September 4, 2022

Taekwondo vs Muay Thai: Differences & Effectiveness

The martial arts form of Muay Thai and Taekwondo are unique with different styles and techniques. If you were thinking of picking up art and were confused between the two, you have come to the right place.

Taekwondo and Muay Thai are very different from each other in terms of their techniques, history, weapons and philosophy. Muay Thai, from Thailand, uses a combination of combos of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Taekwondo, from Korea, on the other hand focuses significantly on the legs with kicks being its primary fighting method.

Now that you have a basic introduction to the colossal aspects of the two, let’s look at these two disciplines with their differences in greater detail.

Tracing the History


Muay Thai dates back thousands of years and is the cultural martial art of Thailand. 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.

The national martial art of Korea’s roots dates back to the three kingdoms of Korea where it took form. The kingdoms are called Koguryo (37 BC-668 AD), Pakje (18 BC-600 AD), and Silla (57 BC- 936 AD) which Korea was split into.


Muay Thai was left breathless by years of tribal wars. During this time, the soldiers and  the fathers passed down these fighting techniques as a form of defense. It grew into an excellent fighting system over time. At this point, it is the national sport and martial art of Thailand. Practiced by millions of people across the world, it is representative of the place of its origin.

In 1945 Korea gained independence from Japan. It was only then that Taekwondo grew into a hugely popular martial sport around the world. The Japanese occupation had tried to erase the culture of Korea and implement their own but was not successful in doing so. 


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 which helps its practitioner to lead a better life. 

So what are the main pointers that Muay Thai talks about? Well, the answer is mindfulness, attention span, respect, relaxation and hard work.

Similar to Muay Thai, the philosophy of Taekwondo revolves around teaching principles that help in leading a good life. The five tenets that Taekwondo teaches include Ye-ui meaning courtesy, Yeom-hi meaning integrity, In-nae meaning perseverance, Geuk-gi meaning self-control, Baek-jeol-bul-gul meaning indomitable spirit.

Techniques of Muay Thai

Muay Thai and Taekwondo are beautiful and ornamental art forms. But Muay Thai is slightly aggressive in comparison.  Let us look at some of the major pointers:

Offence and Defence Style:

Muay Thai is also called “the art of 8 limbs.” There is a reason behind, and that is Muay Thai involves attacks and defenses using all eight limbs, or let’s say tenets. It is a sweet mess of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows while being on the offence. It also employs reliable defense techniques against enemy attacks.

  • Choks(Punches): Similar traits to western boxing, it uses the front hand to test the range and execute powerful punches.
  • Ti Khao(Knee): Powerful knee strikes while making jumping and flying attacks.
  • Teeps(Front Kicks): Used to attack the chest or face and stop the opponent’s attack by messing up their rhythm and balance.
  • Soks(Elbows): Short-range strikes designed to smash the opponent completely.
  • Te Chiang(Roundhouse Kick): Uses the bottom of the shins to kick the legs, head and the body of the opponent.
  • Chap Ko(Clinch): This is a defence mechanism. It also helps in controlling the opponent and delivering close range strikes and takedowns.

On the contrary, the techniques in Taekwondo vary considerably from the techniques of Muay Thai. These are predominantly long-range kicks attacking the head and midsection of the opponent. It is imperative to perform techniques with accurate speed and precision. 

  • Punches: Used as a backup to generally support the strikes like ridge hand.
  • Sidekicks: Thrown horizontally with the foot horizontal, it helps in keeping the opponent at a distance and then strike. 
  • Front Kicks: Thrown with the feet vertically to maintain a range between the fighter and the opponent.
  • Spinning/Jumping kicks: The most potent kind of kicks in Taekwondo, it accelerates power to deliver a devastating offence.
  • Roundhouse Kicks: Snapping and swift kicks with foot the opponent’s side.


