Kickboxing is a full-contact sport that grew out of martial arts and boxing. Its journey into mainstream sports began during the karate tournaments in the 1970’s as a way to make scoring easier. Judges could easily tally the number of punches and kicks landed, without needing to know karate forms. Today, kickboxing is most closely associated with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and mixed martial arts (MMA).
Kickboxing places a heavy emphasis on proper technique. This often fosters a deep mind-body connection because of the focus and attention to detail it requires. Forging such a bond also relieves stress by calming the mind. In that respect, focused kickboxing practice is a lot like meditation—but with uppercuts.
Most kickboxing classes are held at martial arts schools, not regular fitness gyms. You’ll learn techniques such as punching, kicking, blocking, counters, and footwork. You may work by striking heavy bags, or by working with a partner holding focus mitts or Thai pads.
Cardio kickboxing is just for cardio – not fighting, not self-defense, it’s nothing but fitness. Cardio kickboxing classes are offered by many fitness gyms, and they usually combine full-body aerobic exercises with boxing and martial arts moves. The focus of cardio kickboxing is twofold: movement and fun. There’s little to no emphasis placed on technique, and the boxing and martial arts moves are kept simple. Most classes stick to jabs and crosses, for example, not uppercuts and hooks. While cardio kickboxing classes generally offer little to no resistance training, they do offer a tenacious whole-body workout.
If you’re interested in self-defense or learning how to fight, kickboxing is the more useful approach. Kickboxing classes will teach you how to throw punches and kicks correctly, which is essential to avoiding injury. Because cardio kickboxing emphasizes fitness, it’s not a very useful tool for self-defense. It will let you prove to yourself how hard you can kick and punch. These are skills that contribute to self-defense but you should not consider cardio kickboxing a self-defense skill.
In other words, kickboxing is something you learn; cardio kickboxing is something you do.
Ultimately, the main difference between cardio kickboxing and kickboxing is reflected in what your personal goals are. Both are exciting ways to get fit and stay motivated to move. Neither are boring, and both are solid ways to strengthen your body and your mind. Simply put, hitting stuff relieves stress!