Best Kickboxing Certification - Easy Steps to Acquire one
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    Hey everyone, and welcome to PT Pioneer, your one-stop shop for career and academic advice in the world of fitness.

    Before we delve into the meat and potatoes of this article, I’d like you to take this quiz.

    I developed it to help you and others figure out which certification is best in order to pursue your chosen path in fitness.

    This article will be taking a swipe at the world of kickboxing and the best kickboxing certifications required to become a certified instructor.

    In order to give you a clear picture, I’ll be going over:

    What kickboxing is all about
    The recommended certifications
    Accreditation
    Exam profile
    Cost
    Study time

    So without further ado, let’s kick right into it.

    Best Kickboxing Certification

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      What Is “Kickboxing”

      While this isn’t an article on defining kickboxing in detail, I feel like a good way to start is to give you a quick intro to the sport.

      Many of you will be familiar with the sport from popular media and the mainstream practice of the sport.

      Kickboxing is a popular combat sport that has its roots in boxing and karate.

      It is considered a fusion of both sports and has many common applications, which include:

      • Self-defense
      • General fitness
      • Competitive sport
      • Tactical martial arts

      In whatever context it is practiced, the techniques and method remain pretty consistent.

      One thing to appreciate in comparison to other careers in fitness is that teaching kickboxing or any specific discipline has some vastly different considerations from what general exercise instruction entails.

      For example, you are teaching a sport, and with it comes a certain culture of practice, a community, and a code of conduct.

      You also have to consider that the primary goal is to advance your skill and technique and not so much to reach common fitness goals such as weight loss or body recomposition.

      With that in mind, let’s look at how one actually becomes a kickboxing coach and what certifications are required to get there.

      How to Become A Kickboxing Instructor

      How to Become A Kickboxing Instructor

      Join me in this segment as I share with you 5 steps to becoming a kickboxing instructor.

      Step 1: Know How To Kickbox

      The first important thing when becoming a kickboxing coach, as with most other sporting disciplines, is to have a background in practicing the sport.

      This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be currently practicing kickboxing.

      It also doesn’t mean you have to be immensely skilled at any stage in your relationship with the sport.

      But what you should have at the very least is experience training and participating for a reasonable amount of time.

      For instance, the head coach of an NLF team certainly isn’t an active football athlete, and when they were, they probably weren’t a top-tier player, but they did play, and they did immerse themselves in the craft and culture of the sport.

      Similarly, with kickboxing, you just need to have a nuanced understanding of the sport, developed through training and practice.

      Sometimes, the best teachers are not the best athletes, but all teachers were or are participants.

      If you do have a desire to be a kickboxing coach but have no experience, I suggest you take that as the initial phase in your journey.

      Make yourself a student before you take on being a teacher.

      Step 2: Determine Your Prerequisites

      If you have the background experience and knowledge in kickboxing, the next step is to certify.

      But before you can do that, you need to evaluate your prerequisites.

      We’ve already discussed the first one at length, which is you’ll want to have experience as a kickboxer.

      Beyond that, you should also look at the general requirements each certification demands in order for you to enroll.

      These requirements are usually standard and include:

      • Having a high school diploma or equivalent
      • Being at least 18 years old
      • Having current first responder certifications (First Aid/CPR/AED)

      Aside from that, you’ll also want to have a good set of traits and skills that allow you to work as an effective and reliable instructor.

      Such things as:

      • Good interpersonal skills
      • Active listening skills
      • Great leadership qualities
      • A strong work ethic

      Step 3: Find the Best Kickboxing Certification for YOU

      Now that you have the all-clear in terms of requirements, it’s time to find your certification.

      Finding the right certification can be tricky since there are so many great options out there.

      In order to find one that suits you, you’ll need to evaluate your current circumstances and goals and find the cert that measures up.

      One rule of thumb when looking at certifications is to always look at accreditation, something I’ll go into more detail on later in this article.

      Other than that, you’ll want to consider cost and study time as they will affect which cert you can nab.

      Step 4: Prepare for Your Exam & Pass!

      Once you’ve enrolled in a cert, it’s time to get cracking and get exam ready.

