Muay Thai or Boxing – Which Style is More Effective?

Ahh, the age old question of “which martial art is better”. If only I had a dollar for every time someone asked me my opinion on which martial art is the best to learn. Whether you have been in martial arts for years, or if you’re a newbie looking to find the best martial art to start with, you will be able to learn a lot from this martial art breakdown. The truth is, a majority of martial arts are useful and it’s silly to continually compare them, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Today is a little different however, because we’ll be comparing Boxing vs Muay Thai. Both of these martial arts are super useful for striking and self defense, and to martial artists worldwide, both are absolutely necessary to learn. The question we want to answer is which out of the two martial arts are better for MMA, better for self defense, and which one is more effective for real-life situations.

Muay Thai vs Boxing

Boxing and Muay Thai share some similarities, but there are just as many differences between the two arts. Muay Thai includes some elements of boxing, however you can’t fight like a boxer when you switch to Muay Thai or bad things happen will happen. Same goes for Muay Thai in a Boxing match, they are two completely different martial arts with clear advantages and disadvantages.

Muay Thai is useful because it gives you a great advantage on the range and separation of your opponent. If a Muay Thai fighter were to fight a boxer in the street, he would have the advantage of front kicking his opponent to keep him at bay. However, a Muay Thai fighter isn’t as dangerous with his hands when compared to a boxer because in authentic Muay Thai punches don’t contribute to points during a fight. A Muay Thai fighter would actually have a huge advantage in a “clinch” style situation in a street fight, which is something that can’t be replicated with years of Boxing training.

Boxing is useful because it gives you a great advantage with footwork and self-defense. If a boxer were to match up with a Muay Thai fighter in the street, chances are he would be able to easily avoid punches that were thrown towards him, however there is a huge disadvantage when you start taking leg kicks. The main problem with Boxing is that you really only focus on striking with hands, while Muay Thai focuses on hands, feet, elbows, and knees. However this also means that Boxing has extra time to focus on footwork and defense.

Which Martial Art is Better for Self-Defense?

When it comes to self-defense and various real life situations, both Boxing and Muay Thai are great martial arts to know. Boxing will probably get you to defensive competence in most situations faster, as the focus is on spacing, timing, and reading your opponent for the use of your hands. Every fight starts standing up (well almost every fight) and Boxing is one of the best skills to have in a fight.

Muay Thai will teach you how to read opponent who can kick competently. Most self defense situations don’t necessarily call for this skill, but when you run into an opponent who can kick, this brings a high chance of ruining whatever strategy you had in place.

self defense boxing muay thai

Training Boxing allows to you get much more proficient in self-defense in the short term (such as 6 months training time). However I personally would prefer Muay Thai training as you would know more about the clinch and have a longer striking range.

Short term self-defense: Boxing
Long term self-defense: Muay Thai

Which Martial Art is Easier to Learn?

When you compare the two, both Boxing and Muay Thai can be easy and difficult at the same time depending on which aspect of training you’re learning.

Muay Thai involves the use of all striking points through kicks, elbows, knees, and punches. This type of striking takes a much longer time to learn when compared to just using one form of attack. Not only do you need to learn how to use these type of strikes, but you also have to learn to defend against these type of strikes. There is no Muay Thai professional that doesn’t know how to properly check a low kick. Muay Thai clinching is also vitally important to learn and that takes a long time to master.

Boxing involves striking with your hands as well as footwork and cardio vascular training. This type of striking emphasizes quick hands and head movement to avoid punches. Boxers have a better advantage of learning their martial art much quicker because there is much less to pin-point and much less to learn. Spending six months training Boxing you will be emphasize punching and footwork, while in Muay Thai each month of those first six months will be spent trying to learn something new altogether.

Easier to Learn: Boxing

Which Martial Art is Better for Fitness?

I hate to sound like a broken record, but both Muay Thai and Boxing are great for fitness and cardiovascular strength. Even in their pure forms, both are great for strength and conditioning. I’ve met more sloppy western boxing coaches who don’t stress the importance of fitness in fighting, however if you’ve ever been in a professional or amateur fight you’ll know fitness is important. Muay Thai will also condition you in hardening your body, particularly the shins.

cardio kickboxing muay thaiIt’s important to remember that when the focus is more on fitness and conditioning rather than skill and technique you won’t have the attributes to properly defend yourself. Classes like “cardio kickboxing” are great for losing weight and conditioning your body and heart, however they aren’t so good for self-defense and real life situations.

Better for Fitness: Both

Who Would Win a Fight?

So who would win a fight between a Muay Thai vs Boxing practitioner? Luckily for us this dream fight has taken place at least once or twice.

Boxing Champion vs. Kickboxing & Muay Thai Champion | Lawrence Kenshin

An important thing to remember is that this was under a professional setting, real life situations and other professional fights won’t always go this way.

Which Martial Art Should You Train?

Boxing and Muay Thai are different martial arts, so when it comes to training the question isn’t necessarily about which fighting style is better. It’s more about which martial art is more appealing to you personally. Do you want to just focus on punching or do you want to add kicks, knees, and elbows?

first martial art Muay Thai

Western Boxing and Muay Thai have different defensive systems based on their respective rules. Because Muay Thai allows for a greater variety of attacks than boxing, fighters are more limited with the types of defensive techniques they employ. For example, in Boxing an effective defense allows you to change levels by rolling/slipping (ducking) punches to the head and upper body. However if you were to do this in Muay Thai you run the risk of eating a knee in the face. Which is why you don’t see many level changes in Muay Thai, if at all.

You also won’t see a lot of evasive footwork, dancing around, or fighters chasing each other in a Muay Thai match. This type of movement can compromise the fighter’s ability to deliver or defend against (check) kicks. Muay Thai fighters (compared to boxing) tend to stand tall with feet more or less planted while they exchange blows.

Another reason why there is a greater willingness to stand there and trade shots in Muay Thai is because of the vicious counters such as leg sweeps, dumps, and among many others fighters can employ in the clinch. This can happen quickly and often, and at any striking range.

One more thing to consider is the gear you’ll need for training. While to train boxing, you’ll only need hand wraps and gloves initially, for Muay Thai you will also want shin guards. I personally find that I love to collect Muay Thai gear and it is a more expensive hobby than boxing.

A common perception is that Boxers have more finesse on defense, this is something I tend to agree with. Great boxers can slip, slide, roll, and dance around beautifully in ways that would be ill-suited for the rules of Muay Thai. Conversely, A good Muay Thai fighter’s defensive system is more effective against a more full range of attacks and real life situations and self-defense.

If you’re looking for the best martial art to learn first visit our article.

Final Say

Both Muay Thai and Boxing are suitable martial arts to learn and are both valuable when it comes to MMA and self-defense. The real question is, which one is more suitable for you? Do you value close range combat with hands and footwork, or do you value having a wide range of attacks while sacrificing some hand skill? This is something that you must decide before you choose between Muay Thai and Boxing.

1 thought on “Muay Thai or Boxing – Which Style is More Effective?”

  1. davide

    nothing to say about muay thai, but if we will consider the conditions that will be part of a street fight, such as tight pants, short time of reaction ecc… in my opinion boxing could be more suitable because of the semplicity of the strikes , and the head movement more than the rest.

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