Muay Thai vs Krav Maga — Which One is Better? (Explained!)

Muay Thai vs Krav Maga has been one of the hottest topics in martial arts circles for many years now. Although these two fighting styles differ a lot from one another, people like to discuss which one is better. That’s why we have decided to give you our detailed view on this “rivalry” and find out which style is better.

Muay Thai is often seen as the best fighting style when it comes to striking. It teaches you how to throw punches, kicks, and fight in close range using elbows and knees. It is also very good for fitness, self-defense, and it is a very popular sport.

Krav Maga, on the other side, is a fighting style created by the Israeli military. It is a hard style that focuses on self-defense and fighting without the rules. The goal is to train a person how to deal with the attacker in the fastest way possible.

Stay with us to find out more about Muay Thai vs Krav Maga, and which one is better.

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Muay Thai vs Krav Maga — what are the main differences?

These two fighting styles differ a lot from one another in just about every way. To find out which one is better, we must take a brief look into what each fighting style brings to the table. Here is all you need to know about Muay Thai and Krav Maga:

History and place of origins

Muay Thai is a much older fighting style with its origins dating back to the 16th century Siam Kingdom. In modern times, Muay Thai is a national sport in Thailand that is spreading really fast all around the world. It’s fair to say that its rise exploded with the birth of modern MMA and K-1 in the early 90s.

Krav Maga, on the other side, is a younger style founded in the early 1950s by Imi Lichtenfeld in Israel. Since day one, it has been a key part of Israeli military training that focuses on hand-to-hand combat. In modern days, there are many Krav Maga schools in just about every part of the world. It is a very popular fighting style for people who want to get into martial arts to learn self-defense.

Techniques and emphasis

Muay Thai is, perhaps, the best striking style that teaches you how to use all limbs as weapons. In classes, students learn how to throw punches, kicks, and fight at close range using elbows and knees.

The emphasis is on forward pressure, hard kicks, and brawl fighting inside the clinch. It also focuses on competition, and students spend most of the time learning how to fight under the rules.

Here is a brief look at what type of techniques Muay Thai students learn in classes:

  • More than 10 types of kicking techniques
  • Basic boxing techniques
  • How to block strikes and check kicks
  • How to fight at close range and in the clinch using elbows and knees
  • Basics of grappling like trips and throws

Krav Maga, on the other side, differs a lot since the focus is on street fighting without the rules. This means that it allows its students to use any technique to get out of trouble, no matter how brutal they are.

The emphasis is on keeping high focus and awareness to use anything in your power to escape out of trouble and stay safe. It teaches you how to run away if you can, as well as how to grab an object like a piece of wood or a glass bottle to blast the attacker in the head.

Although this may sound brutal, bear in mind that Krav Maga doesn’t include any competition. The entire focus of the art is on self-defense and life and death scenarios. Here is a brief look at what Krav Maga students learn in classes:

  • How to target the body’s most sensitive points like groins, throat, eyes, liver, solar plexus, or ribs.
  • Basic elements of karate, boxing, and wrestling
  • How to keep high focus and awareness 
  • How to make rational decisions in the heat of the moment
  • Students learn how to handle various weapons and disarm the attacker
  • Students also learn how to deal with multiple attackers

Structure of training

Muay Thai training is very simple and it focuses more on a modern-day lifestyle. This is why we can often see people joining the classes for fitness, weight loss, or self-defense training.

Beginners spend opening months learning the basics and working on a heavy bag. They also do a lot of cardio and strength workouts, which could be intense at times. Once they’re ready, students start doing live drills with the partner before moving to full sparring and competing.

Training is hard but the risk of injuries is really low. You must wear protective gear whenever you are doing things that can result in an injury:

  • Full padded boxing gloves
  • Headgear
  • Mouthpiece
  • Shinpads

Krav Maga training is more intense in our opinion since it trains you for life and death scenarios. There is no playing around and training is often really hard on your body. Classes in most schools begin with intense cardio and strength workout that lasts around 20 min. The next section is the combat training where students learn various techniques from:

  • Karate
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling
  • BJJ
  • Dirty tactics

The final phase of the class is Krav Maga training where the goal is to simulate the real-life scenario in which you must defend yourself. However, Krav Maga doesn’t include sparring and most of these drills are in the pre-arranged forms.

muay thai sparring head kick

Muay Thai vs Krav Maga- which one is better for self-defense?

