Does Kickboxing Teach Elbows & Knees?

Does Kickboxing teach Elbows and Knees

Kickboxing is a full-contact sport, martial art and self-defense system which teaches a variety of techniques, but does Kickboxing teach elbows and knees?

Kickboxing mainly teaches boxing and kicking techniques and elbows and knees are even banned under some Kickboxing rules. However, there are different styles of Kickboxing and Kickboxing competitions, some of which allow them; therefore, some Kickboxing schools do still teach elbows and knees.

With so much variety in styles, techniques and rules, it can be difficult to know what to expect when starting Kickboxing.

Let’s break it down.

Kickboxing VS Elbows & Knees

Since the rise in popularity of professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), many other forms of martial arts have also risen in popularity, including Kickboxing. But as we all become more and more familiar with MMA, it can cause the lines to blur between what techniques can and cannot be used in Kickboxing alone, and what the limitations of other martial arts are.

When it comes to using elbows and knees in Kickboxing, there are two main differentiating factors that will determine whether they’re allowed or not. The first is the style of Kickboxing being used or taught. The second is the competition ruleset under which the Kickboxing is being governed.

Styles of Kickboxing

The term ‘Kickboxing’ is a very broad term and is commonly used to describe any, and all styles of Kickboxing. You may even hear some people use it when referring to Muay Thai. However, Muay Thai is technically a separate sport and martial art all together; with different origins, styles, techniques and competitions. In Muay Thai, elbows and knees are very common and are taught and practiced regularly.

The term ‘Kickboxing’ is a very broad term and is commonly used to describe any, and all styles of Kickboxing.

Since the 1950s, as Kickboxing has grown in popularity, it has developed into a variety of styles within different parts of the world. With each new style, comes a new name to distinguish it from others.

For example:

  • Japanese Kickboxing
  • American Kickboxing
  • French (Savate)
  • Chinese (Sanda)
  • Burmese (Lethwei)

And with each new style, comes a variation in what techniques can and cannot be used. For example, some styles teach kicks to the legs of your opponent, while others do not. Some teach foot sweeps, throws, spinning attacks, clinches or elbows and knees. But again, in some styles these techniques are not taught, and are even banned.

It is most likely though, that if you are going to attend a Kickboxing school – unless it specifically states otherwise in the name above the gym door – you’ll be learning some sort of hybrid of different Kickboxing styles and techniques. This is partly due to the massive popularity of Muay Thai and MMA nowadays, and partly because it offers students more tools in their arsenal for self-defense.

Rules of Kickboxing

As there is with any other sport, Kickboxing has different levels of competition, governing bodies and organisations and some have different rules and regulations as to what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to the use of elbows and knees.

The International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) are one of the largest organisations in the world who sanction Kickboxing events and regulate all aspects of the sport from Amateur to Professional – and from Semi-Contact to Full-Contact.

The IKF offer a set of rule styles for Kickboxing competitions on their website, some of which have different rules on the use of elbows and knees.

Here’s a few examples:

  • IKF Unified Rules – No Elbows allowed
  • IKF International Rules – No Elbows or Knees allowed
  • IKF Sanda General Rules – Elbows & Knees ARE allowed

With hundreds of promoters using ‘Kickboxing’ as a broad term to describe their event – but not all of them following the same set of rules – it means that, although they all say they are ‘Kickboxing’; they may look very different to each other depending where you’re watching or who’s hosting the event. With some promotions allowing and rewarding techniques that are banned by others.

But in general, if the event states that it’s a Kickboxing event, then the chances are that it’ll be following very closely to one of the IKF rule styles as listed on their website.

For example, K-1 and Glory Kickboxing are very popular international pro Kickboxing promotions. In their rulebooks, they state that the use of knees are allowed (although there are limitations) – but the use of elbows are banned and are listed in their rulebooks as a ‘Prohibited Technique’. This would suggest that they are following the IKF Unified Rules of no elbows allowed.

Did you know

Some people use K-1 to refer to a style of Kickboxing or to refer to a set of Kickboxing rules. But really these are all separate things, K-1 is a promoter of Kickboxing which is governed under a set of IKF rules. Just as the UFC is a promoter of Mixed Martial Arts, sanctioned by professional MMA athletic commission rules.


Kickboxing has many different styles and rules – some that teach and allow the use of elbows and knees – and some that don’t. It’s these different styles and rules that generally influence whether elbows and knees will be taught.

Because of all the crossover and similarities in Kickboxing, it’s common for some schools to call themselves a Kickboxing school, but to also teach a variety of techniques from all styles and corners of the Kickboxing world. This means that it is likely you may still be taught knees and elbow techniques at a Kickboxing school – but likewise, don’t be surprised if they don’t teach them.

To avoid disappointment, the best way to be sure is to phone them up and ask.

If you do want to learn a standing striking martial art that incorporates the use of all forms of striking, which definitely does teach knees and elbows – then Muay Thai would be a better option because it does heavily focus on the use of all these techniques.

To find out what the differences between Kickboxing and Muay Thai are – Check out our article: Kickboxing Vs Muay Thai: 5 Key Differences

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