Building a Better Muay Thai Fighter (Part 8 – “Conclusion”)

Understanding the elements and variations of the Muay Thai Clinch is paramount to a fighter’s success in the ring.  Unfortunately, the Clinch is often the most misunderstood and neglected facet of the Art of Muay Thai outside of Thailand, especially in the West.  If one trains properly to understand the basic concepts, posture, holds, strikes, and throws, they will have a leg up on the competition, and it will prepare them to begin learning many of the more intricate techniques and tricks of a Muay Thai master, such as…

Knee Blocks & Escapes

Knee Escape from Clinch

Butterfly Hooks

Heel Kicks

Neck Cranks & Chokes

Smothering Your Opponent

Using Your Chin

Push the Elephant

Yan Erawan = Push the Elephant

 

 

…and various Knee & Elbow combinations for the Muay Thai Clinch!

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Building a Better Muay Thai Clinch Fighter (Part 7 – “Entering & Exiting the Clinch”)

The Muay Thai Clinch has a wide array of grappling and striking techniques, and studying these techniques alone could be a life-long pursuit.  Mastering these techniques serves no purpose if a fighter doesn’t train to properly achieve the clinch in the first place.

One of the most important things for a Muay Thai fighter to learn is to never reach for an opponents head and/or neck with both of their hands at the same time.  A smart fighter will reach with one hand while covering with the other.  Just reaching in for your opponent’s neck, however, isn’t always advisable though, as it telegraphs your intention to clinch.

Many fighters prefer to hide their clinch behind offensive techniques.  A very common way to initiate the clinch is by throwing punches at your opponent to distract them, and allowing a Hook to be thrown wide with the intention of grasping your opponent’s head rather than striking with the punch.

Not the best example, the fighter on the left is in position to turn his Right Hook into a Clinch by grasping his opponent by the shoulder or neck.

Another method is to initiate the clinch defensively.  As your opponent attacks with punches, redirect his hands allowing you to move into clinch range.  This method can also be used defending kicks, a common tactic being trapping your opponents round kick then reaching in with the other hand to grasp your opponents shoulder, pulling them into your knee strikes.

Fighter on right has caught his opponent’s kick and is delivering a knee strike

Finally, many fighters choose to initiate the clinch by controlling their opponent’s guard.  In the instance when one’s opponent is not attacking, one can reach in and grasp the guard, pulling their guard away from their body as you step in with well-placed knee strikes.  This often causes the opponent to attempt momentarily covering from the knee strikes with their arms, thus giving you an opening to catch them in the Double Neck Tie.

Fighter on the right has controlled his opponent’s arms to initiate the clinch and deliver a knee strike

While the clinch is an integral part of successful Muay Thai fighting, there are fighters who eschew the clinch, preferring to punch and kick.  Some of Thailand’s very best fighters were known for their abilities in avoiding clinch fighting, such as Samart Payakaroon and Somruk Khamsing.  While these fighters preferred to avoid the clinch, it would be a mistake to assume that they were not skilled clinch fighters!  Even fighters who do not enjoy the clinch must expend the effort to master it if they are to achieve any success in the ring.

By actually taking the time to master clinch fighting techniques, it makes exiting (or avoiding altogether) the clinch infinitely simpler.  Simply redirectly your opponents clinch attempt while using footwork to change your angle becomes simple when you understand what you’re facing.

When a fighter exits the clinch, one of the most important rules is to NEVER DUCK OUT!  Some of Muay Thai’s most horrific injuries occur when an inexperienced fighter panics in the clinch and attempts to duck out of the Double Neck Tie, making their face an inviting target for knees!

The fighter on the left is in a very dangerous position, when many inexperienced fighters will attempt to “duck out”.

As mentioned in Part 3, shoulder rolls are an effective method to break a Double Neck Tie, allowing a fighter to safely break the clinch while also reversing the tables on his opponent.  Timing your opponent’s knee strikes to execute a legal throw to break out of your opponent’s grip is another very popular exit strategy.  If you are the fighter with the upper hand, you can simply push your opponent away from you and into range for lightning fast Roundhouse Kicks.

An excellent exercise to train fighters in how to control the clinch is called “Protecting the Box”.  One fighter attempts to grasp his opponent in a clinch hold, such as the Double Neck Tie.  The other fighter defends by clinching with his opponent’s arms ONLY!  Learning to control the arms (biceps) of your opponent creates openings for knee & elbow attacks, a superior clinch position, or simply disengaging for punches and kicks.

