Taekwondo and Muay Thai are two of the most popular striking-based martial arts. Muay Thai is generally viewed as the more effective fighting style, but a competent Taekwondo player can be just as dangerous in the standup department.
One of the main reasons why Muay Thai is usually seen as the superior striking system is the fact it focuses on distance, close range, and clinch fighting, while Taekwondo only focuses on fighting at distance. As a result, Taekwondo fighters who don’t cross-train in other martial arts might find themselves in unfamiliar territory if they find themselves in a “phone booth” type of altercation.
Breaking Down The Differences And Similarities Between Muay Thai And Taekwondo
Muay Thai is the cultural and national sport of Thailand. It was developed in the 16th century for close combat hundreds of years ago and is often called the art of eight limbs due to the eight weapons Muay Thai primarily use: two feet, two hands, two knees, and two legs.
Muay Thai became the national sport of Muay Thai in the 19th century when King Rama V passionately promoted the sport. The sport picked up worldwide popularity towards the end of the 20th century as mixed martial arts emerged and Muay Thai fighters increasingly found themselves competing against fighters from other striking backgrounds. Muay Thai emerged as the most dominant striking system and that hasn’t changed.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that was developed as far back as 50 BC. Taekwondo translates to English as “the method of kicking and punching.” Fighters are only allowed to use punches and kicks in the sport.
One thing that separates Taekwondo from other striking-based martial arts is the heavy emphasis on combining kicks.
The Main Differences Between Taekwondo And Muay Thai
Let’s take a look at the main differences between these two styles to get a better understanding of why Muay Thai is generally viewed to be the more effective style.
There might be a few hundred different techniques used in Muay Thai. These include punch, kick, elbow, knee, clinch, and stance techniques. There are also a few dozen advanced techniques that cover all aspects of striking. In other words, Muay Thai focuses on techniques that have been proven to be effective over centuries and doesn’t waste time on fancy techniques.
Taekwondo, on the other hand, has over 3000 techniques, making it a significantly broader style. These include open-hand techniques, kicks, punches, and stances. Taekwondo teaches thousands of high-flying and spinning kicks that are often chained together.
The basic rules of Muay Thai competitions are:
- There can be no more than five three-minute rounds per match, with a two-minute break between rounds.
- Fighters must wear at least six-ounce gloves.
- Proper Muay Thai trunks or shorts must be worn.
- Fighters are expected to wear mouthguards. Males are also expected to wear protective cups.
- Shirts and shoes aren’t allowed in matches.
- The winner of the match is determined by points if a stoppage doesn’t occur.
The basic rules of Taekwondo competitions include:
- Matches consist of three two-minute rounds with one-minute breaks between them.
- Fighters are only allowed to punch at the torso. Head punches and punches below the belt are prohibited.
- Fighters can kick each other in the head and torso.
- Fights can be won via points or knockouts.
- Draws are decided by golden point rounds in which the first fighter to score a point wins the match.
- Kicks below the belt are forbidden.
Which Is The Better Style For Self-Defense?
Most martial arts experts would agree that Muay Thai is the more effective style for self-defense. That’s because Taekwondo prioritizes an unrealistic type of fighting where you stay at range and try not to get hit. You don’t often get the luxury of having lots of space to dance around while you look to land the perfect kick in real fights.
Taekwondo also doesn’t allow punches to the head, which means Taekwondo fighters don’t learn things like taking their head off the centerline while throwing punches while Muay Thai fighters do. Punches are the most used strikes in self-defense situations, and only trained fighters look to go to the body. That leaves Taekwondo fighters woefully unprepared to deal with the most likely strike an attacker might use. The fact their hands aren’t conditioned to hit hard objects like a person’s skull also hurts them in self-defense situations.
Muay Thai fighters are significantly better prepared for the things you might have to deal with in self-defense situations. They can handle themselves in clinch situations, which often occur in street fights, and they typically use the opportunity to land brutal knees and elbows. Muay Thai fighters also learn how to throw and sweep opponents in clinch positions, and how to sweep opponents at range.
There is also the leg kick issue. Taekwondo doesn’t allow the use of leg kicks, which are one of the most used kicking techniques in Muay Thai and mixed martial arts because they are extremely effective. A well-placed leg kick is enough to significantly restrict an attacker’s movements, making it easier for you to pick them apart or run for safety. It’s also a low-risk technique, meaning you don’t put yourself at significant risk when you throw one from distance.
Which Is Better For MMA?
More mixed martial artists train in Muay Thai than Taekwondo so it’s safe to say the professionals view the former as the more effective style for the sport. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train in Taekwondo.
Taekwondo players have some of the fastest and most effective kicks you’ll ever see, and it only takes one to knock an opponent out. How Taekwondo is taught and the competition rules are what limits its effectiveness for self-defense. A Taekwondo player who has cross-trained in other styles like Muay Thai or boxing poses unique problems for strikers from all backgrounds. Most people don’t have any idea how to defend against the thousands of kicks used in the sport.
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