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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.

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.

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.

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