Taekwondo vs KickBoxing

TaeKwonDo vs Kickboxing: What is the Difference?

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that is more of a sport and has strict guidelines, formalities and rituals. Kickboxing originated in Japan and is based on Karate. It is more of a combat sport and includes more boxing techniques.

Studying a Martial Art can be a big deal and starting the process of picking one that is right for you can be a difficult one. It all depends on what you want to learn and there are no set of rules to make the decision easier because everyone is different.

All styles of Martial arts are great but it really depends on individual needs. If you are not sure which is best for you, make a list of what you want to get out it and lets see what style fits your needs.

This breakdown will be a little different than the other martial arts we’ve compared to TaeKwondo. Both are very young martial arts and it’s not uncommon for practitioners of one of these martial arts to train in the other. But there are still a few vast differences that we’re going to break down below. From the competitions, governing bodies, and how they train.

Origins of TaeKwondo

History of Taekwondo

Since some practitioners of American Kickboxing come from TaeKwondo, so we’ll start with TaeKwondo’s origins first. The national martial art of Korea started after WWII, when Japanese colonialism ended. 

Colonialism is the main reason why it took so long for TaeKwondo to be developed. The country’s history is filled with foreign nations occupying the lands of Korea. After Japan left, they were finally able to have an identity again and were able to develop things that were 100% Korean. 

The techniques that are used in TaeKwondo actually go back centuries coming from ancient Korea and Chinese Martial Arts. Also some influence from Japanese Karate due to their occupation of Korea. Definitely so with the ancient Korean art of Takkyeon, where TaeKwondo got many of its kicks from.

After 1945, martial arts schools known as kwans in Korea started to open. They wanted to teach the traditional Korean martial arts that were banned by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea.

The masters of these kwans wanted to have a unified martial art that had a curriculum they all agreed upon. Instructors like General Choi Hong-hi, who is considered the father of TaeKwondo help promote TaeKwondo to what it is today.

Over time TaeKwondo became the official martial art of Korea with a national academy founded in the early 70’s and unified governing body to oversee the martial art. In later years, TaeKwondo became an official Olympic event and practiced my millions across the world.

Origins of American Kickboxing

American Kickboxing

American Kickboxing is a hybrid martial art that started to get developed in the 1970s. The story of its history isn’t, but without it the professional kickboxing you see on TV today might look a bit different.

Basically, the reason why American kickboxing started was because American Karate practitioners, as well as some TaeKwondo practitioners were tired of the strict guidelines of traditional martial arts competitions.

None of the traditional martial arts competitions allowed for full contact punches and kicks. There were a few cross style full contact martial arts tournaments in the 60s, but the first recognized American Kickboxing bout did not take place until January 17th, 1970.

Joe Lewis, a martial artist that studied different forms from Shorin Ryu Karate, Boxing, and Jeet Kune Do directly from Bruce Lee got together with a promoter named Lee Faulkner.

He arranged for a full contact bout to take place at the Pro Team Karate Championships against Kenpo stylist Greg “Om” Baines. This would be for the first ever heavyweight kickboxing championship.

Lewis won the bout by knockout in the second round and would go on to defend his title 10 times.

During the early days of American Kickboxing, there wasn’t much differentiating it from full contact Karate. To differentiate between the types of competitions two organizations were formed. The Professional Karate Association (PKA) and the World Kickboxing Association.

They were the first promotions to set the rules for kickboxing bouts, sanctioning fights, and coming up with ranking systems. The two top organizations that are still around today are the International Sport Kickboxing Association(ISKA founded in 1985) and The International Kickboxing Federation(IKF founded in 1992).

Important Figures in American Kickboxing

Bill “Superfoot” Wallace

He went 23-0 and held the PKA middleweight title. He was known for having a roundhouse and hook kick that was clocked at over 60mph.

Steve Fossum/Dan Stell

These two gentlemen founded the IKA in ‘92. Stell was a fighter and would soon step down after help founding the organization. Fossum would later help create the first amateur North American Kickboxing and Muay Thai tournament in ‘99.

Benny “The Jet” Uriquidez

Another pioneer of early American Kickboxing that first competed in 1974 after transitioning from non contact Karate. He had a record of 59-1-2-2 and considered an all time great kickboxer.

