September 4, 2022

Muay Thai Vs Krav Maga: The Differences & Similarities

Nearly every civilization in the world has developed forms of combat arts. But up until recently, there was no easy way to test them against each other. Now, however, people have started traveling the world to test their skills. Consequently, Muay Thai and Krav Maga have soared in popularity due to their effectiveness.

Both fighting styles were sharpened on the battlefield, where men depended on their skills to keep themselves alive. Muay Thai, then known as Muay Boran, was used for centuries, allowing soldiers to protect their kings.

Muay Thai, often known as the art of eight limbs, uses the combination of fist, elbows, and knees to execute a wide range of moves. It employs a versatile stance with straight hands. On the contrary, Krav Maga has borrowed its style from a variety of martial arts. It utilizes chokeholds, takedowns, knee strikes as its effective forms of offense and defense.

Muay Thai has been treated as a sport for centuries, Muay Boran was officially converted into a sport with codified rules in the 1920s, due to the high number of fatalities occurring during the bouts. While Krav Maga is useful, it only works if the fighter has a solid foundation in a fighting style.

Krav Maga fighting group training
Krav Maga Training

Tracing the History – Birth

The cultural martial arts of Thailand called Muay Thai dates back thousands of years. Developed for the purpose of close combat, it utilizes the entire body as a weapon. Unfortunately, the exact origins of the Muay Thai is a bit hazy and shrouded in legends.

Krav Maga, meaning “Close combat,” was born in Czechoslovakia in the early 1930s. The founder was called Imi Lichtenfeld, who developed this art primarily to protect his people from the brutalization in the pre-world war II-era Europe. Lichtenfeld was trained by his father in boxing and wrestling as a defensive strategy.


Muay Thai techniques were passed on to the soldiers and the fathers as a form of self – defense. Left breathless due to years of war, it grew into a unique fighting system with time. Practiced by millions of people across the world, it is the national sport of Thailand.

In Israel, where Lichtenfeld immigrated to, he was commissioned by the Israeli military to refine the earliest known system known as Kapap. It was used by the Israeli army to train the defense personnel. From there, it traveled and now it features a combination of boxing, Judo, wrestling, knife fighting, stick fighting, and gun disarm methods.


Muay Thai has a profound meaning and philosophy, and it goes beyond just training. It is not just about turning the body into a fighting machine or a weapon. Muay Thai teaches principles such as mindfulness, attention span, respect, relaxation, and hard work, which helps its practitioner to lead a better life.  

Krav Maga works on the basic principle of redirecting the opponent’s strength and using it against him. This puts the fighter at a severe advantage. The martial art form also renders to the spiritual awareness of its practitioners. The main aim is to develop a deep concentration and understanding of one’s surroundings.



Known as The Art of Eight Limbs, Muay Thai combines the use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins. The martial art uses seven basic kinds of punches, eight different kinds of elbow shots, nine kinds of kicks, over ten different types of knee strikes, five different types of foot thrusts, and clinching moves designed to strike or bind the opponent.

Krav Maga, on the other hand, merely copies techniques from other combat systems due to its heavy focus on instinctive responses and effectiveness. Judo, Aikido, Karate, and Wrestling techniques are used for strikes, takedowns, groundwork, choke-hold escapes, and empty hand weapon defenses.


Muay Thai employs a forward and square stance with hands straight and the tops just below the forehead. The stance is versatile enough to help you throw three different kinds of kicks along with elbows and knees.

Krav Maga has two different stances, a passive stance, and a fighting stance. The passive stance is also known as the neutral stance as it is basically being in a regular position as if you were walking down the street. The fighting stance is similar to other modern martial arts. The dominant foot is forward and the feet are in a slightly diagonal position. The hands are at a chin level and the balance of the body rests on both the legs.


The kicks are an integral part of any martial art. Muay Thai is a versatile sport with over 10 different kicks and 6 knee strikes, which are employed in different situations during a fight.

Krav Maga also has a full range of kicks which includes front, back, high and low kicks. There are over 6 different kicks at a basic level and they get more complex and nuanced as the practitioner learns more.

Fighting Style

While both sets of techniques are useful, Muay Thai also teaches conditioning, making its users capable of throwing and enduring devastating blows. This is more useful, since fights often come down to endurance, making victory a matter of who can throw the last punch.

