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Muay Thai vs BJJ – Which is Better (In-Depth Guide and Infographic)

Muay thai is striking based with very little grappling aside from standing clinch work and no ground fighting or submissions.

While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu includes no strikes whatsoever and is purely grappling and ground fighting based and includes a large variety of submissions.


If you’re interested in other martial arts we have some tables comparing the most popular at the end of this post so hopefully we can help answer which is better Muay Thai vs BJJ as well as how they stack up against other martial arts.

Muay Thai vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – Key Takeaways

AspectMuay ThaiBrazilian Jiu Jitsu
Primary FocusStriking (punches, kicks, knees, elbows) and clinchingGrappling, submissions, ground fighting
OriginThailandBrazil (adapted from Japanese Jujutsu)
ProsPowerful striking techniques / Effective in stand-up fights / Teaches strong clinch skillsEffective ground fighting and control techniques / Leverage and technique over brute strength / Suitable for all / Practical for self-defense
ConsLimited ground fighting skills / Potential for striking-related injuries / Might not be suitable for all Limited striking skills / Can take longer to master/ Potential for joint and ligament injuries / Less focus on stand-up fighting
Training StyleFocus on pad work, heavy bag training, and sparringDrilling techniques, positional sparring, and rolling (grappling sparring)
Competition FormatMatches with 3-5 rounds of 3 minutes eachTimed matches with points awarded for positions and submissions (but can vary greatly depending on organization)
Path to VictoryKnockout, technical knockout, decision, disqualificationSubmission, points, decision, disqualification
EquipmentGloves, shorts, mouth guard, groin guard, optional shin guardsGi (traditional uniform) or No-Gi attire, mouth guard,
Physical RequirementsCardiovascular endurance, flexibility, power, speedFlexibility, strength, balance, technique
Injury RisksCuts, bruises, head trauma*, fractures, joint injuriesJoint and ligament injuries, muscle strains, skin infections
Self-Defense EffectivenessEffective in stand-up situations, limited in ground scenariosHighly effective for ground scenarios, limited in stand-up situations
Cross-Training CompatibilityComplements BJJ and other grappling arts by improving striking skillsComplements Muay Thai and other striking arts by improving ground skills

Jiu Jitsu vs Muay Thai – What’s the Difference

Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) are two very popular martial arts with distinct differences.

Muay Thai, also known as the “Art of Eight Limbs”:

  • is a striking martial art that uses punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and clinching techniques.
  • Muay Thai fighters train to deliver powerful strikes from various distances, making it an effective stand-up combat style.

In contrast, BJJ:

  • is a grappling martial art that focuses on ground fighting, submission holds, and chokes.
  • BJJ practitioners concentrate on using leverage and technique to control and submit their opponents, regardless of size differences.

The primary difference between the two is the focus on striking in Muay Thai and grappling in BJJ.

Additionally, the training methods and techniques differ, as Muay Thai practitioners use pads and heavy bags to perfect their strikes, while BJJ practitioners practice joint locks and chokes on training partners.

Should I Train Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Deciding between Muay Thai and BJJ depends on your personal preferences and goals.

If you enjoy striking and want to improve your stand-up fighting skills, then Muay Thai is the obvious answer.

Muay Thai training involves learning a variety of striking techniques and combinations, as well as developing power, speed, and timing. It also emphasizes cardiovascular fitness, making it an excellent choice for those looking to improve their overall conditioning.

If you’re interested in ground fighting and learning how to control and submit opponents using leverage and technique, BJJ would be best.

For me personally, I fell in love with the strategy of BJJ and strong focus on technique and control plus I was able to train it intensely with less risk of head trauma.

BJJ is often considered a more strategic martial art, as it requires practitioners to think several steps ahead while rolling (sparring) with an opponent. BJJ training also just tends to be less physically demanding on joints and muscles than striking arts, making it a popular choice for people of all ages and fitness levels.

Alternatively, Should You Train Muay Thai and BJJ at the Same Time?

Training in both Muay Thai and BJJ can be highly beneficial, as it allows you to develop a well-rounded skill set for self-defense or mixed martial arts (MMA) if that’s your goal.

Many MMA fighters and enthusiasts train in both martial arts to be competent in all aspects of fighting.

Training in both martial arts simultaneously can be demanding, but it provides a comprehensive understanding of striking and grappling techniques.

If you’re goal is to train both, understand that your progress will be slower as opposed to just learning and training in a single martial art.

My personal opinion is to focus on one martial art for a couple months until you understand the basics then bring in a second martial art.This is the method I followed by first training BJJ for ~1 year then starting Muay Thai.

Finally, also be aware of your fatigue and recovery when it comes to your weekly training schedule. This approach enables you to handle various self-defense situations and adapt to different opponents in competition.

Which is More Effective: Muay Thai or BJJ?

Simply put, effectiveness depends on the context in which the martial arts are applied. Both martial arts are highly effective – there’s no shortage of evidence their effectiveness.

In a self-defense situation, Muay Thai can be highly effective, as its powerful strikes can quickly incapacitate an attacker. Plus it gives the option to easily run which we all know is the safest martial art*

BJJ, on the other hand, excels in situations where the fight goes to the ground or when facing a larger opponent. BJJ’s emphasis on leverage and technique allows smaller practitioners to overcome size disadvantages.

By taking an opponent to the ground you severely limit how much force they can produce and how much damage they can cause.

In MMA competition, both martial arts are essential for success.

