The Muay Thai Clinch 101:

Discussion in 'Standup Technique' started by Sinister, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. Sinister Doctor of Doom

    Sinister
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    Alright, so here it is. I see very bad clinching nowadays, so I'll share with you guys how to develope a powerful clinch that will make you feared by your enemies, admired by your peers, and women toss wet panties fresh from their loins at you as you pass them on the street.

    There's a lot of mistakes I see in the current MMA game. One of the biggest thing is hesitation. In the clinch there's no reason to be reserved, you're RIGHT THERE. Your opponent is right in your face. No more hard work to get to the man, he's there, what the Hell are you waiting on? HIT HIM.

    That being said, as was being discussed in another thread there are a plethora of techniques you can employ to make your clinch something of legend. Number one is avoid standing up straight and tall unless you plan to deliver a knee to the face. Standing up tall takes away your leverage and allows for an opponent with a lower center of gravity to muscle you around. It's the reason clinches get reversed. Keep your knees bent and chin down. You learn this in Football, Wrestling, and Martial Arts such as Judo, that there are points on a man's body where you can push and pull and he'll almost automatically fall over. Keeping a low center of gravity is a very very good way to capitalize on this. For instance one thing I do to initiate a clinch from a distance is walk very fast at my opponent (when I say very fast I mean VERY fast, not running, but like he blinks and you're there) and put my hands (or gloves) right on his biceps and then push. This will push him off-balance and take away his ability to throw a counter-punch (your hands and arms will be in his way) and while he's off-balance is when you go for the head. Mind you this all needs to be done VERY FAST, and you need to have your guard up when you initially move in on him because that's when he'll look to counter, while you're moving, if he's smart and fast. Plus you'll be square, which can be very bad.

    Now, assuming you get in close enough to go for his head, as mentioned in another thread there's multiple things you can do with the grip of your hands. I personally like to switch-things up and not use the same grip twice unless he seems completely deer-in-the-headlights when I use a particular technique. But for the most part the first thing I do is SLAM my forearms in a pinch around his neck and secure his head in my hands (or between my gloves). I press on his neck with my forearms, making it hurt, making it tough for him to breathe. This also gives you control over his neck, which if you pull and torque on it, he'll move with you wherever you pull him. Now, another key principal to a sound clinch is to MOVE YOUR FEET. You never just stand still and keep your feet in the same place. I don't even keep my feet square in the clinch, always one back one forward, almost like a lunge position unless I shoot in close to switch up positions (which I'll elaborate on in a minute). So one leg back, the other forward. Forearms on either side of the neck pinching tight. Now that rear-leg. From as far back as you can you send it into your opponent's body as hard as you can WHILE PULLING FORWARD on the head and neck. This will disrupt it if he tries to block your knee with his forearms. He'll be drawn forward and hopefully mis-calculate the position. You might also land a bit lower that you anticipate. Not so much chest and mid-stomach as waistline, which hurts a shitload more. So you give him a couple of these knees. Now here's where it gets really fun:

    I almost NEVER see guys do this but you're supposed to move your man in the clinch. You throw like two or three knees and don't knock him out. Now he's wise and will get comfy enough to begin to think of a counter. You DO NOT allow this. Yank on his damn neck, TWIST your hips, and bring him around to the other side. BANG BANG...two more knees. Alternate legs as well. But you should throw them deep and hard, Wanderlei Silva is about the only person I can recall throwing them as hard and from as deep as they should be thrown. When you pull and twist your forearms have to be REALLY clamped on his neck, especially if you suspect your man might be stronger than you. Don't stand up tall, don't lean your body into his. Everytime you feel him relax, yank and twist. BANG...knee, BANG BANG, two more knees. Full speed and power. Kneeing to the head from this position is simply a matter of parting your elbows enough to pull his face down into your knees, but understand this is the move that opens you up to be countered for a takedown as it gives him a moment where your arms are not pinching his neck and you have to wait to land the knee. If he times it right he can catch your knee, step in, and you're on your back as soon as he leans on you.

    Now, leave us say you want to re-position your arms. Maybe they're getting tired or your knees are not landing because he knows where they're coming from and going to (there's only so much angle variation possible). So what you do is keep your arms tight to his neck and step-in (I would do so while kneeing) and quickly slip a hand down under one of his arms and around the shoulder. Tuck your forehead to his neck and slip your other arm around the back of his neck on the opposite side. Now you have an underhook on one side and his neck clinched on the other side, your forehead pressed to his neck on the underhook side, and possibly the side of his jaw if you have a head like mine. Now you SQUEEZE...HARD. This will SUCK for him. But from the waist down you're still a bit aways from him. You can pop knees in this position all day and there's very little he can do about it if he ends up here. The only real way he'll be able to counter would be to twist his hips while holding around your shoulders and try to throw you down. Or simply overpower you. But it will be very hard to do. The underhook will leave one of his sides exposed, knee that as many times as you can. Now if he begins to overpower you you're also close enough to switch the underhook if you can catch him being too cautious or trying to reverse it on you. Plus with strategic forearm-placement you can go back to the original position by quickly reversing the motions needed to get this close, of course as with anything this had to be done FAST. There is also a side-clinch. When you move to underhook if you bend your knees and throw his arm over your head then stand up a bit quickly and clamp your arms over his opposite shoulder, keeping your face tight near his shoulder-blade on the side closest to you, his arm will be pinned between your head and his and his other arm will be all the way on the other side of his body. GREAT thing about this clinch position is you can knee his gut on one side, and his back or thigh on the other. It's damn-near impossible to go back to original clinch-position from here but it can lead to a wonderful takedown.

    A real Muay Thai clinch expends a lot of energy as you can see. And you have to be in pretty damn good shape to do it properly. There are some exercises you can do to get your clinch very strong particularly. Drills are of course one of the best ways to do so:

    Blocking Pad Drills - In my class I used to have two blocking pads. I would have a student hold both of them, one facing me and the other facing either side. Now you grab your partner's head between your forearms as I described, and practice slamming those pads until he says "alright man..oof!!... shit...OOF, that's enough!!! AHHH! You're hurting...OOF!!...my neck and...OOF OOF!!! I can't breathe!!" Have him switch the pads to either side of his body every couple of minutes. So you can get used to kneeing to the front and kneeing to the side.

    Focus Pad Drills - Your partner holds the focus pads and you assume the same positons. Only now you have a little bit more room to move as the blocking pads are more cumbersome. However, the drawback is your target is smaller. This will help you work on precision knees. To the liver, to the solar-plexus, to the head if he holds the pad head-high on one side.

    Heavy Bag Drills - This thing is a pain in the ass to clinch but what I do is hold near the top of my hanging heavy bag and just machine-gun my knees into it as hard as I can. Be prepared for odd movement as the bag will and should move. Especially in circles even if you're holding it. You should circle the bag as your opponent will try to get away from a very powerful clinch.

    Elbows in the clinch:

    I rarely do this because it compromises the whole idea of clinching. But a well-placed elbow from the clinch can take a lot out of your opponent if not knock him out. From the intiial clinch position you have to let off one arm from his neck and push double hard with the other forearm, moving his head and face right into a very tight compact and as hard an elbow as you can throw. If you want to elbow his body, you'd have to do it while moving into the underhook position. Practice it and you'll see what I mean, there's a sneaky moment in there where if you throw his arm over your head you can elbow him right up under his rib-cage. Do it hard enough and the wind will be knocked out of him. I' also a fan of elbowing to the back of the head if you ever catch them with their head anywhere near your waist.

    Uppercuts in the clinch:

    Initial clinch-position that I described here allows for beautiful uppercuts but poses the same compromises in position and openness to counters as throwing elbows does. When throwing either an uppercut or an elbow be sure and follow-up with either a hook, knee, or another clinch. Don't just stand there and admire your work if you land one. I like to toss an uppercut and even if it doesn't land, SLAM my forearms right back down on either side of his neck. Then BANG BANG, knees.

