Thursday, June 21, 2012

Muay Thai vs Taekwondo: Is Taekwondo Effective?

A long standing debate in MMA and kickboxing is whether or not Taekwondo is an effective art in comparison to Muay Thai. Taekwondo and Muay Thai are both exclusively stand-up styles that have both found their ways into the ring. Currently, Muay Thai is the standup style of well over 75% of all professional MMA fighters, while Taekwondo has taken a backseat as being only a background art practiced by fighters in their youth.

What is to blame for this lack of Taekwondo in the ring? There are multiple factors and no one is innocent. During the martial arts movie craze of the 70s to 80s, hordes of martial arts enthusiasts emerged from the theaters and basements of America. While many of these movies were Kung Fu and Karate oriented, word quickly got out that the acrobatic, spinning, and flying kicks were largely Taekwondo-based. Soon, movie fans everywhere wanted to learn these "deadly" techniques. But where could they find them? Martial arts schools of any kind were hard to find. As fate would have it, politics and immigration policies drastically changed just around this time period. In 1965, the United States lifted the stringent immigration laws on Asia. Immediately, waves of East Asians entered America. Within approximately 10 years, Koreans, specifically, reached the Top Ten List of people immigrating to America in numbers. With well over a million directly foreign-born Koreans from both the North and the South, came entire families, often unskilled labor. With fierce competition in any field, some turned to what they had done for sport in Korea: Taekwondo.

Now that Taekwondo schools were open, the martial arts movie fans now had a place to train to become the badass-killer-movie-star-kicking machines they had seen in the movies. The problem was, many soon discovered that they were not willing to put up with the training to do so. After all, Taekwondo in the the 1950's and 1960's was still a military martial art. In fact, there was very little resemblance to modern Taekwondo at all, it was a form of Korean Karate with a slight emphasis on kicks. Leg checks, low kicks, knockouts, and knees were common. Sparring was often with little-to-no padding and hogus/chest protectors would only emerge in great numbers in the 70s.  To the vast majority of the American public, this was not at all what they had expected. As droves of Americans left the dojangs, the instructors and owners had to think of new ways to appeal to their audience. The simplest solution? To drastically lower requirements and the intensity of training.

Within ten years, Taekwondo became heavily commercialized. Taekwondo summer camps opened up. The WTF emerged and with it came a new generation of sport Taekwondo. With "belt factory" dojangs being opened left and right, the ratio of quality fighters to hobbyists fell dramatically. As many of us know, a large portion of Taekwondo schools offer a workout barely comparable with a high school P.E class. Taekwondo went from an small martial art taught in a similar fashion to full-contact Karate to a global sport version of  glorified foot fencing.

The elimination of many techniques formerly found in Taekwondo has rendered much of the art ineffective in MMA. However, many Taekwondo kicks are still found and extensively used in these gladiatorial fights. MMA fighters still train with Taekwondo athletes to perfect hook kick and specifically the side and back kick, which are not commonly found in other arts. Much of the footwork found in Taekwondo has also transitioned to long-range MMA fighting.

But where does this stand in relation to Muay Thai? It's quite simple. Muay Thai and MMA is rapidly following the same pattern as Taekwondo and Karate in the American media and public, through the television, movies, and video games. With starry-eyed youth envying the fighting machines in the Octagon, many want to learn "The Art of the Eight Limbs" a.k.a Thai Boxing or Muay Thai and are convinced of its invincibility by numerous sites like these. However, just as with Taekwondo and Karate, many of these people simply can't stand with the rigorous training requirements of the original sport. Some schools are beginning to eliminate knees and elbows due to safety concerns and elbows are downright illegal in many U.S states.

Inherently, both Muay Thai and Taekwondo are very effective arts. Taekwondo may return to its traditional basis as the McDojo cycle ends, as it is already being considered to be removed from the Olympics. What will take its place? Who knows. It might be Muay Thai. As with any Olympic sport, that could be the death knell for its effectiveness in actual combat due to shifting rule sets.