  • Striking is crucial for winning the stand-up exchanges,
  • While grappling skills are vital for controlling opponents and securing submissions

The best fighters often excel in both areas or have developed strategies to mitigate their weaknesses.

Is BJJ or Muay Thai Harder to Learn?

The difficulty of learning Muay Thai or BJJ varies from person to person, as each individual may find different aspects of each martial art more challenging. Muay Thai techniques can be learned relatively quickly, but mastering the nuances of striking, footwork, and timing takes time and dedication. BJJ, on the other hand, has a steeper learning curve, as it involves understanding complex positions, transitions, and submissions. However, many people find the intellectual challenge of BJJ rewarding and engaging.

It’s important to remember that both martial arts require consistent practice and dedication to improve. The difficulty of learning either art ultimately depends on your mindset, commitment, and the quality of instruction you receive.

Is Muay Thai Safer than BJJ?

The safety of Muay Thai and BJJ depends on the training environment, intensity, and individual risk factors.

Muay Thai involves striking, which can lead to cuts, bruises, and occasional injuries such as broken bones or concussions.

Read More: Here is our full post on common injuires in BJJ and how dangerous it actually is

BJJ, as a grappling art, has a lower risk of traumatic injury than striking arts.

However, joint locks and chokes can cause injuries if not applied carefully or if training partners fail to tap out in time. BJJ practitioners may experience sprains, strains, and joint injuries, but with proper technique and training, these risks can be managed.

Both martial arts can be practiced safely with the right mindset, training environment, and adherence to safety guidelines.

Is Muay Thai Better than BJJ?

Determining whether Muay Thai is better than BJJ really depends on individual preferences and goals.

For me, I prefer BJJ solely because I can train it intensely with less risk of injury while training Muay Thai at 100% has higher chance for injury specifically head trauma

But both martial arts have unique benefits and applications. Muay Thai provides necessary striking techniques, improved cardiovascular fitness, and an emphasis on stand-up fighting.

BJJ teaches ground fighting, submissions, and the use of leverage and technique to control opponents and is overall a more control and technique based martial art.

Muay Thai vs BJJ for Self Defense

If you don’t know any grappling and your opponent or attacker does…you’re going to have a bad time.

Both Muay Thai and BJJ offer valuable skills for self-defense. Muay Thai teaches how to deliver strikes and maintain distance from an attacker. It also provides techniques for defending against punches, kicks, and clinch situations and the ability to easily flee or run away from your attacker.

BJJ provides techniques for defending against larger, stronger opponents. Its emphasis on leverage and control allows practitioners to subdue an attacker without relying on brute strength. So you can essentially defend against someone who is larger or stronger than you

In a self-defense situation, having proficiency in both striking and grappling should be the ultimate goal.

Combining the skills of Muay Thai and BJJ provides a well-rounded self-defense repertoire that can be adapted to various situations.

Do Street Fights Always End Up on the Ground?

While it’s a common belief that most street fights end up on the ground, the reality is that situations can vary widely.

In a study performed by the LAPD, they found that 63% of physical confrontations end up on the ground.

Some altercations may involve striking exchanges, while others may quickly transition to grappling or ground fighting. Ultimately, it’s essential to be prepared for all possibilities in a self-defense situation.

Training in both Muay Thai and BJJ can equip you with the skills necessary to handle a wide range of self-defense scenarios, whether the fight remains standing or goes to the ground.

Which Is a Better Base for MMA?

A strong base in either Muay Thai or BJJ can be very beneficial for MMA fighters, since each martial art addresses different aspects of fighting.

Many successful MMA fighters have backgrounds in both Muay Thai and BJJ, emphasizing the importance of a well-rounded skill set.

The best base for MMA is truly any combination of a grappling based and striking based martial art (like Muay Thai/Boxing/Kickboxing and BJJ/Wrestling/Judo

Is a Certain Body Type Better for BJJ vs Muay Thai?

In general, shorter and stockier builds are better for grappling based martial arts whereas longer and taller people are better for striking based martial arts.

Martial ArtBody TypeDescription
Brazilian Jiu JitsuAll body typesBJJ emphasizes technique and leverage, making it suitable for practitioners of all body types, including smaller and less muscular individuals.
Muay ThaiTall, leanMuay Thai fighters often benefit from having long limbs, which provide an advantage in striking range. A lean build is also advantageous for mobility.
BoxingAll body typesBoxing is adaptable to various body types, as speed, power, and agility can be developed regardless of size or build.
TaekwondoTall, leanTaekwondo emphasizes high, fast kicks, which are easier for practitioners with long legs and a lean build.
JudoShort, stockyJudo practitioners can benefit from a lower center of gravity, which is advantageous when executing throws and takedowns.
WrestlingShort, stockyWrestlers with shorter, more muscular builds have an advantage when it comes to grappling, takedowns, and controlling opponents.
KarateAll body typesKarate is adaptable to various body types, as it emphasizes a balance of striking, kicking, and kata techniques.
Krav MagaAll body typesKrav Maga focuses on practical self-defense techniques, making it suitable for practitioners of all body types.

There isn’t a specific body type that is universally better for BJJ or Muay Thai. Each martial art can be adapted to suit various body types, and individuals can find success in either discipline regardless of their physical attributes.

In BJJ, certain body types may provide advantages in specific positions or techniques. For example, taller individuals with long limbs may find it easier to secure chokes and joint locks, while shorter, stockier practitioners may excel at applying pressure from top positions. However, the key to success in BJJ is learning to adapt your technique and strategy to your unique physical attributes.

