It may not seem like it to some experienced martial arts practitioners, but a lot of people have pitted Muay Thai vs BJJ. Whether it be in terms of difficulty, practicality, self-defense potential, identifying which martial art is better is always good to know before committing to a specific one.
In this guide, let us go deep into the differences, similarities, and advantages of Muay Thai and BJJ as forms of martial arts.
What is Muay Thai?
Muay Thai, alternatively known as the art of Thai Kickboxing (or Thai Boxing), is a beloved sport that originated from Thailand's martial art, the Muay Boran, with a mix of Western-style boxing and rules.
In a competitive Muay Thai bout, there are specific gear, equipment, and ring dimensions that are set for the Muay Thai fighters to compete in.
Muay Thai competitions usually observe a 10-point must system (the winner of the round always secures 10 points), which originated from the sport of boxing and is what is followed by promotions that host MMA and kickboxing events.
In traditional Muay Thai matches, each fighter wears a headband, known as a mongkol (or mongkhon), as they enter the ring. This is considered by Muay Thai practitioners to be sacred and must be earned before it is worn.
Training/ Sparring Sessions
For beginners in the sport of Muay Thai looking for casual Muay Thai training sessions in martial arts gyms, all you would need for training are flexible shorts and shirt (for striking), hand wraps (for protection and stability), and boxing or Muay Thai gloves (for impact absorption and cushioning).
Muay Thai is primarily a stand-up sport, though leg trips are involved in certain instances. This martial art mainly relies on elbows, knees, kicks, and punches, essentially utilizing all the joints and limbs possible to inflict powerful techniques on an opponent.
Sparring sessions in Muay Thai also seem to be one of the most brutal in the world of MMA and martial arts, but most veteran Muay Thai artists would definitely know the level of intensity required during sparring, and not to sessions like a street fight.
The skills you could acquire from Muay Thai have real-life applications as it is a balanced or well-rounded sport. If you find yourself in a fight, having multiple striking options will definitely help stave off any threats or danger.
Pros and Cons
Like any martial art, there are pros and cons to Muay Thai. If you train to become fit and healthy, then this is definitely a good option for you to go with.
However, the mastery of skills and techniques in striking may make you question your self-discipline and willingness to learn and commit.
A well-known stand-up striker is Anderson Silva, who was very elusive with his head movement and precise with his counter strikes. A significant portion of his stand-up game can be attributed to his Muay Thai training, alongside his boxing and kickboxing expertise.
What is BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu)?
BJJ, or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is one of the main proponents of the success that mixed martial arts promotions like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator have today.
Stemming from Japan's Judo, BJJ was founded by Helio Gracie and his brothers (then known collectively as the Gracie brothers), who then set the foundation for the success and superstardom that Royce Gracie experienced as a veteran of both BJJ and mixed martial arts.
Similar to Judo, the sport of BJJ is a grappling martial art that revolves around ground fighting or taking your opponent to the ground.
Striking techniques are not involved in the ground game of BJJ, and the objective of every bout is to have an advantageous grappling position or technique that would force the opponent to tap out (known as a submission).
A lot of people would argue that when you are out on the street and a person attacks you, utilizing this ground fighting martial art as a form of self-defense can really come in handy.
Pros and Cons
Just like Muay Thai, however, there are pros and cons to BJJ and its applicability in the real world, in MMA, and in other forms of fighting.
BJJ relies heavily on getting your opponent down to the ground, and although most BJJ styles are very effective in one-on-one fights, some unexpected fights or brawls can have multiple assailants. You would therefore be vulnerable to head strikes and body attacks coming from other individuals.
Another concern is the lack of strikes, elbows, knees, kicks, and other stand-up techniques. Although most brawls end up with someone taking the other person down, having striking techniques may prove beneficial, especially if multiple individuals are fighting.
Beginners in the martial art of BJJ will learn to understand and appreciate the heritage of MMA and will encounter a belt tier or ranking system, which places experts in a class of their own. This class or belt ranking system is similar in certain respects to Korea's Taekwondo, a sport that is generally about the stand-up game (kicks, punches, and range-finding).
To this day, there are several Gracie members that compete in BJJ, MMA, and other grappling organizations, most notable of which is Kron Gracie, grandson of Royce Gracie.
Differences in Competition Rules: Muay Thai vs BJJ
Muay Thai and BJJ have different sets of rules and guidelines. In this section, let us talk about the major distinctions to take note of in from a professional competition standpoint.
Most BJJ competitions and promotions utilize the point system administered by the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) and the Sports Jiu Jitsu International Federation (SJJIF). Most techniques in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu bouts would warrant a score from 2 points to 4 points. Whichever Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter can outscore the other or secure a submission wins the bout.
In Muay Thai, each Muay Thai Fighter is scored based on a 10-point must system, wherein the Muay Thai fighter who performed better in a round gets a score of 10 while the other Muay Thai fighter is given a score of 9 or lower. Whichever Muay Thai fighter outscores the other fighter or knocks out the other fighter is deemed the victor.
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, fights are classified into Gi and NoGi, which essentially determines the presence or absence of a Gi (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu attire that is required to train in the sport and fight). The NoGi style of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is more aggressive and fast-paced as there would be fewer methods in combat to hold or suppress the offensive moves of the opponent. If you plan to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, make sure to set aside a decent sum of money to buy a BJJ Gi.
