Muay Thai vs Savate — Which One is Better in 2021?

At first sight, Muay Thai and Savate may look the same to average people. This is because, in the end, these two are both striking styles that visually look very similar. But at the same time, they differ a lot in many aspects, and finding out which one is better is not an easy task.

Muay Thai is a brutal fighting style that focuses on using all 8 limbs as weapons. Students learn how to throw kicks, punches, or fight in the clinch using elbows and knees. Savate, on the other side, looks a lot like kickboxing as its fighters use 4 points of contact to strike with kicks and punches. And they don’t learn how to fight in the clinch.

Keep reading this article to find out more about Muay Thai vs Savate, and which one is better between these two.

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Muay Thai vs Savate — what are the main differences?

Muay Thai and Savate differ in many aspects of fighting. Here is all you need to know about it:

History and place of origin

Muay Thai is one of the most famous striking styles that comes from Thailand. Its roots date all the way back to the Siam Kingdom (16th century), and it is a part of the Thai culture and identity of its people. It started to rise beyond the Thai borders in the 20th century, notably with the birth of modern MMA.

Savate, on the other side, is a French fighting style with its origins dating from the 19th century. Initially, it was a very brutal form of self-defense used by the upper class to defend against thieves. But in the 18th century, Michel Casseux and Charles Lecour had founded a modern form of Savate that would later become a famous sport.

Techniques and emphasis

Muay Thai is a brutal fighting style that teaches you how to use all limbs as weapons. It trains you how to fight using kicks, punches, and fight in the clinch with elbows and knees. The emphasis is on powerful kicks from the distance, and close-range fighting in the clinch using elbow and knee strikes. Its students also learn some basics of grappling like trips and throws, but those won’t bring you points in a match. Here is a brief look into techniques you learn in Muay Thai:

  • More than 15 types of kicks (spinning, roundhouse, jump kicks etc.)
  • Various knee strikes (flying knee, horizontal knee, straight knee etc.)
  • Punches (hooks, uppercuts, jab, superman punch, backfist strikes)
  • More than 10 variations of elbow strike
  • Blocks

Savate, on the other side, also includes kicks and punches. But it differs from Muay Thai as it forbids fighting in the clinch as well as knee and elbow strikes. The main focus is on mixing English boxing with kicks together.

The way Savate fighters throw kicks differs a lot from Muay Thai. They land kicks with their foot, while Thai boxers land with their shin. And Savate kicks tend to be more direct, linear, and much faster. But this comes at a certain price as Muay Thai kicks are more powerful. Here are techniques fighters learn in Savate:

  • kicks (roundhouse kicks, piston kicks, hook and sweep kicks)
  • punches (jabs, hooks, uppercuts, and other boxing punches)
muay thai training with head gear

Muay Thai vs Savate — which one is more effective for self-defense?

Both Muay Thai and Savate are fighting styles created for self-defense. They will both teach you all about real fighting and prepare for scenarios you may face on the streets. Still, Muay Thai is better in our view, and here is why.

  • Muay Thai teaches you how to fight at all ranges
  • It includes clinch fighting with elbows and knees
  • It is more versatile and its fighters have more weapons in their arsenal
  • The focus is on throwing each strike with full power and violent intention

Muay Thai is better since it is a more versatile style that puts a lot of focus on throwing each strike with full power. It will teach you all about hip rotation and how to knock the opponent out cold with a single strike. A single, well placed kick can generate the same power as hitting a person with a baseball bat. Now, imagine a person, who has never been kicked before, receiving one. You can easily break their ribs or leg with a single kick.

But, Muay Thai gets even better when we are talking about fighting at close range. You see, street fighting is often all over the place with people pulling and grabbing each other. This is where Muay Thai shines as it teaches you how to pull the famous “Thai clinch” and destroy the opponent with knees, elbows, and short punches. Clinch fighting is one of those things that sets Muay Thai above other arts when it comes to self-defense.

Don’t get us wrong here, Savate is also very good. But Muay Thai is more versatile and puts more focus on hard sparring. These are two main reasons why it is better in this aspect.

muay thai front kick

Muay Thai vs Savate — who would win in a street fight?

Over the years, we saw fighters from both styles fighting each other under kickboxing rules, which to be fair, favor Savate fighters. And fighters from both styles have wins over each other. But, who would win a Muay Thai vs Savate street fight without the rules?

First of all, both fighters have all the tools to beat each other with kicks and punches. If the fight is in the open, it is really hard to predict who would win as they both use the same weapons. Although they carry out the techniques in a different way, fighters from both styles know how to keep their range and do damage from the distance.

But if the fight is in a small space, then Muay Thai has a high chance of winning a fight. This is because it puts a lot of focus on clinch fighting where Savate fighters don’t know how to fight. This allows Thai boxers to control them in the clinch, and do huge damage with elbows to the side of the head and knees. It is amazing how much power Thai boxers can generate in such a small space and the damage they can do.

But this is all just in theory. Who would win really comes down to individual skills rather than fighting styles.

Muay Thai vs Savate- which one is harder to learn?

As with any other fighting style out there, both Muay Thai and Savate are very hard to learn. You must spend years training hard on the mats, go through many sacrifices and even pain to become an expert. Finding out which one is harder of the two is not an easy task, but here is our view on it.

First of all, Savate is not that popular in modern times. Even if you want to learn it, you might have a hard time finding a school to train in. This is because, over the years, other styles like MMA and Muay Thai have become more popular. On the other side, you can find a Muay Thai gym in just about every town in the world.

When it comes to techniques, it’s fair to say these two are equally hard. Savate puts more focus on footwork, technical striking, being smooth and precise. Although this sounds easy, it’s not. You must spend many years working hard to master all the techniques. The same stands for Muay Thai which is a bit wilder style, but not less technical.

However, Muay Thai is physically harder than Savate without a doubt. It puts a lot of emphasis on sparring, intense cardio workouts, and strength exercises. Absorbing hard strikes every session can affect your body and mind in the long run. It’s fair to say that the injury rate in Muay Thai is much higher than in Savate.

muay thai clinch

Muay Thai or Savate — which one is more effective? 

In our view, Muay Thai is more effective than Savate in most aspects of fighting. It’s not that Savate is bad by any means. But, Muay Thai is more versatile and its techniques are more practical.

For instance, Muay Thai is better for self-defense as it teaches you how to fight at distance and in close range using elbows and knees. This is crucial for street fighting where there is a lot of grabbing and pulling at close range. It even teaches you how to keep your balance and stop the opponent from taking you down.

It should also be your choice if you want to shift to MMA later. Its techniques fit well within the rules of MMA, notably the clinch fighting and kicks. Over the years, there have been many great MMA fighters who had a strong base in Thai boxing. Some of the best examples are Anderson Silva and Edson Barboza.

And for last, it is a much popular style than Savate and it’s much easier to find a gym to train in.

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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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