Similarly, in Muay Thai, different body types can provide distinct advantages. Taller fighters may have a longer reach and more success with long-range strikes, while shorter fighters may excel at getting inside their opponent’s range and delivering powerful close-range strikes. As with BJJ, the key to success in Muay Thai is learning to utilize your physical attributes to your advantage.

What’s the Injury Risk When Comparing Muay Thai vs BJJ?

Injury risks in Muay Thai and BJJ depend on various factors, including training intensity, training partners, individual risk factors, and safety guidelines.

Both martial arts have inherent injury risks, but these risks can be minimized with proper training and precautions.

Muay Thai, as a striking art, carries the risk of cuts, bruises, and more severe injuries such as broken bones or concussions.

BJJ, while generally considered safer than striking arts, still carries the risk of injuries such as sprains, strains, and joint injuries. (These risks can be minimized through proper technique, tapping out early when caught in submissions, and training with responsible partners.)

Here are some common injuries that you may come across in both martial arts:

Injury TypeBrazilian Jiu JitsuMuay Thai
Joint InjuriesJoint locks can lead to sprains, dislocations, and ligament tears (e.g., knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries).Kicking and blocking can result in knee injuries, such as sprains or ligament tears.
Muscle StrainsOverexertion during grappling can lead to muscle strains, particularly in the neck, back, and legs.Muscle strains are common in the legs, especially from repetitive kicking and explosive movements.
Skin InfectionsClose contact during grappling increases the risk of skin infections, such as ringworm or staph infections.Skin infections are less common due to the nature of striking, but they can still occur through contact with training partners or equipment.
FracturesFractures can occur from accidental impact during grappling, such as finger or rib fractures.Fractures are more common in Muay Thai, particularly in the hands, feet, and shins due to the impact from striking.
Bruises and ContusionsBruises can occur from pressure or impact during grappling and takedowns.Bruises are common in Muay Thai, particularly on the legs and body from blocking and receiving strikes.
ConcussionsConcussions are relatively rare in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but can occur from accidental head impact during takedowns.Concussions are more common in Muay Thai due to the risk of head strikes during sparring and competition.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Full Breakdown

Pros and Cons of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Pros:

  1. Effective self-defense system: BJJ emphasizes control, leverage, and technique, allowing practitioners to defend themselves against larger, stronger opponents.
  2. Intellectual challenge: BJJ is often described as a physical game of chess, requiring strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.
  3. Full-body workout: BJJ training engages all major muscle groups and improves strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance.
  4. Welcoming community: BJJ gyms often foster a supportive, team-oriented environment, encouraging personal growth and camaraderie among practitioners.

Cons:

  1. Steep learning curve: BJJ techniques can be complex and require significant time and effort to master.
  2. Injury risk: As with any contact sport, BJJ carries the risk of injury, particularly to joints and ligaments.
  3. Time commitment: Progress in BJJ can be slow, requiring consistent training and dedication to improve.
  4. Cost: BJJ training can be expensive, with monthly gym fees, uniforms, and competition expenses adding up over time.

What Is Grappling?

Grappling is a type of close-range combat that involves manipulating an opponent’s body to gain control, establish dominant positions, and secure submissions.

Grappling encompasses various martial arts and combat sports, including BJJ, wrestling, judo, and sambo.

In BJJ, grappling techniques focus on using leverage and technique to control an opponent, transition between positions, and secure chokes, joint locks, and other submissions. BJJ distinguishes itself from other grappling arts through its emphasis on ground fighting and the use of the guard position.

History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The roots of BJJ can be traced back to the early 20th century, when Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka, brought judo to Brazil. Maeda taught Carlos Gracie, who, along with his brother Hélio Gracie, adapted and refined the techniques they learned, creating what is now known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

The Gracie family went on to spread BJJ through challenge matches, demonstrations, and eventually the creation of the UFC, where Royce Gracie showcased the effectiveness of BJJ on a global stage.

What are the Ranks in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

How long does it take to learn jiu jitsu

Click Here: To read more on the BJJ ranks and what to focus on at each

BJJ uses a belt ranking system to indicate a practitioner’s experience and skill level. The adult belt ranks, in ascending order, are:

  1. White belt: Beginner level, where students learn fundamental techniques and concepts.
  2. Blue belt: Intermediate level, where students build upon their foundational skills and develop a deeper understanding of BJJ principles.
  3. Purple belt: Advanced level, where students begin to refine their techniques and develop their unique style.
  4. Brown belt: Expert level, where students demonstrate mastery of BJJ techniques and principles, and may begin teaching others.
  5. Black belt: Highest level of expertise, representing years of dedication and mastery of the art.

In addition to the adult belt ranks, there are separate belt systems for children and teenagers.

Below are the children’s belt ranks in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

Read More: On the Kids BJJ Belts Here

Common BJJ Techniques

BJJ techniques can be broadly categorized into four areas: takedowns, positional control, transitions, and submissions.

  1. Takedowns: Techniques used to bring an opponent from a standing position to the ground. Examples include the double leg takedown, single leg takedown, and various judo throws.
  2. Positional control: Establishing and maintaining dominant positions on the ground, such as mount, side control, and back control.
  3. Transitions: Moving between positions to improve control or set up submissions. Examples include passing the guard, sweeping, and escaping from inferior positions.
  4. Submissions: Techniques used to force an opponent to submit, either by applying pressure to joints or restricting blood flow to the brain. Common submissions include the rear naked choke, arm bar, and triangle choke.
Here’s some of the most common BJJ submissions broken down for beginners

What is Guard Pulling in BJJ?

