Full contact kickboxing, also known as American kickboxing, is a combat sport that combines Western boxing and traditional karate techniques. The sport was created in 1970 and differs from traditional karate insofar as opponents of similar weight are allowed to trade full contact jabs and kicks to the torso and head. While the term "full contact karate" has also been used to describe this sport, this term is essentially incorrect as it refers to any school of karate that incorporates full contact sparring. Full contact kickboxing is a sport in and of itself.
Competition rules can vary according to fighter-promoter preferences. Typically, opponents are allowed to strike with the fist and padded foot anywhere above the hip, including the head. Additionally, front leg sweeps to the inside and outside are permitted, while the use of elbows, knees, and un-padded shins are typically prohibited. This is in contrast to Muay Thai fighting where elbow and knee strikes are allowed unless otherwise specified.
Full contact kickboxing is distinguished in dress from other forms of kickboxing. Long pants and foot pads are mandatory, in addition to mouthpieces, hand wraps, gloves of eight to ten ounces, and groin cups for males. Shorts, bare feet, and head gear are strictly prohibited in professional full contact bouts.
Bouts between full contact fighters are typically three to 12 rounds of two to three minutes each, with a one minute rest period between rounds. Provided neither fighter is knocked out (KO) nor the fight is stopped by the referee declaring a technical knockout (TKO) the winner of the bout is determined by a panel of three judges. A split-decision results from a disagreement between the judges, while a unanimous decision indicates full agreement in regard to the winner. A winner may also be determined if the corner of one fighter literally throws in the towel as a means of forfeiting.
Similar to full contact kickboxing is mixed martial arts (MMA), a full-contact sport that incorporates ground grappling in addition to kicks and jabs. American MMA emerged in 1993 with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship®, though events took place in Japan as early as 1989. Unlike full contact kickboxing, MMA fighters fight with small, open-fingered gloves that allow for open grappling. MMA bouts tend to be more brutal than full contact bouts, as the practice of ground-fighting allows for extensive manipulation of the body's faculties. The presence of women in full contact sports is one the rise, largely due to popular fighters such as Gina Carano and Megumi Fujii.