Muay Thai is a fantastic martial art but is it good for self-defense? It makes sense to understand if a martial art is good in real-life situations before you train it for self-defense purposes.
Some martial arts while effective in the dojo, fall apart in a real-life self-defense situation. Especially those who don’t involve punches to the head or any form of grappling, which WILL happen in a street fight.
Here are the 12 reasons why Muay Thai is fantastic for self-defense, which may help you decide why you should pursue the art of the 8 limbs.
1. Muay Thai Is The Art Of 8 Limbs
Muay Thai is known as the art of the 8 limbs because you can strike with your feet, hands, knees, and elbows. Meaning you have a MASSIVE toolbox to use in self-defense situations compared to Boxing which is just two hands.
These limbs cannot be used in traditional martial arts due to their destructive power. Both knees and elbows are very deadly in self-defense situations and can cause great trauma to your opponent.
The infamous Muay Thai leg kick is equally deadly in a street fight as most people will have their weight on their lead leg. This will give you an easy target as a Muay Thai fighter, as they won’t know how to defend it.
Most other martial arts just lack the weapons of Muay Thai. In the chaotic nature of a street fight you will need all limbs of your body to potentially save yourself from life and death situations; Muay Thai gives you the best access to all these tools that could potentially save your life.
2. Muay Thai Is The Most Effective Striking Art
Since Muay Thai gives you so many options, it is known as the most effective martial art. It gives someone so many choices on how to attack. Here are some of the different options Muay Thai gives you.
- You can control the distance with jabs and long range push kicks known as “teeps”
- The Muay Thai roundhouse is one of the strongest strikes in martial arts, you can strike the body, legs and head
- Good hand combinations involving punches, long hooks and uppercuts
- The use of hand trapping and controlling the arm/head to transition into clinch range
- Devastating close-range strikes with knees and elbows
- Throws, sweeps and catching the kick
- Strong grappling game with the clinch
- Excellent body conditioning and the ability to perform under pressure
The only options missing are sprawls (defending a takedown), submissions and a ground game. All of these are part of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and combining both BJJ and Muay Thai will make you more than capable in a street fight.
This is why Muay Thai is the striking base of one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, MMA. You see many famous UFC fighters like Jorge Masvidal and Joanna Jędrzejczyk have strong Muay Thai bases.
The massive variety of techniques just makes it so effective compared to other striking arts like boxing or karate.
MMA fighters are competing in the hardest sport imaginable, so if they’re using Muay Thai as their main striking base it speaks volumes.
3. Effective In All Ranges Of Stand Up Fighting
If you look at Boxing it is really only effective in the pocket up close and personal with your opponent or the outside. This however is not the ideal situation for a street fight when anything can happen.
Whereas Muay Thai allows you to use all weapons available to the human body to protect yourself. When you’re far you can jab and use your front kick to keep the distance, when you’re close you have your punches, clinch and elbows, and when in medium-range you have your kicks and knees.
There is not a distance where Muay Thai is not effective, compared to traditional Taekwondo which is too reliant on keeping the distance with flashy kicks and no punching allowed; or boxing which has no answer to kicks.
Learning Muay Thai you will have an answer to everything, from kicks and punches to someone clinching you. You will be prepared for every situation. This isn’t the case with most other martial arts and it’s why Muay Thai is so effective.
4. Simple To Learn And Use In Self Defense
Muay Thai is the perfect example of easy to learn but impossible to master. It is known for its raw simplicity as the strikes are not that flashy but are still incredibly effective.
You won’t see any 720 degree triple spinning back kick in Muay Thai as the humble round house is much more effective. Muay Thai is a martial art for everyone.
It will take someone roughly 6 months to learn all the basic foundational Muay Thai techniques so they can easily implement it in a street fight.
In Thailand, and now more so in Europe, kids start from 5-6 years old, as there are children Muay Thai classes in my gym here in London.
So no matter what level of fitness you have, or what age you are, you can still find a Muay Thai class that will help you in a self-defense situation and perhaps save your life.
5. Muay Thai Toughens Your Mind, Body And Spirit
Now I said Muay Thai is great for self defense, but that does not mean it’s easy, far from it.
Muay Thai is very difficult to learn as your body will be aching after a workout with all the intense cardio, kicks, and shin conditioning you will be doing as part of your training.
However, what this training does is improve your physical conditioning, confidence, and ability to control your emotions. Training Muay Thai puts your mind and body in a great position for a street fight. In the gym you are constantly tested mentally and physically.
Your body and mind will be a lot stronger because you train Muay Thai making it way more likely you will be calm and collected in a street fight scenario. Sometimes you may find yourself uncomfortable while training in the gym, but this is a great thing!
Nowhere is this better put than the late Muay Thai Grandmaster Kru Yodtong Senanan who said. Doing difficult things, creates difficult people. to deal with!
Muay Thai is good for your confidence and inner strength.”Kru Yodtong Senanan Muay Thai Grandmaster
6. Muay Thai Is A Fantastic Aerobic & Anaerobic Workout
Muay Thai is a martial art designed for fighting even if you don’t want to fight you have to do the intense running, jumping rope, and shadowboxing for a fantastic aerobic workout; which stimulates the heart rate and improves your hearts function.
Anaerobic(without oxygen) exercise is very common in Muay Thai as it involves pushing your body to its limits, with exercises like kicking the heavy bag/ pads and also clinching really pushes yourself to max effort.
In a self-defense situation, the body could be tested aerobically or anaerobically or both ways. Do you want to stand and fight? Then it’s aerobic, do you want to run away or use all your resource for disabling your opponent? Then it’s anaerobic you need.
No matter what your body needs to do, if you train Muay Thai you will be ready as it’s as effective for exercise,as for self-defense.