Guard pulling is a technique used by BJJ practitioners to bring the fight to the ground and establish a guard position.

Guard pulling is when one practitioner decides to sit down to their butt and force their opponent to begin to engage them.

The guard is a ground position where the person on the bottom uses their legs to control and defend against their opponent.

By pulling guard, a practitioner can bypass the takedown phase of a match and immediately begin working their ground game.

Guard pulling is often used in BJJ competition, where the ruleset rewards fighters for achieving dominant positions and securing submissions and may be a way for them to avoid standing takedowns.

How Long Does It Take to Master Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

The time it takes to master BJJ varies widely, depending on factors such as natural aptitude, consistency of training, and individual goals. On average, it takes between 8 and 12 years to achieve a black belt in BJJ, although some individuals may reach this level faster or slower.

In general, it will take someone much longer to master Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when compared to mastering Muay Thai.

It is important to remember that the journey to mastery is ongoing, and even black belts continue to learn and refine their skills throughout their lives.

Read More: How Long Does It Take to Get a Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu

Can a BJJ Practitioner Beat Someone Who Knows Muay Thai?

A BJJ practitioner may be able to beat a Muay Thai practitioner, depending on their skill level, strategy, and the specific circumstances of the encounter.

If a BJJ practitioner can successfully take the fight to the ground, they may be able to neutralize the Muay Thai practitioner’s striking skills and use their grappling expertise to secure a submission.

However, if the fight remains standing, the BJJ practitioner will always be at a disadvantage against a skilled Muay Thai striker.

What Do You Need for BJJ Training?

Some of the most common items you need for BJJ training are:

  • Gi
  • No Gi apparel
  • Mouth guard
  • Head gear (optional)
  • Knee Sleeve (optional)

More Info: Here’s our post on everything you might need for BJJ

The primary equipment needed for BJJ training is a gi, a specialized uniform consisting of a heavy cotton jacket, pants, and a belt to indicate rank. Some BJJ schools also offer no-gi classes, in which case participants wear rash guards and grappling shorts instead of a gi. Other equipment that may be helpful for BJJ training includes a mouth guard to protect the teeth and a groin protector for men.

What Is Jiu Jitsu Training Like?

BJJ training typically consists of a warm-up, technique instruction, drilling, and live sparring (also known as “rolling”).

Below is a typical jiu-jitsu class structure breakdown. Keep in mind that some aspects may vary depending on the gym you choose, but this gives a general idea of what to expect in your first BJJ class:

  1. Lining up or bowing in (~2 minutes): At the beginning of class, some gyms require students to line up according to belt rank and “bow in” to the class instructor.
  2. Warm-up drills: (5-15 minutes) These jiu-jitsu-related exercises are performed at the start of class to help prepare students for the rest of the session. Common movements include shrimping, forward rolls, backward rolls, and Granby rolls (side rolls).
  3. Guided instruction (~30-45 minutes): After warm-ups, the instructor typically presents a technique to the class.

    They will demonstrate the technique several times with a partner and answer any questions students might have. Then, you’ll be paired off or placed in small groups to practice the technique. During this time, the coach or instructor will walk around the class and address any questions or concerns that arise.
  4. Positional and/or live sparring (~15-20 minutes): Following the guided portion of the class, the final phase usually involves live sparring. You’ll be paired with a partner and attempt to execute grappling or jiu-jitsu techniques against a resisting opponent.

    These sessions are typically divided into several rounds, each lasting around 5-7 minutes. After a round, you’ll usually switch partners, either at the coach’s discretion or by your own choice.
    • If it’s positional sparring, you’ll start in a specific position with a particular goal in mind. For instance, you might begin in your partner’s guard, aiming to break or escape their guard.
    • If it’s live sparring, the objective is to submit your opponent while they try to submit you.
  5. Cool down (2-5 minutes): Many gyms incorporate a cool-down period after the live sparring segment. This may involve light stretching or gentle movements to wrap up the class.
  6. Bowing out/shaking hands (~2 minutes): The final part of the class involves bowing out or shaking hands with your partners. The coach may have everyone line up once more by belt rank, and you’ll bow to your coach/instructors before shaking hands with all the class attendees and leaving for the day.

During the warm-up, students perform exercises to improve their mobility, flexibility, and conditioning.

Technique instruction involves the demonstration and practice of specific BJJ techniques, with students often working in pairs to drill the movements.

Rolling* is a form of live sparring where students apply the techniques they’ve learned in a controlled, yet competitive environment. Rolling allows students to develop their timing, reflexes, and problem-solving skills under pressure.

Is There Sparring in BJJ?

Yes, sparring (or rolling) is a fundamental component of BJJ training.

Frequent live sparring is what makes BJJ so effective since techniques are constantly being testing on fully resisting opponents.

Rolling allows practitioners to test their skills against resisting opponents and provides valuable feedback on the effectiveness of their techniques.

By regularly engaging in live sparring, BJJ practitioners can

  • identify areas for improvement
  • develop their cardio and muscular endurance,
  • build mental toughness

Any Physical or Conditioning Requirements for Training?

While BJJ can be physically demanding, there are no specific physical or conditioning requirements to begin training.

BJJ is designed to be accessible to individuals of all fitness levels, and practitioners will naturally improve their conditioning as they progress in their training.

