For newcomers, it may not be immediately apparent why the clinch is such a crucial aspect of Muay Thai.
The Muay Thai clinch is what distinguishes this martial art from other striking disciplines. In boxing and kickboxing, fighters often briefly hold onto their opponents either defensively or to take a quick breather, until the referee steps in to separate them.
But in Muay Thai, there is no such opportunity to stall. When fighters get close to each other, they use a variety of highly offensive techniques, such as sweeps, dumps, knees, and elbows, which can quickly turn the tide of a fight.
For this reason, before a fighter can launch these attacks, they must first learn how to position themselves and find an opening in their opponent's defense by mastering the Muay Thai clinching techniques.
In this article, we will guide you through the ins and outs of Muay Thai clinching techniques, including its positioning options and tips on how to improve your clinching game.
What Is Muay Thai Clinch?
In Muay Thai, clinching can be defined as a technique to hold the opponent at a very close range by grappling the hands around the opponent’s neck during an offensive or defensive combat. This tactic is used as an effective method to subdue the opponent or control the aggressiveness of the other fighter.
Clinching in Muay Thai is different from other martial arts such as Judo and Boxing as it permits the fighter to execute knees, punches, kicks, and elbows to the opponent while in close range.
The clinch also presents opportunities for Muay Thai fighters to score points through positioning, sweeping, and tripping. In fact, with the abundance of opportunities in it, there is a class of fighters, called Muay Khao, aiming to get into it every time.
Muay Thai Clinch Position
In the Muay Thai clinch, there are at least two different positions that a fighter can adopt to dominate their opponent: the double collar tie and the single collar tie.
Double Collar Tie
The double collar tie, also called the Muay Thai plum, is one of the most commonly used—and the most devastating—techniques in Muay Thai. To get into it, you need to choose whether you are going to target the head or the neck, as the type of grip you will use will vary depending on your target.
To target the neck, wrap your arms over your opponent’s shoulders and behind their neck. Make sure to keep your arms inside your opponent’s since this will put you in a dominant position. Lock their head and shoulders by using your elbows and forearms to place pressure. This position gives you more control. Aside from that, you can also hurt your opponent if you do it correctly.
If you wish to target the head, snake your arms inside your opponent’s guard to slide up and place your hand on the back of their head, then pull it down for a prompt meeting between their face and your knee. Ensure your arms are positioned inside, not your opponent's. This prevents them from leveraging your shoulders to counteract the force from your grip.
To defend against the double collar tie, you can snake one arm in and force your opponent into a single collar tie.
Single Collar Tie
As the name implies, the single collar tie is a single-arm version of the plum. A single collar tie is executed by wrapping your arm around your opponent, gaining tight bicep control, and grasping the back of your opponent’s head, providing you the opportunity to strike with the knee or twist to outbalance the opponent.
From there, you can push and twist your opponent against the ropes. With bicep control in one arm, switching between hooks and uppercuts becomes much easier.
5 Tips to Improve your Muay Thai Clinching Game
Clinching is one of the Muay Thai maneuvers that many people, especially beginners, struggle with because you need to know how to use your strength efficiently and where exactly to position yourself and your limbs.
But like any other technique, you can master it by investing in lots of practice and consistency. Consider these tips to enhance your skills in the clinch.
1. Your hips and legs have to be in a right position
Unlike being in a fighting stance, your hips should be in a squared position. Your legs should be open and your knees slightly bent to have a good base of support.
A strong base is very important to minimize the chance of you getting swept or losing your balance when you throw your knees.
2. Keep your arms inside to dominate your opponent
Clinching is all about mastering control of whoever you’re clinching with, and having your arms inside of your opponent’s will give you more control. Keeping your arms positioned internally allows you to effectively counter elbows and maneuver your opponent with ease.
3. Control more than your opponent’s head
Many people learn to clinch by pulling the opponent’s head down. However, it’s not the only way to get into the dominant position.
Other than pulling their head down, you can also practice controlling their arms and using a body/neck lock. When you dominate an opponent's body movement, it often leaves many bewildered, unsure of their next move.
4. Practice different kinds of knees in a clinching position
The most common strike people aim in a clinching position is straight knees. But there are many other knee strikes you can have in your arsenal as well. Try practicing throwing knees to different parts of the midsection with varying speeds and angles.
5. Only use strength when you need to
Many make the mistake of being tense the entire time they clinch. Your shoulders should be relaxed until a reaction needs to be given. Being tense when nothing is happening will only make you extremely tired. When you relax, you’re able to see more, adjust better, and pick your shots smarter.
Common Mistakes in Muay Thai Clinching
While clinching is an essential skill, many beginners often make a few common errors that can hinder their progress and leave them vulnerable in sparring or competitions.
- Overextending the Neck: Many novices tend to crane their necks forward, making them susceptible to strikes and pulls. It's crucial to keep the neck straight and chin tucked to prevent this vulnerability.
- Using Just Arm Strength: Relying solely on arm strength can tire you out quickly. It's essential to use your entire body, especially your core, for effective clinching.
- Forgetting to Adjust Grip: Not adjusting your grip, especially when your opponent is resisting, can lead to a loss of control. Continuously adjusting and optimizing your grip ensures dominance.
- Neglecting Footwork: Proper foot positioning is crucial. Placing one's feet too close together can lead to being easily swept or off-balanced by the opponent.
- Holding Breath: Some beginners tend to hold their breath during tense clinching situations. Continuous breathing is vital for stamina and maintaining focus.
Sharpen your Muay Thai techniques with our variety of Muay Thai training classes! Whether you’re learning how to clinch for the first time and are looking to develop a strong foundation to build upon or are a seasoned practitioner with years of experience needing to refine your technique, fix bad habits, or add to your toolbox, we have the best program for you!