Muay Thai is rapidly being "McDojo'd" with corporate hawks waiting to descend onto their money-spending prey. Who are these people? Not unexpectedly, it is the largest MMA corporation in the entire world that is pushing these McDojos forth.

To quote the UFC Chairman and CEO:

""We're not looking to train or create fighters, we're looking to create a fun family environment.”

And so it begins.


Anonymous said...

Oh come on why would the UFC McDojo their own style

TaekwonPro said...

What their intentions are is practically irrelevent, the point is that they DID and ARE actively McDojo-ing and promoting the McDojo-ization of MMA with their own branches.

Anonymous said...

It's not even an arguement, MT is superior in pretty much everyway, from kicking to elbows, put any low level MT fighter in the ring with any high level TKD fighter and the MT person will win

Anonymous said...

Anon, you can't say a blanket statement like that- that one martial art will always beat another. A smart martial artist when challenged with a remark like that will alter the way he/she spars to beat their opponent. Ie- you say you can beat any TKD kick? Then it is up to the TKD practitioner to alter their way of sparring to uncover the opponents weaknesses.

The way that martial arts die is by being unbending and refusing to take on new ideas. I'm lucky enough to train at a school which actively encourages students and instructors to find and train in other martial arts. We are even lucky enough to have a Master who brings in experts in other styles to train us. I've learnt boxing, Philippino stick fighting, kickboxing and more on top of my normal curriculum. It creates such a thirst for more knowledge.

Anonymous said...

"I've learnt boxing, Philippino stick fighting, kickboxing and more"

That's not a typical Taekwondo school.

Anonymous said...

Taekwondo can kicks Muay Thai's ass any day.

Taekwondo doesn't go into MMA because we're not interested in being part of a bloodsport with drunk fans.

All the Youtube videos with MT beating TKD are high rated, while all the ones with TKD beating MT are low rated.

Anonymous said...

MT has slow kicks and bad punches, 'nuff said

logic11 said...

I train TKD, and have trained MT. In the end, both have their strong and weak points. TKD is faster, and has better footwork. MT has a great deal more power. When I want to kick with a lot of power I usually use the techniques from MT, but I often setup those techniques with TKD. This is common among people who have trained multiple styles effectively.

Warthog said...

A punch is a punch, a kick is a kick. There are only so many ways you can impact one part of yourself into another person.

Every system of a similar type will use more or less the same techniques. Where they vary is in which techniques are emphasized and how they are employed.

Although slightly different in terms of execution, there is little, if any, functional difference between a Thai boxer's round kick and that of a taekwondoin. A competent fighter is a competent fighter, and an incompetent fighter is meat, regardless of system.

Anonymous said...

MT fighters are much tougher than TKD..MT professionals fight without protection,in comparison the TKD fights are allowed only with head and body protection.
When it comes to a fight between two champions,my money is on the MT fighter without any doubt.

Oz said...

Hello, I'm here again, seeing updates. Excellent post, congratulations.
Greetings from:

Fahd Naoui said...

i have done TKD since i was 7 and i'm 30 now. went professional outside the US. i did fight other styles and i did believe before that style makes diference. but i relized later on when i got to a hight level of of marcial arts. i noticed that it is not about the style you practice, it about the mindset when you get to the ring. i did have fights agains MT, kick boxing...and i did win mostly by KO's. but at the final fight i was KO'ed by the same marcial art i practice. now as a US Marine i do MMA, but TKD is always my 1st choice because i'm 6.1 tall and kicking is more conveniant and TKD is the fastest marcial art in kicking. good luck to everyone, and remumber marcial arts are self discipline and self control more then offence. Ooorah!!!

Anonymous said...

The law of physic stated that F=Ma, which is Force equal to Mass x Acceleration and person with great force (F) easily can knock down any person. With the leg you have and you can kick faster as what TKD school emphasis on...and the law of physic says it all.

