Sanda vs Muay Thai: which style is more effective?

Sanda vs Muay Thai: strong and weak points of each style

Sanda, also known as Chinese boxing, is a hybrid martial art based on Kung Fu with elements of kickboxing and wrestling. Muay Thai, on the other hand, is based on a traditional set of techniques with a heavy influence on Western boxing. Let us take a look at what makes each respective style unique and which one provides fighters with a better set of skills for a stand-up fighting.

Sanda [Sanshou] is not a very popular sport outside of China; not many trains this martial art which means that there is a small pool of talents and low competition in the ring. This situation doesn't help to train top fighters that could successfully compete with the best mixed martial artists in MMA formula or Muay Thai fighters and Kickboxers under K1/Glory ruleset.
This is the major weakness of Sanshou. Not the set of techniques or training methods but a lack of following and competition makes Sanda weaker than some other martial arts like Muay Thai or Kickboxing.

Sanda vs Muay Thai: cons and pros of each respective style

Lack of high-level competition

It would seem that Sanda is more suitable for MMA competitions than Muay Thai since it utilizes throws and takedown. But the opposite seems to be true. A lot of fighters with a stand up striking background trained Muay Thai as their basic style (with added takedown defence) but there are no significant fighters with Sanda background. Again, low popularity/low competition of Sanda may be blamed for this fact.

Muay Thai has a very tough and rigoristic selection process so becoming a professional champion means a lot. And those who reached the top are one of the toughest stand-up strikers in the world.

Read Muay Thai in MMA to learn more about it.

The rules

Another reason of a low popularity of Sanda, which also applies to Muay Thai to some extent, may be the ruleset. Each big formula like UFC, Strikeforce, K1/Glory has it's own ruleset that favor some martial arts over the others. Muay Thai blends well into K1 formula and it has also formed a sizeable pool of stand up strikers in the UFC and Strikeforce. Sanda, on the other hand, doesn't seem to blend well in any of those formulas. Some rules, like pushing the other fighter out of the ring for points, doesn't benefit skills that may be useful in any major martial arts promotion.

Lack of head movement

Head movement, or rather a lack of it; Sanda fighters tend to keep their chins up and a neck straight. This weakness may be easily exploited by Muay Thai fighters with solid boxing skills.


My last point is that Sanshou still relies - to a lesser or a greater degree - on forms. I wrote about a major weakness of forms in Karate vs Muay Thai post. In short: practising forms is an obsolete form of training that doesn't benefit fighter as much as a solid sparring session with a skilled opponent.
I understand that every fighter needs to learn basic techniques of a respective martial art in order to improve and be able to learn a more advanced fighting skills. But there are more effective ways to do this - like sparring - than punching the air.

Also take a look at:

Sanda vs Muay Thai: Yi Long versus Buakaw

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