These two arts are both great for self-defense and will train you for real fighting on the streets. Placing one above the other is not an easy task since these two arts differ a lot in every aspect. But, we have to give an edge to Krav Maga, and here is why:

  • Krav Maga is better since it trains you to fight without the rules
  • It teaches you how to use fast and direct strikes
  • Students learn how to use or defend against dirty moves like eye gouging, groin strikes, and other body’s vulnerable spots
  • Training is very hard and intense


Don’t get us wrong here, Muay Thai is a great option as well. If you are a fan of striking and want to learn self-defense, do not hesitate to choose Thai boxing over Krav Maga. It teaches you the best and most advanced striking skills that all work in real life as well. You will learn how to fight at all ranges, and its clinch work is really useful for self-defense.

You see, street fights are often chaotic, all over the place, and include a lot of grabbing and pulling. This is where Muay Thai shines as it teaches you how to pull a famous “Thai clinch”. Breaking the opponent’s posture with Thai clinch allows you to unleash a barrage of elbow and knee strikes that can do much damage. This gives you a big advantage over any person in street fighting.

Both of these arts have a lot of pros and cons when it comes to self-defense. But Krav Maga is better since it is more versatile and focuses more on fighting without the rules. In our view, it is as close to ideal when to comes to self-defense.

Muay Thai vs Krav Maga- which one is better for MMA?

Muay Thai is much better than Krav Maga when it comes to MMA fighting and the argument is really strong. Krav Maga as a fighting system is bad because it teaches moves that are illegal in MMA. Here is what Muay Thai does better:

  • It teaches you how to fight in a clinch position which plays a key role in MMA
  • Muay Thai kicks, notably the low kicks are one of the most effective weapons in modern MMA
  • The stance and high guard you learn work much better in MMA
  • Its fighters have more real fight experience and they spar more often

Why is Krav Maga bad for MMA?

Krav Maga, on the other side, is good for street fighting without the rules, but not MMA fighting. This is because it teaches you techniques that are not allowed in MMA fighting. It puts too much focus on dirty moves like striking the throat, groin area, or eye gouging. These moves are illegal in modern MMA fighting and using them will get you disqualified from a match.

The other reason is the concept of training and lack of competition. Krav Maga students rarely spar in a spontaneous action with the partner. They do a lot of pre-arranged live drills and some form of sparring. This is normal because you can’t do sparring and hit the partner in the throat or apply eye gouging. The same stands for the competition which doesn’t exist in Krav Maga for obvious reasons.

Muay Thai fighters train to fight and compete under the rules from a young age. By the time they cross over to MMA, most of them have a lot of real fighting experience. And the focus of training is on hard sparring as this is the only way you can prepare for a match.

Muay Thai vs Krav Maga- who would win in a street fight?

One thing is for sure, fighters from both fighting styles have all the tools and weapons to beat each other in a street fight. Who would win really depends on the individual skills, place of the fight, or do we have weapons involved? These are all the questions that will give us the ultimate answer.

In our view, Muay Thai has a small edge over Krav Maga when it comes to street fighting. The first reason is that its techniques are more advanced and cover all the ranges. Its fighters can use footwork and kicks to keep the range or fight a brawl fight at close range with elbows and knees. And on top of that, they have really good balance and know how to defend or execute various trips and throws.

The other reason is the fight experience. Muay Thai training puts more focus on hard sparring, which to be fair, is the only way you can prepare for real fighting. You can’t expect to develop good timing, feeling for distance, or learn how to keep your mind calm without sparring. Krav Maga fighters, on the other side, can’t spar due to various reasons and its fighters never compete. This gives Muay Thai a big advantage in a street fight.

Krav Maga has an edge if the fight is in a small space like the elevator or a small room. This is where they have a high chance of landing dirty moves like groin strikes or gouge eyes. Muay Thai fighters never train how to defend or use these strikes. Things get even worse if there are some small objects in the room like glass bottles. The first thing Krav Maga fighters would do is to grab that object and blast you straight in the head. Muay Thai simply does not train you to think that way.

mma takedown

Muay Thai vs Krav Maga- which one is for you?

Which one is better for you really comes down to your personal preferences and what you want to achieve. The good thing is that they differ a lot, and it shouldn’t be too hard for you to find out which one suits you better. Here is our opinion that might help you make the right choice.

Muay Thai should be your choice if you want to compete or make a career out of it and learn good self-defense skills.

It is also good for fitness and weight loss as a single class burns up to 1000 calories which is a lot. This is the reason why we can see more average people joining the Muay Thai gyms in recent years. It is also a very good base if you want to shift to MMA later.

Krav Maga is an intense fighting style that should be your option if you want to learn how to defend yourself on the streets. It is a better option than Muay Thai as the entire focus of the system is on self-defense. You will learn how to deal with multiple attackers, disarm the opponent, and overall, how to stay safe in dangerous situations. It is not a sport you can train for fitness, lose weight or compete in matches.

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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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