Muay Thai vs Aikido - What are the differences and which is better?

Muay Thai and Aikido are two famous fighting styles that do not share much in common. In fact, we dare to go even further saying that you can look at them as two separate sports. They are a world apart when it comes to the entire concept of the art, training, or rules.

Muay Thai is a far more brutal fighting style that focuses on standup fighting. It teaches you how to use all limbs as weapons to throw punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. On the other side, aikido is a soft style that won’t teach you much about how to do damage in a fight. No, the emphasis is on learning how to overcome oneself and self-defense tactics that won’t injure the attacker.

Still, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Keep reading this article to find out more about how these two differ from one another, and which one is better.

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Muay Thai vs Aikido- what are the main differences?

We can’t find out which one is better without seeing how these two arts differ in the first place. Apart from the fact they are both martial arts, these two do not have much else in common. Here are the differences you should all be aware of:

History and place of origins

Muay Thai comes from Thailand where it is a part of the culture and a national sport. Its roots date way back to the Siam Kingdom (16th century) where it was a part of various festivals. Later in the 20th century, it grew into one of the most popular fighting sports in the world and it is known as the, perhaps, best striking style.

Created by Morihei Ueshiba in the late 1920s, Aikido comes from Japan. It is also very popular all around the world since there are aikido dojos in over 140 countries. It has origins in other martial arts like Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu and the word “aikido” means “the way of unifying life with energy”.

The concept and emphasis

Muay Thai is a hard-fighting style that teaches you all you need to know about real fighting. That’s why it is often seen as a complete striking art that won’t teach you any fake moves. Instead, you will learn how to create huge power and do big damage with every strike which makes Muay Thai very brutal in the eyes of many. But no one can deny it is a king among striking arts when it comes to the damage per strike ratio.

The concept of aikido differs a lot as it is a soft style that doesn’t focus on aggression or hurting the opponent. The focus is on learning how to defend while trying not to hurt or injure the attacker using throws and various joint locks. This is the main reason why people see aikido as bad for real fighting, but more about that later. Still, it is very good for health as it improves fitness and allows you to grow as a person.


Muay Thai vs Aikido - which one teaches better techniques?

These two arts differ a lot when it comes to the techniques they teach and how practical they are. In our opinion, Muay Thai is much better as every single technique you learn works in real life as well. We can’t say the same for Aikido since it looks as if their techniques work only in their schools.

Muay Thai is also known as the “art of eight limbs” as its fighters use their entire body as a weapon. It teaches you advanced striking skills like hip rotation, footwork, or how to generate huge power in every strike. Here is a brief look into the specific techniques you will learn in training:

  • Proper stance (both southpaw or orthodox)
  • Basic boxing combos
  • Advanced kicks to the calf, body, or head
  • Vicious elbow and knee strikes at close range and clinch
  • How to execute various trips and throws

Aikido students do not learn how to strike or do big damage. Instead, they learn various throws, joint locks, and pins to subdue the attacker. The focus is on counter attacks and using the attackers’ momentum against them. However, these techniques differ a lot from the ones we see in judo or BJJ and are far less practical in real life.

The main problem with aikido techniques lays deep within its concept and structure of training. And this leads us to the next section.

muay thai knee to stomach

Muay Thai vs Aikido – which one is better for self-defense?

Although both of these arts focus on self-defense, we have to say Muay Thai is better than Aikido for self-defense. It should be your choice if you want to learn how to defend yourself on the streets. This is because Muay Thai has already proven how useful it is on the streets or in MMA fighting.

Why Aikido is bad for self-defense?

The concept of Aikido has many flaws that make it bad for self-defense. First of all, the art focuses on defending without injuring the person who is attacking you. This may sound nice on paper, but as we know, scenarios you may face on the streets are fraught with danger.

In theory, there is a way to beat the attacker without hurting them using BJJ moves for instance. But the main focus has to be on doing anything to protect yourself. If that ends up in you not hurting the attacker, that’s great. But the last thing you want is to think too much on keeping it all safe while someone is trying to hurt you.

Aikido training doesn’t include sparring at all which is bad for self-defense. Its students practice in pre-arranged forms (kata) which is the reason why it all looks so good in practice. But they never spar, which in the eyes of many, is the only way you can prepare for real fighting. I mean, how would you know if you are good at fighting if you never spar with a person trying to hurt you?

Muay Thai is better because it puts a lot of emphasis on sparring which prepares you both physically and mentally for self-defense. Each technique you learn works on the streets and can help you get out of trouble.

Muay Thai vs. Aikido - who would win in a street fight?