That being said, supplemental strength and conditioning exercises can be beneficial in improving performance and preventing injuries.

How Do Competitions Work in BJJ?

BJJ competitions, or tournaments, provide an opportunity for practitioners to test their skills against opponents from other schools or regions.

Competitors are divided into divisions based on factors such as age, gender, weight, and belt rank. Matches follow a specific set of rules and are overseen by referees who award points for achieving dominant positions, executing sweeps, or performing submissions. The competitor with the most points at the end of the match, or the first to secure a submission, is declared the winner.

To Read More: here is our post on what to expect for your first bjj competition

What Are the Rules of BJJ?

The rules of BJJ vary depending on the competition format, but some common elements include:

  1. Points: Competitors are awarded points for achieving dominant positions (e.g., mount, back control), performing sweeps, or passing their opponent’s guard.
  2. Submissions: A competitor can win a match by forcing their opponent to submit, either by applying a joint lock or a strangle.
  3. Penalties: Competitors may be penalized for stalling, illegal techniques, or unsportsmanlike conduct.
  4. Time limits: Matches typically have a set time limit, with the competitor who has accumulated the most points at the end of the time being declared the winner.

How Do You Win a BJJ Match?

A BJJ match can be won in several ways:

  1. Submission: The most direct way to win a match is by forcing your opponent to submit using a joint lock or strangle. When a competitor submits, they are acknowledging that they are caught in a technique from which they cannot escape, and continuing could result in injury.
  2. Points: If neither competitor achieves a submission within the time limit, the match is decided based on points. Points are awarded for achieving dominant positions, executing sweeps, or passing the opponent’s guard.
  3. Advantages: In the event of a tie in points, the competitor with the most advantages, which are awarded for near submissions or near positional advances, is declared the winner.
  4. Referee’s decision: If the match is still tied after considering points and advantages, the referee will decide the winner based on their assessment of the competitors’ overall performance

Muay Thai Full Breakdown

Click Here: Jump to Our Full Beginners Guide for Starting Muay Thai

Pros and Cons of Muay Thai

Pros:

  1. Effective striking techniques: Muay Thai teaches powerful and efficient strikes that can be used in self-defense and competitive settings.
  2. Cardiovascular fitness: Muay Thai training is physically demanding, helping practitioners develop exceptional cardiovascular endurance.
  3. Versatile range of techniques: Muay Thai offers a diverse range of techniques, including punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and clinching.
  4. Confidence and discipline: Muay Thai training instills a sense of discipline and helps build self-confidence through hard work and perseverance.

Cons:

  1. Potential for injuries: Due to the nature of the striking techniques, Muay Thai can have a higher risk of injuries compared to grappling martial arts.
  2. Limited ground-fighting skills: Muay Thai does not focus on ground fighting, which can be a disadvantage in MMA or self-defense situations that end up on the ground.
  3. Steeper learning curve: The striking techniques in Muay Thai can be more challenging for beginners to learn and master compared to grappling arts.

History of Muay Thai

Muay Thai originated in Thailand several centuries ago as a combat system used by Siamese soldiers during times of war.

  • Over time, it evolved into a sport with a well-defined set of rules and techniques.
  • In the early 20th century, western boxing influenced the sport, leading to the development of modern Muay Thai.
  • The sport gained international popularity in the 70s and 80s when Thai fighters successfully competed against practitioners of other martial arts in international events.

Jump to: Our full post on the history and timeline of Muay Thai

What are the Ranks in Muay Thai

Muay Thai does not have a formal ranking system like BJJ or other traditional martial arts.

Instead, a fighter’s progress and skill level are assessed based on their experience, fight record, and achievements in the ring.

Some gyms use armbands or shorts of different colors to indicate a student’s progression, but this is not a standardized practice.

Common Muay Thai Techniques

Muay Thai utilizes a variety of striking techniques, including punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. Some common Muay Thai techniques are:

  1. Jab, cross, hook, and uppercut (punches)
  2. Roundhouse kick, teep (front push kick), and low kick
  3. Horizontal, diagonal, and spinning elbow strikes
  4. Straight, diagonal, and flying knee strikes
  5. Clinching and sweeps

What Is Muay Thai Clinch

The Muay Thai clinch is a close-range fighting technique where practitioners use their arms to control their opponent’s head and upper body.

From the clinch position, fighters can deliver knee strikes, elbows, or execute throws and sweeps to off-balance their opponent.

The clinch is a unique aspect of Muay Thai and requires strength, balance, and technique to execute effectively.

How Many Years Does It Take to Master Muay Thai?

The time it takes to master Muay Thai depends on the individual’s dedication, frequency of training, and natural aptitude.

Generally, it takes several years of consistent training to become proficient in Muay Thai.

However, mastery of the art is a lifelong pursuit, with even experienced fighters continuing to refine their skills and learn new techniques.

Will Muay Thai Help My BJJ?

Although Muay Thai and BJJ are fundamentally different martial arts, training in Muay Thai can complement and enhance your BJJ skills in several ways:

  1. Striking awareness: by being aware of the possibility of strikes, you can better focus on BJJ techniques that are more self defense based and less focus on “sport bjj”
  2. Improved physical fitness: Muay Thai training can help increase your cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility, which are essential for effective grappling.
  3. Better balance and coordination: The striking techniques and footwork in Muay Thai can help improve your balance and coordination, which can be beneficial for executing takedowns and maintaining control on the ground.