The diverse forms of Muay Thai include:

  1. Muay Mat: Aggressive style with the aim to deliver maximum damage as quickly as possible by moving forward looking to land heavy shots.
  2. Muay Tae: Employes a massive variety of kicks.
  3. Muay Khao: Includes quick strikes from the knee.
  4. Muay Femur: Combination of techniques as mentioned earlier

The different organizations of Taekwondo include around 24-30 various forms. These organizations are:

  1. Kukkiwon
  2. American Taekwondo Association
  3. International Taekwondo Federation.
  4. Jhoon Rhee Forms
  5. Global Taekwondo Federation


Both the forms of martial art generally don’t employ the use of a weapon. Although in recent times the hybrid forms include the use of swords, staffs, knives, spears among others. 

Belt Ranking System

Another significant difference between the two lies in the ranking systems for the belts. Taekwondo goes by a design from white to black, in ascending order, with different intermediate colors in between. In contrast, Muay Thai does not employ a belt system.

Which is More Effective in a Street Fight?

Undoubtedly, Muay Thai. 

Street fights have no rules. The reflex is to defend and survive. Taekwondo has an advantage with its short and powerful strikes using the fists and feet. But it cannot beat the art of 8 limbs that can hypnotize any enemy.


Muay Thai is all about technique, and its grappling methods are beneficial in a situation of dire urgency. Meanwhile, Taekwondo and its training do not comprise of any grappling methods whatsoever. 

Muay Thai teaches takedown and some grappling techniques to defend themselves while striking. It uses the ground and its space efficiently and encourages the use of blocks.

However, due to the prohibition on grappling techniques in Taekwondo, Muay Thai takes the trophy in this case.

Use of Body

Muay Thai again benefits from the technique of eight limbs. At the same time, the strikes in Taekwondo are permitted only to the upper body.

Not that it will matter in a real-life situation but the fighter’s instincts, because of his training will instinctively make him hit the upper body only.

Muay Thai goes on a whole-body offensive and hits the adversary everywhere while blocking everything. Again space comes in handy!

Two muay thai boxing athletes training kicks in an old gym

Which is Better for Self Defence?

When it comes to self-defence, Muay Thai has the edge over TaeKwondo for a number of reasons.

While it may be true that a short-span contact through round-house kicks in Taekwondo can flush the enemy, Muay Thai and its techniques are more practical in a real-life altercation.

Let’s see how:

More Attacks

TaeKwondo consists of punches and kicks to the upper body. On the contrary, Muay Thai utilizes a mixture of multiple attacks from different angles to the entire body of the opponent. 

Better Defense

Generally, the defence for TaeKwondo is to keep the distance and don’t get hit. Muay Thai has a better defensive system as well. It uses slips, clinches, and blocks to defend while the primary defense for Taekwondo is just the distance.

The things mentioned above help in making Muay Thai a more effective martial art form. It does not mean that we can undermine Taekwondo as a form. It, too, is very effective and packs some nice kicking techniques like the roundhouse.

Which is Easier to Learn?

Muay Thai again is a clear winner in this case.

If we compare in terms of the years it takes for an individual to become proficient in either Taekwondo or Muay Thai, the former takes three to five years while the latter takes roughly about eight to twelve months for a person to reach a decent level of proficiency. 

Despite that, both the martial art forms require a lot of dedication, training and hard work.

Cost Comparison

Muay Thai is expensive with an average price of $420 per month while Taekwondo takes around $100 and $150, depending on how many times you decide to visit in a week.

To get an estimate on how much will the whole course take, Muay Thai will make your wallet light by roughly $5040. When it comes to Taekwondo, we are looking at an overwhelming range of around $6000 to $9000 for the whole training.

Which one should I choose?

Muay Thai is a very useful form of martial arts with the variety of techniques like blocking and the likes. Taekwondo, on the other hand, employs the use of legs and kicks to an enormous extent. 

Both Taekwondo and Muay Thai are outstanding arts to learn. They both instil discipline and are almost reflective of each other’s philosophies. Learning either of the two will be a beneficial thing in life. 

Now the question arises which one should you learn?

The answer requires a bit of research and understanding on your part. Realizing the difference between the two and understanding your needs and capacity is also very important.

Taekwondo is an aggressive sport as well, and both the sports have their fair share of weaknesses and strengths and pros and cons. It is imperative to understand all the aspects and then make a decision.

Buckle up, train hard, push your limits and stay out of trouble!

More Comparisons

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 →

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