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Which is better Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

The increasing popularity of mixed martial arts sport has brought much attention to two of the most effective martial arts in the world: Muay Thai, the most effective stand-up striking martial art and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the most dominant grappling martial art.

Another battle of “Which Martial Art is Better.” If only simple questions could be solved with simple answers. However, this can’t easily be solved with a simple answer because both styles are effective in their own ways. Everyone in the Martial Arts world knows that Muay Thai is great for striking and clinching, while also being aware of how dominating Jiu Jitsu is on the ground.

Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) are fighting styles that are known to complement each other when it comes to MMA. Muay Thai, known as the art of eight limbs, is a striking martial art that involves smashing the opponent with hard punches, kicks, knees and elbows. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the other hand is a grappling martial art that uses submission holds to force an opponent to tap out. The question is, which one is better?

So the main question is.. Which style is more effective? Muay Thai Or Jiu Jitsu? Luckily for you, we’re going to take an in-depth look at both Martial Arts and try to decide which one is better. Remember, this article isn’t to steer you away from Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu, however it’s useful to see the advantages and disadvantages of both martial arts.

Muay Thai vs BJJ: Historical Development and Generalised Differences

Muay Thai (Thai: มวยไทย), literally “Thai boxing”, is an Oriental martial art and combat sport that originated in Thailand somewhere during the 18th century. It is a full-contact discipline that is also known as the “art of eight limbs” and is heavily reliant on the use of fists, elbows, knees and shins. It originated as a fighting technique to be used in wars, Muay Thai soon became a fighting sport used outside its original setting.

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About Muay Thai

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, from where it originated. It is commonly known as the “art of 8 limbs” from the use of both fists, elbows, knees and shins (kicks).

Muay Thai originated from the ancient martial arts of Thailand, now known as Muay Boran. It was created for unarmed combat during the country’s turbulent years of conflict with neighboring countries between 13th to 18th century.

Muay Boran transitioned gradually into a competitive sport beginning from the late 19th century. Then King Rama V sanctioned royal competitions between Thai warriors.

Muay Thai, or Thai kickboxing, developed from the traditional Thai martial arts of Muay Boran by incorporating elements of western boxing in the early twentieth century. Like boxing, competitive Muay Thai involves set rounds, rules, padded gloves and takes place within the confines of a ring. Muay Thai came to international prominence in the seventies and eighties when Thai fighters defeated notable practitioners of other martial arts in well-documented and sanctioned fights.

Muay Thai is most differentiated from other pugilistic arts by the use of elbows, knees and push kicks (teeps). Except for the head, every part of the body is utilized. Muay Thai fighters are well known for being the toughest fighters through intense body conditioning into essentially a human weapon. Over the years, Muay Thai has evolved from a fight sport where practitioners train to compete, into an physical activity that also encompasses people of all social strata who train for fitness or recreation.You can read more about Muay Thai here.

The sport gained nationwide popularity over time. In the early 20th century, boxing ring, set rounds, and protective equipment such as gloves and groin protectors were introduced through the influence of western boxing. This became known as Muay Thai.

In the 70s and 80s, Muay Thai gained popularity worldwide when Thai fighters defeated exponents of other martial arts including kickboxing, karate and taekwondo in international meets.

The sport received a further boost in early 2000s when Buakaw dominated K-1, the biggest international kickboxing promotion of its time.

About Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s name gives a hint of its background. It is a Japanese-inspired martial arts that was developed in Brazil.

BJJ came to be around the early 20th century when Brazilian Gracie brothers founded and developed their own self defense system. Carlos Gracie had learned traditional Judo from a travelling Japanese Judoka and it formed the basis of Gracie Jiujitsu. 

The Brazilian martial art is a grappling and ground-fighting system that uses locks and chokes to defeat or force an opponent into submission. Many liken BJJ to a game of chess, where skills and intellect plays a more important part over pure brute strength.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or more commonly known as BJJ, is both a martial art and a sport. It developed from the Japanese martial art of Judo sometime around 1882. The “jiu” in Jiu-Jitsu and “ju” in Judo are merely anglicized nuances and are actually the same Japanese word, which means “gentle” or “soft”.