The problem with training pure self defense arts like Krav Maga is they are not an intense workout like Muay Thai is. I remember someone training in our gym who was super tired in our session as he didn’t get the same workout in his self defense classes.
It also burns around 600 calories per hour, so it’s great for losing fat as well as improving your fitness in a self-defense situation! With continued training, you will improve your strength, explosiveness, and your heart’s performance when you need it most!
7.Training Muay Thai Prepares You For A Real Fight
Muay Thai is a rare martial art as it is also a combat sport. If you’re serious with Muay Thai you should be sparring at least once a week. If you want to know more about if you can do Muay Thai and not spar read my post here.
This gets you used to being hit and also trying to hit someone who is trying not to get hit. This is why Boxing and Muay Thai are so effective for self defense, as the art of hitting and not getting hit is the fundamental skill for self defence.
The problem with traditional martial arts like Wing Chun and Karate is they don’t spar often, and worst of all if they don’t allow punches to the head which is critical in any true sparring art.
A lot of martial arts have been watered down, and nowhere in this more true than in Olympic Taekwondo which allows no strikes to the head, you can see what I mean in the video below.
If Muay Thai gets watered down, it would cease to be Muay Thai. In Muay Thai you can spar right away but usually within 1 month and get used to getting hit, hitting, and defending with every part of your body.
Also in Muay Thai, it is common to not wear any protective gear whilst sparring, which makes it as realistic as possible.
I don’t see any martial art that will get you street-ready as Muay Thai in as short a time period as Muay Thai; as sparring is a crucial element of the art and sparring is quite close to simulating a true street fight.
8.Muay Thai Has Throws & Sweeps
Despite Muay Thai being a striking art it has tons of grappling involved, such as the numerous sweeps and throws from the clinch, and sweeps from holding your opponent’s leg.
This separates Muay Thai from other striking arts that lack this component such as Karate. If you study Karate and barely spar and someone grabs you, what would you do? But in Muay Thai you are used to this scenario as this happens all the time.
Better yet, these throws and sweeps always leave you still standing. This translates to self-defense as you never want to be on the ground, so you still see your surroundings.
Imagine if there are three attackers, with two that you can see. You use a throw to get one on the ground and out of the fight, whilst your still standing so you can use your strikes to defend against the other 2.
The issue with using grappling arts for self-defense like Wrestling & Brazilian jiu-jitsu is when you’re on the ground you can’t see what’s around you. All of grappling in Muay Thai still leaves you standing, allowing you to defend yourself and others around you.
9.Muay Thai Is A Battle System Turned Into A Martial Art
Nothing screams Muay Thai’s effectiveness for self-defense more than it originally being a practical fighting technique used for actual warfare!
Muay Thai known as Toi muay or muay was used a lot in the Burmese–Siamese War (1765–1767) and only really became a sport with King Chulalongkorn coming to the throne in 1868 with the Kings personal interest in the sport bringing it forever into Thai culture.
This is why Muay Thai translates so well to self-defense and has so many techniques that are uncommon for striking arts like the clinch and throws being integral to the art, as it has its history in battle.
If you want to learn more about Muay Thai and it’s history, this quick 11 minute documentary on Muay Thai by Fight Vision is right up your alley.
10. Muay Thai stance Is Close To A Normal Stance
Unlike traditional martial arts like Karate/Taekwondo and even Boxing, the Muay Thai stance is a lot more natural, as your hips and eyes should be facing your opponent, whilst the former is more unnatural as you are facing your opponent side on.
Click here if you want to understand more about the stance differences between Muay Thai and Boxing.
If you’re in a street fight you likely will already be facing your opponent or even when you’re walking down the street. You WON’T be walking down the street in your boxing/Kungfu stance.
Muay That’s basic yet very effective stance in both offense and defense just gives you a natural way to defend yourself.
It leads to Muay Thai is simple, as in a street fight you want to revert back into the more effective simple stance to use and that is Muay Thai.
11.Effective In Both Straight & Centre Sight Lines
Muay Thai is designed to deal with both your opponent’s straight strikes(jabs/straights) and also attacks from the side such as hooks and roundhouses
Typically a street fight will mostly be someone throwing straight punches or wild haymakers and this is bread and butter for Muay Thai, as we have the defense for both punches and kicks from the central and outer lines.
Whereas with other traditional martial arts like Karate, you see far fewer horizontal strikes especially the hook that will be very common in a street fight, so you won’t be able to defend against it. Muay Thai would not be an issue.
12.Thai Clinch Is Excellent For Self Defence
The Muay Thai clinch(standing wrestling) is almost a martial arts in itself and is very important in self defense situations.
If two people are fighting on the outside with kicks and punches, 3 things will happen.
- Either person will get knocked out
- One person will create distance or run away
- One person will close the distance and cause the fight to in-between fighting, that is ideal for the Muay Thai clinch
Muay Thai addresses this in-between zone with the clinch as numerous throws, sweeps, and strikes from the knees and elbows are available; the Muay Thai clinch is also very important for MMA, with fighters like Anderson Silva and Zhang Weili using it.
Learning the Muay Thai clinch simply gives you access to a huge set of tools that other striking arts would dream to have.
The ability to grapple makes Muay Thai fighters harder to take down compared to kickboxers and boxers, which is an important skill in a street fight.
Being on the ground is the worst position in a street fight you don’t want to be there as you cannot view your surroundings, and Muay Thai is the best striking to not be taken down.
With Muay Thai you can choose to stay in the fight or run with your life still intact.
If you want a quick clinch masterclass with arguably the best Muay Thai clincher fighter of all time Petchboonchu, then please check out this quick FightTips video on the Muay Thai clinch down below. Happy clinching!
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