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Japanese Kickboxing

Updated on September 6, 2012

What is Japanese Kickboxing

Japanese Kick boxing is one of the more aggressive full contact sports. If differs to American and UK style kickboxing in that it uses knees, low kicks and elbows (depending on the type of competition). It is a combination of Thai boxing, western style kickboxing and also elements from Kyokushin Karate.

The stance is quite similar to Thai boxing with weight distribution more to the rear and guard high up towards the temple. This kind of stance is required since the knees need to be raised to block low kicks at any time. In Japanese kickboxing, low kicks are used extensively to cripple the opponents stance thus weakening their punch. I have often seen TKO's with low kicks. When Japanese fighters fight western fighters they may adjust their stance for more like a boxing style with even weight distribution on their legs for stronger punching.

Local Japanese Amature / Pro Kickboxing tournaments can be quite brutal since the elbows are used in certain matches. I have often seen flying knee attacks followed by elbow strikes which often cuts the opponents face causing a doctor stop.

International Tournaments

K1, based in Japan is a Japanese Style Kickboxing organization consisting of mostly foreign fighters especially in the heavy weight category who come to Japan to compete. Many of the fighters actually reside in Japan. K1 follows the international rules - no elbows. Most Japanese fighters compete in K1 MAX tournament which is a light/middle weight category.

Many of the former K1 fighters now fight in the UFC or MMA.

Girls Kickboxing

In Japan, full contact Kickboxing is very popular with women. You'll be very surprised with the number of women, including very attractive women who are professionals at the sport. Tokyo has a J-Network Kickboxing association which I was a members of. One of the clubs in Tokyo has 80% female members.

The most popular thing for the girls is Kickboxercise. It's like a very high impact aerobics session where no contact is necessary. A lot of women often do the normal kickboxing sessions after this and then even follow that with sparring.

Japanese fighters

Due to the physical build of the average Japanese fighter. Punching is not often the their strength. They tend to have more speed then western fighters and very powerfull kicking, many Japanese fighters will aim to cripping their opponents balance with painful low kicks to the inner and outer thighs. It is harder for the opponent to generate power in their punches once the legs becomes wounded and unstable. Quite often fights are stopped at this point or the towel is thrown in.


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    • Hezekiah profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Japan

      K1 has kind of died off now. They ruined it by turning it into a freak show rather than a professional fighting tournament. No many people take it serious and you hardly see it these days. A lot of the fighter have gone to the US to fight in UFC or MMA.

    • midesmedia profile image

      Micks Mides 

      6 years ago from Montevideo, Uruguay

      Japanese kickboxing was around long time before K-1. I remember how Japanese and Thai kickboxers were competing back in the late 70ies and early 80ies. At some point the Japanese were beating Thais. That legacy stopped for long time after great Japanese champion Okau got beat by American Benny 'the Jet' Urquidez. Japanese kickboxing vanished for more than 10 years before Ishi developed K-1 tournament.

    • Derek Owen profile image

      Derek Owen 

      7 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      does anyone have info on how to enter the japanese kickboxing circuit? please send info to

    • Hezekiah profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Japan

      Tank Tom, I do think that Karate has some influence, and I also believe that such a demand for the sport is from a lot of foreigners living in Japan who prefer a full contact version of Karate.

    • TankTom profile image


      8 years ago

      Yea, some of the Japanese people in K-1 have similar ferocity to thai boxers in thai land.

      Good article, but do you think Karate had anything to do with the development of Japanese Kickboxing? For instance, I don't think Japanese kickboxing was around as long as Karate styles in Japan, and I always wondered if Karate and Japanese kickboxing was connected.

      Because I noticed that Kyokushin Kaikan practitioners seem to have similar if not the same style of kicks as thai boxers, and the punches are very similar to that of boxing, expect for the non face punching rule.


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