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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.

Ama­teur rules

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.

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