Anonymous said...

Muay Thai is way stronger in forms of creating devastating blows, the clinch is also deadly where you can rain knees and elbows. TKD ain't got shit on Thai Boxing!

Anonymous said...

I have trained in several different styles ( wing chun, karate, Gracie ju jitsu, capoeria as well as military hand to hand) and have found that if you can adapt one style can merge with another and if you adapt to your surroundings odds are you will be the victor. Warthog kicks are not just kicks and the same for punches . Please watch the sports science show topic martial arts best or strongest kick 4 different styles the results are impressive

Anonymous said...

My TKD side kick is way more devastating than any MT fighter's round kick at max power

Anonymous said...

Pls, I learned Muay Thai, and when I bigger sized guy who is more fit than me wanted to spar with me, he is a black-red belt. His kicks are fast but I learned to block it with my shin and I literally out punched him. Plus, Muay Thai made me even more aggressive, so he was scared with my devastating fast and powerful low kicks, he was left limping the whole day, even though it was only a sparring match.

Anonymous said...

Okay, lets put it this way... Muay thai specializes in knees, and elbows... Am I right? Now Taekwondo, is on kicks and punches...

Who wins?

Nobody, Taekwondo is faster whole Muay thai is way slower, but way more powerful.
People who think Taekwondo is all kicks, you'll be wrong. Step into a Taekwondo Dojo and no matter how strong you are; You'll get your face messed up so bad your mom won't even know its you steppin' in da door, den she slap yo face cuz u got rekt by a frik'n 7 yr old who was only a frik'n white belt. Den u cry cuz ur ugly.


Now lets put a TKD (Traditional)guy v a Muay Thai guy.
Round 1: TKD guy lands good body kicks and some punches to the ribs while MT was trying to enter the clinch of death. (I've been there: He broke ma rib). :_(
Round 2: MT guy lands an elbow... TKD guy is dizzy. MT enters clinch... TKD guy knees him in the gut.
Round 3: In like 2 seconds TKD guy does a flying roundhouse kick and KO!
WINNER: TAEKWONDO (Because Taekwondo is fast, it can land devastating kicks, as well and punches). Taekwondo was actually used to kill people in the past, that's why you get told not to use it unless it's self defense, or protecting someone.

(MT is still good, it has the clinch of death, das the one dat broke ma rib :_( pls don h8 jus don8 m8 and also apreci8 cuz ma friend n8 8 ur ma's b8. k gbai m8

Spike 최 said...

I'm a black belt in TKD and decide to go undercover and give MT a try.

MT has some interesting training techniques, they train nearly as hard as TKD, on par. They train for more strength and power.

TKD has far more flexibility and agility, more devastating combinations with equal power to MT. While MT does have some better upper body moves. This is why I got into JKD, to compensate for TKD's lack of upper body techniques.

In combat, I strongly feel a skilled tactical TKD combatant would mop the floor with a MT fighter of equal level any day of the week.

Unknown said...

Here is the good news. Every Muay Thai technique can be found in TKD. The most awesome part of TKD is adapting.

The only issue is the way it's trained. I can take a TKD class and get the guys to do bag work, knees, low kicks and elbows all night. With the exeption of clinching we can do an entire must thai class using TKD. Traditional stances and fighting stances are all different and that is where we go wrong. Also TKD fighters can choose to fight on there toes or flat foot like Muay Thai.

I am a Muay Thai and TKD practitioner... and the only thing I do extra from Muay Thai is clinch, otherwise I can do all Muay Thai techniques like a TKD fighter. Change the fitness training. Change the conditioning, focusing on Thai Techniques using TKD and you have yourself a TKD fighter that fights like a muay thai fighter. Sorry lads, TKD has 90% of Muay Thai techniques in it, not the other way around.

Times are changin!

Green Beast said...

Someone who actually sees through the bullshit.