Do Muay Thai and BJJ Go Together?

Many mixed martial artists and self-defense practitioners train in both Muay Thai and BJJ, as these martial arts complement each other by covering different aspects of fighting.

Muay Thai provides effective stand-up striking techniques, while BJJ focuses on ground fighting and grappling.

By training in both martial arts, you can develop a well-rounded skill set that allows you to handle various combat situations.

What Do You Need for Muay Thai Training?

To begin Muay Thai training, you’ll need the following equipment:

  1. Muay Thai gloves: These are essential for protecting your hands during striking drills and sparring sessions.
  2. Hand wraps: Hand wraps provide additional support and protection for your wrists and knuckles.
  3. Muay Thai shorts: Muay Thai shorts are specifically designed to allow for unrestricted movement during training.
  4. Shin guards: Shin guards protect your shins during kicking drills and sparring.
  5. Mouth guard: A mouth guard is crucial for protecting your teeth and reducing the risk of injury during sparring.
  6. Headgear (optional): Some practitioners wear headgear during sparring sessions to protect against head injuries.

What Is Muay Thai Training Like?

Muay Thai training typically consists of the following components:

  1. Warm-up: A warm-up may include skipping, shadowboxing, or light calisthenics to increase blood flow and prepare the body for training.
  2. Technique drills: These drills focus on developing proper striking form and may involve practicing combinations on focus mitts, heavy bags, or Thai pads.
  3. Sparring: Controlled sparring sessions allow students to apply their techniques against a resisting opponent in a safe environment.
  4. Conditioning: Muay Thai training often includes strength and conditioning exercises such as body weight exercises, plyometrics, and core workouts.
  5. Cool down: A cool-down period with stretching helps to prevent injury and aid in recovery.

Is There Sparring in Muay Thai?

Yes, sparring is an integral part of Muay Thai training, as it allows practitioners to apply their techniques against a resisting opponent in a controlled environment.

Sparring sessions in Muay Thai are typically conducted with protective gear such as gloves, shin guards, and mouth guards to minimize the risk of injury.

The intensity of sparring can vary depending on the experience level and goals of the practitioners involved.

Any Physical or Conditioning Requirements for Training?

Muay Thai training can be physically demanding, but there are no specific physical or conditioning requirements to begin training.

When compared to BJJ (from my personal experience), I felt that I could have used more cardio for Muay Thai since in BJJ there are times when you can hold and control your partner to get a full breathe in.

As you progress in your Muay Thai journey, your overall fitness and conditioning will obviously naturally improve.

However, it’s essential to maintain a consistent training schedule and incorporate additional strength and conditioning exercises outside of your Muay Thai classes to enhance your performance and reduce the risk of injury all while balancing your total training volume.

Some suggested exercises include running, swimming, calisthenics, and weightlifting.

How Do Competitions Work in Muay Thai?

Muay Thai competitions are organized in a manner that tests the skills, techniques, and mental strength of fighters. Here is our overview of how competitions work in Muay Thai (while I have never personally competed in a muay thai match or competition several of my training partners have):

1. Weight Classes

Like other combat sports, Muay Thai competitions are divided into weight classes to ensure fair and evenly matched fights. The weight classes vary depending on the organization, but some common ones include flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, and heavyweight.

2. Match ups and Fight Cards

Fighters are matched up against each other based on their experience, skill level, and weight class. Promoters create fight cards, which are a series of matches scheduled for a single event. Fight cards typically feature a main event and several supporting bouts, with fighters at different stages of their careers and skill levels.

3. Rules and Regulations

Muay Thai competitions follow a specific set of rules and regulations to ensure the safety of the fighters and maintain the sport’s integrity. These rules can vary depending on the organization and the country in which the event is held. Some common rules include:

  • Fighters must wear gloves, shorts, a mouth guard, and a groin guard.
  • Matches consist of a predetermined number of rounds, usually three to five, each lasting three minutes with a two-minute rest period in between.
  • Fighters can use punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and clinching techniques.
  • Illegal moves, such as headbutts, strikes to the groin, and strikes to the back of the head, are not allowed.
  • The referee can issue warnings or deduct points for rule violations.

4. Scoring and Judging

Muay Thai matches are scored by a panel of judges who assess the fighters’ performance based on criteria such as effective striking, aggressiveness, defense, and ring control. Judges award points for each round, and the fighter with the most points at the end of the match is declared the winner. If the match ends in a draw, an extra round may be added, or the result may stand as a draw, depending on the organization’s rules.

5. Victory and Titles

A fighter can win a Muay Thai match in several ways:

  • Knockout (KO): A fighter renders their opponent unable to continue due to strikes.
  • Technical Knockout (TKO): The referee stops the fight due to one fighter’s inability to defend themselves or continue fighting.
  • Decision: The judges’ scorecards determine the winner at the end of the scheduled rounds.
  • Disqualification: A fighter is disqualified due to repeated rule violations or unsportsmanlike conduct.

In high-level competitions, fighters may compete for championship titles, which are awarded to the winner of a title bout. Winning a title is a significant achievement in a Muay Thai fighter’s career, as it demonstrates their skill and dominance in their respective weight class.

6. Amateur and Professional Competitions

Muay Thai competitions are organized at both amateur and professional levels. Amateur events are focused on developing fighters’ skills and experience, while professional events showcase elite fighters competing for titles and recognition.

