Almost every forum related to martial arts has an ongoing conversation on which is better “boxing or Muay Thai”. It is a difficult choice to pick one over the other as both have different styles. Despite all the differences, one thing that stands common is that both of these combat sports are a fantastic way to remain fit and in perfect shape.
Boxing is a hugely popular sport, thus a lot of us have good knowledge about it. However, Muay Thai is a newer combat sport (although it has been around since the 1200s). The form of Muay Thai that you see these days draws influence from modern-day combat sports. Traditionally, it was more of a self-defense and attack technique used in wars. In boxing, the hands are used to attack, but in Muay Thai, fighters use the 8-point technique (elbows 2x, knees 2x, fists 2x, and legs 2x).
Coming back to the point of discussion – Muay Thai or Boxing? The decision depends on your preference. However, in this article, we’ll discuss the key differences and similarities between both styles. Hopefully, by the end of this piece, you will be able to make an informed decision.
5 Differences in the Techniques of Muay Thai & Boxing
Muay Thai is about striking relentlessly. Punches, jabs, knees –everything is allowed. But, in boxing, fighters can only use their fists. The position of the legs, overall stance, coordination, and footwork also vary in both forms.
The Leg Stance
In Muay Thai, fighters typically adhere to a square and very forward stance. The hands remain in-line with the forehead, the elbows slightly pointed out, and the hips facing forward. The reason is simple – in this stance, the fighter finds it easier to throw kicks, knees, fists, and elbows simultaneously. On the other hand, boxers hold a longer and narrower stance. The position of the hips is the major differentiating factor. The leg stance in boxing is aimed to provide the opponent with a lesser target while ensuring more protection.
The Hip Position
In traditional Muay Thai foot positioning favors allowing the hips to be very square, so the feet may be more forward than you would find in boxing, allowing the rear foot to turn out more and in some cases nearly to rest at an angle of 90 degrees. Boxing offers a lot more leeway here than Muay Thai with the hips frequently turning about 60 to 80-degree angle further outwards. It presents the side of the boxer as a target, rather than presenting the stomach and chest directly as displayed in Muay Thai. The outward stance allows boxers to duck and bob a close-range attack.
The Hand Position
Muay Thai fighters use several hand positions, but you generally see a very square, high-guard type hand position with either hand close to face or extended a little. It involves holding up both your hands over your face with the outer forearms pointing to the competitor. This position helps fighters to protect themselves from elbows thrown at the face, or rapid kicks to the head. Boxing too has multiple hand positions depending on the players. There is the high guard that protects the front of the nose and face (this is more of a defensive stance). Then, there are some other fancy stances where the rear hand stays upright to shield the chin, and the primary arm is near the waist. Nevertheless, in the conventional traditional boxing stance, the right hand hits the lower part of the right eye, the left arm is kept high with the chin tucking being the shoulder of the left arm and the head down, and the arms are pointed out so that only the body side is visible, not the weak stomach areas.
Although footwork exists in Muay Thai, you won’t find it mostly utilized as fighters have to deal with multiple types of attacks (elbows, knees, fists, legs). Thus, Muay Thai’s footwork is kept simple, with Thai boxers leaning mostly on the lead foot (same as boxing) but ready to check kicks or teep at any moment with the front foot. This means that the front foot usually carries lesser weight than what the fighters put on the rear foot. However, in boxing, the primary emphasis is put on the footwork.
Punches & Fight Rhythm
You might have noticed that boxing has a lot of bouncing movements (a form of loose dancing) with punches thrown at high-speed. It is not surprising to see professionally trained boxers throw combos of 5-6 punches at once. Then again, Muay Thai has a different rhythm altogether. Unlike boxing, fighters here engage in quick bursts of powerful jabs and kicks, followed by retreating to defense or clinched positions.
Which is Better for Self Defense?
Muay Thai is the better choice for self-defense. Boxing is limited to using fists only (and, you can only expect them to land perfectly in a bar fight). On the other hand, Muay Thai uses almost every part of the body for attack and defense. Though both forms require you to be agile, Muay Thai trained professionals have faster reactions when defending and attacking.
The footwork and stance in boxing help defend blows from close range, but the legwork in Muay Thai is more about hitting the opponent from every possible angle, with the added advantage of quickly retaining a defensive position.
Muay Thai does seem more aggressive than other martial arts like karate or kickboxing but that’s exactly what makes a fighter fight ruthlessly when under attack. That’s why it is an ideal choice for self-defense training.
Which is Easier to Learn?
There is no such thing as easy to learn. Every form of martial art requires hard work, dedication, and years of practice. But, on an average, if you want to learn self-defense within a short time (not proficient yet good- level), Boxing is the right choice. If you are willing to train for a longer duration, then Muay Thai is the right pick.
Muay Thai requires the use of kicks, elbows, knees, and punches as strike points. This kind of striking takes a lot longer time to learn compared to using just one form of attack. Boxing requires punching with your fists, as well as footwork. This style of hitting emphasizes the movement of the quick hands and heads to avoid punches. There is less to be pin-pointed and less to be learned.
Should You Take Muay Thai or Boxing?
It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you just train once or twice a week, take up boxing. Boxing doesn’t have the breadth of other martial arts but it has a lot of depth, you won’t have to spend time mastering a host of different techniques from a time perspective. In Muay Thai, you have to learn all the punches/elbows/knees/takedowns. Boxing just has punches, a lot of them, but it is still easier to master.
Both have their benefits, thus, the deciding factor should be your personal preference.
Which is Better for Street Fight, Muay Thai or Boxing?
Muay Thai is better because it gives you a better advantage of the distance and range of your opponent. In a street fight, one has to attack and defend simultaneously. If you are trained in boxing, you won’t be able to make much use of your legs. But, if you learned Muay Thai, you can practically use everything as a weapon. This gives you a much needed upper hand when in a street fight.
In a street fight, a Muay Thai fighter will potentially have a huge advantage in a “clinch” style situation, which can’t be replicated with years of Boxing training.
Chinese Boxing v/s Muay Thai
Chinese boxing (also called Sanda) is a hybrid of kickboxing, wrestling, and Kung Fu. However, is traditionally based on Muay Boran techniques. The roots remain strong, but modern Muay Thai has been influenced of western boxing. While Muay Thai has made a global presence, Chinese Boxing is mostly limited to the Mainland.
Sanda usually uses a lot of lead leg sidekicks, combinations of hands and mid/high kicks with a focus on wrestling throws. The stance too is different. In a ring, a Muay Thai fighter will be able to land effective punches and elbows, however, they have to be extremely careful of the footwork as Chinese Boxing fighters use a lot of grapple moves similar to pro-wrestlers.
Both Muay Thai and Boxing are ideal for practicing martial arts, and they are both useful in MMA and self-defense. The final decision rests on you – closed range combat with hands and footwork or extended range plus a wide array of attack options (minus some high and low jabs)?
Another thing that you should consider before choosing is your commitment. While elementary boxing training can be done in 6 months, Muay Thai needs a longer time.