Muay Thai vs BJJ

First off, I am not going to compare which is the better martial arts between Muay Thai vs BJJ. That’s like comparing apples to oranges and we all know Muay Thai is better of the two. Just kidding!

While both Muay Thai and BJJ are martial arts that are widely practised around the world, they are unique and effective skills in their own ways.

Muay Thai is a stand-up striking sport that utilizes punches, kicks, elbows, knees and clinching (a form of stand-up grappling). BJJ is a ground-fighting grappling sport that focuses on chokes, locks and holds.

Both Muay Thai and BJJ can be practised for self-defense purpose and are popular with mixed martial artists. 

In this article, I will go into more details comparing the differences between the two popular combat sports and why they are both arguably the most effective combat art in their respective fields.

Also, if you are trying to decide which sport to train in, this article may be able to help you.

About Muay Thai

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, from where it originated. It is commonly known as the “art of 8 limbs” from the use of both fists, elbows, knees and shins (kicks).

Muay Thai originated from what is now known as Muay Boran, the ancient martial arts of Thailand. It was created for unarmed combat during the country’s turbulent years of conflict with neighboring countries between 13th to 18th century.

From the late 19th century, Muay Boran transitioned more and more into a competitive sport when royal competitions were sanctioned by the King Rama V.

The sport gained popularity over time and in the early 20th century, boxing ring, set rounds, and protective equipment such as gloves and groin protectors were introduced through the influence of western boxing. This became known as Muay Thai.

In the 70s and 80s, Muay Thai gained popularity worldwide when Thai fighters defeated exponents of other martial arts including kickboxing, karate and taekwondo in international meets.

The sport received a further boost in early 2000s when Buakaw dominated K-1, the biggest kickboxing promotion of its time.

For more about the history of Muay Thai, read “Blessed with Venom: History of Muay Thai“.

About Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as its name gives a hint, is a Japanese-inspired martial arts that was developed in Brazil. With roots in Judo, BJJ came to be around the early 20th century when Brazilian Gracie brothers founded and developed their own self defense system.

BJJ is a grappling and ground-fighting system that uses locks and chokes to defeat or force an opponent into submission. It is often likened to a game of chess, where skills and intellect plays a more important part over pure brute strength.

BJJ came to worldwide prominence in the 90s when BJJ expert Royce Gracie won the first, second and fourth Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). This prompted many MMA fighters to take up BJJ.

Muay Thai vs BJJ

Looking at the prominence of the two martial arts in modern combat sports history, they are arguably the top systems in their respective fields (stand-up striking and ground fighting).

In order to make a fair comparison of the two martial arts, we have to look at them from a few different aspects. (As a Muay Thai fan primarily, I will do my best to be as objective as possible)


Most martial arts are created for the purpose of military combat or self-defense.

Unlike martial arts that focus on katas (forms or choreographed pattern of movements), both Muay Thai and BJJ were made for use in close combat to defeat an opponent by physical force.

Each technique in both arts is designed to inflict pain or defend against an opponent/enemy/aggressor. As such, both Muay Thai and BJJ function well as self-defense skills when mastered to a certain level.

Most physical confrontations start off in stand-up, which is where Muay Thai skills come in. If you get knocked out at this point, no ground-fighting or grappling is going to help.

However, a good percentage of street fights do end up on the ground, so being equipped with BJJ skills can either end a fight or at least minimize risks.


While all aspects of fitness play a part in both sports, BJJ is more about strength and muscular endurance while Muay Thai is more on power and cardiovascular endurance.

Muay Thai training focuses on techniques, striking power, as well as body conditioning, cardiovascular endurance (stamina) and . BJJ training also focuses on techniques, but also muscular endurance, grip strength and less on traditional cardio like running.

Training in either sport will make you fit -provided you put in the effort to train regulary- and can help lose weight so long as you also take care of your diet.


The Nak Muay has a wide range of weapons at his/her disposal to avoid the fight being taken to the ground. A true Nak Muay would also be proficient in clinching (think of it as stand-up grappling).

In his attempt to bring the Nak Muay down, the Jiujitsuka would ultimately render himself vulnerable to attacks like the knee and elbow strikes in close-range scuffle. And the fight can potentially end at this point.

However, most grapplers have at their disposal, basic striking skills like punching. If he is able to successfully take the Nak Muay down onto the ground, it is safe to say that a well-trained Jiujitsuka will finish the game.

At the end of the day, it is not what you know but how well-trained you are.


While there have been a few bouts between Muay Thai vs BJJ over the years, results have been mixed to say the least.

Muay Thai will absolutely dominate in stand-up but as soon as the fight is taken to the ground, BJJ will totally wreck the Nak Muay. Likewise, all it takes is one small mistake for the Jiu Jitsuka to be knocked out.

Many MMA gyms these days offer both martial arts training. Many mma fighters and fight fans do end up training in both but will have more preference for one over the other.

Give them both a try if you are still undecided, maybe a month or two each and you should eventually know which one is more your vibe. Or, you may end up training both and why not?

  1. Ulises Flores says

    Great article, I will only add that it’s not even about how well trained you are in your given discipline, but how well you’re able to apply it under the pressure. E. g. GSP, oss

    1. Kay says

      That’s a great point too. Mental training or a person’s mental fortitude plays a part.

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