    Hand-grips:

    In another thread we discussed wether your fingers should be interlaced or not. If you're 100% sure your opponent is finished if you lock in your clinch, or that he will at least have a nightmare of a time getting free of it, then interlock your fingers. Doing this makes your grip all but iron-clad and your pushing and pulling on his head and neck that much tighter. He'll feel like his head and neck are in a monkey-wrench. But if he figures out to fight out of it, you're going to have to let go immediately.

    If you just use the clinch to lead to other things and not necessarily as a reliable finishing technique, then you'd be better-served just to cup your hands either just behind the ears on either side of his head (fingertips or glove-tips near the back of his neck) and hold TIGHT, or place your hands/gloves one-on-top-of-the-other at about the base of the skull.

    Moving OUT of the clinch:

    Very simple rule, never do so peacefully. Either unload a punch combo, or throw a kick. If you want more certainty you'll land something then in your drills, practive pushing your partner or the heavy bag away from you with your hands, forearms, and elbows, then throw your punch combo or kick, or combinaton of both. Or shoot for a takedown, Hell, whatever.

    So just remember. PINCH his neck, don't stand up tall and press your body to his unless you're bombing knees while you do, don't let him breathe, and the minute you feel him relax PULL, YANK, TWIST your hips and shoulders, stumble him around for a minute and BANG BANG, unload knees as soon as you stop, then do it all over again. Don't be still and stagnant in your clinch and you won't get taken down, don't be slow either, fast and hard.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  2. phenomfan1529 Brown Belt

    phenomfan1529
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    Once again, good stuff Kabuki
     
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  3. Zankou Literally Shaking

    Zankou
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    How do you escape/defend the MT clinch? Any advice is appreciated. One thing that occurs to me is uppercuts straight up the middle, blocking knees with your knees. But I've never really heard how you're supposed to do it.
     
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  4. Sinister Doctor of Doom

    Sinister
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    That's a good question Zankou. Of course in the little essay I post are some clues. Number one is to remain relaxed. You know how in Boxing most of the guys who never get knocked out are very relaxed and not tense. This is true for defending against the hard-hitting aspects of traditional Muay Thai. I also gave away the openings in technique. Here's some steps to countering:

    - If you can endure one clinch of this magnitude without getting knocked out you can see how fast your guy moves in to clinch. If you can time him, a straight punch up the pipe will back him off. A hard-ass cross anytime he LOOKS like he's going to try to clinch.

    - If you get locked up relax, and you can throw counter-knees when he knees, yes, a good strategy. You can also shuck elbows downward into his thighs as he brings them up. Another thing is punches to the back of the head come to mind if you can get away with dirtying up the pool.

    - Going for a single-leg is kind of silly. But bending your knees, scooping, and slamming off a double-leg takedown is a good tactic if you can time the leg-grab, now if the MT fighter clinches rough enough you will not get the chance to do this unless he's trying to knock you out with a knee to the face.

    - One of the things a lot of guys don't think of, motor your legs forward as soon as you feel him clench onto your neck. Just push him, get your body as close to his as you can, tie up his legs with yours and trip him up. While your doing this grab undeneath his elbows and attempt to split his arms up off your neck. You have to do this fast as an instinctive reaction, but 9 times out of 10 a guy going for a clinch doesn't anticipate this kind of reaction and will fall for it every time. Plus it sets up nice for an uppercut-hook combo.
     
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  5. BigBubba Orange Belt

    BigBubba
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    Your best bet is to start training Muay Thai.

    Kabuki- Great post. It's really difficult to try to put all the subtle movements into words.

    I had the good fortune of training with Greg Nelson at the NW Muay Thai Camp last month. The guy is freakin' amazing at clinch work. I haven't watched his instructionals yet, but I'm going to buy them asap.
    http://www.mmaacombatzone.com/purchase.htm <--- you can buy them there.
    http://sfuk.tripod.com/reviews/nelsons_clinch.html <--- here's a review.

