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Muay Thai Vs Pencak Silat: A Head-To-Head Comparison

muay thai vs pencak silat comparison
muay thai vs pencak silat

I’ve always been fascinated with the defensive aspect of Pencak Silat. The Indonesian martial art turns you into a real ninja. It was very useful before firearms, as Silat masters were trained to battle with and against all kinds of weapons. They would’ve had a solid chance of defending themselves against all kinds of blades, in any surrounding.

But competitive rules of Silat are strict. Fighters wear armor. Strikes to the head and below the belt are sanctioned. You can only hit the body or trip your opponent. I will try to make a high-quality Muay Thai vs Pencak Silat comparison. Check which martial works better in a specific situation!

What Makes Pencak Silat So Specific?

The answer is simple – the ability to fight in any surrounding, against all kinds of opponents. The masters of traditional Pencak Silat can defend against any attacker, blunt object, or weapon. Of course, nobody’s faster than a gun, but disarming might work when you’re close to the attacker.

Silat is pretty much adjustable martial art. I’ve seen Pencak Silat battles and training sessions taking place in mud, swamp, storm, or drizzle. These guys are always ready to fight to survive, warrior mentality comes first. Dirty strikes are allowed, the ultimate goal is to defuse your opponent.

You’re not using the foe’s weaknesses against him. The goal of Silat is to win the fight by any means necessary. The use of weapons is perfectly fine if your life is at stake.

There are over 150 styles of Pencak Silat too. The most famous ones are Minangkabau, Java, Riau, Sunda, Betawi, Bali… Every style has its specifications.

Pencak Silat World Championships exist since 1982 and are organized by PERSILAT. You can compete in four disciplines – Tanding (match), Tunggal (single), Ganda (double), and Regu (team).

Which Are The Greatest Muay Thai Vs Pencak Silat Stance Differences?

Well, this is number one on the list of Muay Thai vs Pencak Silat differences. Stances are different thanks to the competition’s rules. But even traditional Silat forms are based on keeping hands low and reactions to the incoming attacks.

I told you that Muay Thai fighters like to defend with forearms, elbows, and shins. The weight is shifted on the rear leg, while a leading one serves to block or to transition from defense to offense in the split of a second.

In Silat, low kick defense is almost non-existent as rules only allow kicks and punches to the body armor. Sideways stance is pretty much popular. Both legs are rotated to the inside, knees are flexed, and palms are opened. Your leading leg is way more active thanks to pushing, side, and oblique kicks.

Punches are at the level of your body, as there is no need to defend massive bombs to the head. The leading arm is at the level of your hip, while the rear arm protects the ribs. This is good for sports fights, but keeping your hands too low in a realistic bout leaves you vulnerable to head strikes.

Pencak Silat’s stance is similar to the Thai stanza only when fighters fight inside the pocket, as Silat rules allow sweeps. Unfortunately, clinch bombs to the head are prohibited by the rules. Pencak competitors will try to outsmart the opponent and score more points while Thai martial artists chase a knockout or a TKO by any means necessary.

Stance switch is kinda common in Silat competitions, and I am noticing some similarities with a Taekwondo stance. In new-era Taekwondo, the leading leg creates way more points because of the new electronic armors and headgears, so even the slightest touch might lead to 1-0.

In Taekwondo, the weight is shifted a bit more on the rear leg, while Silat competitors tend to distribute the weight evenly. Yet, the stance switch movement pattern is very similar. Body punches too.

Can You Describe Greatest Striking And Footwork Differences?

I don’t see many footwork differences, as both martial arts are based on step-drag forward and backward. In Pencak Silat, the stance switch is normal.

Muay Thai fighters rarely switch stance, unless their leading leg is hurt. I’d say that Pencak Silat fighters circle more. I’d also give tricky shots an advantage to the Indonesian martial art.

muay thai footwork

Strikes are way different. Muay Thai kicks, punches, knees, and elbows are designed to destroy the opponent by any means necessary. Maximum power comes first, and speed comes second. Silat fighters use the leading leg more often, as competitions allow kicks and punches to the body. It is easier to score a point with the leading leg.