In modern-day Muay Thai competitions, fighters typically wear Muay Thai shorts, hand wraps, and Muay Thai gloves. Some fighters have adornments around their arms and even wear a headband as they enter the ring, but these are reserved for those who have earned those items. If you plan to train in Muay Thai, make sure to invest in high-quality Muay Thai gear and equipment, as you should not enter a sparring fight with poor-quality gear and equipment for safety reasons.
Knockout vs Submission
As briefly mentioned earlier, both forms of combat have a method of ending the bout prematurely.
In a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fight, once you are at an advantageous position on the ground, you can then attempt a submission, which is a technique that can inflict pain on the joints, dislocate bones, and cause the loss of consciousness. BJJ fighters should fear submissions such as the ankle lock and kneebar because if they are held for a bit too long, bad long-term effects may occur.
Muay Thai fighters fight to either outscore the opponent or knock the opponent out. The sport of Muay Thai has had one of the best replay-worthy knockouts in martial arts for several decades.
The ability to withstand a lights-out strike greatly relies on your fitness level, but it is best to have a defensive mindset in Muay Thai to preserve your body and fighting career even further.
The third man in the fight is the referee, and regardless of martial art, staying close to the fight and watching for submissions, knockouts, or technical violations is a great challenge, especially with several spectators criticizing your every call or judgment.
In a BJJ fight, the referee should be aware of all the official hand gestures and be good at recalling certain positions of the arms, legs, and body to ensure a good fight.
In a Muay Thai fight, the goal of the referee is to ensure that no strikes hit areas that are not allowed to be hit (such as the groin area or the back of the head), and to also declare a technical knockout when necessary, which, similar to boxing and MMA parlance, means that the opponent is getting heavily beaten up while still standing.
Belt Progression and Ranking: Muay Thai vs BJJ
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, newcomers start with a white belt, then work their way up to blue, then purple, then brown, then black, then red.
In Muay Thai, there is no training rank or belt tiering, as like boxing, it mostly relies on an amateur or professional record.
Which One is Better: Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu?
We find Muay Thai to be better for fitness goals as most drills and activities burn calories really quickly, while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu relies on building a steady foundation before getting into any significant calorie-burning activities.
We believe Muay Thai is better for fighting in general as it is more action-packed, straightforward, and highlight-worthy, which is what most fans, both casual and experience, usually seek out of combat events.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is better in self-defense primarily because BJJ skills allow you to subdue an opponent without inflicting any major harm or injury.
Which is Easier to Learn: Muay Thai vs BJJ
If you were to ask a fighter who is well-versed in Muay Thai and BJJ, or even MMA, then the choice between Muay Thai and BJJ in terms of difficulty could be quite hard to justify.
However, we believe that Muay Thai is generally easier than most of the grappling martial arts, including BJJ, simply because striking skills could easily be worked on in training as opposed to ground skills.
If you are interested in combat sports training and the different styles involved for improving your body and working on your overall fitness, then a stand-up style such as Muay Thai is the style of training you should definitely go with.
Most gym instructors would put you right in the middle of the essence of Muay Thai, which is striking. From there, trainers would usually work on your form and footwork, as opposed to grappling, which utilizes several styles and body movements.
If you wanted to become a fighter and you trained one session of Muay Thai and one session of BJJ, we could almost guarantee that you would feel that you have done more in Muay Thai than in BJJ, simply because of the unique learning curve a combat sport like BJJ presents.
Which is Safer: Muay Thai vs BJJ
In terms of safety, the decision between Muay Thai vs Jiu Jitsu was pretty hard to finalize, but we ultimately have to go with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as the safer training and fighting option.
This is because, in any contact sport (we can even generalize the range to all sports), as long as the fighters and the gym strictly stick to safety rules and guidelines, the risk of injuring or hurting yourself is very minimal.
That being said, the factor of "self" still has to be considered. If you are a beginner in sports or athletic activities, then it is important to defend yourself and defend others from your self-pride or ego.
We chose BJJ over Muay Thai in terms of safety because in BJJ, you train your body to be flexible and your mind to be quick and adaptable to multiple grappling and ground techniques.
Although certain submissions, such as the armbar and the ankle lock, can lead to devastating long-term (and potentially chronic) injuries, the risk of getting hurt in any style of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is relatively low.
In Muay Thai, however, if you train aggressively or are constantly engaged in strenuous sparring sessions, you may end up injuring your bones or muscles due to all the kicks, knees, punches, and elbows.
In Muay Thai, it is also essential to find the right striking range striking skills, both in the gym and in competitive bouts. If you look up Anderson Silva's leg injury, you would know what we mean.
Muay Thai and BJJ are both fantastic sports and require a demanding amount of blood, sweat, and tears to ascend to the top but if you are only in it for overall fitness to attain great physical health, Muay Thai is the art to pursue. If, however, you want to understand the mechanics of the ground game and grappling, then you should definitely give Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a try.
Remember, if you need to refresh on Muay Thai vs BJJ, come back to our website and re-visit this guide. If you would like to learn more about martial arts in general, we produce a lot of content on a regular basis. Stay tuned for more informative guides and articles!