Is Muay Thai Good for Self Defense? (Pros and Cons)

It’s hard to figure out which martial art system is the best for self-defense. I used to wonder when I was younger and looking for a training system that was effective in fighting for self-defense. I heard of Muay Thai in my 20’s but did not really know what it was until I started learning some of the techniques in Jeet Kune Do.

The question asks is Muay Thai good to learn for self-defense? The easy answer is yes, it is an excellent fighting system to learn so you can better defend yourself if attacked. Muay Thai will work very well against an attacker.

Let’s go into more detail on what Muay Thai is and why we think you can use it effectively to fight back against an aggressor.

What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is a form of combat sport that originated in Thailand. It consists of stand up punching, kicking, elbow strikes, knee strikes, and clinching.

Therefore, it is known as the art of eight limbs.

Unlike other martial arts with a pure form and strict rules, Muay Thai is different striking combinations using brutal strikes to knock your opponents out or down. You are trained to strike at different body parts using multiple punches, kicks, elbows, and knees.

Modernization of Muay Thai has recognized it as official martial art. In a competition, each Muay Thai match has 5 rounds which last for 3 minutes. A two-minute rest is applicable between each round.

Muay Thai is now an officially recognized sport by International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur which has 130 member countries.

Many top-seeded MMA fighters use Muay Thai techniques when fighting and have trained in Muay Thai.

Muay Thai does seem more aggressive than other martial arts such as karate or kickboxing but that is exactly what makes a practitioner fight ruthlessly when under attack. This is why it is ideal for self-defense training.

Does Muay Thai make you stronger?

Muay Thai was originally practiced by Thai boxers for strength and conditioning. Training for Muay Thai you need fast reactions when being attacked or on defense.

To improve reaction times, Muay Thai players practice many different forms of drills. The drills might consist of a punching and kicking drill in combination with timed freehand exercises in between. For example, you could practice 500 repetitions of punches, completed 2 minutes of push-ups or squats and then another 500 punches. This could be one set of training.

Any person will become stronger by completing drills but Muay Thai allows you to maintain your focus and gives you a chance to improve your technique with opponents or training partners of different abilities.

Any martial art makes you become psychologically stronger. Since you are fighting against another person, your survival instincts become sharper and it helps to build your mental skills for self-defense.

Self-defense is not always about physical strength but also about your ability to think fast and react quickly to an attack.

It also helps you to become resilient in times of hardship. Muay Thai training can be very tough and psychological resilience is one of the most powerful strengths required when defending yourself against an attacker.

Is Muay Thai good for street fighting?

A regular practitioner of Muay Thai who competes in the ring can easily take an unexpected street fighter. Muay Thai is a very effective form of martial arts training for self-defense and street fighting.

Since it is a straight forward way of fighting, it seems pretty brutal as compared to other martial arts. Muay Thai trains you to use your elbows and knees to strike which gives you the freedom devastate opponents with unconventional techniques for street fighting. It also trains you in using a combination of strikes and kicks when fighting back.

For example, you could use an elbow strike and immediately punch and then knee your opponent in the groin area. The dynamic combinations will catch the opponents off guard and hopefully give Muay Thai fighters the upper hand.

The weapons in Muay Thai are your eight limbs. You are trained to use these in a way to disarm the attacker and defend yourself without the help of any external object. Muay Thai trainers will teach you to push the attacker away with a long kick. Then follow up with close quarter combat where you can use punching, knees and elbow strikes.

Street fighting can put you in an unexpected bad spot and having training in a combination of martial arts will give you superiority. Training in Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu will have you ready for a fight in the air or on the ground.

Jujitsu combines takedowns, locks, and submission to take out an opponent to the ground so you can submit them.

While Muay Thai is based on stand up fighting, it prepares you to hit opponents with punching, kicking, elbows, and knees. This comes in handy if there are multiple attackers.

Pros: Devastating art that has been battle tested in the rings in Thailand. Elbows, knees, punches, and kicks are very powerful in this martial art. You can easily protect yourself with this type of training.

Cons: Muay Thai does not teach actual self-defense moves but it teaches you how to fight. The other downside is Muay Thai does not teach ground fighting so if an opponent took you to the ground you would be at a huge disadvantage if they know JiuJitsu.

Which one is better Muay Thai or Kickboxing?

Both, kick-boxing and Muay Thai have similar forms of kicks but Muay Thai is taught in combinations with elbow and knee strikes. If you want to learn to defend yourself, you need to be able to use any form of fighting to save yourself.

Depending on which sporting background you come from, you might have preferences towards one sport. However, the best way to choose between the two is to know your purpose of learning a martial art. Many people want to learn a martial art for self-defense, discipline, self-confidence or for sport. If your sole purpose is to learn self-defense techniques then Muay Thai might be the better option.

Kickboxing is a sport where participants kick and punch each other in a ring. You can either win by points or a knockout.

Kickboxing trains you to kick and punch in a ring with rules. This may create an issue when street fighting because there are no rules. The good thing is if you are trained in kickboxing not too many people are going to be in good enough shape to last more than a minute. Wait till they exhaust themselves then walk stop the threat. You also need to remember most people do not know how to fight.

If you train hard and learn to fight using kickboxing it can be useful in a self-defense situation. Chuck Norris was a kickboxing legend and he is pretty tough.

Muay Thai is a very brutal martial art and the strikes can devastate opponents. Muay Thai can also prepare you to fight more than one person at a time. The brutal nature of Muay Thai also makes it less likely for you to get beat up if you need to defend yourself.

Clinching in Muay Thai allows you to stop the attacker and strike them repeatedly in close range. Using clinches in combination with knee strikes and sweeps will dismantle the attacker’s will to fight you.

Muay Thai will combine short to long-range kicks, elbows, knees, and punches which makes it very effective for overall self-defense training.

If you want to decide between the two martial arts, you should try at least 5 sessions of each one if there is a local school. You can also train with us and sign up for our fight training program.

Does Muay Thai help to get you into shape?

Muay Thai training consists of strength, stamina, speed and power training. You could be weightlifting or doing cardio but this form of martial art allows you to combine aerobic and anaerobic exercise in one session.

Since the movement in a match situation needs to be consistent, you automatically do a lot of cardio. This form of exercise trains your heart and improves your stamina. You could be doing anywhere between 5 to 10 fighting rounds with each round being 3 to 5 minutes in one training session. The fight training on heavy bags or using focus mitts is intense with short breaks in between.

You need strength in your upper and lower body. Weight training is essential for becoming a good Muay Thai player especially if you want to compete in the future. You need strong muscles for fast and powerful reactions.

Your muscle memory improves with repetitive training which defines your muscles even further when you get the technique right. You also need the flexibility to improve your range of kicks and clinches. Stretching and yoga or gymnastics exercises may also be a part of your training at a Muay Thai session.

A strong core is necessary for the smooth and effortless movement of the waist in Muay Thai techniques. While training in Muay Thai, you will be spending at least 15 to 20 minutes of the session on strengthening your core.

Planks, sit-ups and leg raises are an undeniable part of your Muay Thai session. If you are new to training, you will be paired with partners who will help you with your core workouts. It seems difficult at the beginning but motivating partners make it easier and you become stronger over time. The idea is to not give up after just a few sessions and keep going for at least 6 months.


Muay Thai is a brutal fighting sport in Thailand that can be used to devastate an opponent or attacker. I have trained in Muay Thai for years and highly recommend this training to anyone. You have to have a local gym to train but if you do not have a martial arts gym close then use this link to learn more about our fight training online.


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