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Is Muay Thai good for self defense?

Updated: May 11, 2022

Is Muay Thai good for self defense?

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Muay Thai is one of the best martial arts for self defense. Muay Thai traces its roots back to military use, providing Thai soldiers with the ability to attack in unarmed combat situations. After its roots in the military, Muay Thai became the national sport of Thailand, and is now a sport fought all over the world.

Muay Thai teaches the ability to strike with power with your fists, elbows, knees and legs, as well as giving the ability to successfully defend a multitude of attacks, making it an excellent form of self defense.

Don't be fooled by the videos you see on social media of people trying to defend knife attacks with hand parry's and short boxing manoeuvres, these are ridiculous forms of self defense and if used in real life, they'll likely get you extremely injured.

Muay Thai techniques are practical, easy to learn and highly effective. They are designed to inflict pain on your opponent.

How good is Muay Thai for self defense?

Muay Thai is a great form of self defense as the techniques are practical, easy to learn and highly effective, as well as being designed to inflict pain on your opponent.

Regular training in Muay Thai helps to equip you with the physical and mental capacities to defend yourself in any situations that you may require. Due to the variety of strikes it will prepare you to be ready for anything that may happen when you need to defend yourself against an attacker.

Sparring in Muay Thai will help you to understand the timing of a potential attacker as well as how their body movements can signal what they are going to do next. It'll also help you to stay calm in dangerous situations. Thinking under pressure is a trait that can be developed with regular sparring.

Muay Thai will equip you with basic striking techniques such as punches and kicks which will allow you to deal large amounts of damage to your opponent, as well as elbows and clinching which will give you the ability to fight and defend yourself in close quarters.

Training will also provide you with one of the most important things that you'll need to be able to defend yourself, and this is stamina. 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.

Is Muay Thai effective in a real fight?

Muay Thai is extremely effective in a real fight if used correctly. Due to the variation in strikes, and the focus on power and speed, Muay Thai is the perfect form of offense if you are in a street fight.

Below we have listed our reasons why we believe Muay Thai is effective in a real fight;

  • Range: Due to the variation in strikes, and clinching, Muay Thai teaches you to fight at all the different ranges that may occur during a street fight. This means that if your opponent is extremely close to you, or if they are at a range, you'll still be equipped with the techniques and experience to handle yourself in a real fight.

  • Simplicity: At it's core, Muay Thai is about simple strikes performed well with speed, power and a high level of technique. Other martial arts are a little more complicated and if you are a beg ginger, you may struggle to perform the techniques you've been learning, or know how to use them effectively in a fight situation.

  • Mental toughness: Muay Thai not only strengthens your body, but it helps to strengthen your mind, meaning that if you do end up in a situation where you've been attacked on the street, you'll have the mental capacity to be able to handle the situation effectively.

  • Fitness: Muay Thai is specifically designed to promote a high level of fitness and toughness, which is perfect if you've found yourself in a real fight. The everyday person won't be able to fight for a long time, and the longer the fight goes on, the weaker they'll become and the easier it'll be for someone who is fitter to be able to overcome their opponent.

  • Strike variation: One of the great things about Muay Thai is the strike variation, and using a variation of strikes in a street fight can be highly effective. You can hit your opponent with punches, knees, kicks and elbows as well as hitting them to the head, body, and legs. This will make it extremely hard for your opponent to be able to telegraph what you are going to do and will increase the chance of your strikes landing cleanly.

The one downside of Muay Thai in a real fight is that you won't have takedown defense, or any understanding of on the ground grappling that you would have if you trained MMA or BJJ, so if you are only trained in Muay Thai then you would want to ensure the fight stays standing.

The most effective Muay Thai striking techniques to use in a street fight

Muay Thai has a high variation of striking techniques that can be used in a street fight as well as the ability to land these on different body parts of your opponent.

We've put together a breakdown of the most effective Muay Thai striking techniques that you'll be able to use in a street fight.

Roundhouse Kick

The roundhouse kick can be very effective in a street fight due to the power and speed that the strike is thrown with. It's also one of the first strikes that you'll learn in Muay Thai which means that you should be comfortable throwing a roundhouse kick in a street fight.