On the other hand, Krav Maga focuses on real-life scenarios and teaches you how to react to any unforeseen situation at hand. Krav Maga is also a more adaptable technique as it is based largely on countering your attacker rather than fighting within a set of rules.

Which is Better for Self Defense?

In situations where you need to defend yourself, both martial arts tell you to figure out a way to de-escalate the situation and avoid a fight if possible.

But if your back is to the wall and there is no way out but through the person standing in front of you, Muay Thai is your best bet.

When it comes to self-defense, escaping in one piece is the goal. In this situation, the conditioning and battlefield control granted by Muay Thai is far more useful than the ability to beat your opponent to a pulp.

Also, boxing is another martial art good for self defense. Here’s how it stands against Muay Thai.

Which is More Effective?

At lower skill levels, Krav Maga is significantly more effective. Due to its focus on ruthless practicality, people who are new to Krav Maga can still hold their own in dangerous situations, becoming capable of killing their opponents. Plus, the philosophy behind Krav Maga teaches effectiveness, making it more relevant for life or death combat.

However, both Muay Thai and Krav Maga were born and honed in war, and over the long term, they are roughly equally effective. The devastating blows from the limbs of a Muay Thai master can demolish an opponent as easily as those from a Krav Maga master.


Designed to forge its users into perfect warriors, Muay Thai training and practice involves a massive amount of exercise. If you decide to learn Muay Thai, you better get ready for road work, shadow boxing, pad work, bag training, clinching, partner drills, sparring, conditioning, and fighting.

Yes, that seems like a lot, and it is. But at the end of it, you will have transformed yourself into a living weapon, with bones like steel.

Krav Maga, on the other hand, teaches nothing.

Yes, nothing.

It is supposed to be an add-on for the fighting skills you already know, not a complete training regimen. As mentioned before, it was designed to improve the effectiveness of soldiers, who already know how to fight.

Which is Better in Street Fights?

Let us first understand what is the goal of a street fight? Is it to win, or is it to escape? The answer, of course, is to escape. Street fights are dangerous, often leaving you without allies, while your opponents have many other people to back them up. Despite the brutal effectiveness of Krav Maga, going up against multiple people in a street fight is sure to end badly for you.

It is here that the battlefield control of Muay Thai comes in handy. By using teeps, or foot strikes to control distance, clinches for close combat, and conditioning to endure blows from multiple directions, a good Muay Thai practitioner can ensure that he can walk away from a street fight without too many issues.

Which is Easier to Learn?

TLDR: Krav Maga is easier to learn.

Long version: Krav Maga is easier to learn because, as mentioned, it is an addition to a fighting technique you already know. However, it is also taught as the first line of defense, with a mere 50 hours of experience enabling people to fight effectively.

Muay Thai requires far more time and experience before a practitioner can fight effectively.

Now that you have read about the advantages and disadvantages of both techniques, we can tell you the truth. These two techniques are complementary. They support each other. Someone who has learned Muay Thai is a good fighter, but someone who has learned Muay Thai followed by Krav Maga is a great fighter!

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

One thought on “Muay Thai Vs Krav Maga: The Differences & Similarities

  1. With respect, if you want to run away from a fight than MT is best because it will teach you how to react quickly and then you could run.
    But if running away is not an option, KravMaga is the only way to go.
    I trained in both, and ANY med level MT fighter in my gym can beat me up to pulp in the ring.
    But what if a MT person attacked me in the streets, with his mate trying to stab me, and a 3rd guy holding me, and say my kid is there so I cant run away?

    What will I do with MT? Try to KO 3 people? In the 1 min it takes to win or loose such a fight???


    In KM, I will in that min, for example, which for sre doesnt always work in life, but as as example of HOW we train in KM, take the eye out of the guy that holds me, break the knifehand of the other guy when he comes to stab me and stab him with his own knife, and smash the MT guy’s adams apple into his own windpipe, or clinch him and break his nose with my forehead strike (as MT clinch keeps u wide open for that) or simple kick him in the balls (wide MT stand…).

    1 min.

    3 down.

    I can take my kid and walk away.

    Thats Krav Maga.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *