Your Complete Guide to Muay Thai for Self Defense

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Training Muay Thai for self defense is fun.

There really isn’t much better than Muay Thai for self defense.


Because it basically turns your entire body into a lethal weapon. It not only teaches you how to use 8 of your limbs as weapons, but it also teaches you how to defend against them. 

It really does give you a huge advantage when facing off with an untrained adversary.

In this article, we’ll show you how both men and women can use the effective striking and grappling techniques of Muay Thai to defend in a real-life street fight scenario.

Is Muay Thai an Effective Martial Art for Self-Defense?

Muay Thai is one of the most popular and effective striking combat sports around. And for good reason.

Although technically a sport, Muay Thai as we know it today is rooted in military self defense. It has evolved over centuries, used in close combat on the battlefield against neighbouring Burma and Cambodia.

It has been the preferred way for young men in Thailand to stay battle-ready even during times of peace. And since Thailand (formerly called Siam) is one of the few countries to successfully avoid colonization there’s a good argument for its effectiveness.

As a martial art, it provides practitioners with effective weapons and assault prevention techniques that can work great in a tough situation.

What Are the Most Effective Muay Thai Techniques for Defense?

Muay Thai training by its very nature is great for physical conditioning and to help develop and maintain mental toughness.

It’s not called the art of 8 limbs for nothing.

muay thai techniques.

Since 8 different limbs are used to attack, careful consideration has been put into evasion, blocking, and striking techniques to improve self-defense skills and could save your life in a scenario requiring street fighting:

Evasion Techniques in Muay Thai

Ask yourself, if you had the choice – Would you rather block a head kick or lean out of the way of one? If you’re anything like me you’d prefer the latter and any Muay Thai training at a genuine martial arts gym will help hone your reflexes for evasion.

When you sense a kick or kick is coming you’ll be able to quickly skip backwards out of range.

As you gain more comfort with this technique you can begin training your reflexes. This will help you save time and energy by simply leaning backwards so a kick or punch will pass over you.

Important note: avoid the urge to duck. It may feel like a natural reflex as you begin training. But remember the number of weapons available to a Muay Thai practitioner. Ducking is an incredibly dangerous self-defence technique.

Blocking Techniques in Muay Thai

If you can’t fully evade and have to absorb say a head kick, there’s always the ‘three-point defense’ there for you.

This is where a kick connects with three points at the same time:

  • Take a step in the direction away from the incoming kick to lessen the blow.
    • Note: There is also a version of this technique where instead of taking a step you simply raise one knee to your chest to act as a shield.
  • Keep your shoulders high and your arm closest to the kick glued to your body.
  • Use the other arm to slap down anywhere near the knee of the incoming kick.

This defence will greatly increase your ability to absorb a range of kicks.

Counter Attacks in Muay Thai

Straight punch (Phaprai Lom Singkhon)

If someone is less trained than you are there is a high likelihood there will be some wind up in their attacks and having some basic striking techniques in your arsenal could very well save your life.

This provides a perfect opportunity to drive a hard, straight punch right down the pike directly into your attacker’s face or throat.

This technique is one of the hardest punches in all of Muay Thai. It comes quickly and efficiently from your arm positioned close to your body, extending your fist in a straight line as you step forward with your lead leg as if trying to punch through a wall.

If you’re a southpaw you’ll do this with your left hand, and if you’re orthodox, with your right.

The momentum from the step forward as you extend your arm and turn your shoulders into the punch transfers the power of this punch. And you don’t need any windup.

Push Kick (Teep kick)

If you want to maintain distance from a potential attacker a push kick can certainly help.

This kick was used rather effectively in the movie 300 to inform a messenger where he was.

You could do the same and use the opportunity to get out of a dangerous situation.

Cut Kicks (Sweep)

If someone seems like they’re ready to attack but unbalanced in any way, like they’re going to throw any variation of leg kicks, you can use this to your advantage and sweep their feet from under them.

This is a very popular Muay Thai technique that you’ve likely seen it if you’ve ever watched a competition. If you’ve ever trained you’ve likely experienced it as the wind gets knocked out of you courtesy of gravity and the ground.

