Mixing Martial Arts: Muay Thai + Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Since the beginning of civilization, an age-old question has been asked regarding martial arts: which one is best? Whether it be medieval knights comparing sword fighting techniques or Chinese families competing to find a dominant form of Wushu, the quest for the warrior’s best has been engrained in the human race. A myriad of factors must be taken into consideration when choosing a martial art in today’s world, all depending on the preference of the user. Is the style useful in a street fight or is it more for competition? Is it better for attacking or defending? How long does it take to become proficient in the style? Does it employ weapons? Is it beneficial as a workout regimen? There may not be any one martial art that is greatest, but there can be the best combination that benefits the most people. This combination is Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Strengths of Muay Thai
Muay Thai is an aggressive form of martial arts developed in Thailand. It has been called the Art of Eight Limbs, because it has the practitioner use fists, elbows, knees, and shins while fighting. Muay Thai focusses mainly on striking and clinching, or stand-up grappling. Muay Thai’s philosophy dictates that the entire body become a weapon with the intent to knock out or incapacitate the opponent. On the contact scale of “soft” to “hard,” Muay Thai is on the far hard end.
There are seven basic punches, eight basic elbow strikes, nine basic kicks (with the shins as point of contact), eight basic knee strikes, and five foot-thrusts, all of which are designed to either deal damage to the opponent or create distance between the fighter and opponent. When distance is no longer an option, Muay Thai fighters perform clinches and stand-up grapples. Unlike in some martial arts sports such as boxing, clinching in Muay Thai does not mean the fighting stops. Instead, opponents grapple for position inside the clinch, often throwing elbows and knees to do so. In fact, some Muay Thai fighters use their elbows and knees the most when they are in a clinched position.
Training in Muay Thai involves many aspects that are seen in other martial arts. Cardiovascular stamina is a must, and to build strength and speed most serious Muay Thai practitioners condition by running, jumping rope, doing plyometric exercises, and abdominal strength training. Training itself involves learning different strikes and combinations of strikes and practicing them. Practice can take place by using a heavy punching bag, Thai pads, and sparring with partners. In addition, since Muay Thai practitioners make contact with their shins so much, they will often harden their shins by striking hard punching bags. Eventually the shins become extremely tough, the bones actually growing stronger on a microscopic level.
Strengths of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a sort of counterpoint to Muay Thai. While it is not as “hard” as Muay Thai, it can be brutally effective at defeating an opponent. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu derives its origins from Judo ground fighting. The style seen today is both an adaptation from Judo taken by Carlos and Helio Gracie and the evolution of Kodokan Judo’s newer generations of students. Subtle differences remain between the schools of thought, but the basics are the same. The philosophy of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dictates that a smaller opponent can defeat a larger opponent by properly applied force and technique. With that being said, one main goal of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is to bring the opponent to the ground. Its user then employs an arsenal of choke-holds and joint locks in an effort to cause the opponent to tap out or pass out.
There are several different techniques for ground fighting in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, all of which aim to establish and maintain dominant control over the opponent. Guards, full mounts, and side control are all forms of ground fighting. Guards involve controlling the opponent with the legs while the fighter is on his or her back. Full mounts involve being on top of the opponent, straddling the chest pinning them to the ground in a dominant position. Side control involves a fighter on top of the opponent, keeping the opponent in check with the side of the body. Each form has many different choke-hold and joint lock opportunities. Two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters engage each other in a method more similar to wrestling, employing different techniques and thwarting submission attempts until one outmatches the other.
Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be more real-world than many martial arts. On top of additional cardiovascular exercises, it can be a phenomenal workout in and of itself. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu works many tiny supplemental muscle groups that exercises like pushups, pullups, and squats do not target. In addition, since the art typically contains few strikes, sparring sessions involve less wear and tear on the individuals training. In fact, since this is the case, many moves can be practiced almost at full speed, with each partner using their techniques to the best of their abilities.
Muay Thai and BJJ Together
Both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have compelling qualities, but they are very different from one another. Who would win in a fight between a Muay Thai champion and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master? They both excel in two opposite styles of fighting. The answer, then, is to learn both to make the ultimate martial arts combination. Fighting can be broken down into three distinct phases: the striking phase, the grappling phase, and the ground phase. Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu overlap perfectly to dominate all three phases. Individual fighters are more successful in one area than another—people will always have their strengths and weaknesses—but learning to be efficient in all three phases will prepare someone for any fight. In a Mixed Martial Arts competition, a combination of Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has exactly the skillset needed. Many successful MMA fighters use techniques from both these martial arts, including former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. In a real-world scenario, Muay Thai will end a fight quickly with brutal strikes while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will enable fighters to defend themselves on the ground, as well as offering a resolution to the fight that does not end in massive physical damage to the opponent. Regardless of personality or skill level, this combination will best equip you for the world of martial arts.
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