Muay Thai Vs BJJ: A Comprehensive Breakdown - Which One Is The Best?

Muay Thai fighters in full gear - feature image

Last Updated on February 16, 2021

Pheeew... The BJJ vs Muay Thai battle would probably never end.

Martial arts supremacy battles have been since the era of Bruce Lee, caused actual physical duels, and even the idea behind some great movies, like IP Man 4.


It's still a hot topic now among us millennials. The Jiu Jitsu vs Muay Thai battle might come up to you as bants or if you want to pick an art to master.

But I'll be straightforward:

There's no “one size fits all" answer to the question. That's why the Muay Thai vs BJJ duel never really gets a clear winner.

Needless to say, I'll point out the few differences between Muay Thai and BJJ, then you can decide which technique fits your style or would be more effective in sticky icky situations.

Warning: Don't confidently get into street fights thinking martial arts would always save you.

Main Differences Between Muay Thai vs BJJ

The main differences are:

  • Muay Thai is typically a striking sport, whereas BJJ is the ultimate grappling martial art
  • Muay Thai fighters dress fancier, whereas BJJ grapplers have to wear a gi or rash guard for no-gi BJJ
  • Muay Thai gained popularity in the '80s, whereas BJJ is a more ancient art that rose to fame in the 90s
  • Muay Thai technique uses "the eight limbs;" elbows, knees, punches, and push kicks (teeps), whereas BJJ mainly involves clinching or grappling
  • Muay Thai clinches are to open striking attacks, whereas BJJ fighters clinch to choke or break the bones of their opponents
  • Muay Thai puts you at a greater chance of cuts and bruises, whereas Jiu Jitsu lets you tap out before any serious damage is done 

This is only a quick breakdown. If you're trying to pick one as exercise or for competition, it boils down to your personal preference.

But I'll go through the nitty-gritty of each martial art a bit to give you an idea of what you'd be getting into.

muay thai fight

Muay Thai History

Muay Thai, aka Thai Boxing, has its origins deeply rooted in the ancient Siamese (Thai) army.

But as you'd expect, it was a crude technique at the time, with roots that extend to weapon-based Krabi Krabong — and it was used in actual battles.

And then, it gradually became a sport.

Bare-fisted fighters started wearing ropes on their knuckles and forearms for cushion. During these periods, Muay Thai was called different names like Muay, Muay khat chueak, toi Muay.

Later on, it was incorporated into Thai culture by passionate kings, with performances at local festivals and celebrations.

The Thai, to date, practice Muay as a form of exercise, sport, self-defense, recreation, self-development, and so on. And it's now the nation's national sport.

Finally, it exploded in popularity in the late '90s when enlightened fighters started participating in kickboxing and MMA fights under Muay Thai rules.

Muay Thai Strong Points

Muay Thai, like any martial art, isn't just about fun. It's something you have to be eager to practice and master. Here are a few points about Muay Thai that stand out.

Easier to Pick Up The Techniques 

Muay Thai is an all-strike combat sport. It uses all eight limbs of the human body.

So you'll learn to use all these body parts as a weapon in the ring, street fight, wherever.

But the good thing is they are not too technical. Within a couple of weeks, you should be able to pull off one or two moves confidently. Just don't forget to put on your best gloves for Muay Thai because it can spell some difference in performance if you just wear any other type of gloves. 

Of course, at this stage, you'll be nowhere close to mastering the moves.

Frees the Limbs

Striking with your eight limbs would also require you to build flexibility and mobility in your body.

If these appeal to you, Muay Thai training classes give the workout routines that build them, and other physical attributes.

In training, you'll be likely faced with agility, endurance, and footwork drills as well. This routine can be tiring and makes a fun way to keep fit.

Cool Guy Winner of BJJ vs Muay Thai Duel

I might be biased with this point since I really don't like dealing with a gi. Muay Thai fighters wear better-looking gear than BJJ and other martial arts.

Of course, there's no-gi Jiu Jitsu — where you only have to wear a rash guard and shorts. And for boxing, you only need boxing shorts. By the way, boxing being mentioned, what's the difference between BJJ vs boxing? A little similarity perhaps is that they both don't wear gis. But what sets them apart?

But I still prefer the outlook of the flashy shorts, rash guard, and gloves in Muay Thai. If it's not your thing, there are inconspicuous outfits too for sure.

Muay Thai Weak Points

More Physical 

What totally sets Muay Thai and BJJ for me is contact. During fights, you are taught to absorb strikes rather than dodge them.

And, unlike BJJ, there really isn't a way to totally block the impact. Blocking low kicks alone can take a toll on your shin.

Not to mention how painful they can be when they actually connect. In the end, no pain, no gain, right?

Not Exactly A Wide Array of Techniques

I know I said you'd be learning the art of the "eight limbs,' but there are not a handful of possible moves to pull off. Many not so bad, but definitely not as much as BJJ.