This is perfect in a self-defense situation as it works against many other types of striking fighting styles like taekwondo, kickboxing (and Dutch kickboxing), karate, and boxing.

In short, you kill 2 birds with one swift kick to the legs. You’re able to quickly prove a point and enjoy ample time to leave the area.

One important note to consider about kicks for self defense and their use in a street fight in general:

If a kick is caught or your pushed and somehow lose balance (especially when delivering high kicks) you’ll likely end up on the ground.

This could result in getting stomped, soccer kicked or rolling on the ground with the attacker. If you don’t have any ground training but they’re a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner – this can be incredibly dangerous.

Check out our guide on BJJ vs Muay Thai!

This is one of the weaknesses of Muay Thai and self defense we discuss later.

Should Women Learn Muay Thai for Self Defense?

Women can absolutely benefit from learning Muay Thai. With legitimate martial arts classes, women like anyone else can better protect themselves. Plus there’s a certain degree of confidence that is important.

Muay Thai for women or anyone else, is a brutal sport and well-placed knee strikes with proper technique can certainly do a lot of damage to a bigger opponent. Knowing this is in your arsenal is empowering.

What you learn in Muay Thai are powerful strikes that can hurt any vulnerable body. Head kicks, a push kick, body kick, or elbow strike all make a statement.

Now does this say that women should learn Muay Thai and can immediately take on the world? Not exactly, but a well-timed attack such as a knee to the groin and stomach of an unsuspecting attacker can provide the time and space needed to escape.

Is Muay Thai Effective in a Real Street Fight?

As we can see Muay Thai is an effective discipline for street fighting.

In a real fight, it’s often said you have to strike first and as hard as you can. This is because once you sense imminent physical aggression towards you, a pre-emptive attack can help stop it dead in its tracks and give you time to make your escape.

Consider some of the most common Muay Thai fighting techniques you learn with training. Slicing elbow techniques, knees, and any variety of common kicks including head kicks.

This is on top of the boxing techniques (like spinning back fists) you’ll learn, and mental conditioning from gym sparring.

The mental aspect is a big advantage. This can help you remain calm in an otherwise stressful situation. As you spar Muay Thai with different training partners at different skill levels you’ll become more relaxed in states of duress. This helps you focus on breathing rather than overloading your brain.

Becoming a street fighter is unlikely to become one of the benefits of training Muay Thai or any other martial art for that matter.

It helps to remove the ego that pushes us to act with the bravado that invites danger. It helps to provide the inner confidence to deescalate situations without feeling like a coward.

And this is one of the reasons why kids Muay Thai is a surprisingly good idea!

Sure you’ll have some pride that in a worst-case scenario you’re probably better equipped than others. And you may enjoy having a strong set of fighting techniques at your disposal at all times. But if you’ve had martial arts training you also understand that fighting is an unpredictable endeavour.

You’ve hopefully come across better fighters than yourself in the gym. And so you understand that even in a controlled environment, fighting can be extremely dangerous and so best to be avoided on the street.

What are some Weaknesses of Muay Thai in a Street Fight?

One of the obvious deficiencies of Muay Thai is that it won’t teach you ground fighting. This is important to note as it is common for street fights to end up on the ground.

It can be easy to lose balance in a fight. It’s also likely someone has trained at least a bit in wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu or another fighting style. This makes the importance of learning ground techniques a necessity for anyone hoping to become a well-rounded fighter.

As mentioned, as a striking style it is extremely effective with one major flaw. There is a lack of head movement in Muay Thai that can leave an easy target for a trained boxer. Without the bobbing and weaving and relatively rigid footwork, your standing position provides openings to any accurate or lucky attacker.

Muay Thai For Self Defense in Closing

While they’re best to be avoided altogether, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself in a street fight. In this case, there are very few martial arts that can provide a variety of weapons to attack and defend as Muay Thai.

Sure you’ll likely want some ground fighting training but as they say every fight starts on their feet. And when it comes to standup Muay Thai is a great choice. 

And if you’re curious find out how Muay Thai vs Kickboxing compares!

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We're a team of fight fans and martial arts practitioners. Many of us have been involved in martial arts our entire lives.