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BJJ vs Muay Thai

Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) are two different martial arts styles. Muay Thai is a combat sport that originated in Thailand and is known for its heavy use of striking techniques, particularly kicks and punches. BJJ, on the other hand, is a grappling-based martial art that focuses on ground fighting and submission techniques. It’s difficult to say which martial art is better, as both Muay Thai and BJJ have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Muay Thai is known for its powerful strikes and effective use of elbow and knee techniques, which can be devastating in a real fight. BJJ, on the other hand, is renowned for its ability to help a smaller, weaker person defeat a larger and stronger opponent through the use of technique and leverage. In this article we’ll look at BJJ vs Muay Thai, assessing each’s strengths and weaknesses and ultimately which one may be best for you to learn.

What are the Main Differences Between Muay Thai and BJJ

As martial arts, Muay Thai and BJJ are very different. BJJ is a grappling martial art involving grips, throws and submissions. Muay Thai is a striking martial art, involving kicks, punches, elbows and knees. Overall, Muay Thai and BJJ have many differences in their:

  • Purpose
  • Training
  • Uniform
  • History

Purpose

Winning a BJJ match is very different from winning a Muay Thai fight. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), the goal is to submit your opponent by applying a grappling technique, such as a chokehold or joint lock, that forces them to tap out or surrender. A match can also be won by points, which are awarded for successful executions of various techniques. In a tournament setting, a match is typically won by the person who scores the most points or submits their opponent.

Muay Thai fighters win by either knocking out the opponent or by scoring more points than them over the course of the bout. Points are awarded for successful strikes, such as kicks and punches, as well as for controlling and dominating the fight. A fighter can also win by technical knockout (TKO) if their opponent is unable to continue due to injury or if the referee determines that one fighter is no longer able to defend themselves.

Training

Muay Thai fighters and BJJ fighters will also have pretty different training regimes. As someone who has trained both, practice in both martial arts focus on differing aspects. Muay Thai fighters typically train very hard, with a typical training day involving a combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength and conditioning work, technical drills, and sparring. Cardiovascular exercise is important for Muay Thai fighters, as the sport requires a high level of fitness and endurance. Strength and conditioning work is also important, as it helps fighters build the strength and power they need to deliver powerful strikes. Technical drills are used to practice and refine the various techniques used in Muay Thai, such as punches, kicks, and elbow and knee strikes. Sparring is an essential part of Muay Thai training, as it allows fighters to apply their techniques in a live, full-contact setting and develop their fighting skills.

woman in black tank top and red shorts doing exercise
A typical Muay Thai training hitting a heavy bag

A typical 1-hour Muay Thai class usually involves the first 15 minutes dedicated to jump roping, stretching and cardio exercises. The next 30 minutes would be dedicated to doing bag work to practice combos of strikes. The final 15 minutes being dedicated to sparring.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters typically emphasize repetition of techniques. BJJ has many different types of submissions, positions and move sets that require lots of repetition to be able to apply them in a live setting. This is often done with a training partner, who provides resistance and challenges the fighter as they practice the various techniques. BJJ fighters also engage in sparring, which is similar to live drilling and allows them to apply the techniques they have learned in a full-contact setting. In addition to drilling and sparring, BJJ fighters also engage in strength and conditioning exercises to build the physical fitness and endurance needed for the demands of the sport.

A typical 1-hour BJJ class would involve the first 10-15 minutes dedicate to stretching and warming up. The next 30 would be focused on training a flow or technique, usually obtaining a position or a submission. With the final 15 minutes dedicated to sparring. Usually 3, 5-minute rounds.

Uniform & Gear

The apparel a Muay Thai fighter wears is also pretty different from what BJJ fighter wears. Muay Thai fighters typically wear shorts and a shirt or rashguard when training and competing. The shorts are usually made of lightweight, breathable material and are designed to allow for a full range of motion. The shirt or rashguard is typically worn on top of the shorts and can provide additional protection from cuts and scrapes. In addition to these clothes, fighters may also wear protective gear such as mouth guards, groin guards, and shin guards.

Green muay thai shorts on the ground
Pair of my Muay Thai shorts

BJJ fighters typically wear a uniform called a gi when training and competing. The gi consists of a jacket (kimono), pants, and a BJJ belt that denotes the fighter’s rank. The jacket is typically made of heavy cotton and has reinforced sleeves and lapels to make it more difficult for the opponent to grab. The pants are also made of heavy cotton and have reinforced knees to provide additional durability. The belt is worn around the waist and is used to hold the gi in place during training and competition. In addition to the gi, BJJ fighters may also wear a rashguard or other type of compression shirt under their gi jacket. Some fighters may also choose to wear grappling shorts instead of the traditional gi pants.

