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Muay Thai Vs Karate: A Head-To-Head Comparison

muay thai vs karate comparison
muay thai vs karate

Both Karate and Muay Thai are known for violent punches and vigorous kicks, unfortunately, the Japanese martial art modified its rules and, in some styles, you mustn’t hit the opponent hard or you’ll get disqualified (I hope you watched Tokyo 2021 finals).

But look at the bright side. There are so many various styles of Karate, and each one of them offers a different ruleset. For example, Kyokushinkai allows full contact but prohibits punches to the head, which makes it one of the most entertaining martial arts to watch.

Yet, it’s time to make Muay Thai vs Karate comparison. Which one is better and why? I am telling you, this task is a bit harder, as you must consider many styles of ancient Japanese martial art. But I will try to be as clear as possible. Read on and get to know the differences!


Thai boxing is known for all kinds of strikes (8 striking surfaces), while traditional Karate also allows kicks, punches, elbows, and knees. Yet, thanks to modifications, there are so many prohibitions, so fighters don’t learn specific techniques anymore. I will now deep dive into Muay Thai Vs Karate striking analysis.


Karate is one of the best martial arts when it comes to straight punches and 1-2 combinations. Experts of Japanese martial art will hardly miss. They are masters of “scoring a point”. Unfortunately, they rarely throw hooks, overhands, and uppercuts, hence those strikes are allowed.

Muay Thai warriors are better at level changing and landing different punches from close and mid-range, while Karate is unbeatable off long-range thanks to different technique patterns and movements. Thai fighters will have greater chances of finishing you via a barrage of bullets, while Karatekas are mostly one-punch knockout specialists.

But I’d say one point for Muay Thai, greater chances and more ways of finishing the opponent.


Muay Thai vs Karate kicks comparison is the most entertaining area to discuss. Both martial arts are known for different, but equally, lethal leg strikes.

Karate roundhouse kick is faster, but Muay Thai roundhouse offers more power and brutality if it lands. Axe kick advantage goes in the favor of Karate. When it comes to low kicks, the Japanese martial art offers crisper and more accurate bombs, while Thai boxing focuses on landing more powerful, fight-ending blows.

Thai boxing is known for a more powerful teep kick, but Karate’s front kick is by far the most brutal in the world of martial arts.

Spinning back kick advantage goes in the favor of Karate because you must push the hip of your striking leg forward. When it comes to spinning heel kick, Kyokushinkai Karate offers the most brutal version, but it’s very slow and you can do it on the sitting duck. Muay Thai spinning hook kick is fast but not that powerful.

Switch kick and scissor kick are way better in the world of Muay Thai, as the masters of this martial art tend to slide forward and rotate the hip before hitting the opponent’s face.

I could discuss this all day long, but I say it’s a draw – Karate gets 100% advantage for spinning strikes and axe kicks, while Muay Thai rocks in all other aspects of the game. Both styles are known for very entertaining kicks, so no winner here.


Muay Thai offers so many various elbows – slashing, horizontal, spear, spinning back… The Traditional style of Karate has uppercut and horizontal elbow, but it’s pretty hard to land it, especially of the clinch, plus rules prohibit those strikes in the competition. Clean victory for Thai boxing.


I am watching MMA a lot too, so I’ve seen many Karate guys landing violent knees to the stomach. But here’s the problem – you can forget about flying knees, rabbit knees, or a diagonal knee to the head, Karate offers only basic knee strikes. Another clean victory for the ancient Siamese martial art.


Thai boxing is definitively the best striking martial art in the clinch, so many fighters will say that Muay Thai vs Karate comparison makes no sense here. Yet, they are wrong, Karate is better in some areas.

Muay Thai Plum

I described all the potential clinch strikes in the world of Muay Thai. Even if Karateka catches you into the double-collar clinch, there is only one strike – straight knee to the head (more skillful guys might try diagonal knee, but that’s it) – point for Muay Thai.

