and full contact karate were essentially the same sport. In Europe the sport found marginal success but did not thrive until the 1990s.
Since the 1990s the sport has been mostly dominated by the Japanese K-1 promotion, with some competition coming from other promotions and mostly pre-existing governing bodies. Along with the growing popularity in competition, there has been an increased amount of participation and exposure in the mass media, fitness, and self-defense.
The male kickboxers wear a singlet, shorts and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 16 oz boxing gloves, groin-guard, shin-pads and protective helmet (for amateurs and those under 16). The female kickboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear. In addition, amateur rules often allow less experienced competitors to use light or semi-contact rules, where the intention is to score points by executing successful strikes past the opponent’s guard, and use of force is regulated.
- Fighters are allowed to strike their opponent with punches and kicks, including kicks below the waist, except for the groin.
- Elbows and knees are forbidden.
- Clinch fighting, throws and sweeps are forbidden.
- Bouts are 3 rounds for amateurs, all rounds lasting 1.5 minutes each. Each round has a 1 minute rest in between rounds.