History

Muay Thai originated in Thailand and has a long and rich history. The origins of the martial art can be traced back to the 16th century, when it was developed as a form of hand-to-hand combat for use in warfare. Over time, Muay Thai evolved into a sport and became an important part of Thai culture, with the martial art being featured in festivals and ceremonies. Today, Muay Thai is a popular sport around the world and is widely recognized as one of the most effective striking martial arts.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu originated in Brazil in the early 20th century. It was developed by the Gracie family, who were influenced by the traditional Japanese martial art of judo. The Gracie family sought to create a martial art that would allow a smaller, weaker person to defeat a larger and stronger opponent through the use of technique and leverage. Over time, BJJ evolved into a popular martial art and combat sport, with the Gracie family playing a key role in its development and growth. Today, BJJ is widely recognized as one of the most effective grappling-based martial arts in the world.

Is Muay Thai or BJJ Harder to Learn?

It is difficult to say which martial art is more challenging to master because it ultimately depends on the learner. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Muay Thai are both complex martial arts that take a lot of commitment and effort to master. A total beginner in both sports will likely be more at ease at first with Muay Thai. Punching, kicking, kneeing, etc – these are things that we naturally know (even if we don’t know how to do them with technique). The moves of Brazilian jiu jitsu are not very natural and require learning step by step. BJJ is much more formulaic with a set of move progressions one must learn before they are able to spar in BJJ. So in the first 6 months of training – BJJ would likely be considered the harder martial art to learn.

Becoming a master in either martial art however is impossible to say which is harder. The timing, discipline and technique required to become a master in either sport requires hours and hours of mat time

Is Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Better for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

When it comes to Mixed Martial Arts, it’s not really an ‘either or’ when it comes to choosing Muay Thai or BJJ. To be an effective mixed martial arts fighter, you need to know how to strike and also how to act during ground fighting. Muay Thai and BJJ therefore are great complimentary martial arts to use in MMA. Training both Muay Thai and BJJ at the same time is a great way to develop as a mixed martial arts fighter. Two of the most famous Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters of all time, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones are both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners.

Anderson Silva does a Muay Thai ‘teep’ during an UFC fight

BJJ and Muay Thai are likely not enough however to make you a complete MMA fighter. You will need to learn other martial arts like wrestling or judo to be able to take down opponents, which is the middle transition between striking and ground fighting.

Anderson Silva does a BJJ “triangle choke” in an UFC fight

Is BJJ or Muay Thai Better for a Street Fight?

Street fighting is an ill defined type of martial art that often requires more improvisation and is a lot more random than a trained martial art. In general you should always avoid getting into a street fight. That being said, if you were forced into a fight as either a trained Muay Thai fighter or trained BJJ fighter, who would fair better?

With BJJ, you will be better equipped to end a fight through either a chokehold or submission. In most self defense scenarios, this is ideal. Stopping a fight through submission reduces the chances of someone getting seriously injured (other than perhaps the assailant). The issue with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a street fight is that fights usually start on the feet. So unless you have some wrestling or sambo experience, your BJJ will probably not be very helpful unless you can get to the ground.

With Muay Thai, you will be better equipped to handle a fight that starts with both people standing up (which is the vast majority of them). If the assailant insists on exchanging blows, your Muay Thai training will better prepare you than BJJ. If the fight finds its way to the floor however, a lack of grappling experience will put you at a severe disadvantage.

Should You Do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai?

There is no clear-cut answer to this because your goals and tastes ultimately determine which martial art is ideal for you. Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) and Muay Thai are two powerful martial arts that can teach you how to protect yourself in a number of situations if you’re trying to learn self-defense. As we’ve discussed, Muay Thai is a striking discipline that involves punches, kicks, knees, and elbows and BJJ concentrates on grappling and ground combat. Although there are various rules and tactics for each martial art, both can be trained for sporting competitions. So if you are trying to compete, even if at an amateur level, both sports are good options.

The best course of action is to try both and choose which you prefer. To acquire their opinions and recommendations, you can also consult with instructors and seasoned practitioners of the two martial arts. It’s crucial to pick a martial art you enjoy since you’ll be more likely to stick with it and keep practicing over time if you do.

In addition to personal enjoyment, there are a few other factors to consider when deciding between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. One important factor is the availability of training facilities in your area. Both martial arts require specialized training and equipment, so you’ll want to make sure there are schools and gyms nearby where you can learn and practice.