September 4, 2022

Kyokushin vs Muay Thai: Differences and Effectiveness

Kyokushin Karate and Muay Thai are both effective forms of stand-up combat fighting with equal strength in a clash. While Kyokushin Karate is native to Japan, Muay Thai has its roots in Thailand. Kyokushin Karate is the first and most influential style of full-contact karate. Muay Thai, on the other hand, is also called Thai Boxing, where the focus is on striking.

Both of these combat fighting forms are quite different where their techniques are concerned. While Kyokushin Karate players fight barehanded, Muay Thai players use fighting gloves called Kard Cheuk. The basis of Kyokushin karate is the physical and mental toughness. In contrast, Muay Thai emphasizes techniques like elbowing and clinching.

Both of these forms of combat sport have garnered enough attention amongst fans of martial arts all around the globe. Moreover, both of these forms use skills that are not just impressive, but also involve tactics.

Let us read more about the two combat forms and see how each one is different from the other.

Brief History

Kyokushin Karate was founded in the year 1964 by Masutatsu Oyama. It is the first-ever full contact form of karate, which challenges the limits of human capabilities. With a deep-rooted philosophy of hard training, discipline and self-improvement, Kyokushin Karate has gained a lot of popularity throughout the 50 years of its existence.

Kyokushinkai karate championship

Muay Thai, on the other hand, has its roots in the mid-18th century. It was during the battles between the Burmese of Konbaung Dynasty and the Ayutthaya Kingdom that Muay Thai came into existence. Some of its early names are Toi Muay or even Muay. Moreover, it was also used as a practical fighting technique in actual warfare.

While both of these combat sports have their fair share of enthusiasts and practitioners, Muay Thai emerged way before Kyokushin Karate on the timeline.


Kyokushin Karate consists of three main elements, namely techniques, forms and sparring. Commonly referred to as the three “K’s”, the elements in Japanese are known as:

  • Kihon- basics
  • Kata- imaginary forms of fight
  • Kumite- sparring

Muay Thai is different in the way that it combines the use of fists, elbows, knees and shin. 

The similarities

Both Kyokushin Karate and Muay Thai focus on unarmed combat between two players. Furthermore, both of these forms are styles of stand up striking. Simply watching the two sports is enough to offer a fair idea about the similarities between the two.  

Use of Clinching

Both Kyokushin Karate and Muay Thai allow clinching. This is a technique used by players to take down their opponents. While the former is a full-contact sport, the latter also allows clinching to a certain degree. In both the forms, players use knee and elbow techniques to strike and bind their opponents for offensive as well as defensive purposes.

Weight Distribution

One of the common aspects of both of these fight forms is the distribution of weight in the two. Players in both of these sports tend to place the majority of their weight on their rear leg. This helps them to be fast in making or avoiding punches, in addition to keeping the weight light on their front leg.

Additionally, putting weight on the rear leg also enables the players to focus on their strikes and actions.   

How are they different?

Kyokushin is one of the most challenging forms of karate. Players of the sport do not use gloves or protective gear. They can also kick their opponent’s body and legs.

In contrast, Muay Thai is “the art of eight limbs.” This is because a player of this sport can use different striking techniques. They can even use punches, elbows and kicks.


More often than not, attacking the head in a fight can be more devastating for the opponent. Since Muay Thai has a style similar to that of kickboxing, and allows the use of gloves, hitting the opponent on the head is permitted. A player of Muay Thai can punch or kick the opponent’s head.

Contrary to this, players of Kyokushin Karate do not use gloves. Therefore, if they aim for the head, they can easily damage their hands.

This is why players of Muay Thai can fight their opponents from a closer distance, while players of Kyokushin use space as their defense.

The Complexity of Techniques

When playing Kyokushin Karate, the player needs to be very fast and accurate. Speed is essential in this sport since it helps you think ahead of the opponent, judge their possible moves and be ready to punch, kick or dodge.

Muay Thai, on the other hand, requires strength as well as speed. Players can clinch their opponents in this sport. Therefore, they require a lot of strength to defend themselves against their opponent.

Risks involved

Kyokushin Karate involves a lot more risks as compared to Muay Thai. Since the former lacks any hand protection, the risk of players injuring their hands during a fight is far more than in Muay Thai. This is because players of Muay Thai fight with gloves, which provides them with protection.

Unique elements

Kyokushin Karate uses full contact sparring. It is the ultimate test of the player’s strength, endurance, techniques, knowledge and spirit. It is here where the player has to defeat his opponent without landing any heavy blows. Muay Thai is comparatively more aggressive. Players of this sport combine the strength of their fists, elbows, knees as well as shins to defeat their opponent.

Which is More Effective in a Street Fight?

For an easy street fight where you can defeat your opponent, Muay Thai is more effective and should be your choice of combat. It does not involve any rules and has a come-forward style. The use of kicks, punches and clinches makes it even more effective.

The fact that Muay Thai requires you to be tactful and swift also helps a lot. Kyokushin would be effective only if you are training with strikes to the head. And since there is a possible risk of injuring your hand, Kyokushin Karate would not be helpful in a street fight.

Which is Better for Self Defence? 

Where self-defence is concerned, you need the strength to defend and rescue yourself first, and fight your opponent later. In such a scenario, Kyokushin Karate is comparatively a better choice. It makes you ready for a fight in different ways. Since the training of Kyokushin involves sparring, you will know how to receive punches, which will ultimately make your body harder, stronger, more resilient and prepared for every kind of fight.

With Kyokushin Karate, you will also know how to punch your attacker from a close distance with both your hands as well as legs. Additionally, you will also know how to use your hips and change weight to increase the power in your strikes. Kyokushin will also make you swifter while making your strikes faster.  

While Muay Thai is also a powerful form of combat, it may not be as effective when it comes to self-defense in comparison to Kyokushin Karate.

Which is Easier to Learn?

Between Kyokushin Karate and Muay Thai, the latter will always be easier and quicker to learn. One of the biggest reasons for this is the use of various forms of attack as well as movements. These include clinching, punches, kicking and more.

Techniques and attacks in Kyokushin Karate are far more difficult to learn and take a lot of time to master.  

The tactics and formations in Muay Thai are easier to grasp in lesser time in comparison to those in Kyokushin Karate.

Which one Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing between Kyokushin Karate and Muay Thai, the first thing you should decide is the purpose for which you would like to train in the form.

If you are looking to train in a more serious and disciplined form of martial arts, then Kyokushin Karate may be the right option for you to choose. Not only will it teach you discipline and self-improvement, but you can also learn complex techniques which can help you in a fight.

On the other hand, if you are looking to have some fun and learn effective fighting skills to start in martial arts, then Muay Thai is the choice you should go for.

To Conclude

In the world of martial arts, both Kyokushin Karate and Muay Thai have gained popularity and prominence. However, Muay Thai continues to be one of the most aggressive forms of combat fighting. The fighters come prepared with hefty kicks, punches, blocks and more.

Kyokushin Karate is a more elusive style of combat fighting, with the players using all of their power to inflict as much damage as possible in a single blow. However, this form of combat has a slight advantage over Muay Thai. Kyokushin Karate players have a habit of fighting without gloves or protection over their hands. This affects their tactics as well as self-defense movements. This can be helpful for them in serious combat.  

Thus, a player must carefully consider all factors before choosing one of these combat sports.  

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