Amateur competitions often feature additional safety measures, such as headgear and shin guards, and may have modified rules to protect the competitors. Professional competitions, on the other hand, have fewer protective gear requirements and allow a wider range of techniques, reflecting the higher skill level of the fighters.

What Are the Rules of Muay Thai?

Muay Thai rules vary depending on the organization and level of competition. However, most Muay Thai matches follow a similar set of rules:

  1. Rounds: Muay Thai bouts typically consist of three to five three-minute rounds with a two-minute rest period between each round.
  2. Legal techniques: Punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and clinching are all allowed in Muay Thai. Strikes to the back of the head, groin, or spine are usually illegal.
  3. Scoring: Judges score each round based on effective striking, aggression, and ring control. The fighter with the higher score at the end of the match is declared the winner.
  4. Knockouts: A fighter can win by knockout if their opponent is unable to continue due to a strike. This includes a 10-count for a downed fighter or the referee stopping the fight due to safety concerns.
  5. Fouls: Fighters can be penalized for fouls such as eye gouging, head-butting, or striking an opponent after the referee has called for a break.

How Do You Win a Muay Thai Match?

There are several ways to win a Muay Thai match:

  1. Knockout (KO): A knockout occurs when a fighter is unable to continue due to a strike, either by failing to beat the 10-count or the referee stopping the fight for safety reasons.
  2. Technical Knockout (TKO): A technical knockout is declared when a fighter is unable to continue due to injury, exhaustion, or the referee’s judgment that they cannot defend themselves effectively.
  3. Decision: If a match goes the full distance, the winner is determined by the judges’ scorecards. The fighter with the higher score, based on effective striking, aggression, and ring control, is declared the winner.
  4. Disqualification: A fighter can be disqualified for repeatedly committing fouls or other unsportsmanlike conduct.

How to Find and Choose a Muay Thai or BJJ Gym?

To find and choose the right Muay Thai or BJJ gym, consider the following factors:

  1. Location: Look for gyms in your area that offer Muay Thai or BJJ classes. Proximity to your home or workplace can make it easier to maintain a consistent training schedule.
  2. Schedule: Check the class schedule to ensure it aligns with your availability.
  3. Instructors: Research the instructors’ qualifications and experience. Look for trainers who have a proven track record in their respective martial arts and have experience teaching students of all skill levels.
  4. Facilities: Visit the gyms to assess the cleanliness, equipment, and overall atmosphere. A well-maintained facility with ample training space and quality equipment can enhance your training experience.
  5. Training partners: Observe the student body during classes to gauge the skill levels and attitudes of your potential training partners. Training with a diverse group of students who are supportive and dedicated can help you grow as a martial artist.
  6. Trial classes: Many gyms offer trial classes, which give you the opportunity to experience the training firsthand before committing to a membership. Take advantage of these trial sessions to determine which gym best suits your needs and preferences.
  7. Cost: Compare membership fees and contract terms across different gyms. Keep in mind that the cheapest option may not always be the best fit for your goals, so weigh the value of the training experience against the cost.

Read More: I think choosing a gym is very important so I wrote a full post on it here

Other Martial Arts Comparisons

Jiu-Jitsu vs Muay Thai vs Krav Maga

Martial ArtFocusTechniquesTrainingSelf-Defense EffectivenessProsCons
Brazilian Jiu-JitsuGrappling and ground fightingSubmissions, joint locks, chokes, sweepsTechnique-based, live sparringHighExcellent ground control, leverage-based techniques, great for smaller individualsLimited striking, may struggle against multiple attackers
Muay ThaiStrikingPunches, kicks, elbows, knees, clinchingHigh-intensity, pad work, sparringModerate to HighPowerful striking, distance control, effective in standing situationsLimited ground fighting, may be less effective for smaller individuals
Krav MagaSelf-defenseStrikes, joint manipulation, disarmingScenario-based, practical techniquesUnknownFocus on real-world situations*, quick threat neutralization, adaptableLess emphasis on competition or sport, may have varying quality of instruction

Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and Krav Maga are three distinct martial arts, each with its unique advantages and applications.

  • Again, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling-based martial art that focuses on submissions and ground control.
  • Muay Thai, on the other hand, is a striking martial art that utilizes punches, kicks, knees, and elbows.
  • Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art, is a self-defense system that combines elements of various martial arts to address real-world threats.

While Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai are sports-oriented and focus on competition, Krav Maga’s primary goal is practical self-defense.

Krav Maga emphasizes

  • situational awareness
  • deescalation techniques
  • quick, effective responses to neutralize threats

It often incorporates elements from other martial arts, including striking techniques from Muay Thai and grappling techniques from Jiu-Jitsu. However, it should be noted that these may be “watered-down” so its always important to confirm the legitimacy and quality of instruction found at a krav maga gym.

For this reason, we strongly recommend Brazilian jiu jitsu and Muay Thai over Krav Maga.

More info: Updated BJJ vs Krav Maga Comparison

Muay Thai vs Judo

AspectMuay ThaiJudo
FocusStriking and clinchingGrappling, throws, and submissions
TechniquesPunches, elbows, knees, kicks, and clinch workThrows, joint locks, chokes, pins, and sweeps
Training methodsPad work, bag work, sparring, clinch workRandori (sparring), uchikomi (drilling), kata
StanceUpright, mobileUpright, more focused on grips and balance
GrapplingLimited, primarily in the clinchExtensive, core aspect of the martial art
StrikingExtensive, core aspect of the martial artNon-existent
Ground FightingNon-existentEmphasis on pins, joint locks, and chokes
UniformShorts, no shirt for men, tank top/sports bra for womenGi (thick jacket, pants, belt)
Competitive formatMuay Thai matchesJudo matches, points for throws and submissions
Scoring systemCumulative scoring based on effectivenessIppon, waza-ari, and yuko (based on techniques)

Judo is a Japanese martial art that focuses on throws, grappling, and ground fighting.

