Should I start with Muay Thai or boxing?
One friend asked me that question the other day. He wanted to sharpen his self defense skills after one guy started to throw punches on a recent night out. His final choices had come down to Muay Thai vs boxing. Or western style boxing as more commonly known.
After some pondering I recommended boxing which I think surprised him a little bit. He knows my passion for Muay Thai and the many years of training in Thailand.
So why did I recommend boxing after so much time invested in Muay Thai? Well Muay Thai is still my number one sport and the first thing I do when I am back in Thailand is to visit my old gym for some heavy training. But lately I have began to focus more on boxing.
The shift is due to a number of reasons. But the main ones are self defense, my age and the training possibilities outside Thailand. My friend took my advice and we are now training western style boxing at the excellent Saigon Sports Club.
If you follow along I will explain my reasoning in more detail!
Muay Thai vs Boxing
There are numerous reasons to train Muay Thai or boxing. Some do it to get in shape. Other to get more confident. But many do it to be able to defend themselves in dangerous situations.
I have not that much experience from street fights. In my entire life I have only been in one bar fight. But I do know people whom been in several street fights and they tell me that punches does the most damage.
In Muay Thai, the roundhouse kick is a central part of the training or the fight. You will not receive points for punches in a Muay Thai fight. Hence everything in Muay Thai is done to set up for the kick. Your stance, your hooks and your footwork.
In western style boxing you will only use punches. A lot of focus will be on your reach, your footwork and blocking punches from an opponent. All of which resembles a street fight where you are less likely to defend against a kick.
Don’t get me wrong. Muay Thai will make you very well prepared for many dangerous situations. As a matter of fact you will probably be better prepared than 95% of the general population. But I do think that with boxing you will get an edge. And in a life threatening situation those things matters!
Age & Martial Arts
Getting older sucks. Even at my relatively young age I can feel some age related setbacks. I am not as fast as when I was 20. And definitely not as flexible. Even though I stretch every week I can no longer do certain things as well. For example head kicks.
Muay Thai is pretty demanding on your body. That is all fine when you are in your 20s or even your 30s. But when you are on the wrong side of 40 it will be harder to recover. Plus you have to make sure those hip flexors stay flexible.
But I believe that you can continue with boxing until old age. For example at my old MMA gym in San Francisco I saw many guys train in their 60s. And I am not talking about some slow seniors. Those guys kicked ass!
Training Outside Thailand
Training in Thailand makes you spoiled. When you are able to get affordable 1-on-1 training with a kru (that’s likely an old Lumpinee champion or similar) makes you a bit picky.
Outside of Thailand you will probably only find Muay Thai group classes. Those are fine when starting out but when you have been training for some time you want more 1-on-1. At least that applies to me and my friends.
Western style boxing is more widespread and practiced in most countries around the world. Hence it will be easier to find great and affordable trainers that can help with your individual training.
This Muay Thai vs boxing article was not meant to be hating on Muay Thai. I will continue with Muay Thai as long as my body allows me to do so. But if I was able to give my 20 year old self life advice, one of them would be to start with boxing much earlier in life.
With that being said, if you’re in your 20s and the primary goal is not self defense, I do think Muay Thai will be a good choice for you!
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