Not to be confused with regular boxing, kickboxing is considered more of a hybrid combat sport rather than a martial art that was made popular on the competitive stage in Japan and America. This fighting art of attrition comes as a derivative of Karate techniques combined with the distinct combat application and sparring rules of Muay Thai and Western Boxing. Despite its practical application, the sport also has been practiced for fitness and self defence to resounding success.
The true roots of the sport can be traced over 2000 years, however its modern iteration came about in Japan with the development of the Martial Art, Karate. With great interest in Muay Thai, karateka (practitioners of Karate) integrated the various associated rules and practices into their own Karate training. Before this, a key element of Karate training known as kumite (translates as 'meeting of hands') was not applied in training as it was then unthinkable to physically strike opponents in Karate matches.
Hence the main fighting techniques were a synergy of Karate, with a strong emphasis on techniques and the rules of Muay Thai competition. Its popularity then grew with its television broadcasts in the 1970's in Japan which then spawned the more common competitive term K-1 kickboxing.
Kickboxing claims its origins from a variety of different cultures and hence there are quite a few styles associated with the sport. Karate and Muay Thai would be the more popular and widely accessible styles, but there are a few more exotic selections such as Burmese Lethwei, Laotian Muay Lao, Filipino Yaw-Yaw, French Savate, Chinese Sanchou and Indian Musti Yuddha and Adithada.
Kickboxing in general can be associated with any Full Contact Karate style such as Kyokushinkai, however Muay Thai is also a viable option for study. It is Thailand's national sport and is referred as the art of 8-limbs to which its techniques derive, making use of the 8 points of contact utilising punches, elbows, knees and kicks. All of which are trademarks of Kickboxing.
The true distinction between the sport kickboxing and boxing is the clinch. Traditionally in western boxing, the clinch is used as a defensive position in which the boxers wrap their opponent's arms and holds to create a pause that is then separated by the referee. With Muay Thai, the clinch provides both an offensive and defensive posture to blind and strike the opponent utilising vicious close combat techniques such as grapples, knees and elbows.
Especially in Australia, it is a little difficult to learn authentic Muay Thai. A good indicator while training is if the instructor focuses more on teaching clinching techniques. In essence, these are the key focal points and where the signature techniques come to life with devastating results.
In truth, as I am a former Gōjū-ryū Karate black-belt, it's difficult to gauge which institutes would be best for Kickboxing training. With its growing popularity, there are a huge variety of locations in which some form of kickboxing is taught, with classes for men, women, teens, kids and the elderly.
If you wish to study Kickboxing as an aerobic exercise, classes can be easily sourced from most local GYM's. Kickboxing as a self defence is more intensive, focusing on multiple technique and perfect execution. Learning the art in its purest forms, I'd personally suggest Kyokushinkai Karate or Muay Thai schools.
Hammer's GYM in Blackburn comes as recommended with knowledgeable instructors and great facilities; however there is a tendency with western GYM's to focus on certain aspects of the style.
Other institutions such as A.I.M Academy in Footscray and Melbourne Martial Arts, but again my recommendation is to have a look around your local area or some of the aforementioned classes to see whether or not it is suitable for you, as the instructors are generally easily accessible and ready to answer any question you may have.
Overall, kickboxing can is a total body aerobic workout that can increase your flexibility, stamina and your own ability to really kick butt. It's a great workout that also teaches really useful real world applicable self defences that surprisingly has garnered an increase in female applicants wishing to learn kickboxing. For more information on Karate, please see my relating article on Karate.