(Next: “Conclusion”)

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Building a Better Muay Thai Clinch Fighter (Part 6 – “Elbows from the Clinch”)

While many martial arts have of knee & elbow strikes, few have developed the wide array of attacks as Muay Thai.  Muay Thai’s knee strikes are deadly enough, but clinch fighting also brings fighters up close & personal to Muay Thai’s most devastating weapon, the elbow strike!

Like knee strikes, a fighter does not have to be in the clinch to employ elbow attacks.  Elbows, however, are at their most effective from this range.

Some common elbow tactics employed from the clinch include:

Len Muay:  (translated: touch hair)  A fighter places his hand on top of his head with his elbow directly in front, driving it into his opponents face.

Taad Mala:  (translated:  place flower behind ear)  Similar to ‘Len Muay’, except the fighter places his hand over his ear, tucking his arm into his head so that the elbow is in front of his face to spike his opponent.

This fighter’s elbow strike is in-between being “Len Muay” & “Taad Mala”

The “Axe” Elbow:  This is elbow banned from MMA competition, when a fighter spikes his elbow downwards onto his opponents head, shoulder, arm, or body.

Horizontal Elbow:  A fighter slashes his elbow horizontally across his opponents scalp.

Horizontal Elbow used from Clinch in MMA match

Uppercut Elbow:  Similar to ‘Taad Mala’, but the fighter drives his elbow upwards like the punch of the same name.

Spinning Elbow from Clinch

Spinning Elbow:  A fighter turns in the clinch, swinging his elbow around.  Sometimes the elbow is brought horizontally, sometimes overhead, and other times it is brought upwards.

As there are many elbow strikes that can be utlized from the clinch, it is important for fighters to practice which elbows can be thrown from which angles.  A fighter with inside bicep control is in position to launch Taad Mala or an Uppercut Elbow.  A fighter with outside bicep control can launch a Horizontal Elbow or Axe Elbow.  A fighter whose opponent has a weak clinch can execute a Spinning Elbow.  A fighter who wishes to avoid clinching with his opponent can use Len Muay as his opponent attempts to close the range.

“Taad Mala” can also be used to defend against the clinch

An important note in regards to using elbow strikes is that in Muay Thai, the elbows primary function is to cut one’s opponent.  Muay Thai fighters attempt to slash their opponent’s scalp above the eyes to get blood flowing.  If their opponent bleeds enough, the fight will be stopped as blood flowing into the eyes prevents fightesr from seeing properly, thus making the match too dangerous to continue.  Fighters train to strike with the bony tip of their elbow rather than smash with the flat surface of the forearm.

(Next: “Entering the Clinch”)

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Building a Better Muay Thai Clinch Fighter (Part 5 – “Head & Bicep Control”)

Two Fighters demonstrate grappling for Head & Bicep Control

This is where the Muay Thai Clinch becomes its most intricate.  The really advanced clinchwork involves boxers fighting for control of each others arms, because from these positions, it is possible to execute all varieties of Muay Thai Clinch techniques:  knees, elbows, twists, and throws.

There are two primary variations of this clinch position, controlling your opponent’s bicep from the inside or outside position.  Each is used for different strategies based upon how you want to attack your opponent.

While Straight Knees are often employed from this clinch, another knee comes into frequent play, the Skipping Side Knee, where fighters lift their legs to the side, and then slam them into their opponents thighs, hips, and obliques.  The impact surface of this knee strike is the bony inside of the knee joint.

Skipping Side Knee using Head & Inside Bicep Clinch

When one begins to learn the Head & Bicep Control clinch positions, an effective drill that is employed is sometimes called “Wind Knees”, where the fighters grasp each other in this clinch and begin exchanging Skipping Side Knees.  With each knee strike, the defending fighter drives his hip forwards so that his partners intended knee strike impacts his hip with just the inside of the thigh.  These knees are thrown without much force to prevent unnecessary injuries.  Another variation of the drill is for each fighter to throw three of these knee strikes in succession from one side, and on the third attempt his training partner performs a counter or throw.

Most clinch throws use the fundamental concepts that were first mentioned in Part 2 of this blog series.  The stepping & pivoting footwork, keeping the hips tight for leverage, and the concept of pushing & pulling.  A typical Muay Thai clinch throw consists of the fighter stepping sideways and pivoting while pulling his opponent’s head down in the opposite direction and pushing up or forwards on the shoulder.