      Certification exams typically rely on a multiple-choice format, but when it comes to a sports-specific discipline, expect some practical elements in your assessment.

      Depending on whether your certification program is in-person or remote, you may be required to fulfill different requirements as part of the exam.

      Step 5: Start Working with Kickboxing Clients

      Once all is said and done, you’ll soon be able to work with your first clients.

      Unlike other fields in professional fitness, kickboxing and other combat sports/martial arts require specialized facilities and equipment.

      Because of this, your best bet is to job hunt with martial arts gyms and dojos.

      You can score with general fitness clubs as many of them are adapted to facilitate some combat sports training.

      This would be if your approach to kickboxing is for the sake of general fitness, but if you’re looking to develop athletes, your best option is a dedicated martial arts facility.

      Top Recommended Kickboxing Certifications

      Top Recommended Kickboxing Certifications

      Below, you’ll be informed about the Top Recommended Kickboxing Certifications you need to boost your career.

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      Going back to step 3, you’ll want to find a good kickboxing certification.

      One thing to bear in mind is that these certs won’t teach you how to kickbox; they will teach you how to coach it.

      So as recommended, make sure you have a firm practical grasp of kickboxing as a practitioner before you take on the role of a coach.

      If you are considering becoming a kickboxing coach, let’s assume you have at least a couple of years of experience in the sport.

      With that said, let’s look at some of the best certs.

      NCCPT

      NCCPT or The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers is a subsidiary of ISSA, which we’ll talk about next.

      The NCCPT kickboxing cert is administered by Zak Lee, an icon in competitive kickboxing.

      Having a two-time European and world champion apply their training methodology through a fitness instructor framework provides a great balance of coach training and discipline fundamentals.

      ISSA

      The Internationa Sports Science Association or ISSA is an organization recognized as one of the top institutions in fitness credentialling.

      As mentioned, they are the parent organization of the NCCPT.

      Because of this, a lot of the structure and resources behind the ISSA kickboxing certification are adapted from the NCCPT course.

      That includes the fact that the program is based on Zak Lee’s curriculum.

      ISSA is great because of its accessibility since it is a course based completely online.

      ACE

      The American Council on Exercise or ACE is one of the most recognized certification agencies in the world and the leading non-profit institution when it comes to health and wellness credentials.

      Their focus is on raising the levels and standards of public health for a better, more productive society.

      Regarding their kickboxing certifications, it is one of the most comprehensive as you not only learn how to teach kickboxing as a cardio training method, but you also learn how to instruct technique.

      AFAA

      The Athletics and Fitness Association of America or AFAA has been providing fitness education for the past 35 years as of writing.

      In that time they have become a leader and preferred choice for many fitness pros across the US.

      The AFAA kickboxing cert is geared towards a fitness application rather than a disciplined approach.

      That means you can modify your workouts quite widely within the framework of kickboxing and boxing.

      NESTA

      The National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association or NESTA & the Spencer Institute play host to numerous health and fitness certifications.

      They pride themselves on having an entrepreneurial slant when it comes to their programs and courses, allowing trainers to be more business savvy as well as well versed in fitness instruction.

      The NESTA Kickboxing cert is actually more towards the discipline of Muay Thai or Thai Boxing, a similar style of combat sport to kickboxing, but more steeped in its tradition as ancient martial art.

      Having said that, this is again another example of a fitness-based program as opposed to a technique-focused instructors course.

      Accreditation

      I mentioned earlier that accreditation is a crucial consideration when it comes to selecting a certification.

      When it comes to certifying agencies in fitness, there are two accreditation stamps you want to look out for.

      Those are DEAC and NCCA

      The DEAC or Distance Education Accrediting Commission is a commission founded in 1926 with the express purpose of authenticating distance learning programs.

      It has become quite prominent with the advent of online courses, allowing online institutions to hold the same level of credibility as their real-world counterparts.

      The NCCA or National Commission of Certifying Agencies is the most recognized accrediting body when it comes to post-secondary education in fitness and exercise.

      Most reputable certs will have the NCCA seal of approval, so finding it is a quality guarantee.

