Basics of the Muay Thai Clinch

The Muay Thai Clinch is one of the trickiest and most technical aspects of Muay Thai. Yet strangely, it is not practiced much outside of Thailand. Pictured above is UFC World Champion and Muay Thai expert Andersen Silva using the Muay Thai clinch with knees to knock out Rich Franklin.

At the Sityodtong Gym in Thailand, all the fighters clinch wrestle with knee strikes every day for 45 minutes straight for the last part of the 6 hour training day. At Evolve Mixed Martial Arts (, we introduce the basic principles of the clinch at the Beginners class. As students progress, the Evolve Muay Thai instructors become more refined in the technical detail that is given. We believe the Muay Thai clinch is essential to becoming a good student of Muay Thai.

In any case, here are some basic pointers.

1) Never let anyone control your neck/head. The simple reason is that if a person controls your neck/head, they control your balance. If a person controls your balance, he/she controls your ability to defend and attack. There are many ways to avoid getting your neck/head controlled by your opponent. Firstly, if you feel your neck getting clinched, you should stand as tall as you can with your head back (almost looking at the ceiling) and you should move your hips close into your opponent's hips. You should also be maintaining a 50-50 stance with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width. Finally, you should be on your tippy-toes to decrease the leverage your opponent has. Of course, all of these moves are only the START of learning how to avoid getting your neck/head controlled.

2) Move one hand/arm at a time. Beginners often make the mistake of trying to clinch someone's neck/head with both hands at the same time. The reality is that you leave yourself very vulnerable if you chase your opponent with both arms in the air, trying to grab his neck/head. Always try to work one hand at a time. Ideally, you will have one hand around his/her neck/head with the other controlling his arm. (For a detailed explanation, please feel free to ask your favorite Evolve Muay Thai instructor).

3) Establish inside control. If you have both of your hands/arms around a person's neck, make sure that you have inside control. Inside control is when your hands/arms are inside of your opponent's arms and you are clinching his/her neck with your elbows tight together. The picture above shows the person in red in complete control of the Muay Thai clinch over his opponent.

4) Break your opponent's posture. (And do not let your posture get broken). As the picture above illustrates, the person in blue has his neck/head bent down. This posture is called a broken posture. He is very vulnerable to knee strikes due to his broken posture and he has very little to offer in terms of defense at this point. His first order of movement is to regain his posture by straightening out his neck/head.

5) In transition, always control your opponent's neck/head and at least one of his/her arms. When you are wrestling for control, it is crucial that you do not give up control at any point. In order to prevent getting taken under control, be sure to focus on have 2 points of control at all times. Additionally, by securing one of your opponent's arms, you can avoid elbow strikes more easily. Finally, the only time when you do not need control of your opponent's arms is if you have him in a bear hug (in which case, your control point comes from controlling his hips).

It is important to note that these 5 tips are merely the tip of the iceberg of the Muay Thai clinch. It takes years of Muay Thai clinch practice to become good at it. There are many combinations of attacks and defenses as well as many little interesting tricks. At Evolve Mixed Martial Arts, one of our goals is to enable you to have an advanced Muay Thai clinch. It is a critical part of the Muay Thai experience at Evolve. Please do not hesitate to ask any of the Evolve Muay Thai instructors about the Muay Thai clinch and how to advance your own clinch.

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