Kung Fu vs Muay Thai: two stand-up fighting styles that derived from similar cultures of the Far East. Both of them utilize kicks and punches while Muay Thai also makes use of knees and elbows.
Kung Fu is an ancient martial art that has been created around 2500 years ago. Thai boxing is younger: it has been around for 600 years but also has a rich history and traditions.
Kung Fu, just like Karate, is generally known to a wider audience, especially thanks to famous adepts and actors like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan.
Muay Thai may be less prominent than Kung Fu in popular culture, however, it is quickly getting more traction due to its presence in MMA competitions. It is also trying to get Olympic recognition.
Both systems are historically rooted in military weapon-based martial arts: Wushu for Kung Fu and Krabi Krabong for Muay Thai respectively.
Same to Karate, Kung Fu is built around forms while the main focus of Muay Thai is sparring. Practicing forms and poses doesn't prepare a fighter for a real battle with skilled opponents and it is not a very effective way to learn either. Thai boxers on the other hand practice their skills by sparring.
This approach allows students to learn more quickly and, which is even more important, to obtain skills that are useful in a real fight.
I have already pointed out forms - kata - weaknesses in Karate vs Muay Thai post. The same applies to methods of training: in Muay Thai they are based on practicing with the real opponent instead of punching the air.
In the '70s a famous match between 5 Kung Fu and 5 Muay Thai fighters took place in the Lumphini Stadium in Bangkok. Chinese martial arts adepts came to prove themselves against Nak Muay.
Thai fighters won 5 out of 5 bouts in total. All of them were in the first round by KO or TKO. They even agreed to fight bare-handed at the request of Kung Fu practitioners who wanted to take advantage of their fist techniques. They were helpless against Muay Thai and its techniques and fighting philosophy.
As a matter of fact, there was no single recorded competition where Chinese martial artists prevailed against Thais in the ring. Muay Thai just proves to be better in professional combat sports competitions.
Quick warp to present time: Max 3 2013 Muay Thai competition in Zhengzhou, China. Muay Thai fighters from all over the world and a lot of Chinese Thai Boxing adepts compete against each other. Chinese fighters have learned their lesson and started training and adapting to the Thai kickboxing fighting style.
Who knows, it may evolve into some form of a new interesting hybrid style. Why? Because Muay Thai is very effective. Thai boxers are hardened by years of sparring and fighting. There is no place for complicated forms but for straightforward techniques and body conditioning only.
It also makes Muay Thai more effective for self-defense.
I have recently watched the famous fight between Buakaw Por Pramuk and Yi Long "Shaolin Monk". It is a very interesting bout to watch, especially the beginning of the fight. It also shows why proper body conditioning and great stamina are so important to become a complete fighter.
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