      With that said, let’s look at which cert has which accreditation:

      CertificationAccreditation
      ACENCCA
      AFAANCCA
      ISSADEAC
      NCCPTNCCA
      NESTANCCA

      As you can see, ISSA is the only DEAC accredited institution, while the rest are NCCA accredited.

      The interesting thing about ISSA is that as an organization, they also offer NCCA accredited programs through their relationship with NCCPT.

      That makes ISSA the most versatile organization with the best accreditation portfolio with all things considered.

      Study Materials Rating

      Study materials are an integral part of your success with a certification program. 

      They are the basis for all the knowledge and skill you will obtain as well as being a guide to the final exam and all other assessments.

      A good study material suite allows candidates not only to absorb relevant facts and knowledge but also entrench that knowledge through activities that allow you to interact with the curriculum before your final test.

      In my opinion, a good study package suite includes:

      • The course textbook
      • Practices tests, quizzes, or exams
      • Interactive educational media content
      • A workbook/study guide

      Many certs have multiple study packages, each with different amounts of study material and priced according to the density and variety of material.

      We’ll get to pricing soon, but first, let’s review the content and rate each package.

      ISSA

      ISSA is known for having really comprehensive, to-the-point study packages.

      Unlike other certs with the previously mentioned multi-package tier system, ISSA relies on a single study suite that includes everything any candidate would need for success.

      This includes:

      • Downloadable Online textbook
      • Video Lectures
      • Practice exams
      • Chapter quizzes
      • Audio guide
      • Study guide

      While ISSA has a comprehensive study suite, many do complain about the lack of variety when it comes to allowing different package options.

      For some, the package is a bit bloated with some unnecessary content, while others view it as inadequate, requiring more information.

      Many of these complaints correlate to the value for money in line with the content offering.

      ACE

      ACE is well known for having a wide variety of study packages.

      In the case of their kickboxing cert, however, they only offer one study suite since it’s actually being provided by UrbanKick and not ACE directly.

      It includes:

      • Urbankick Instructor Workbooks
      • Downloadable Music Playlist
      • Video Lectures
      • Quizzes

      Many customers have raised complaints on the basis of ACE simply repurposing an existing cert and pawning it off through their platform.

      This is a common practice in the world of highly specialized certs, but from what I’ve seen, the reason this is an issue is that the quality and useability of the content seem to leave a lot to be desired.

      Some clients reference the fact that the video lectures don’t work, which is an integral part of a sports instructor program.

      NCCPT

      The NCCPT K1 course offers a very scant study package.

      With only two packages and a maximum of three materials in the top tier package.

      These materials include:

      • Access to career guidance
      • Kickboxing Manual
      • Video lectures

      The exam-only package allows you access to just career advice.

      This cert is for kickboxing practitioners looking to get into fitness and not the other way round.

      So in that sense, the study package offerings are adequate, but they still could have been a push for a more inclusive program.

      AFAA

      AFAA is a subsidiary of NASM, one of the top-rated cert agencies, and one that offers the most robust study package options in my experience.

      Having said that, their Kickboxing: Skills and Drills program only offers a single study material option.

      That package includes:

      • Online materials (course text, practice tests, etc.…)
      • Downloadable study guide
      • Online supporting video
      • Final online exam

      Although the content may seem sparse, the depth of the curriculum is pretty decent from what I saw.

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      It even ties in AFAA’s “5 Questions” proprietary fitness methodology, which gives it a more hands-on approach than some of the other certs in this list which simply appropriate an external training program.

      NESTA

      NESTA’s Muay Thai Fitness program stands out from the rest in terms of study materials.

      That’s because there isn’t much of a study suite included; all you get is a series of video lectures.

      Given the nature of kickboxing, Muay Thai, and other combat sports/martial arts, I would say this is an adequate approach.

      Martial arts are instructed on a visual basis with theory as a compliment.

      The video series includes the following topics:

      • Basics & Fundamentals
      • Coaching Techniques
      • Detailed Powerpoint Video With Details on Each Technique
      • Equipment Options & Selection
      • History of Muay Thai and MTF
      • Large Group Class Structure & Examples
      • One-on-one Class Structure & Examples
      • Small-Group Class Structure & Examples
      • Warm-ups and movement

      But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t do with a little extra content.

