Kickboxing and kung fu are two popular fighting styles. However, you might be wondering which is better for you if you don’t have time for both. Should you learn the graceful art of kung fu or the speed and power of kickboxing?

Choosing between kung fu and kickboxing comes down to your goals and preferences. If you want pure martial arts about perfecting flashy techniques and graceful movements, nothing beats kung fu. However, kickboxing’s rapid pace and power make it the more effective style for fighting.

Below, we answer all your burning questions to find which style suits you best. By the end, you’ll be ready to make a confident decision when it comes to kung fu vs kickboxing.

Kung Fu vs Kickboxing: The Differences

Despite some surface-level similarities, kung fu and kickboxing are pretty different.

And not just in their techniques.

These martial arts have distinct purposes, training regimens, and techniques. 

Kung fu is perfect for those seeking a traditional martial arts experience. You learn to master aesthetically-beautiful moves and embody the ideals of kung fu. This martial art teaches defense and self-discipline above all else, so sparring is minimal.

Meanwhile, kickboxing is more about improving your athleticism and fighting skills. You train to back up the skills you learn with power and endurance. Kickboxing is also the more practical style for self-defense. It involves lots of sparring.

To help you choose kung fu vs kickboxing, we dive into their differences below.


Kung fu puts the arts in martial arts. 

This style incorporates many flashy and unorthodox moves, including:

As a result, it’s one of the most impressive and graceful martial arts to watch. 

The only downside is that these moves sometimes focus more on appealing form than pragmatism. Meaning they leave you open to counterattacks.

Conversely, kickboxing utilizes a more straightforward repertoire of moves. You’ll learn to attack opponents with classic strikes such as the:

Tight and fast kickboxing movements are far less pretty than kung fu. However, it’s much more practical for fighting, as evident from its prevalence in MMA.

Focus and Purpose

Kung fu, an umbrella term for several styles, is as much a martial art as it is a philosophy.

It’s about more than doing cool spinning kicks. You also learn self-discipline, confidence, and respect for kung fu as an art form. Not to mention it carries a cultural significance in China, where Shaolin monks traditionally practice it.

Many dojos treat kung fu as purely defensive in purpose. Meaning they encourage only hurting your opponent as a last resort and to escape when possible. 

On the other hand, kickboxing is more about actual combat and improving athleticism.

Many who practice kickboxing do it for the health benefits more than anything else. However, the straightforward and aggressive style makes it excellent for self-defense and fighting in general.

Kickboxing also has far more competitive opportunities than kung fu does. So if your purpose for learning martial arts is to fight as a hobby or professionally, go with kickboxing.


Between the two, kickboxing typically has more demanding training. This is mainly because the competitive nature of kickboxing demands more athleticism than kung fu does.

Kickboxers generally do a lot of aerobics and strength workouts in addition to practicing technique. While kung fu can be meditative at times, training kickboxing is always a high-octane workout.

However, that doesn’t make kickboxing superior by any means. The intensive training and constant sparring actually make it far more dangerous than kung fu is. Especially if you want to compete, which can involve potentially lethal weight cuts.

Kung Fu vs Kickboxing: How to Pick

Choosing kung fu vs kickboxing comes down to your goals. Kung fu is better if you want a traditional martial arts experience with little sparring. Meanwhile, kickboxing is superior for getting fit and self-defense.

If you’re still feeling stuck between the two, don’t worry—we got you covered. Below, we list several points to help you decide.

Kung fu is best for you if:

  • You enjoy martial arts for their aesthetic beauty
  • You don’t like sparring
  • You like trying unorthodox techniques
  • You want a more slow-paced workout
  • You appreciate the history and culture of martial arts

Meanwhile, you should go with kickboxing if:

  • You want to learn self-defense
  • You want to compete in tournaments, professional kickboxing, or MMA
  • You like fast-paced and intensive workouts
  • You enjoy fighting
  • You don’t like the philosophical or traditional aspects of some martial arts

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a good idea which is best for you regarding kung fu vs kickboxing. And thankfully, you can’t go wrong. Both styles are excellent for improving your health and building confidence.

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