Muay Thai isn’t just about punching, kicking, elbowing and kneeing people- it’s also about clinching! Clinching is the when you use your arms and hands (in your gloves) to gain control of your opponent’s neck, head and shoulders in an effort to overpower them and put yourself in a position where you are able to deliver devastating elbows or knees. Clinching in Muay Thai is never continued on the ground, much like what you may have seen in MMA. In Muay Thai the fighters may try and “sweep” their opponents to the ground, but once they are there, they must wait for them to stand again. It is not permitted to hit your opponent when they are down.
Training the clinch is hard work so here is a handy guide to help you out!
When you begin to train the clinch it will be overwhelming. There are so many new techniques and dynamics to learn and understand! Don’t let this fact lead you to believe that you must try everything the first time you start clinching because in order to become fluent in the language of the clinch it will take years of practise. Under the guidance and watchful eye of your Kru you can begin to practise the basic arm movements, hand placement and posture. Once you’ve improved your fluidity in these areas then you should then consider incorporating knees and sweeps. Never throw elbows during practise!
Remember that when you’re learning a new art it is very important that you are comfortable in asking any questions you may have. Asking these questions, even if you think that they’re dumb, will improve and clarify your technique. Remember that if you’re injured or something is too sore to make sure that you communicate this with your training partner and Kru. It is too risky to train hard on an injury as there’s the incredibly likely possibility it will just make it worse and cause more problems for you in the near future.
Seek clinch inspiration from other fighters! It’s amazing what you can learn from watching fights either online or live. A notable master of the clinch to watch and learn from would be Petchboonchu FA Group. Petchboonchu is the most decorated Muay Thai fighter in history and holds 13 championship belts- 7 of which are from different weight classes.
Clinching is an activity which exerts A LOT of energy and muscle aches so correct recovery is of key importance! When you are beginning to learn how to clinch it is likely that your neck will not be used to this much pressure being put onto it. Due to this your neck may be sore and stiff for a day or two after your first session. Be sure to massage the area, stretch it before and after practise and even consider buying some Namman Muay Thai liniment (it is liquid magic!).