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Muay Thai Vs Kung Fu: A Head-To-Head Comparison

muay thai vs kung fu comparison
muay thai vs kung fu

Martial arts fans mostly enjoy comparing two fighting styles. I bet you already have your theory of a potential winner in a Muay Thai vs Kung Fu matchup.

These two martial arts are very much different. Kung Fu moves are nice to watch but not all of them are going to work in a real fight. Ancient Chinese art is focused on “katas” but experienced masters are skillful fighters. Yet, compared to Muay Thai, you’ll need more time to get into the spirit of things.

You’ve probably heard the famous sentence “it’s not about the style, it’s about the martial artist”.

But styles do matter, you’ll need a lot of time to master ancient Chinese martial art. So, Muay Thai vs Kung Fu, which one is better and why? I will elaborate positive and negative sides of both of them, so you will be able to decide.

Which Are The Most Dangerous Kung Fu Styles For A Combat?

There are tons of Kung Fu variations. While some of them are hard to use in a real fight, others are extremely destructive against a powerful attacker who’s trying to teach you a lesson.

  • Wushu allows sweeps, violent kicks, and strikes with the open palms, which could be deadly for a cocky bully. Each of these strikes works well against an opponent who doesn’t protect his face.
  • Wing Chun is known for having the fastest hands in the world and hitting the opponent with two limbs at the same time. For more info, please check my Muay Thai Vs Wing Chun guide.
  • Sanda is probably the most dangerous style of Kung Fu. Cung Le was an example of a top-notch MMA fighter with a Sanda background. This style teaches you to punch, kick, wrestle, and throw the opponent.
  • Shaolin is known for putting a human body on a whole different level. I suggest you watch documentaries about Shaolin monks, people who live to train, you can learn something new. They do impossible things by the power of their will and don’t care about wealth or money.

Which Stance Offers Better Protection – Muay Thai Or Kung Fu?

The Kung Fu stance depends on the fighting style. For example, Tai Chi and Qi-Gong are trained to improve your fitness and cardiovascular health. Forget about them in a real fight or you’re gonna get smoked!

The most popular style of Kung Fu for the fight is Shaolin, so I will analyze its stance. Before I start, note that Shaolin monks dedicate their whole life to training, so they are always a tough challenge, even for the greatest masters of any martial art.

Shaolin dudes usually shift their weight equally on both feet. Their knees are extended, backs are not hunched, which gives them great possibilities for combos and high-speed attacks. Yet, when it comes to counters, a Shaolin fighter would have to add some strikes from other martial arts for maximum efficiency.

Palms are open, which allows a lot of violent strikes and many creative ways to finish your foe. Just like the Muay Thai stance, the Shaolin stanza is excellent for attacking but you’ll need some time to master the defensive aspect of the game.

Shaolin fighters tend to explode and move more so they would have the advantage out of the ring, but a Thai warrior covers up amazingly when pressed against the ropes. Thai boxing leads to better protection under pressure but Shaolin evades the aggressive opponent via moves and intelligent maneuvers.

Muay Thai vs Kung Fu, which styles scored a point here? I’d say both have good and bad sides, so it’s a draw!

Which Fighter Hits Harder And Faster?

This is an interesting question, and I’ll be honest – I’ve never seen a faster striker than a Kung Fu expert in the world of martial arts. Wing Chun dudes train on dummies, while Shaolin monks move like cats and perform impossible maneuvers to punish their enemies.

woman practicing kung fu

In Muay Thai, your weight is shifted on the back foot and your front leg serves to defend you. Yet, in Shaolin, you can move equally well in every direction. Muay Thai attacking combos might be faster but Shaolin offers quicker counters and one-punch, one-kick strikes (Kung Fu is not much about opening angles, it’s about reacting in the split of a second). The conclusion – Kung Fu specialists are faster.

Yet, Muay Thai fighter makes way more significant amount of damage with one strike. Why? For example, you’ll never see a Kung Fu fighter stepping to his left to open more space for a big right hook or a brutal right oblique kick to the body. Yeah, a Kung Fu strike is quicker and it generates more power, but a Muay Thai shin to the chin almost always leads to a knockout blow.

Unfortunately, Muay Thai vs Kung Fu comparison ends in a draw one more time, as Kung Fu strikes are faster, while Thai bombs are more deadly for your opponent.

Muay Thai Vs Kung Fu Matchups – Which Martial Art Was Winning Throughout The History?

These two martial arts have already been tested against each other. Listen, there were a lot of matches on the ancient battlefields, but the results are not written in a history book.

I will not discuss the ancient battles, I will focus on combat sports fights. Interestingly, Muay Thai warriors were almost always piecing up the masters of the legendary Chinese martial art.

Early 20th century

There are some documents of Muay Thai vs Kung Fu matchups in the 1920s, where Thai boxing specialists scored dominant victories via early knockout stoppages.

One of the fights ended in a death of a “Crane Fist” practitioner, Tian Ling, who was put to sleep by a violent Muay Thai elbow in 1924. Due to this tragedy, the competition between the two fighting styles was brought to a halt until the late 50s.

