Best Kickboxing Certification - Easy Steps to Acquire one

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

To give you a clear picture, I’ll be going over the following:

An Overview of Kickboxing
The Best Certification Options
General Info For Each Certifying Organization

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

CPTCPTFeaturesPrice
ISSA Certified Kickboxing Instructor

ISSA Certified Kickboxing Instructor

  • The Best Deals in Fitness
  • Amazing Variety In Fitness Specializations
  • Also Based On World-Renowned Kickboxer
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ACE Cardio Kickboxing Instructor Training

ACE Cardio Kickboxing Instructor Training

  • Incredible Personal Training Certification
  • Welcomed Focus on General Public Health
  • Comprehensive Focus on Kickboxing Knowledge and Cardio Combined
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NCCPT Kickboxing Instructor Program

NCCPT Kickboxing Instructor Program

  • Administered by Competitive Kickboxing Legend
  • Outstanding Balance Between Training Coaching and Fundamentals of Discipline
  • One of the Most Popular Kickboxing Certs
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Best 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.

You may have come across this while going through the process of how to become a personal trainer, and this has brought you to specializations like kickboxing certification.

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.

ISSA Certified Kickboxing Instructor

The International 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, many of the structures and resources behind the ISSA kickboxing certification are adapted from the NCCPT course.

On top of this, ISSA is at the top of many lists of various types of specializations and CPT articles, as it offers some of the greatest deals in the fitness industry.

In addition, the ISSA CPT is one of the best personal trainer certifications you can aim to achieve.

If you want to look into one of the greatest value options in the world of fitness, check out the Elite Trainer Package ISSA offers.

The Elite Package offers the ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, ISSA Nutritionist cert, and an advanced cert of your choice, such as this great ISSA Kickboxing Instructor cert.

issa-elite-trainer

This is definitely the best deal available if you do not already have your CPT cert, and all three of these certifications come to the buyer for less than half the price of the three certs altogether.

Sometimes, the ISSA also runs the Elite Trainer deal on its main website.

If they currently offer a discount on the Elite Trainer package itself, it’s hard to pass up such an amazing value.

ISSA is excellent because of its accessibility since it is a course based entirely online.

NCCPT Kickboxing Instructor Program

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 an outstanding balance of coach training and discipline fundamentals.

ACE Cardio Kickboxing Instructor Training

The American Council on Exercise, or ACE, is one of the most recognized certification agencies in the world and the leading non-profit institution in 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 learn how to teach kickboxing as a cardio training method and how to instruct proper technique.

AFAA Kickboxing: Skills and Drills Certification

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

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.

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NESTA Certified Muay Thai Fitness Instructor

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 an ancient martial art.

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

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

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 the 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 the other certifications offered by the organization.

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.

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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.

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 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 to entrench that knowledge through activities that allow them to interact with the curriculum before their 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 Certified Kickboxing Instructor

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:

  • Online Textbook
  • Video Videos
  • Textbook Downloads
  • Free Professional Website
  • Unlimited Educational Support

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 Cardio Kickboxing Instructor Training

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 based on 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 video lectures don’t work, which is an integral part of a sports instructor program.

NCCPT Kickboxing Instructor Program

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 around.

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

AFAA Kickboxing: Skills and Drills Certification

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.

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 Certified Muay Thai Fitness Instructor

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)
ACE7
AFAA6
ISSA9
NCCPT8
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 for 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$399.00
NCCPT$239.00 ($199 exam only)
NESTA$237.00

ISSA is the most expensive coming in at $399.00, 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 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 for 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 candidate success rate.

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

Certification Takeaway

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/

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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