Like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo emphasizes the use of leverage and technique to overcome an opponent, regardless of their size.

Judo practitioners train to off-balance their opponents and use their momentum against them, often resulting in powerful throws and takedowns.

In contrast, we know that, Muay Thai is a striking martial art that emphasizes powerful punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Muay Thai fighters are known for their devastating striking techniques and clinch work, which can be highly effective in both self-defense and competition.

Both martial arts offer unique benefits: Judo provides effective takedown and grappling skills, while Muay Thai offers powerful striking techniques. When deciding between these martial arts, consider your interests and goals, as well as the availability of quality training in your area.

Muay Thai vs Kickboxing

AspectMuay ThaiKickboxing
OriginThailandJapan and America
FocusStriking with fists, elbows, knees, and shinsStriking with fists and legs
TechniquesPunches, elbows, knees, kicks, clinch workPunches, kicks, knee strikes
Training methodsPad work, bag work, sparring, clinch workPad work, bag work, sparring, partner drills
StanceUpright, mobileUpright, mobile
GrapplingLimited, primarily in the clinch and sweepsNon-existent
RulesCan use punches, elbows, knees, shins, and clinchCan only use punches and kicks
Competitive formatMatches, stand-up striking with clinchMatches, stand-up striking
Scoring systemCumulative scoring based on effectivenessBased on points or knockdowns

Muay Thai and Kickboxing are both striking martial arts, but they differ in techniques, rules, and overall approach. Muay Thai allows the use of fists, feet, elbows, and knees, as well as clinching techniques.

Kickboxing, on the other hand, typically restricts strikes to punches and kicks and often prohibits clinching.

Muay Thai is often considered more versatile and dynamic due to its extensive arsenal of techniques and emphasis on clinch work.

In contrast, Kickboxing focuses on speed, power, and combinations.

Related: To see more details on the differences (there’s more than you think) click here for Muay Thai vs Kickboxing

Muay Thai vs MMA

AspectMuay ThaiMMA
OriginThailandUnited States
FocusStriking with fists, elbows, knees, and shinsStriking, grappling, and ground fighting
TechniquesPunches, elbows, knees, kicks, clinch workBoxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu
Training methodsPad work, bag work, sparring, clinch workPad work, bag work, sparring, grappling, ground work
StanceUpright, mobileVaries depending on the fighter’s style and strengths
GrapplingLimited, primarily in the clinch and sweepsExtensive, core aspect of the martial art
StrikingExtensive, core aspect of the martial artPart of the martial art, but not the only focus
Ground FightingNon-existentA core aspect of the martial art
RulesLimited to striking with hands, feet, knees, elbowsAllows striking, grappling, and submissions
Competitive formatMatches, stand-up striking with clinchMatches with striking, grappling, and ground fighting
Scoring systemCumulative scoring based on effectivenessBased on rounds, points, takedowns, and knockouts

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that combines elements from various martial arts, including Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and boxing.

MMA fighters train in both striking and grappling to become well-rounded and adaptable in the cage. This comprehensive approach makes MMA fighters versatile and prepared for any situation that may arise in competition or self-defense.

While Muay Thai is, again, striking focused only (with some clinch work), training in MMA can provide a more comprehensive skill set for self-defense and competition.

Muay Thai vs Jiu-Jitsu in a Street Fight

IMuay Thai offers powerful striking techniques that can help keep an opponent at bay and potentially end a confrontation quickly. Its focus on striking from a distance and utilizing clinch work can definitely be highly effective in a street fight scenario.

However, if you choose to focus on Muay Thai we strongly recommend that you learn some grappling.

Jiu-Jitsu’s techniques can neutralize an attacker and control the situation by taking them to th ground. Jiu-Jitsu practitioners are trained to control their opponents through takedowns and pins and can also apply submission holds, which can be very advantageous in a self-defense situation.

If you have a strong grappling background, know some basic striking is always beneficial but not entirely necessary.

The effectiveness of either martial art in a street fight will depend on the practitioner’s skill level, experience, and ability to adapt to the situation.

Factors such as the environment, the number of attackers, and the individual’s physical condition can also influence the outcome.

In the end, the best approach to self-defense is to be a bit well-rounded and have a solid understanding of both striking and grappling techniques.

What Is the Best Martial Art?

There is no definitive answer to the question of the “best” martial art, as the most effective martial art depends on individual goals, personal preferences, and circumstances.

Some people may find that Muay Thai’s striking techniques align with their interests and fitness goals, while others may prefer the chess-like and ground-fighting focus of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Ultimately, it’s essential to explore various martial arts and find the one that resonates with you and aligns with your personal goals and preferences.

When choosing a martial art, consider factors such as your fitness level, interests, available training facilities, and the quality of instruction.

It’s also crucial to be patient and persistent, as martial arts training can be challenging and requires dedication and consistent practice to see progress.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which martial art is better, Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Both martial arts offer unique advantages and can be effective for self-defense, fitness, and personal development. The key is to find the martial art that resonates with you and aligns with your goals, and commit to consistent training and growth.

Thanks for reading all, I know this was a big boy – Zack