The Era Of The 1970s

In December 1973, another legendary Muay Thai Vs Kung Fu clash happened at the Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok. But again, ring warriors from Thailand were unstoppable. Two Chinese fighters from Hong Kong gave their best to defeat their rivals but both were stopped by brutal first-round knockouts.

In 1974, the team of 5 fighters from Taiwan and Hong Kong returned to the country of Muay Thai origin, trying to even up the score. But again, Thai fighters were more than dominant and scored 5 back-to-back stoppage wins.

Back at that age, Thai boxing was so superior martial art. Clinching and violent shin strikes were making a lot of problems for masters of all Kung Fu styles.

The Legendary Muay Thai Vs Kung Fu Wars – Buakaw Banchamek Vs Yi Long

But the fight I am looking forward to the most is Buakaw Banchamek (the former K1 winner, Thai boxing national champ) vs Yi Long (the master of, according to fans’ words, Shaolin Kung Fu, and one of the guys with the strongest chin in the history of martial arts, kickboxing record 62-12-1).

The match was ruled by kickboxing rules, so Buakaw had to forget about elbows, while Yi was unable to kick the opponent under the knee. Oh, he had to say goodbye to a brutal oblique kick to the knee too.

The First Battle

Buakaw’s clinch skills were too much for Yi Long, who was constantly dealing with problems from close range, as Buakaw was destroying him with violent knees to the stomach.

A whisper of hope for the Kung Fu master appeared in the second round when he changed tactics and started landing unorthodox strikes and scored a lot of points. He even caught the opponent’s leg on a few occasions and potentially won the round.

Yet, Buakaw didn’t want to lose the fight and he started pushing the pace in round three. After 15 minutes of total war, the Thai fighter scored a clear victory (he won two out of three rounds).

The Second Fight – Yi Long’s Revenge

The second battle took place in Nanjing, China, and it was Yi’s chance to avenge the loss in a previous fight. Yet, as soon as the bout started, Buakaw continued destroying him off the clinch. But the Chinese competitor was way tougher compared to the first battle. He even dazed Buakaw once.

The Thai fighter was pushing the pace but the majority of Yi Long’s counterstrikes found the mark. The Kung Fu warrior fought differently this time – he was trying to outsmart Buakaw and use his mistakes against him. I believe Buakaw should’ve won the battle, but the judges scored it in the favor of the Chinese competitor.

The third fight was in the works in 2019, but it never came to fruition, the score between the two legends of the sport remained a tie.

Kung Fu Vs Muay Thai – Which One Works Better For Self-Defense?

Well, I will analyze these parameters step-by-step. There are no rules in the street fight, and you can use any technique to defend (you can even strike the opponent with a blunt object). Each martial art has its good and bad sides when dealing with an aggressive bully, so let’s start.


Kung Fu works well against a bully who wraps his hands around you. The majority of Kung Fu styles are known for the wonderful defense against an opponent on your back or a strong, powerful attacker who grabs your t-shirt or jacket and tries to teach you a lesson.

Every Kung Fu style will work well against this kind of attacker, but Wushu and Sanda are my favorites to deal with this kind of bully.

In Muay Thai, you can sweep the opponent or cut him open via brutal, violent elbows from close range. I think Muay Thai vs Kung Fu score is a tie here.

Slaps Or Hooks

I like Muay Thai here, as there’s a great chance of turning the lights out via violent elbow, fist, or grabbing the cocky bully into a double-collar clinch and finishing the bout. Kung Fu is ok here too, but they’ll mostly try to evade the strike and counter, while Thai warrior eats a shot to land a shot.

Pressure Bully

I will have to give the edge to Kung Fu here because the masters of Chinese martial art are taught to circle the opponent and outsmart him. They will look for the opening and make the bully go crazy with counters.

For Muay Thai fighters, pressure means “I want to fight toe-to-toe”. Yes, it will work in many cases, but when a welterweight meets heavyweight, that might not be the greatest idea. So I think Kung Fu works better in this situation.

Takedown Bully

Well, Kung Fu is not the greatest martial art when it comes to takedown defense. Yet, Muay Thai’s straight knee could turn the lights out on the greatest wrestler in the world if the timing is right, plus you can move your stomach backward (that move exists when you stay away from teep kick).

Sanda teaches you to stuff a takedown attempt, but I’d choose Muay Thai here. The big knee is a fantastic way to end the fight.

Bully Who Puts In Your Face

Kung Fu offers so many different ways to counter this, especially Wushu (known for quick open palm strikes). Yet, Muay Thai fighters can clinch up, control the opponent, and unload a barrage of potential fight-ending bombs.

I say both styles rock here, but I’d have to give a slight advantage to Thai boxing. More options lead to better chances of stopping the attacker.


Muay Thai vs Kung Fu fights almost always ended in the favor of Thai warriors, but some Kung Fu styles can help you to defend in a real-life situation.

Kung Fu focuses on quickness, intelligence, and combos, while Muay Thai focuses on eating shots and destroying your opponent via powerful bombs in a toe-to-toe fight. Muay Thai works amazingly against a bully who tries to scare you from close range, while ancient Chinese martial art could be so deadly from long range.

What do you think, which martial art is better, Kung Fu or Muay Thai?

Last Updated on July 24, 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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