Kickboxing is the sports version of the martial arts. It takes the basic punches and kicks and builds up a sylabus to be used in self defence and Tournament fighting.
The main difference from traditional martial arts is the concept of, "rules", in traditional martial arts there are no rules as such, you train to not get hit. In kickboxing you train to score points, in other words you train to hit.
this is why rules have to be applied to minimise accidents and injuries.
You also have to wear protectve equipment to minimise injury to yourself and your oponent, in traditional martial arts "free fighting" there is no protecive equipment worn.
As with traditionl martial arts there are many kickboxing styles and clubs which cater for all extremes from points light contact, to full contact where the aim as in boxing is to knock the oponent out.
There are many examples of all the varying styles and contact types on youtube so you can see which would suite your personality and training ambition.
At the Blyth kickboxing school we train in points and light continuous tournament sparing.