      I, for one, enjoy hard copy study material, especially when it comes to having a textbook.

      CertificationStudy Material Rating (out of 10)
      ACE5
      AFAA7
      ISSA8
      NCCPT7
      NESTA8

      ACE takes the last place with a score of 5 out of 10 owing to the numerous customer complaints and the fact that they haven’t done much to make the preexisting UrbanKick package any more robust, even with their wealth of resources

      ISSA and NESTA are tied in the first place. 

      ISSA for having a well-rounded package and NESTA for offering a to-the-point, easy-to-use program.

      Kickboxing Certification Cost

      Cost is king, and for many people, the cost of a cert program will determine which one they will go for.

      Let’s take a look at what each one of these kickboxing certifications asks of your wallet:

      CertificationCost of certification/qualification
      ACE$169.00
      AFAA$149.00
      ISSA$418.95
      NCCPT$239.00 ($199 exam only)
      NESTA$237.00

      ISSA is the most expensive coming in at $418.95, while AFAA is the cheapest with a $149 price tag.

      Regardless of whatever price the certs go for, you’ll likely land a discount or promo deal since most certifying agencies regularly cycle through various discounts on their courses.

      In many cases, certifications will have multiple packages with multiple pricing tiers.

      In this case, since most of the kickboxing certs, I’m reviewing don’t have multiple package options, we’re just dealing with single prices.

      The only one that stands apart somewhat is the NCCPT program, which has an exam-only basic program.

      Another important consideration is the fact that many of these certs come with payment plans, meaning you’re not bound to pay the full amount all at once.

      Popularity and Recognition Rating

      The recognition and popularity of certification may seem like a vanity metric with brief consideration, but when you look deeper, you’ll appreciate their importance.

      Popularity can inform you of the quality of the curriculum, and it can also improve your prospects in the industry through reputational awareness.

      A clear example of this is with colleges and universities. The mere mention of an Ivy League institution such as Harvard, Yale, or Stamford is enough to get you on the front row of most career opportunities.

      The same can be said about fitness certifying agencies.

      By looking at the reputability of each cert agency, you can determine which would be the best kickboxing credential to attach to your name.

      CertificationEnrollment FigureIndustry Recognition Rating
      ACE+90,0009
      AFAA+350,0008
      ISSA+400,0009
      NCCPTNA7
      NESTA+65,0007

      So using enrollment figures, I want to give you an idea of how many candidates successfully qualified as trainers with each agency.

      While this is a reasonable metric when it comes to popularity, it doesn’t tell a complete story.

      That’s because successful candidate stats don’t tell how many candidates actually enrolled.

      It’s still a good metric, but to round it off, I also included an industry recognition rating, a figure I came up with based on my knowledge and experience with different cert agencies as well as popular opinion in forums and discussions.

      ACE and ISSA come out as the two most well-regarded certs in the game, but ISSA edges out with its high rate of candidate success.

      This data, while not specifically applicable to kickboxing certs, can help you decide which agency houses the most reputable certification.

      Certification Takeaway

      Kickboxing certification Takeaway

      I hope you’ve been well-informed on what it takes to be a kickboxing instructor.

      Rooting for your success always!

      Kickboxing is a very specific specialty, as is any sport-specific credential in the fitness industry.

      As such, your best way of gauging the best option is to take a look at the provider.

      Out of this list, the best provider, in my opinion, and experience is ISSA.

      Only losing out when it comes to price, ISSA ticks more boxes than any other.

      I hope this article helps you figure out the best kickboxing cert for you.

      If you have any questions, please check out my FAQ or drop a comment below.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      References

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kickboxing

      https://www.reddit.com/r/Kickboxing/comments/67czgf/how_much_do_top_kickboxers_usually_get_paid_per/

      https://forums.sherdog.com/threads/pro-kickboxer-salary.489095/

      https://www.nccpt.com/certified-kickboxing-instructor

      https://www.issaonline.com/certification/kickboxing-instructor/

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