Traditional Silat styles are based on straight-line attacks. They like to intercept their opponents with one or two strikes and rarely choose to fight toe-to-toe. Imagine it this way – Muay Thai fighters fight with their hearts, while Pencak Silat warriors rarely take part in a violent brawl. The masters of Indonesian martial art prefer tactics and trickiness over combos and pressure.

But I discovered similarities in Muay Thai vs Pencak Silat analysis – there are very few lateral moves. Both martial arts are pretty much based around the central line. It would be a huge problem in an MMA bout, for example, as it’d lead to poor takedown defense.

Which Are Differences In Technical Aspect Of The Game?

You can fight tactically in Muay Thai, but only elite-level fighters do that. Regular competitors brawl toe-to-toe, march forward, eat shots to land a shot until the last dying breath. The retreat is not an option, you can move sideways and fire back if you want to.

Pencak Silat is a very tactical martial art. Sometimes fighters feint many times before the attack. They also mask their attacks with fake moves. They switch stances a lot and tend to confuse the opponent first, then land a shot to the free area of the body.

Level change works better in Muay Thai bouts. It comes naturally, as Pencak Silat competitors master body shots and sweeps. A Thai warrior can change all three levels in one combo – leg, stomach, and head. Plus he might enter the clinch and trip you later.

Which One Works Better In The Street?

Muay Thai is super-suitable for close-range bouts and cocky bullies as you can always clinch up and teach them a lesson with knees and elbows. Thai warriors are also dangerous from long range. Pencak Silat’s competitor is very much limited when it comes to defensive abilities so I will give one point to Thai boxing again.

But wait, there is more to come! Now let me focus on Muay Thai vs traditional Pencak Silat street comparison. The non-competitive aspect of Indonesian martial art covers weapon fighting and defense, plus it allows hits to the weak areas of the body. It reminds me a bit of Krav Maga.

So when somebody attacks you with a knife, it’d be better for you to master the non-competitive version of Silat. I am telling you, Muay Thai is very helpful, but low blows and eye gouges are prohibited.

There are no weight classes in the street. Dirty shots are important for victory. The traditional form of Silat offers very great defensive techniques, even hits with arm and leg at the same time. And believe me, it can be very harmful!

How About Muay Thai Vs Pencak Silat Sports Comparison?

As everything depends on the ruleset. Silat offers more ground techniques, but Muay Thai clinch skills are deadly for everybody. As you know already Thai boxing is not useful on the ground.

I think Silat gets more chances when you allow ground strikes. Restrict punches to the body and low kicks, you’ll give Thai boxing a hard time. Yet, allow all kinds of stand-up blows and I believe Pencak Silat loses nine out of ten times.

You will say I am biased. But I say Thai boxing wins as long as Muay Thai fighter keeps the fight on the feet and lands violent strikes to the face or legs.

Thai bouts are way more ruthless, fighters usually leave the ring with cuts or bad bruises. The competitive Pencak Silat is dangerous, but you’ll rarely walk out with a nasty leg injury or a bruised face. There are fewer restrictions in Muay Thai, plus the referee isn’t going to step in every 10-15 seconds. Clinch work is perfectly legal.

Thai bout demands better cardio. In other words – more rounds will lead to greater chances for the master of the ancient Siamese martial art.


Muay Thai vs Pencak Silat demanded a lot of thinking. I watched a few Silat competitions, and I’ve noticed that rules turned it into a real sport, prohibiting deadly strikes and limiting striking surfaces.

Thai competitions are harder, your body suffers more damage. Pencak Silat offers better ground skills, but Muay Thai warriors should get an advantage on the feet. But the traditional, non-competitive shapes of the Indonesian martial art would give everybody a hard time. What are your thoughts on my Muay Thai vs Pencak Silat comparative analysis? Please leave me a comment 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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