For some folks, it can become a routine easily, especially if they aren't competing.

In short, compared to BJJ, Muay Thai is a shortcoming in the variations of techniques you can learn.

BJJ fighters in action

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) History

BJJ can be said to be a complication of judo.

The founding fathers — who were actually brothers, Carlo and Helio Gracie, got the opportunity to first learn judo from a master of the art, Mitsudo Maeda. He had moved to Brazil in the early 1900s.

Seeing opportunities, the brothers went on to add a personal touch to their advantage. Helio developed different submission holds and focused on flooring larger opponents rather than throwing them in a show of strength.

With this, the subtle, but powerful art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was born.

But it wasn't until November 1993, that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu took the world by storm. Royce Gracie, son of Helio, did his father and Gracie family proud.

He competed in the first UFC tournament promoting the "Gracie" Jiu Jitsu, which was still unknown to the world at the time. To shock the world, he beat three other larger opponents to become the first UFC champion.

BJJ Strong Points

Lots of Competition Opportunities

Without a doubt, the amount of competition open to BJJ fighters floors that of Muay Thai. There's hardly a month - scratch that, a weekend — without a BJJ competition.

In fact, California is now the hub of BJJ, and no longer Brazil.

In short, if you enjoy the prospect of a competitive atmosphere, BJJ hits the spot.

Great Sport for Kids

If you've got kids, BJJ might be the better sport. While there'll be an abundance of competition, there are fewer chances of getting cuts from strikes.

But that doesn't mean BJJ is soft either. It only means you won't get punched in the face or get hit in the gut if you don't like it.

Gives a Good Workout

Perhaps the most reason people take martial arts these days is fitness and the thrill of it. And BJJ doesn't slack at all.

I've seen quite a number of transformation stories from amateur BJJ fighters, but numbers also speak the same.

It's hard to get accurate data for obvious reasons, but you're likely to burn over 1000 calories in a 1-hour BJJ class. That's about as good a workout you'd get from Muay Thai, boxing, cycling, and other "tough" sports — if not better.

I'm stressing this because many would look at grappling on the surface and say "it can't be that tasking."

Arsenal of Submission Techniques

It seems unbelievable at first since all the business is done on the "mat." But BJJ has got more than a handful of submission and grappling techniques you can learn.

They definitely won't be as flashy as Muay Thai moves, but they can be just as deadly and potent in fights.

You can see what I'm saying from this tap out a victory from Royce Gracie over a "stronger" opponent:

BJJ Weak Points

Tough Mastery

If you want to get into BJJ to get a black belt, be ready to spend years training.

On average, it could take 10 years to get a black belt in BJJ. Even judo wizards and savants still spend a few years to do so — and that's fast!

In Muay Thai, you don't even have to deal with a ranking system, just fight records.

So, be prepared to spend a decade gunning for the ultimate belt in BJJ.

Muay Thai Vs BJJ: Which is More Effective for Mixed Martial Art?

It's hard to pitch these two fighting styles individually in MMA. This is especially true in the current competition scene.

Put simply, to survive in MMA, you need to be proficient with both styles considerably.

Unlike the early days of MMA, you can't afford to be a one-dimensional fighter now.

Imagine this:

You are up against a guy who's skilled at BJJ and kickboxing. You, on the other hand, only know Muay Thai.

He charges at you for a takedown. But since you have no knowledge of how to defend a takedown, he grapples you into a choke or submission move. And then you'll struggle to break loose in futility. Within a minute, the fight's going to be over.

You don't want to be that guy. So there really isn't a winner in this debate. It won't change results if you master BJJ, and go up against a decent well-rounded fighter.

You can be a master at one and still be decent in the other enough to be skilled at the basics.

Muay Thai VS BJJ: Which Wins In A Street Fight?

Here we go again. "Which is a better martial art to win a street fight?"

Of all of the Muay Thai vs BJJ arguments I come across, this is undeniably the hottest topic about the duel.

But it's sickening really. Why would you be training to get into a street fight in the first place?

Regardless of whatever martial art the situation or your ego being at stake, run away from street fights by all means. Reality is different from what’s depicted in movies. Anything can happen.

But definitely, fights can just happen. If that's the case, there's still not a clear winner. Both would work perfectly in different situations.

Because of the nature of fights, you might find yourself on the ground and need grappling skills. Plus, BJJ could make things a lot less bloody. But I would prefer the ability to hit my aggressor with precision punches or knee strikes.

Muay Thai vs Jiu Jitsu: Which Is The Best?

As you might have understood from the article, it's your personal preference. Grasp what it'd feel like to devote your time to learning the art of Muay Thai or BJJ.

And if you want to be a contender and not a hobbyist, you know you need to learn both.

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