Kickboxing has a number of different rulesets. For example, American kickboxing and/or American full contact karate restricts to strikes using punches and higher kicks; whereas some other arts often regarded as “kickboxing” allow low kicks and even knee strikes, elbows, and grappling maneuvers. All forms of kickboxing use an identical scoring system, however. A winner is declared during the bout if there is a submission (fighter quits or fighter’s corner throws in the towel), knockout (KO), or referee stoppage (technical knockout, or TKO). If all of the rounds expire with no knockout then the fight is scored by a team of 3 judges. The judges determine a winner based on their scoring of each round. A split decision indicates a disagreement between the judges, while a unanimous decision indicates that all judges saw the fight the same way and all have declared the same winner.
Full contact rules, or American kickboxing, is essentially a mixture of Western boxing and traditional karate. The male kickboxers are bare-chested wearing kickboxing trousers and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10 oz (280 g), boxing gloves, groin-guard, shin-pads, and kick-boots 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.
Notable fighters under full contact rules include Dennis Alexio, Joe Lewis, Rick Roufus, Jean-Yves Theriault, Benny Urquidez, Bill Wallace and Don “The Dragon” Wilson.
- Opponents are allowed to hit each other with punches and kicks, striking above the waist.
- Elbows and knees are forbidden and the use of the shins is seldom allowed.
- Clinch fighting, throws and sweeps are forbidden.
- Bouts are usually 3 to 12 rounds (lasting 23 minutes each) with a 1-minute rest in between rounds.
Semi-contact rules or Points Fighting, is an important variant of kickboxing, probably the most similar to the original format brought by W.A.K.O., commonly considered the largest amateur organization of kickboxing. In fact, originally the initials of W.A.K.O. meant “World All Styles Karate Organization”, proving the very strong link between karate and kickboxing. Semi-contact is the variant of American kickboxing most similar to karate, since it consists in fighting for the purpose of scoring points with an emphasis on delivery, speed, and technique. Under such rules, fights are held on the tatami, presenting the belts to classify the fighters in order of experience and ability. The male kickboxers wear shirts and kickboxing trousers as well as protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10 oz (280 g). boxing gloves, groin-guard, shin-pads, kick-boots, and headgear. The female kickboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear.
Notable fighters under semi-contact rules include Raymond Daniels, Michael Page, and Gregorio Di Leo.
- Fighters can score through punches or kicks, striking above the waist and foot sweeps, executed below the ankle.
- Punches, kicks, and foot sweeps are awarded 1 point. Kicks to the head or jumping kicks to the body are awarded 2 points. Jumping kicks to the head are awarded 3 points.
- Hook kicks and Axe kicks are allowed but must be executed with the sole of the foot.
- The use of the shins is seldom allowed, save for jumping and spinning techniques.
- Elbows, knees, and spinning backfists are forbidden.
- Clinch fighting, throws and sweeps (with the exception of foot sweeps) are forbidden.
- Bouts are usually 3 rounds (lasting 23 minutes each) with a 1-minute rest in between rounds.