BJJ’s rise to fame and prominence came in the way of Royce Gracie’s dominance in the beginning years of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the 90s. Royce Gracie is a member of the prominent martial arts Gracie family that was pivotal in the development of BJJ. Royce’s excellence in ground combat brought attention to the effectiveness of BJJ and since then, the grappling art has developed into a permanent fixture in every mixed martial artist’s repertoire.

In fact, one of BJJ’s ideals is that it allows practitioners to overcome larger -less skilled- opponents. Size do matter in BJJ as with all combat sports but perhaps to a lesser degree as shown by Royce Gracie.

BJJ came to worldwide prominence in the 90s when BJJ expert Royce Gracie won the first, second and fourth Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). This prompted many MMA fighters to take up BJJ.

Gracie submitted a number of his opponents during his UFC years who often had significant weight advantages over him. The most notable “David vs Goliath” victory of his came in 2004 when he submitted 484-lb Chad “Akebono” Rowan. Gracie weighed around 180 lbs. 

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Muay Thai Vs BJJ – Which One Is More Effective?

Both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) have an important role in mixed martial arts. For this reason, more and more people are learning these two arts and comparing them. A lot of people often have the question “what is the most effective martial art?“. The truth is that both Muay-Thai and BJJ, like all martial arts, are vastly different; muay-thai is an effective stand-up art while BJJ is one of the most dominant grappling arts.

Because they are so different, the answer to which is more effective depends largely on the context. If you are interested in learning a combat sport, you should read up on the differences between Muay Thai vs BJJ. 

Fans of both sports have respective arguments for why one is better than the other. The truth is, they both have their advantages in different situations. Muay Thai is extremely effective while a fighter is on their feet, and almost every fight begins standing up.

Against other fighting styles, such as boxing, Muay Thai fighters have the advantage of creating distance and throwing kicks. If a Muay Thai fighter throws kicks against a BJJ fighter, they risk giving their opponent the chance to take them down. In the UFC, BJJ specialists who have some striking ability generally do well.

Frequently Asked Questions About BJJ and Muay Thai

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is arguably the easier martial art to learn for pure self-defense, as it incorporates self defense techniques for both standing up and when you are on the ground. Most of the self defense techniques taught in Muay Thai are for stand up only.

Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are a great combination if you want to become a complete fighter. A number of successful MMA stars like Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo come from both a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai background, so this goes to show how effective both martial arts are if used together.

You will need to learn both if you want to be a successful MMA fighter. Muay Thai and BJJ are two of the four core fighting styles in MMA (boxing and wrestling are the others) and the more skilled you are at incorporating these four aspects of fighting, the more successful an MMA fighter you will become.

Muay Thai is by far the most effective striking art in the world and has a lot of history. Muay Thai has been tested in competition and real-life situations for hundreds of years, refining the art to be as fast, efficient, and powerful as it can be.


Over the course of nearly a century, the grappling art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has proven to be one of the most effective techniques in all of combat sports.

Muay Thai vs BJJ in a Street Fight

These two fighting styles are equivalent when it comes to a street fight. With Jiu Jitsu, you can take a bigger opponent and control them from the ground. However, Muay Thai is more useful off the bat since these fighters have the power while standing up.

In a street fight, most people revert to punches first. A Muay Thai fighter can defend against these attacks effectively, knowing exactly which parts of the body to strike. A BJJ fighter can easily take an untrained opponent to the ground, where they won’t know how to escape.

Against someone not trained in any fighting styles, both skills will prove useful. There is a long list of BJJ submissions, but Muay Thai has nearly infinite combos of movements and strikes. According to Fiji Muay Thai, “BJJ is more focused on sport competition within set rules that do not include striking.” 

