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Kickboxing is a group of stand-up combat sports based on kicking and punching, historically developed from karate mixed with boxing. Kickboxing is practiced for self-defence, general fitness, or as a contact sport.

Japanese kickboxing originated in the late 1950s, with competitions held since then. American kickboxing originated in the 1970s and was brought to prominence in September 1974, when the Professional Karate Association (PKA) held the first World Championships. Historically, kickboxing can be considered a hybrid martial art formed from the combination of elements of various traditional styles. This approach became increasingly popular since the 1970s, and since the 1990s, kickboxing has contributed to the emergence of mixed martial arts via further hybridisation with ground fighting techniques from Brazilian jiu-jitsu and folk wrestling.

There is no single international governing body. International governing bodies include International Combat Organisation, World Association of Kickboxing Organizations, World Kickboxing Association, International Sport Karate Association, International Kickboxing Federation, World Kickboxing Network, among others. Consequently, there is no single kickboxing world championship, and champion titles are issued by individual promotions, such as K-1, Glory, Kunlun Fight, and SUPERKOMBAT among others. Bouts organised under different governing bodies apply different rules, such as allowing the use of knees or clinching, etc.

Since kickboxing is a broad term, understanding the history can be somewhat difficult. Some of the earliest forms of kickboxing included the various Indochinese martial arts especially muay boran, which developed into modern Muay Thai.

However, in terms of modern competition, it was during the 1950s that a Japanese karateka named Tatsuo Yamada first established an outline of a new sport that combined karate and Muay Thai.

This was further explored during the early 1960s, when competitions between karate and Muay Thai began, which allowed for rule modifications to take place. By the middle of the decade the first true kickboxing events were being held in Osaka.

By the 1970s and 1980s the sport had expanded beyond Japan and had reached North America and Europe. It was during this time that many of the most prominent governing bodies were formed.

In Japan the sport was widely popular and was regularly broadcast on television before going into a dark period during the 1980s.

In North America the sport had unclear rules so kickboxing and full contact karate were essentially the same sport.

In Europe the sport found marginal success but did not thrive until the 1990s.

Since the 1990s the sport has been mostly dominated by the Japanese K-1 promotion, with some competition coming from other promotions and mostly pre-existing governing bodies.

Along with the growing popularity in competition, there has been an increased amount of participation and exposure in the mass media, fitness, and self-defense.

Kickboxing has a number of different rulesets. For example, American kickboxing and/or American full contact karate restricts to strikes using punches and higher kicks; whereas some other arts often regarded as "kickboxing" allow low kicks and even knee strikes, elbows, and grappling maneuvers. All forms of kickboxing use an identical scoring system, however. A winner is declared during the bout if there is a submission (fighter quits or fighter's corner throws in the towel), knockout (KO), or referee stoppage (technical knockout, or TKO). If all of the rounds expire with no knockout then the fight is scored by a team of 3 judges. The judges determine a winner based on their scoring of each round. A split decision indicates a disagreement between the judges, while a unanimous decision indicates that all judges saw the fight the same way and all have declared the same winner.

Full contact rules, or American kickboxing, is essentially a mixture of Western boxing and traditional karate. The male kickboxers are bare-chested wearing kickboxing trousers and protective gear including: mouth-guard, hand-wraps, 10 oz (280 g). boxing gloves, groin-guard, shin-pads, and kick-boots and protective helmet (for amateurs and those under 16). The female kickboxers will wear a sports bra and chest protection in addition to the male clothing/protective gear. also although there has been many organizations the PKA was the first and adopted the above waist kick rule only to create a more appealing option for TV and mainstream Americans with the hope that using a lot of flashy movie type kicks would drawn in crowds and fans which it did in ways but it was the inception of the WKA founded by Howard Hanson and Arnold Urquidez which went internationally and started allowing the use of low kicks after the Urquidez brothers were challenged by Thai fighters living in California looking to spread Muay Thai in the USA in the mid 70s which helped the most notable and internationally famous younger brother Benny "the jet" Urquidez which his early fights with Muay Thai fighters helped him learn and adapt helping him become very successful against the elite Japanese fighters.

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