Muay Thai for Self Defense

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Summary: Should you train Muay Thai for self defense? We explore the benefits of training Muay Thai for self defense in this article and why it’s an effective self-defense skill. 

FBI data shows that aggravated assault occurs once every 41 seconds in the United States. Even in Singapore, one of the safest countries in the world, 4419 assault cases (12 per day) were reported in 2019.

Martial arts can ideally prepare practitioners in performing self-defense maneuvers in dangerous situations. In fact, self defense is often promoted as a beneficial outcome of learning martial arts. So how good is Muay Thai for self defense?

Is Muay Thai Good for Self Defense?

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Muay Thai is one of the most effective martial arts systems for self-defense.

It is a striking art with roots in unarmed combat created for military use on the battlegrounds. The techniques were designed to inflict pain to the enemy and for self defense. They are practical, easy to learn, and effective having been tested in centuries of battles.

Muay Thai is also a popular choice of striking for mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters. Some of the most well-known UFC fighters who practise Muay Thai include Georges St-Pierre (GSP), Rafael dos Anjos (RDA), Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and many others. 

Here is a quick overview of Muay Thai techniques that make it an effective self-defense system:

Striking Techniques

As some would say, attack is the best form of (self) defense. Making the first move can catch a hostile by surprise. A properly-executed strike can either end a confrontation or disorientate the opponent, allowing you to get away from potential harm.

Muay Thai striking techniques include a wide range of kicks, punches, elbows and knees. These techniques target the head, torso, or legs. Head shots (by punches, kicks or elbows) can finish the game fast while body shots or leg kicks can cause considerable damage to de-fuse a bad situation.

With drilling and enough training, Muay Thai striking techniques are some of the most effective moves in all of martial arts. 

Defense Techniques

There is more to Muay Thai than striking. Muay Thai involves many defensive techniques that can minimize the chances of getting hurt. 

In Muay Thai training, you learn blocks to protect your head and body. These defense moves will come in very handy to keep you safe from being knocked out if you are under attack. 

Some techniques like the Muay Thai teep (push kick) also keep your assailant at bay, making it a mandatory defense technique. Good movement and footwork will also reduce the chances of getting hit. 

Clinching Techniques

The Muay Thai clinch is a set of stand-up grappling techniques ideal for close-quarters fighting. Clinching makes a world of difference especially against someone who’s not trained in grappling. 

Muay Thai clinching incorporates locks and throws. Although it doesn’t inflict damage on its own, when it combines with knee and elbow techniques, clinching can overwhelm an opponent especially with repetitive knee attacks.

Try clinching with a Muay Thai fighter and you will realize how defenseless you become when you get locked up in the clinch.

Benefits of Training Muay Thai for Self Defense

Being trained in martial arts is beneficial to the individual for many reasons. Martial arts equip you with the physical and mental capacity to turn the situation to your advantage in circumstances that justify the use of force. Here’s why you should train Muay Thai for self defense:

Striking Skills

Knowing how to strike with accuracy, power and the right technique can make an acute difference. Muay Thai techniques like elbow strikes and knee strikes are handy in close-range and almost all fights end up in close quarters. They can cause a great deal of pain to an assailant and end fights.  

You will also be equipped with basic striking techniques like punches and kicks which deal plenty of damage as discussed in the previous section. 


Muay Thai training makes you stronger like any other martial arts. Muay Thai training develops strength, speed and power through extensive bag work, pad work, clinch practice and bodyweight exercises. You will be stronger to protect yourself and hit harder in retaliation when under attack.


Sparring is an important and regular part of Muay Thai training that prepares practitioners for competitive fighting. It is usually done with less power to prevent injuries but enough to simulate an actual fight.

Over time, sparring develops timing, technique, and the ability to read your opponent’s moves. Staying calm and composed is important when your life is being threatened. Thinking under pressure is a trait that can be developed with regular sparring.


Attackers often prey on the weak, selecting their potential victims knowing that they will not be able to retaliate. Most people won’t get into a physical confrontation against someone who looks strong and confident. Training Muay Thai improves your physique as well as your confidence with the knowledge that you can handle tough situations in life.


It is often said that the best self defense tactic is really to avoid getting into life-threatening situations. It is better to run away if there is the potential of being attacked by an assailant. Muay Thai training builds both muscular and cardiovascular endurance. This conditioning improves your chances of outrunning your assailant.


Even if you could win the fight, there is the risk of the attacker being armed with a weapon. There could also be more than one attacker who can strike you from the back or when you are down on the ground.

The first rule of being attacked is to run. There are situations where you cannot avoid and knowing how to fight, being able to protect yourself and physically hurt another person is a life-saving skill worth learning. For that, Muay Thai is an excellent option. 

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