If you are new to martial arts or combat sports, you might be wondering what are the differences between Muay Thai and (western) boxing. Muay Thai and boxing may share a few common features in real life situations. However they both also hold uniqueness in many aspects, from technicalities to the fighting style.
Muay Thai and boxing are among the most practical fighting styles you can learn for self defense. Both will both teach you great skills you would be able to apply in many fighting scenarios. But many people are often divided about which style is better? Read on to take a deep look at these two of the most popular combat sports and how they relate to each other.
Main Differences Between Muay Thai and Boxing
Boxing and Muay Thai might share similarities in some of its fundamental aspects, such as the focus on strikes and the timed rounds of competition, but there is a lot more to them than what you see on the surface.
One of the primary differences and the most obvious one is that in boxing, fighters can only use punches to attack. On the other hand, Muay Thai which is also known as “The Art of Eight Limbs” integrates punches, kicks, elbows, and knees as their striking arsenal.
Beyond these obvious differences, these two disciplines have very different takes on several concepts of its fighting styles including the hand positioning, hip positioning, stances, and footwork, which we will furtherly discussed below.
Muay Thai Vs. Boxing: Technical Differences
1. Stance and Footwork
Stances in Muay Thai and boxing are a bit different. In boxing, you need to reduce the striking area of your opponent by turning your hips outwards, leading with your weaker hand for the jab. While in Muay Thai, your hips are further forward and more square-on to your opponent so you will be able to check or block kicks and to throw kicks with your back leg quicker.
Boxing’s footwork is elaborate and rather complex while in Muay Thai, fighters are generally flat-footed. Muay Thai doesn’t require as many footwork movements as boxing. They prefer to defend using blocks and checks and firing back a vicious counter immediately.
2. Guard / Defense
In a boxing match, you can only target the opponent’s upper body and head, so you will need your hands to be closer to your head and your elbows in to defend against body shots. For Muay Thai, your hands are much further away from your head to create a good defensive barrier against powerful kicks to your body and head. This defense stance is also very important to generate momentum for throwing powerful kicks.
The clinch in Muay Thai and boxing play two very different roles, one being offensive while other being offensive.
A clinch in boxing is used to prevent your opponent from striking in a close-up range. This is mainly used as a rest position until either fighter gets out. For Muay Thai, clinching is used to set up striking opportunities like knees and elbows, or even throws your opponent to the ground.
4. Range and Head Movements
The striking distance between boxing and Muay Thai differs because of the weapons used.
Boxers will typically stand closer to each other while fighting compared to Muay Thai fighters. This is because of the difference in range between a kick and a punch. Boxers only need to be concerned with the range of each other’s arms, but Muay Thai fighters have to defend themselves against kicking as well so they will need to stand apart from each other much further.
This also applies for head movements. Boxers don’t have to worry about kicks, knees, and elbows, so they can freely move their head to evade punches, and duck under punches. In Muay Thai, though, too much head movement will only give you trouble instead since it will make you more vulnerable to your opponent’s striking.
Which One is Harder to Learn?
Answering this question is not an easy task since both boxing and Muay Thai can be easy and difficult to master at the same time depending on which aspect of training you’re learning.
Muay Thai involves more striking points including kicks, elbows, knees, and punches. These striking techniques will take a much longer time to learn when compared to just using one form of attack, like in boxing. On top of that, you will also need to defend against these type of strikes, which makes Muay Thai even more difficult to master.
While only using punches to strike, to master boxing you need to undergo an enormous amount of training to learn how to punch effectively, they must focus on their footwork and cardiovascular ability. But still, boxers have a better advantage of learning their martial art much quicker because there is much less to pin-point and much less to learn.
In conclusion, putting time into either martial art will be rewarding, but Muay Thai is undoubtedly the more challenging one to learn in the first place.
Which One is Better for Self Defense?
Every martial art is perfect to arm yourself with self-defense techniques, so in most cases the difference only comes down to personal preference. As we discussed earlier, it is easier to get to a certain level of competence more quickly through boxing. Boxing also has many excellent technique to end a fight quickly, so that you can get out from a danger situation more early.
However, Muay Thai will prepare you for strikes from not only the fists but also kicks, knees, and elbows. In most real-life situations, this capability is vital especially if the opponent is skilled in that form of attack. The range that kicks from Muay Thai provides and the efficacy of the clinch in close range which means that it is a more practical self-defense technique in the long run.
It is undoubtedly faster to train in boxing and be capable of self-defense through those techniques. But still, Muay Thai will provide you with more comprehensive and adaptable self-defense techniques in the long term, and the choice of which is more effective for self-defense comes down to the common situation that you are facing.
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