Skilled Muay Thai fighters would beat skilled Aikido fighters 10/10 times in a street fight. They are superior to Aikido fighters in every aspect and simply have more and better weapons. But, there are many other reasons we would like to bring up.

First of all, Muay Thai fighters beat each other up on a daily basis in sparring. Their bodies are used to absorbing big punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. In some way, there is not a single thing Aikido fighters can do to hurt Muay Thai fighters.

Why Aikido is bad for street fighting? Aikido fighters, on the other side, do not absorb any type of strikes in training and they never spar. They are doing a lot of throws, flips and know how to fall on the ground without getting hurt. But most of them would crumble upon a single, well-placed strike just as most average people would. They are simply not trained for a real-life fighting scenario you may face on the streets.

The second reason is that Muay Thai techniques are much better than the ones in Aikido. It teaches you how to use long punches and vicious kicks to do damage from a distance. Once in close range, they will blast aikido fighters with wild elbows to the side of the hand and knees to the stomach. There’s no way any Aikido student can absorb these strikes.

For instance, a single Muay Thai kick can generate the same power as hitting a person with a baseball bat. Now imagine an Aikido fighter, who has never been kicked before, receiving one. The Muay Thai vs Aikido fight would end in a really, really painful way.

Muay Thai vs Aikido- which one is better for MMA?

Muay Thai is much better than Aikido when it comes to MMA due to various reasons. Its techniques fit well into MMA rules and in some way, you can’t expect to succeed without at least basic Muay Thai skills. Sooner or later, you will come across a fighter who will destroy you on the feet.

What Muay Thai brings to the table in MMA are vicious kicks from the distance and amazing clinch work. Thai boxers are masters in landing hard calf or body kicks and doing big damage while protecting their range. Look no further from how Dustin Poirier beat Conor McGregor using Muay Thai calf kicks.

The other reason is the clinch work which is crucial in MMA. Muay Thai fighters know how to position and create enough space in the clinch to land hard elbow and knee strikes. These ones, notably elbows, often lead to deep cuts and severe bleeding which often result in the referee stopping the fight.

On the other side, we can’t say the same for Aikido as we are not sure if there is anything you can use to fight in MMA. Its joint locks and throws are just too soft and you can’t apply those in a real match. This is the reason why we have never seen an MMA fighter using aikido moves to win a match, and we probably never will.

Muay Thai and MMA

Muay Thai vs Aikido – which one is better and more fun to train?

This really depends on your personal preference as Muay Thai and Aikido differ a lot in both cultural and technical aspects. The best way is to attend both schools and see which one suits you better. Here is our opinion that may help you make the right choice.

Although it has a long history, Muay Thai is a modern art when it comes to training. It is oriented towards the modern way of living and each gym includes various features. You can attend the classes for fitness, which is great as a single class can burn up to 1,000 calories. Or you can sign up for private lessons or train to improve body strength.

But what makes Muay Thai fun are sparring sessions where you will apply techniques in live action with the partner. Sparring is the only way you can get a feeling of how it is to be in a real fight while doing it safely. For a brief moment, your mind will forget that you are in training which will trigger a rush of adrenalin and fear. It’s one of those things that will make you feel alive and put a huge smile on your face.

Aikido is a softer style that also focuses on fitness with less emphasis on strength training. Students stretch a lot and are even doing yoga classes or Pilates. It doesn’t include sparring since students practice in a pre-arranged form called “kata”. At first, this doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but it is.

And bear in mind that aikido is all about tradition, respect and honor. The culture in every dojo revolves around tradition, adopting good values and it doesn’t tolerate any bad behavior at all.

Final Thoughts - Which one is better Muay Thai or Aikido?

In our opinion, Muay Thai vs Aikido is not a fair comparison as these two differ a lot. It is clear that Muay Thai is better than Aikido in just about every aspect of fighting or training. For sure, there are benefits to Aikido, and it is maybe better than some other arts but not Muay Thai.

In our opinion, Muay Thai should be your choice if you want to learn self-defense or shift to MMA later. It will teach you all about real fighting and how to throw punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. Though sparring, you will develop a feeling for distance and timing which are key skills one must have for self-defense. Aikido doesn’t include sparring and it won’t teach you these skills.

The same stands when it comes to fitness, weight loss, or improving strength. Muay Thai puts a big focus on endurance, cardio workouts, and even weight lifting. A single class burns up to 1,000 calories and will get you in top shape in a very short time span.

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Sawasdee krap!
I'm Timmy and I'm the chief-editor and co-founder of Muay Thai Street. When do you don't see me kicking pads of heavy bags, you can also find me training BJJ and functional fitness. I created Muay Thai Street as a passion project and also to help grow the community and share this sport with the world.

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