We recommend that if you are going to throw a roundhouse kick in a street fight, ensure it's thrown with speed over power and to the leg or body. Ensure once it lands you quickly draw your leg back to ensure your opponent doesn't grab your leg to drag you to the ground.

Landing a clean roundhouse kick to an opponent in a street fight can result in a fight ending blow.

Leg Kick

You might think that a leg kick won't be too effective in a street fight as it's not a shot that's likely to end a fight in one blow, however you'd be wrong. Low kicks allow you to strike your opponent quickly from a distance without you having to put yourself in a situation where you may become compromised.

We recommend throwing leg kicks to unsettle your opponents stance, as well as damaging your base. If your fighting someone that you think may hurt you if you get close or grab hold of you, then leg kicks are a great way to dish out punishment from a distance.

Several well placed leg kicks can be extremely damaging to an unconditioned leg, and can lead to your opponent being unable to walk or move. A solid leg kick can also take your opponent off their feet, allowing you you time to then run and escape the situation.

Push Kick

The push kick, or teep, is a great kick to keep distance, stop your opponent in their tracks and as well as dealing damage to the chest/stomach area.

We recommend throwing push kicks if your facing an opponent who is trying to rush in on you and you can time their movements effectively to either ground them with the force of the push kick or create distance.

When throwing push kicks, be sure that you don't get your leg caught by your opponent, and if you do, quickly pull back your leg to stop your opponent from being able to use your caught leg to their advantage.


Elbows are probably the most deadly strike that you can land in a street fight, and if landed cleanly on your opponent they'll likely end the fight, and cause some facial damage to your attacker.

Elbows are a more difficult technique to land and do require you to be in close combat with your opponent.

We recommend using elbows if your opponent is rushing forward which can provide the perfect opportunity to land a well timed elbow using your opponents forward momentum to create a greater impact on the strike. They are also great if your in the clinch, or a a close quarters grappling situation.


The clinch can be extremely effective in a street fight, however it does leave you vulnerable to several things that your opponent may be able to exploit which you need to be aware of.

Clinching in a street fight will allow you the opportunity to control your opponents body and movement as well as landing effective, short and powerful strikes which can put an end to the fight.

Due to being close to your opponent, you leave yourself vulnerable to them being able to pick you and slam you, take you down or potentially even try and bite you in close quarters.

You should only engage in the clinch in a street fight if you are confident that you have the technical ability to be able to fully control your opponent, or if its completely necessary due to the attackers forward momentum.

Things you need to avoid doing in a street fight

Now we've covered the Muay Thai striking techniques that you should be using in a street fight, we need to start thinking about the things that you should avoid doing in a street fight.

Street fights barely last longer than a couple of minutes, so ensuring you make the correct split second decisions and avoid making any mistakes is crucial to ensuring that you leave the situation without suffering any serious damage.

Below we have our list of things you need to avoid doing in a street fight.

Head Kicks

You may think you'll be the coolest guy in town if you land that highlight reel head kick knockout, but the likely hood of you actually landing a head kick in a street fight is low.

Throwing a head kick will leave you vulnerable to your leg being caught or you may slip and off balance yourself. Due to how vulnerable a head kick can leave you, we don't recommend throwing head kicks in a street fight and believe you should keep your kicks to below the neck.


Just because you've trained in a martial art it doesn't mean that you can instantly kick anyone's ass.

Street fights are dangerous situations which can lead to life changing, or ending, injuries, and getting out of the fight quickly and safely should be your only concern.

Showboating in a street fight will only lead to you being caught off guard and potentially severely injured. Don't do it!

The fight itself

Street fights should only happen if you are in a situation where defending yourself it the only remaining option.

Don't try to be the cool guy that gets in fights and beats people up because he knows Muay Thai, if you want to fight, do it in the ring in a safe and controller environment.

Street fights are dangerous and the outcome can be deadly for yourself, or your opponent. Do your best to avoid the fight itself.


The best form of self defense is to avoid the situation all together, however if you find yourself in a situation where defending yourself is the only option, then Muay Thai is a brilliant form of self defense.

Ensuring that you are consistent in your training, listen to your teachers and work towards perfecting your craft is the best way to try and ensure you maximise your ability to successfully defend yourself on the streets.

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