When a fighter twists his opponent in the clinch to either get him off-balance or to throw him, it is important to note that a fighter may pull his opponent over the inside of his leg as long as he then steps back with that leg, giving his opponent the opportunity to recover his position.  If a fighter leaves his leg in place, it is considered a trip and is illegal.  Pulling an opponent over the outside of your leg (or hip) is considered a Judo-like throw and is illegal.

A twisting clinch throw

 

 

Another important consideration when performing a clinch twist, dump, or throw is that these techniques do not score in a direct manner.  While they do help demontrate one fighter being the more skilled and powerful fighter, they are not considered scoring tactics as they are not initiated by an actual strike.

A common variation of the Head & Bicep Control position is often referred to as “Over-Under” position, where the fighters have clasped each other behind the back with one arm over their opponent’s shoulder, and the other hooked underneath the opposite shoulder.  While this is an excellent position from which to twist one’s opponent and strike with knees, it allows your opponent the very same opportunity.

(Next: “Elbows from the Clinch”)

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Building a Better Muay Thai Clinch Fighter (Part 4 – “The Body Lock”)

While the Double Neck Tie is a very strong, dominant position, it is also limited in what one can do.  As mentioned previously, the only real practical technique from this position is the straight knee attack.  One of the first defenses a fighter learns against the Double Neck Tie is the Body Lock Clinch.  When a fighter feels his opponent closing the pincher-like grip of the Double Neck Tie, he steps into his opponent and drops down a little to grasp his opponent under the arms and around the shoulder blades.

Just as fighters practice the Double Neck Tie with Neck Wrestling Drills (sometimes called “Getting Dressed”), fighters practice fighting for the Body Lock by pummeling in or swimming… reaching one arm in at a time to snake in under their opponents arm to lock the body or control the shoulder.

It is important to understand that a proper Body Lock Clinch does not extend below your opponent’s shoulders.  When grasping your opponent around the body, you must keep your arms up into their armpits.  If the arms go lower, the referee will immediately step in to break the clinch.  Needless to say, the “Crack-Back” technique of clinching around your opponents lower back and pulling in while pressing forward with your own shoulders is illegal, and a fighter may be disqualified for doing so.

The Illegal “Crack-Back”

When a fighter succeeds in grasping his opponent around the body properly, he now has two options.  He may knee, which usually consists of short thrusting knees to his opponents thighs and hip, or he may lift and throw.  A fighter must be careful while lifting and throwing.  Lifting his opponent up in the air (off of his feet) is illegal.  Therefore, a fighter can just lift enough to initiate a throw.  Fighters do so by bumping their hips forward to disrupt their opponents center of gravity, then use a knee bump on the outside of their opponent’s thigh to turn them sideways and dumping them to the canvas.  Fighters who discover themselves being lifted in this way are trained to spread their legs wide, allowing them to get their feet under them no matter which direction they are twisted.

A fighter finds himself in the Body Lock Clinch has options to reverse this clinch.  One of the simplest methods is to use wrestling “overhooks” to trap both of your opponents biceps, then driving your hips back to not only break the hold, but to them slam your own knees back into your opponent.  Another method is to turn sideways so that the fighter can snake one of his arms in between his opponent’s arms, then turning this into an arm lock with your opponent’s head bent over your knee.  Another variation is to use your own head to press against your opponent’s head to create room for your to snake your hand in and push your opponent’s head away as you step to the side and deliver your own knee strikes.

While rules changes in Muay Thai have made the Body Lock Clinch less effective position than it once was, this is still a powerful clinch position when uitlized properly and is important for a fighter’s arsenal.

(Next:  Head & Bicep Control)

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Building a Better Muay Thai Clinch Fighter (Part 3 – “The Double Neck Tie”)

Red Fighter demonstrates the Double Neck Tie

The Double Neck Tie is Muay Thai’s most basic and fundamental clinch technique.  It is arguably the most dominant position in Muay Thai, and it is the 2nd worst position to be in as a fighter.  (The worst is laying on the canvas).  In most of the Western world, this is viewed as *THE* Muay Thai Clinch, but in Thailand, it is considered to be rudimentary (though essential).

First, a fighter must learn the position.  His hands are clasped behind the base of his opponent’s skull, NOT BEHIND THE NECK!  As mentioned in Part 2 of this blog series, the secret of Muay Thai Clinchwork is using LEVERAGE.  It is far easier to pull an opponent’s head down by controlling the base of the skull than it is to do so while grasping the back of their neck.

Fighter demonstrates grasping base of skull rather than back of neck

There are two schools of thought in regards to the position of the forearms/elbows.  Some boxing camps teach that the elbows should be kept down, pressing into the sternum.  Other camps argue that the elbows should be angled outwards towards the shoulders.  Both have their merits and weaknesses.