Single-Collar Clinch

The situation is kinda complicated here, as Karateka could go for a horizontal elbow, a knee to the stomach, or a short hook/uppercut. Close win for Muay Thai.

One Underhook-In

Have you forgotten that Karate is known for foot sweeps? Ashi Barai is a great example of a Karate trip off the clinch.

I’d say draw, as Muay Thai sweeps can send you to the floor too. You don’t have many punch or elbows options.


Tricky position for both styles, very limited options. Muay Thai vs Karate ends in a draw here too, as Karateka or Thai boxing experts won’t shoot in or try to lift you and go for a slam.

Your Leg Is Grabbed

When a Muay Thai opponent gets a hold of your leg, he’ll instantly aim for your standing leg and chop you down, so you’ll end up on the ground. A Karate guy might go for Ashi Barai but grabbing their leg is prohibited in the competition, so one point for Muay Thai here.

You Grabbed The Opponent’s Leg

Muay Thai Vs Karate is an interesting comparison when you grab the opponent’s limb. You could raise his leg in the air or try to chop him down, if you’re a Karateka, you might land a straight punch to the face. Could be a draw here, it depends on the fighter.

Takedown Offense and Defense

There are no takedowns, but I am comparing Muay Thai sweeps vs Karate trips and throws. I’d give a point to Karate here, as there are many throws in the traditional style of Karate that are taken from Judo.

when comes to defense, Muay Thai wins here. A Muay Thai dude could counter your takedown attempt with a knee or an uppercut, while a Karate fighter is limited to movement and footwork (unless he trains MMA of course).

Footwork And Movement

Muay Thai Vs Karate discussion is pointless here. Karate fighters are known for some of the best step-drag forward and step-drag backward in the world of martial arts. Look at Lyoto Machida’s magical movement, footwork, and strike demonstration, it is almost impossible to intercept him when he tries to score.

Muay Thai guys tend to fight offensively (some of the greatest hearts in the world), but only a few of them are known for world-class movement. For example, Buakaw Banchamek modified his style to move like a cat, he won the K1 tournament because of that.


Muay Thai dojos usually teach their students to eat a strike to score a point. You’ll see elite-level Thai warriors ducking and countering from time to time but it doesn’t happen too often.

On the other hand, Karatekas try to evade a strike or intercept the barrage of bullets with a counter-kick or punch.

Karate fighters are extremely tricky and their reaction time is way better. But Muay Thai works better when you’re cornered and force to eat shots. Karate wins, fighters are trained to outsmart their foes.

Ground Game

I am talking about stand-up martial arts, so let me guess the question. Why do you analyze this aspect of the game? I must ask you – do you watch MMA? Cause I do, and Muay Thai offers way more options. Let me explain.

The majority of Karate guys will go for straight punches from almost every single position on the ground. Some of them throw hooks or uppercuts, maybe elbows in rare cases.

On the other hand, Muay Thai is stacked with lovely violent elbows that serve to cause a fight-ending cut or a brutal knockout victory. Karate can be effective, but Thai boxing gives you way more options here from every single position.

Muay Thai vs Karate discussion ends on the ground with a victory of an ancient Siamese martial art. Can’t say clean victory, but a win is a win.


Let me summarize the article. So, Muay Thai Vs Karate, which one is better and why? It depends on your fighting style, but I’ll frankly point to the most important aspects of the game.

Karate fighters are footwork and counter kings, plus their kicks and punches are longer and way more technical, but Muay Thai warriors usually hit harder and stronger, plus they tend to take part in violent combos more often. Thai boxing wins in the clinch, takedown defense, and ground game.

What do you think, who wins, Karate or Muay Thai? Please leave the comments below!

Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Deni

Picture of Deni


Hi, I started training Muay Thai back in 2016 and fell in love with it. So I decided to create this blog in the pursuit of this passion and share my experience with you.

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