Jiu Jitsu vs. Muay Thai: Which One Is Better For You?
Two types of martial arts—Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai—are fighting styles that have risen in popularity over the last half-century. While each is widely practiced around the world, both in the ring and in fitness contexts, there are a few key differences between them.
Muay Thai is a striking art and combat sport fought on your feet. The technique makes use of kicks, punches, knee strikes, and elbows to weaken your opponent. On the other hand, Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling sport fought on the ground that utilizes locks and chokes to force your opponent into submission.
Both are effective methods of self-defense, can complement each other in MMA, and have an extensive list of mental and physical health benefits. But if you’re struggling to choose between studying Jiu-Jitsu vs. Muay Thai, how do you decide?
Starting Out—Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai?
When first choosing which martial art to pursue, start by considering your experience level. Both sports are beginner-friendly, but since Jiu-Jitsu is a non-striking sport, some may feel more comfortable mastering grappling. Muay Thai, however, utilizes all forms of striking.
One thing potential students should note is that the techniques and forms of Jiu-Jitsu are more complex and may take longer to learn.
If you’re looking for a more creative fighting style that’s easier on the body, choose Jiu-Jitsu over Muay Thai. The latter benefits more from having some experience with making and receiving strikes, which veteran martial artists will naturally have developed.
The first thing to know when learning about the differences between Muay Thai vs. Jiu Jitsu is the rules. Answering Should I do Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai? is easier once you’ve familiarized yourself with the basics. Below, we’ve outlined the key things you should know.
Jiu-Jitsu was first popularized in the Western Hemisphere in the first half of the twentieth century by the son of a Japanese sumo fighter Count Koma. Koma was the first to record the ten rules of Jiu-Jitsu, some of which include information about the fighter’s appearance and who should be present (i.e., a jury consisting of experts, reporters, and doctors).
The main rules you need to know are:
- The fighter whose back is on the ground is not necessarily defeated; rather, defeat is signaled by tapping either the mat or the opponent’s body three times.
- You can also win by racking up more points than your opponent. Points are awarded for the successful completion of certain techniques.
- The matches are commonly divided into rounds of five minutes. In between, there are resting periods of two minutes.
Muay Thai Rules
When deciding between Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu, remember that the “art of eight limbs,” as it is popularly known, can be won in three ways:
- A Knockout – This results in an immediate win for the fighter left standing.
- A Technical Knockout – Should the ref deem one fighter unfit to carry on, the match is ended.
- Points – If neither fighter has knocked out their opponent, the judges’ scorecards are assessed, and the competitor with more points wins.
As opposed to Jiu-Jitsu, this combat sport has five rounds of three minutes each, with a two-minute rest period between each.
If deciding on Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai for self-defense, remember that Jiu-Jitsu is primarily fought on the ground. Although it’s not uncommon for a fight to end up that way, the goal is to control your opponent without the need to escalate violence or striking if not absolutely necessary.
Conversely, Muay Thai techniques are performed standing and stress the importance of learning to absorb blows, which may take some time before it’s effective for you in a real fight. And a lack of ground movements may make things difficult.
As self-defense can be very situational, both arts have benefits and drawbacks, and practitioners are known to modify their styles accordingly, such as learning how to get faster punches and improve your speed.
When considering Jiu-Jitsu vs. Muay Thai in the context of getting into shape, both will provide you with intensive full-body workouts. Jiu-Jitsu utilizes a combination of aerobic and anaerobic movements that burn fat and keep your heart rate high. Muay Thai also requires high-intensity efforts but also a good deal of mobility for roundhouse kicks, emphasizing leg movements.
So if you’re looking to target flexibility issues, Muay Thai is a great option.
In the ring/cage, Jiu-Jitsu and competitive Muay Thai are complementary fighting styles. Many professional fighters will combine styles, more commonly known as mixed martial arts, to utilize grappling and striking techniques rather than sticking to just one.
Combining Jiu-Jitsu’s focus on the ground and Muay Thai’s on standing upright will help balance any fighter.
Difference Between Belt Ranks
Jiu-Jitsu’s belt ranking system is similar to what you’ll see in Karate or Judo. Essentially, you start with a white belt, then move through the following order:
While there are fewer belts than in other martial arts, don’t be fooled; ascending to the rank of black belt generally takes between 8 to 10 years.
Muay Thai, in contrast, has no belt system. Instead, teachers bestow armbands on their students. A Muay Thai fighter’s level is solely denoted by their experience and fight record, not the color around their waist.
Looking to make a final assessment about Jiu-Jitsu vs. Muay Thai? Consider the pros and cons against each other directly:
- Jiu-Jitsu Pros – It’s a full-body workout that can be a bit gentler because of the lack of emphasis on pure striking.
- Jiu-Jitsu Cons – It requires years to master, and the lack of striking might be a downside for some fighters.
- Muay Thai Pros – It may help increase (lower-body) flexibility and incorporates many forms of striking techniques.
- Muay Thai Cons – There are no ground or grappling techniques to learn, and the strikes may be hard on your body during training. Also, with striking, you’ll need to wear sparring gear for protection.
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Whether you choose to pursue Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai, you can feel assured that you’ll be getting a full body, high-intensity workout that increases your speed, strength, and creativity in the ring, should you choose to set foot there.
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