Because BJJ is not focused on striking, it may give you less of an advantage in a street fight. In UFC fighting, fights end with knockouts more often than submissions, so it’s possible that that effective striking has the advantage in MMA.

Additionally, BJJ fighters may be less able to withstand the same body blows that Muay Thai fighters can absorb. In some practices of Muay Thai, certain moves are restricted deliberately. It’s therefore hard to say who would win between an unrestricted Muay Thai fighter and a BJJ fighter.

Which is better?

This remains a much heated debate with proponents of both sides putting forth their respective arguments. Supporters of Muay Thai believe that well-trained Nak Muay will KO the BJJ guy to sleep easily. Likewise, BJJ fans are confident of strangling the Muay Thai fighter into submission once the fight is taken to the ground. So which of the two is more effective when pitted against each other? 

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In a hypothetical situation where the 2 martial artists meet, the Muay Thai fighter who has zero experience of ground combat can be rendered completely helpless once taken to the ground. So, a pure Nak Muay with no training in grappling stands little hope of escaping the numerous submissions of BJJ. On the other hand, a pure BJJ practitioner would likely resort to ineffective untrained punches in a stand-up exchange and will be vulnerable to a flurry of Muay Thai low kicks, teeps, punches and body kicks. For someone who is not conditioned to withstand body blows, being hit by a seasoned Nak Muay will be an excruciating experience. 

In a street fight, punches are the most intuitive weapon of choice. A person with experience in Muay Thai will be able to defend and counter-attack effectively, gaining an advantage from being equipped with knowledge of using various parts of the body to strike. The BJJ practitioner will ideally tackle to take the fight to the ground and most people will not have the know-how of escaping the submissions. In reality, street fights come with no rules. Biting, weapons, hitting below the belt and multiple opponents are all possible scenarios. It is hard to say which will be more effective although it is safe to say that they are both valuable skills against untrained antagonists.

Much of the videos between the two that are regularly circulated around the internet frequently show a handicapped or misrepresented version of Muay Thai where certain moves are deliberately restricted. In cases where a Muay Thai exponent is shown to overpower a Jiu Jitsu practitioner, the former may have had some training to avoid takedowns. Unless a series of fights is sanctioned where fighters of equal amount of experience are matched up and allowed their entire range of weapons, any conclusion on one martial art’s superiority will be just mere speculation.

To compare Muay Thai to BJJ is like comparing apples to oranges. Muay Thai is fundamentally stand-up striking combat while BJJ is ground fighting grappling combat. In terms of techniques, while there may be a long list of submissions in BJJ, Muay Thai can be very technical in the right hands (and legs) with infinite combinations of strikes and movements. Muay Thai basics may be picked up very quickly, but both systems are difficult to truly master without years of hard work and grit. They are both most effective in their respective arenas under their respective rules. However, it is interesting to note that there is a higher percentage of KO finishes than submissions in UFC which may attest to the advantage of effective striking in mixed martial arts.

Muay Thai vs BJJ: Which Is Better for Self-Defense?

Self-defence is the art of using specifically taught moves to defend yourself from an unwanted attack on your person. Although there are arts and techniques that specifically teach self-defence, most combat sports and martial arts include some degree of self-defence courses, Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu included. But, when it comes to self-defence, which is better?

When it comes to self-defence, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is pretty effective and quite useful. One of the reasons is that BJJ is an art that relies on self-defence a lot more than other martial arts and combat sports; some people even call it a self-defence technique, which is a phrase usually used to describe Krav Maga. Brazilian jiu-jitsu relies on the fact that a smaller opponent could and will overpower and grab a bigger and nominally stronger opponent.

BJJ uses very specific techniques that allow for such reactions in a fight or a tight spot. BJJ also utilises a lot of ground fighting, which can be extremely useful when defending yourself. The ultimate move of BJJ is the “rear naked choke”, which is to useful that it can finish a fight, but not cause any long-term damage to your opponent.


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