Boxing is the oldest and most popular combat sport of western origin. The athletes, divided into weight classes, fight in the ring, punching each other with closed fists (protected by boxing gloves) with the aim of weakening their opponent and knocking him out. Since the 11th century, this sport has also been known as the “noble art”, as it requires certain traits such as courage, strength and intelligence. It is the only ring discipline to be included in the Olympic Games.
Muay thai, also known as thai boxing, is a full-contact combat sport that has its origins in mae mai muay thai, an ancient Thai martial art. The discipline is known as “the science of the eight limbs” because it allows the two contenders to use combinations of punches, kicks, elbow strikes and knee thrusts, thus using eight parts of the body as contact points, compared to the two used in boxing or the four used in kickboxing. The original form of muay thai became popular in the 16th century in the ancient kingdom of Siam, but only spread internationally in the 20th century, thanks to some substantial changes to the competition rules that transformed it into an effective and spectacular ring discipline.
Kickboxing is a combat sport that combines the kicking techniques typical of eastern martial arts with the punches typical of English boxing. The term “kickboxing” was coined in Japan in the 1960s. The Japanese promoters, observing the success of muay thai matches, studied the existing competition rules and decided to eliminate elbow strikes, grips and, later, knee thrusts. It became a combat sport in which athletes use punches and kicks to the legs, trunk and head, leading to the birth of “Japanese kickboxing”, later abbreviated to “kickboxing”, which spread rapidly around the world with great success.
The term “mixed martial arts” (often abbreviated to MMA) indicates a full-contact combat sport whose rules permit the use of both striking techniques (kicks, punches, elbow strikes and knee thrusts), and grappling techniques (throws, holds, joint-locks and chokes). An MMA fighter starts off with standing combat, but may then continue on the floor. Athletes can win on points, by KO or submission (forcing the opponent to give up after a joint-lock or choke). They wear special “open-hand” gloves that allow to grab the opponent in order to apply grappling techniques.
Born in the USA in the 1970s under the original name of “full contact karate”, this sport derives from Asian martial arts. However, unlike the traditional no-contact competition rules and the “point karate” and “semi-contact” variants, this version permits full contact strikes (punches and kicks) above the waistline. The discipline was invented by the US champion Joe Lewis together with a selected group of teachers who wanted to experience the real effectiveness of the various traditional martial art techniques combined with English boxing punches.
Savate (also known as French boxing) is a fighting discipline developed in the poorest quarters of Marseille and Paris in the early 1800s as a form of street combat. It was later modified by French aristocrats, who transformed it into their own form of self-defence. Initially the techniques could only be performed with the feet, but from 1820 onwards open-handed strikes were introduced and in 1830 contenders began wearing boxing gloves. Unlike other ring sports, where the athletes fight with bare feet, in savate they wear leather shoes with reinforced soles and toes. It’s possible to hit the opponent anywhere, except to the back of the head and to the groin area.