Krav Maga vs Muay Thai: What Are The Key Differences

Both Krav Maga and Muay Thai are forms of martial arts.

Krav Maga is a military self-defense fighting developed by the Israel Defense Force with a combination of karate judo, boxing and realistic fighting training. It means contact combat.

Muay Thai is a Thailand combat sport that uses stand up striking with physical and mental discipline which includes combat on shins. It means the science of eight limbs.

Despite both of them sharing the martial arts term, they have outstanding differences that we’ll discuss in the following article…


Historically, Muay Thai is an older and more polished combat skill than the more recently evolved Krav Maga. Muay Thai is believed to have been developed as protective art of the Thai people against the constant from invaders and was later incorporated as part of Thai culture by the Thai army in the 12th century. Thai people learned the skills which later relaxed the lethal part of the combat making it spread all over the world today.

Krav Maga, on the other hand, was developed by a Hungarian immigrant to Israel in 1930s who later taught this survival technique and skill to the military on request of the Israeli government in 1948.

The fact that the skill was learned to face actual stressful life situations it limited the rules of training thus inhibiting its wide spread in the world today. Krav Maga has been limited to military training unless trained complimentarily with Muay Thai in current times.


Krav Maga operates on the philosophy of aggression and the simultaneous defense and offensive maneuvers, and focus on real world life situations. It uses natural instincts of whatever is readily available and efficient in subduing the current enemy.

However, Muay Thai explores the art of eight limbs. This is a combination of use of fists, elbows, knees and shins used together accompanied by good physical preparation to toughen the body for use a toughened tool. The intent is to subdue the enemy fast without exposing yourself to an attack by another opponent.

Surmatively, the body is fully prepared in advance as a tool of attack  and subduing the opponent in Muay Thai, unlike in Krav Maga, where by natural instinct  one will evaluate the immediate environment to suitably find a tool of attack the opponent.


Muay Thai emphasizes on kicking with the shin, striking, elbowing, kneeing, foot thrusting, clinching and neck wrestling. Defense against the attacker in Muay Thai elaborately involve, blocking, redirection, avoidance, evasion, disruption and anticipation.

This are well timed sequenced and polished skills that require a lot of repetitions to perfect and a huge amount of body discipline. Irrespective of the status of the opponent, this skills will swiftly be used to subdue the attacker and secure oneself from eminent attacks.

On the contrary, the real world approach makes Krav Maga a continuously evolving systems that involve strikes (as per karate and boxing), ground work (as per judo and wrestling) and take downs (as per aikido).

This approach also makes Krav Maga to include holds and sometimes chokes of the opponent in case the real life attacker is armed. The key here is to appropriately apply an attack skill based on the status of the enemy to subdue them with use of the available environmental stimuli so as to be able to survive an attack.

Modern world status

Over the years, the two martial arts have evolved…

Muay Thai has evolved into a worldwide sporting activity complete with rules and regulations of training and competition. It has adjusted is strikes to make it less lethal and focused more on body fitness and discipline.

The element of physical fitness and total control of the body makes Muay Thai very attractive and accommodated in many school and military training institutions. Its flexibility has seen it turn into a popular sport of world’s art martial today.

Whereas Muay Thai has accommodated a lot of change s from the original, Krav Maga continues its teachings on simulations of highly stressful, real-life situations with emphasis on self-defense or survival skill.

The self-defense system was eventually adopted by the Israeli Defense Force as the most effective and instinctual form of martial arts. Further adding, there are no rules of training other than the ability to determine and attack the attackers areas of vulnerability by instinct, whether the attacker is armed or not. This makes it difficult to formulate a set of rules to be adhered to in a highly stressful and life threatening real life situations.

Thus Krav Maga methodology of approach has made it a preferred method by law and security enforcing agents for self-defense rather than a sport.


The problem with Krav Maga is the fact that you can’t ideally practice fully with another fighter. How practical is it to practice an actual brutal skill that is likely to eliminate an attacker on a real practice partner like eye gauging?

The available training option of certain moves on a mannequin proves futile since the mannequin cannot provide the actual real world human reactions. This will definitely limit the ability to explore and practice actual instinctual reactions.

Practicing with a sparring partner immobilized by the self-defense suit, equally gives a feeling of practicing with moving mannequin but in slower motions. The difference is the same.

If your goal is to learn a martial effective for both self-defense, body fitness and competition, then Muay Thai becomes the ideal. Weather one explores the options of mannequins or that partner fitted in a self-defenses suit or even a real partner, Muay Thai stands as the better option. What works in the gym doesn’t necessarily need to work in the field.


Evidently, both these martial arts will come in to play for effectiveness. At one time, life will put one in situations of danger.

Krav Maga skills of quickly eliminating the attacker by instinct the quickest means possible will prevail. Muay Thais well-structured rules may not adequately equip you to fight with an armed or very aggressive attacker.

However, a well-trained person will use Muay Thai clinching techniques to subdue a street attacker any time.

Conclusively, it would be more beneficial to subscribe to both.

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