BJJ vs Muay Thai: Everything You Need to Know

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai are some of the most practiced Martial Arts in the world.

In this page, we will explain how BJJ and Muay Thai are the same and different from one another, their histories, and their real-life applications.

Technique Differences Between BJJ and Muay Thai

BJJ and Muay Thai offer different techniques and principles, with BJJ focusing on grappling and submissions while Muay Thai emphasizes striking and the use of all limbs.

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muay thai

BJJ Techniques and Principles

Some of the common techniques in BJJ include:

  • Takedowns: These techniques are aimed at bringing an opponent to the ground, often adapted from Judo and wrestling.
  • Positions: BJJ practitioners focus on establishing and maintaining dominant positions on the ground, such as the mount and side control.
  • Submissions: BJJ students learn to apply joint locks and chokeholds to force opponents into submission.
  • Guard passes: These techniques allow practitioners to advance through an opponent's defensive positions, including the guard.
  • Sweeps and reversals: By executing these techniques, a BJJ practitioner can transition from a vulnerable position to a dominant one.
jiu jitsu grappling in gi

In BJJ, competitors typically wear a gi to facilitate certain techniques but also train in no-gi situations. 

Muay Thai Techniques and Principles

Muay Thai is often referred to as the "Art of Eight Limbs" as practitioners utilize fists, elbows, knees, and shins as weapons.

muay thai

Key techniques in Muay Thai include:

  • Punches: Muay Thai incorporates various boxing techniques, such as jabs, hooks, and uppercuts.
  • Kicks: Practitioners use a range of powerful kicks, including roundhouse, push, and axe kicks.
  • Knees: Muay Thai fighters are renowned for their knee strikes, both from a distance and in close quarters.
  • Elbows: Sharp elbow strikes are a unique feature of Muay Thai, often utilized in the clinch.
  • Clinching: Clinching is an integral aspect of Muay Thai, where fighters utilize knee strikes, throws, and sweeps to gain an advantage.

Muay Thai training typically involves wearing gloves, shin guards, and sometimes headgear for protection.

Differences in Training Classes

BJJ Class Curriculum

BJJ is a grappling martial art focused on ground fighting and submission techniques, such as joint locks and chokes.

It emphasizes leverage, technique, and body positioning to control and submit opponents.

The training for BJJ involves learning various techniques from a range of positions, drilling them repeatedly, and practicing them in live sparring, often referred to as rolling.

BJJ practitioners often incorporate strength and conditioning exercises that target the muscles used in grappling, such as the legs, back, and core.

They also focus on exercises that improve flexibility and body awareness, which are crucial for executing techniques effectively.

Additionally, it can be practiced with or without a traditional uniform, known as the gi, allowing for versatility in training.

Muay Thai Class Curriculum

Training in Muay Thai typically involves learning and practicing striking combinations, as well as practicing on pads, heavy bags, and during sparring sessions.

Muay Thai provides a full-body workout, focusing on increasing leg and core strength, hip mobility, and cardiovascular endurance.

Muay Thai fighters typically engage in a variety of high-intensity exercises to increase their power, speed, and stamina.

Conditioning drills, such as sprinting, jump rope, and plyometrics, are common in Muay Thai training.

Strength training, especially for the lower body, is also an essential aspect of Muay Thai fitness routines.

Competitions With BJJ and/or Muay Thai

MMA Fights


In competitive scenarios, a BJJ practitioner may attempt to close the distance and take the fight to the ground, where their grappling expertise becomes a significant advantage.

On the other hand, a Muay Thai fighter will likely try to keep the fight standing, using their striking prowess to land powerful blows while defending against potential takedowns.

When comparing BJJ and Muay Thai in terms of effectiveness in MMA, it's important to consider that modern MMA competitions require well-rounded skills in both striking and grappling.

Many professional fighters cross-train in both martial arts to become more versatile and unpredictable opponents.

Pure Jiu-Jitsu Competitions



BJJ competitions are often held under strict time limits, with points awarded for positional control and submission attempts.

Judges determine the winner based on point accumulation or successful submission.

Strictly Muay Thai Competitions

Muay Thai matches, however, are separated into rounds and scored based on effective striking, aggression, and ring control.

Self-Defense and Real-Life Applications

Muay Thai practitioners are trained to maintain distance from their opponents, control their timing, and deliver powerful blows, which can be crucial in street fights.

BJJ practitioners are trained to efficiently take down their opponents, control them on the ground, and apply joint locks or chokeholds to force a submission.

This martial art is recognized for its ability to neutralize size and strength advantages, making it an effective option for self-defense, particularly when facing one opponent.

While Muay Thai and BJJ have their respective strengths, it is essential to consider their weaknesses as well.

BJJ practitioners may struggle in situations with multiple assailants, as their primary focus is ground fighting.

In contrast, Muay Thai might be less effective if a practitioner finds themselves taken down and forced to grapple.

In terms of self-defense and real-life applications, both martial arts have proven their effectiveness and continue to be respected by practitioners worldwide.

History of BJJ and Muay Thai 

BJJ emerged from an early form of Jiu-Jitsu developed by Japanese samurai and was adopted by the Gracie family in Brazil, while Muay Thai's roots trace back to 18th century Thailand, evolving from the ancient martial art of Muay Boran.

BJJ traces its origins to an early form of Jiu-Jitsu (or Ju-Jitsu) that was developed by Japanese samurai for use on the battlefield.

These warriors would employ Jiu-Jitsu as a last line of defense if they found themselves disarmed and on foot.

The Gracie family in Brazil then adapted these principles, creating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the early 20th century. The martial art gained widespread recognition on November 12, 1993, when Royce Gracie, a progeny of the Gracie family, won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event using BJJ techniques.

Muay Thai, on the other hand, has its origins in the 18th century as a martial art and combat sport in Thailand.

The discipline is also known as "Thai Boxing" and the "art of eight limbs," given its heavy reliance on using fists, elbows, knees, and shins during combat.

Muay Thai evolved from Krabi Krabong, the long and short weapons tactics employed by the Thai army, and early Muay Thai bouts were often staged between different companies within the Siamese army.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is More Effective For Self-Defense?

The effectiveness of either martial art for self-defense ultimately depends on the individual's preference, physical attributes, and individual situation. BJJ focuses on ground fighting and submissions, allowing a practitioner to control and incapacitate an opponent effectively. 

On the other hand, Muay Thai is a striking-based martial art with a focus on striking power and precision.

Do BJJ and Muay Thai Complement Each Other in MMA?

Yes, BJJ and Muay Thai are very useful to use together, as MMA fighters will be properly equipped to fight both standing and on the ground.  BJJ provides valuable ground game techniques and submission skills, while Muay Thai focuses on striking power and precision when both fighters are standing. 

How Long Does It Take to Become Proficient in Each?

The time required to become proficient at either BJJ or Muay Thai varies greatly depending on the individual's dedication, training frequency, and grasp of techniques and concepts.

For BJJ, it commonly takes around 2-3 years to achieve a blue belt. The average practitioner trains 3-4 times per week, and reaching the black belt level organically can take about 10 years or longer.

In Muay Thai, proficiency is not measured by a belt system like in BJJ, but rather by fight experience and skill improvement.

A dedicated practitioner who trains consistently may earn a chance to participate in amateur fights after 6 months to a year of training, demonstrating a foundational level of proficiency.

Ultimately, achieving proficiency in martial art depends on the commitment, effort, and time put in by each individual.

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