Should You Learn Boxing Or Muay Thai First? (Why It Matters)


Both Muay Thai and boxing are excellent for self defence and are worth learning.

But if you want to learn both but you are not sure what you should train first or if it even matters. Don’t worry, this article will answer all the questions you might have.

Both styles have different stances and since Boxing only has punches if you start Boxing first you will pick up bad habits that will hurt your Muay Thai. For a Muay Thai fighter, it is easier to adapt to Boxing than the other way round as boxing comes naturally to Thai boxer as Boxing is a part of Muay Thai.

Muay Thai is a complete fighting system that has many foundations, one of these foundations is boxing.

I will explain why you should learn Muay Thai first as the differences between both arts are subtle yet important to know.

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Why You Should Learn Muay Thai First Instead Of Boxing

Learning Boxing First Will Create Bad Habits

Should You Learn Boxing Or Muay Thai First

The problem with learning Boxing first is ultimately they are both very different striking arts, as learning Boxing first could give you very bad habits that will be difficult to correct when transitioning over to Muay Thai

Boxers tend to bob and weave to avoid hooks, whilst this is fine and effective for boxing, in Muay Thai this can easily lead to a knee to the face as it makes you very vulnerable.

Certain habits are very hard to break so if you’re used to slipping very low to dodge hooks it will be difficult to break this habit when you do Muay Thai.

Even worse is the lead leg in boxing is turned in(see above photo), to protect your body as much as possible from punches to make yourself a small target. However, this stops you from being able to check kicks as your lead leg is turned, leaving you at the mercy for the ferocious Muay Thai leg kick.

Leg kicks are a big reason why Muay Thai is so effective, check my post here on if a Boxer can beat a Muay Thai fighter as the leg kick is a big reason why 9/10 times they would win.

Ultimately with Muay Thai you need to be square to your opponent whilst Boxing teaches you to be horizontal, this is not ideal when dealing with powerful kicks that can hit you from far away and on either side. Staying square allows you to check kicks with both legs.

Boxing Translates Well To Boxing

In my Muay Thai gym sometimes we have classes that just focus on boxing, and since Muay Thai is known as the art of the 8 limbs(elbows ,fists ,knees, legs) Boxing is about 1/4th of Muay Thai so every Thai fighter will have a good understanding of it.

This isn’t the same with Boxers. I’ve sparred Boxers before and they have no answer to the leg kick and are not used to dealing with strikes that are not punches, like knees and kicks.

With Boxing, you will spend 0 time learning how to attack with and defend against kicks, knees, or elbows so when you eventually transition into Muay Thai everything will be foreign to you and it will take a long time to catch up.

An average Muay Thai practitioner, of course, will not have the boxing of a Boxer as he/she simply has not dedicated the same amount of time into punching like a boxer but they still HAVE dedicated some time this is the difference and why you should learn Muay Thai first as it gives you a boxing foundation.

Muay Thai will build you conditioning and reflexes that will help you transition into Boxing, as you are still used to dealing with punches; the is not the isn’t the same with a Boxer going into Muay Thai.

Muay Thai fighters boxing is nothing to scoff at either, as Thai boxers like Samart Payakarun have won WBC world championship boxing titles! No boxer has EVER won a prestigious Muay Thai title which says a lot.

Now, I would not recommend training Boxing and Muay Thai at the same time(see my post here) as they are different martial arts, but a Boxer will have a harder time starting Muay Thai compared to a Muay Thai fighter beginning Boxing, as the Thai fighter has a lot of experience using his hands and a Boxer ONLY has fight experience using his hands.

Is It Better To Learn Boxing Or Muay Thai?

As a boxer only has two weapons(both hands) compared to Muay Thai’s 8, it is a lot easier to become competent at Boxing than with Muay Thai as a Thai fighter just has many more tools they need to sharpen.

Whether it is better to learn depends on your own unique goals. Do you want to achieve a proficient level of self-defense as soon as possible? Do you have access to a good level of both Muay Thai and Boxing gyms in your area? Usually, Boxing will be more accessible than Muay Thai, aside from very specific circumstances such as living in Thailand.

In Boxing, you can become competent in around 6 months as in Boxing there are only four basic strikes (jab, cross, hook, uppercut) and learning all the other basics like slipping punches, distance and footwork wouldn’t take too long.

If you want to achieve a good level of self-defense as soon as possible Boxing is what you should choose. Whilst 6 months of Muay Thai training is enough to learn the basics, you will be nowhere near competent, and you would have progressed for more in Boxing during those 6 than if you trained Thai.

If your getting into either sport for general fitness, then both are superb options for cardiovascular health and fitness in general. No matter which you chose, you will get a fantastic workout and improve your health.

If you want to know the 12 reasons how Muay Thai gets you into shape, please click the link here.

If you ever sparred someone or fought before, you know how important fitness is in fighting. Any good Muay Thai or Boxing coach will emphasis cardio to improve muscle endurance, and weight training to prevent muscle injury and aid recovery.

Now can you do both sports if you don’t want to fight? Yes, you can. Check out my post here on if you can Muay Thai without fighting.

In boxing and Muay Thai, jump rope is stable (check my recommended ropes here) and focusing on bodyweight training like pushups, squats, and burpees to improve your overall fitness level.

Both sports will test you heavily most physically and mentally but in my opinion and other people, boxing sparring is a lot harder than Muay Thai sparring and worst for your brain.

In Boxing, you only have two targets, the head and the body meaning you get hit on the head a lot more which rattles your brain making it far tougher mentally and more damaging.

In Muay Thai since you can hit the entire body, the damage is evenly distributed throughout your body, and naturally, there is less trauma affecting the brain .making Muay Thai less dangerous.

Does Muay Thai Teach Boxing?

Boxing is one-quarter of your Muay Thai training, with kicking, knees, elbows, and clinching taking part in the rest of your training. All good Muay Thai gyms will teach Boxing and Boxing is a crucial part of Muay Thai and you need to understand Boxing to truly become good at Muay Thai.

Whilst I would not recommend training Boxing and Muay Thai at the same time, a lot of Muay Thai schools will have lessons when Boxing is the main focus, and every Muay Thai school will encouporate boxing into their lessons.

Now, the boxing will not be at the same level as western Boxing as that is the main focus of the sport. The boxing you learn in Muay Thai will be catered to Muay Thai not to Boxing, as you should still be in your squared Muay Thai stance, whilst traditional Boxing is a lot more horizontal to make yourself as small a target as possible.

However, some MMA gyms will offer both Boxing and Muay Thai so you can pick and choose what you need to work on most.

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