    I learned from Ajarn Chai, and Danny Inosanto was in my group, but I probably learned the most from Greg.
     
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  6. VoLTesV Green Belt

    VoLTesV
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    thanks man.
     
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  7. VoLTesV Green Belt

    VoLTesV
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    thanks man.
     
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  8. TJS Brown Belt

    TJS
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    Great post, alot of it I had know but forgoten :)
     
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  9. scorcho Brown Belt

    scorcho
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    Good stuff. Thanks for the detailed explanation.
     
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  10. Coleman White Belt

    Coleman
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    Wicked post man!

    With a muay thai clinch, I always try to keep my hips back, pull my opponent around and throw deep knees. It seems to work well.

    What do you suggest for a wrestlers clinch though? The one I'm thinking of is where you have an overhook and an underhook. It's a neutral clinch position unlike the muay thai clinch where you have control. I'm not sure if this is correct but when I'm here I try to keep my opponents hips close to mine (I know you can be tripped easily here but I'm comfortable on the ground) and I attack their legs with knees. I also try to throw some knees to the body from here if I can but its hard from a position like this. While doing this, I work towards either double underhooks or I quickly push hard of their hips with my hands then go for a muay thai clinch. Am I on the right track here?

    I feel extremely uncomfortable in stand up fighting if my opponent is at a distance. I'm left handed and fairly awkward while standing. I have a lot of trouble closing the gap and scoring hits so I go for the clinch as often as I can because I feel comfortable there and I also feel comfortable on the ground so I don't mind going there from the clinch. It's the strategy I've been working on anyways.
     
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  11. Sherdog_Mutt Purple Belt

    Sherdog_Mutt
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    Great post. Lots of good information. Thanks for taking the time to put it up.
     
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  12. Sinister Doctor of Doom

    Sinister
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    I don't quite understand what you're asking me. Are you asking the best way for a Wrestler to sink in the clinch or counter it? Or how to deal with a Wrestler from the perspective of a Muay Thai fighter?

    Oh and you're welcome guys, just trying to keep this place legit.
     
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  13. Coleman White Belt

    Coleman
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    What I meant to ask is what should I do when I end up in this clinch? The mma school I train at teachs a lot of bjj and wrestling, so I end up in a clinch like this. It's a lot harder to throw knees from this clinch then it is from a mt clinch.
     
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  14. Ian Coe Silver Belt

    Ian Coe
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    I was always told to push my hips forward so there is no spacing (for straight knees) and then when you want to throw pull the hips back and throw the knee
     
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  15. possenti I knew all the rules-but the rules did not know me

    possenti
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    Good post.
     
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  16. colinm Brown Belt

    colinm
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    great post man, you've re-inspired me to seek out some muay thai training.
     
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  17. Matt Thornton Amateur Fighter

    Matt Thornton
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    Thank you so much for this thread; the clinch is the range I feel I'm worst in in MMA. And it's difficult to find a lot of good material on the clinch. Thanks man.
     
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  18. Matt Thornton Amateur Fighter

    Matt Thornton
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    Now, this is something I've heard, and if you feel it's wrong please correct me. While it's not a way to beat the clinch, doesn't it help a little to push your forehead onto his shoulder so that he can't pull your head down and knee it? Also, what about putting your forearm across his forearms, and resting your head on your arm, so he can't knee your head?
     
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  19. Matt Thornton Amateur Fighter

    Matt Thornton
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    The ideal wrestling clinch is with double underhooks. You shouldn't just be trying to get the over-under and then pummel; the over-under is the equivalent to when two Thai boxers have one hand on the inside and one on the outside. Just go for the double underhooks.
     
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  20. recoil Orange Belt

    recoil
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    good post for mma high tie up.... but a muay thai clinch should be modified slightly from this. all the pure thai stuff is done close and stait up and down..... but what was posted is perfect for mma.
     
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