All well-rounded martial artists don’t just train one martial art, they might train two or three. No doubt, if you are a dedicated Jiujitsu practitioner, you’ve heard of Jiu Jitsu’s fiery friend “Muay Thai”. The furious striking martial art from Thailand. Many Jiu Jitsu practitioners love to train both Muay Thai and BJJ, so they are able to strike and grapple.
But what if you feel you only have time for one? This article should have all the answers, so you can decide which martial art is better for you personally!
What is Muay Thai?
“Muay Thai” loosely translates to “Thai Boxing.” However, it has another name it goes by that better explains it. “The Art of Eight Limbs” refers to the eight points of contact as Muay Thai uses to attack an opponent. The arms, the elbows, the knees, and the shins. Many seasoned Mauy Thai practitioners have conditioned shins to deal more devastating kicks.
This full-contact kickboxing martial art from Thailand has become an international sport. Many notable martial art academies will teach BJJ and Muay Thai. For example, the legendary Renzo Gracie academy HQ in Brooklyn has a Muay Thai class right above the blue basement.
History of Muay Thai
Muay Thai gets its origins from Muay Boran (Ancient Boxing). As the story goes, it is said Muay Thai was taught to Thai soldiers to help defend the country in armed and unarmed combat. Famously, King Louis, the 14th sent an ambassador from France to Siam, who witnessed and wrote about, Muay Thai demonstrations by the soldiers of King Naresuan.
The Legend of Nai Khanom Tom
While many parts of the story are contested, the most famous Muay Thai story to ever emerge wasn’t from the battlefield. Instead, it was from a competition held on March 17th, 1774. Burma had just captured the city of Ayutthaya which at the time was the capital of Siam.
Nai Khanom Tom had been captured and was selected to represent Thailand in a boxing competition against the soldiers of the invaders. When he entered the ring, Nai Khanom Tom had wrapped his hands with hemp rope and wore a Mongkohn, a ceremonial and sacred rope wrapped around his head.
He also performed the “Wai Khru Ram Muay” which is a ceremonial dance where the fighter pays respects to his teachers, and asks for protection in the fight. Once the match finally began, Nai Khanom Tom overwhelmed his opponent, with a flurry of kicks, elbows, and punches.
His victory was so decisive that the referee (from Burma) said the fight had not been fair because Nai Khanom Tom’s opponent had been distracted by the strange dance before the fight. As punishment, he would have to face a total of nine more Burmese fighters. Nai Khanom Tom did not back down, and went on to overwhelm the other nine, just as he had done the first.
Upon his victory over the tenth fighter, the king of Burma was so impressed he gave Nai Khanom Tom his freedom, and ever since March 17th has been celebrated as Muay Thai Day.
Muay Thai Today
Like all martial arts, Muay Thai has changed and evolved through the years. It was in 1930 Muay Thai took more of a “sports aspect” and started changing things like the uniform. Instead of hemp rope, modern Muay Thai boxers use gloves. Muay Thai also has formal rounds and even a point system for the sport.
Muay Thai Point System
Muay Thai matches today are scored by a panel of three judges. They also have a referee and a square ring. Muay Thai matches are 5 rounds, with a total of ten possible points to be scored each round. The first way to win a Muay Thai bout is by KO, however, if neither fighter achieves a KO then the match goes to the judge’s scorecards.
The scoring in Muay Thai is unique, where both fighters are awarded points every round. The fighter who won the match is given 10 points, while the fighter who loses is given 7-9 points. If the winning fighter dominated the round, the loser is given seven points, however, if the match was close, the loser is given nine points.
(It’s also possible to draw, where both fighters are given 10 points each.)
Muay Thai shorts are different from traditional boxing shorts. The pant legs are much shorter to allow fighters to throw high kicks. Modern-day Muay Thai also uses boxing gloves. If you look around online, you should be able to find some very stylish Muay Thai brand gear!
Muay Thai vs BJJ – Similarities and Differences
Let’s start with the obvious: Muay Thai is a striking martial art. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a grappling martial art. Trying to outright compare the two can be difficult because they have very little in common. However, despite being on polar opposite ends of the martial arts spectrum, many BJJ practitioners also enjoy training Muay Thai, and vice versa.
They also share one other thing in common. Both are considered highly effective forms of self-defense by the martial arts community. That’s why, if at all possible, the answer to the question “Which one should I train?” the answer is both.
What does Muay Thai mean?
Muay Thai simply means “Thai Boxing.” However, it is also known as “The art of the eight limbs” because it teaches people to strike with their hands, elbows, knees, and shins. It comes from “Muay Boran” which means “ancient boxing.”
How do you win in Muay Thai?
Muay Thai bouts can be one by knockout, technical knockout, or by points. A KO is defined if someone goes unconscious for a 10 count. A technical knockout is defined as when someone is no longer able to defend themselves.
When was Muay Thai created?
Muay Thai dates back to the 13th century.
What’s it like to train Muay Thai?
Muay Thai is considered a difficult martial art to train. It is a full-body workout with lots of shadow-boxing, clinching, and bag work. However, it should be considered that most martial arts that are considered effective are also considered difficult.
So which should you train? The old homage is martial arts goes: Be able to do everything, but do one thing very well. A recent trend in martial arts is to train both with the purpose to create openings to the martial art you like.
For example, many Muay Thai practitioners might train more BJJ escapes in order to stand back up, and start striking again. While BJJ practitioners learn striking with the purpose of creating openings for takedowns, so they can start grappling.
If you feel like you don’t have time/money to train both, and you want to make “the right” choice; pick the one that you like going to, and will train consistently.
Jack is a BJJ purple belt who holds a bachelors degree in English Literature. He enjoys traveling, reading, and the Bow and Arrow choke. One day he hopes to teach English overseas and become a published author.