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris has always been a spokesman for all things martial arts. For a short time he ran a promotion called World Combat League. In this promotion teams of kickboxers would compete against each other in a full contact rules bout. The team that won the best 3 out of 5 matches won the competiton.

Philosophy of TaeKwondo

TaeKwondo is not just about learning the physical aspects of the martial art. As you go through your journey to black belt and beyond, you slowly evolve as a person for the better. You learn to be a respectful person and strive to live a life of peace and always do the right thing.

In TaeKwondo, “Tae” means foot, “Kwon” means fist, and “Do” means way. The first two reflect the training and the third means the path the martial art takes you. TaeKwondo takes you on a personal journey, where you’re supposed to learn life lessons and become a better person.

Philosophy of American Kickboxing

Honestly, there is no philosophy in American Kickboxing. Being a hybrid martial art, American Kickboxing is made up of people that train multiple types of striking martial art.

Generally, people that compete in American Kickboxing have a base in a traditional martial art, so their philosophy will be different from another competitor with a different martial arts background.

Weapons of TaeKwondo and American Kickboxing

Neither one uses weapons in their training. Both are strictly hand to hand combat martial arts. Different schools may have a weapons program, but that is an entirely different martial art form.

Outline of a Sport TaeKwondo Match

Below is a list of the rules and guidelines of a sport TaeKwondo competition.

  • The aim of the competition is to land as many punches and kicks as possible in the designated areas before time expires. Generally, the head and body are the only targets you can hit in sport TaeKwondo
  • The bout is comprised of 3 rounds, 2 minute each with a one minute rest in between.
  • The contest takes place on a 10m mat.
  • Victory in the competition can come from knockout, points, or a disqualification.
  • In TaeKwondo one point is scored for shots to the body and 2 points for kicks to the face. No punches are allowed to the face.
  • There are 3 judges and 1 referee that oversee the contest.
  • There’s no grabbing, holding, feigning injury, or pushing allowed in the competition.
  • If there is a knockdown, the competitor is given a count of 10 to get up and a standing 8 count if they get up before 8. Then they must show they’re okay to continue to fight.

Outline of an American Kickboxing Match

  • The punches allowed include any type of punches and kicks. Kicks are allowed to the body, head, and legs (except for the groin).
  • Knees and elbows are not allowed.
  • Clinches and sweeps are not allowed.
  • Bouts are between 3-5 rounds for amateurs and 3-10 for professionals.
  • Amateur matches are 2 minute rounds with a minute rest in between.
  • Professional bouts are 3 minutes with a minute rest in between.
  • All fights take place in a ring between 16 and 20 feet.
  • There are 3 judges and a referee to oversee the fight.
  • Competitors also have til the count of 10 to get up after a knockdown and a standing 8 count if they get up before 10.
  • You can win by knockout, decision, or disqualification.

Federations of TaeKwondo

The main federations of TaeKwondo consist of 3 main organizations

  • World TaeKwondo: They are the predominant organization for sport TaeKwondo in the world. To get to the Olympics, you must compete in World TaeKwondo events
  • International TaeKwondo: The 2nd biggest TaeKwondo organization that oversees events all across the world.
  • American TaeKwondo Association: ATA generally oversee events in North America. They also oversee point sparring events.

Top Federations of American Kickboxing

Generally, in American Kickboxing, the rules and format are generally the same between the top organizations. Here are the top organizations/federations for American Kickboxing.

  • International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA)
  • International Kickboxing Federation (IKF)
  • World Kickboxing Federation (WKF)

Real Life Effectiveness

You really can’t compare the effectiveness of American Kickboxing and TaeKwondo, because people that train in TaeKwondo can also train in American Kickboxing.

Many people that train in traditional martial arts also participate in American Kickboxing. As we said before American Kickboxing is a hybrid martial art that people of different martial arts backgrounds train in it.

In actuality, both are great choices for self-defense and would be a benefit to your health. The nice thing is you can train in both simultaneously and what you learn in one will make you better in the other. Choose which one fits your personality and know that you can always study the other, as well.