Unlike other martial arts, cardio kickboxing was developed not as a form of self-defense but rather as a form of exercise. In spite of this distinction, cardio kickboxing employs much of the spirit and many of the techniques of traditional martial arts.
Modern kickboxing was created as a sport in Japan during the 1950s. Combining elements of many different martial arts, this energetic, fighting sport was enjoyable for spectators to watch. Many of the techniques in kickboxing were derived from Muay Thai and Karate. By the 1970s, the popularity of kickboxing had spread to Europe and the United States.
Kickboxing as a pure form of cardiovascular exercise was the innovation of Frank Thiboutot, who developed the program for the Bay Club in Portland, Maine, in 1992. Thiboutot's original program was a circuit training course that relied on kickboxing techniques. Its dual purpose was to encourage fitness and to promote the sport of kickboxing. As a form of exercise, cardio kickboxing offers a well-rounded combination of resistance training and cardiovascular conditioning.
Thiboutot refined and formatted his training program into one-hour classes that employed the same heavy bags and kicking pads used in conventional kickboxing. Thiboutot further systemized cardio kickboxing in his book, "Cardio Kickboxing Elite," educates the reader about the significance of impact resistance and provides advanced bag work techniques.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, cardio kickboxing became a bona fide fitness craze. Less than a decade after its introduction, cardio kickboxing was being widely practiced in gyms and dojos around the country and around the world. By offering simultaneous resistance training and cardiovascular exercise, the sport became an ideal workout for individuals looking for maximum benefit in their little free time during lunch breaks or on the way home from work.
Since its inception in 1992, cardio kickboxing has spawned many imitators, including Tae Bo, cardio boxing and cardio karate. Despite the increasing array of offerings at local health clubs, cardio kickboxing is still the only martial art created for the purpose of building physical fitness. Given its proven effectiveness, cardio kickboxing continues to grow in popularity all over the world.