Your instructors will start you with what are more like “sparring drills”. There’s very light contact (no more than 50% at MOST) and the drills are largely prescribed. But you still get to work your reflexes and learn to avoid strikes when necessary or eat them gracefully as needed. Our instructor will pattern it out like, “First partner throws a light 3 punch combo of any sort, and then a low round switch kick. Second partner checks the kick and counters with any 2 punch combo. Then change.” You don’t know exactly what to expect, but you’re not totally in the dark; you know punches are coming and then a specific kick.
Some people do more “free” sparring after class, but during the main part of the class it’s fairly prescribed.
Of course, anybody interested in joining the fight team or working on their skills with a willing partner can enquire about supervised light contact sparring as well.
All in all, it’s great fun. I would be almost as happy doing a pure “boxing” workout (my favourite part is hand work) but kickboxing has been great and it’s super convenient (I can train over my lunch hour).