A common exercise for training fighters to perform the clinch properly, and to strengthen the neck to resist the hold is called “Preacher Curls”, where the fighters take turns pulling their training partner’s head down in the clinch while the other resists.

To practice trapping your opponent in the Double Neck Tie, a fighter trains in a drill that has many names.  Swimming in, Pummeling, Neck Wrestling…  I learned to call it “Getting Dressed”, which is a rough translation of a Thai phrase indicating that you are preparing yourself to knee your opponent.  When fighters practice this drill, they learn to only move in one arm at a time, and to move when their partner moves.  Fighters become sensitive to feeling their partners movements in the clinch rather than seeing them, and a good exercise is to clinch your training partner with your eyes closed.

Of course, the purpose of the Double Neck Tie is to trap your opponent’s head so that you can deliver devastating knee strikes.  Part of one’s training should therefore incorporate learning to throw straight knees into the Thai pads and/or Belly Pad while clinched.  A fighter should learn to use his hip and whole body to SLAM his knees into the target, rather than just raising his knee, and one should drive the knees forwards through the target as though spearing his opponent.

Straight Knees on Thai Pads

While learning how to trap your opponent’s head and deliver knee strikes, it is also important to learn how to prevent your opponent from trapping your own head.  Of course, part of this is in learning proper neck wrestling techniques, but there are additional techniques one can employ to prevent your opponent from applying a deadly pincher grip.  Techniques such as using your hands to push and turn your opponents face away as you move to an angle, shoulder rolls, or bobbing & weaving under your opponent’s elbow.  Of course, one needs to be careful as many of these techniques can also be countered by bumping underneath your elbow to move your arm out of position (allowing for a stronger clinch hold) or driving an elbow into the side of your skull to pry you away.

Demonstrating a Shoulder Roll to escape a clinch hold

An important aspect of the Double Neck Tie to bear in mind is that while it is arguably the most dominant position/hold in the sport of Muay Thai, there is really only one effective option of attack from this position.  Straight Knee strikes.  Of course, it is possible to pull your opponent and whip them around, but without hip-to-hip leverage, a fighter is using his own power which could lead to him fatiguing faster.  To land an elbow strike, one would have to release the Double-Neck Tie, allowing the opponent an opportunity to defend, escape, or counter.

(Next:  Part 4 – “The Body Lock”)

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Building a Better Muay Thai Clinch Fighter (Part 2 – “Fundamental Concepts”)

As previously mentioned, the Muay Thai Clinch can be very intimidating.  Even without the addition of elbow & knee strikes, being grabbed and twisted around by your neck is not anyone’s idea of a fun time.  Therefore, it is essential that clinch techniques be taught in a structured format emphasizing fundamental ideas.

POSTURING UP & POSTING

A proper fighting stance in Muay Thai includes the boxer keeping one foot in front of the other, his chin tucked, and a slight crouch.  Some fighters use a more pronounced crouch than others.  When it comes to clinchwork, however, a fighter should immediately straighten and square up to his opponent, lifting his chin and rising up on the balls of his feet while pressing his hips in to his opponent’s hips.  Remaining in a crouch with one’s chin tucked is counter-productive in the clinch because it readily invites one’s opponent to grasp the fighter in the double-neck tie and pull the head down for knee strikes.  By “Posturing Up”, the fighter prevents his opponent from gaining leverage on his head and closes the gap so that the opponent has little to no room for his elbow & knee strikes to be effective.

Posting refers to keeping a hand on the opponent, typically on the shoulder or torso.  This helps a fighter maintain leverage in the clinch and prevents his opponent from getting the upper hand.  A fighter should always have keep one hand on his opponent in the clinch, which will aid him in creating space for his own techniques to succeed.

FOOTWORK

Muay Thai has numerous “patterns” to its footwork.  There are patterns to move forwards, backwards, sideways…  even up & down.  In the Muay Thai Clinch, the most essential pattern to a fighter’s footwork is learning to step at an angle, then pivot his other foot as far as 180 degrees.  This footwork is utilized in many clinch defense and counter techniques.

TECHNIQUE & LEVERAGE… NOT POWER!

One of the most difficult aspects for novice clinch fighters to overcome is the natural tendency to tense up while clinched.  A fighter needs to be continually reminded to use technique only!  Don’t try to “muscle” their way through techniques.  As in all grappling arts, a fighters should learn to use proper technique from the proper position, as this gives one the advantage of leverage over his opponent.  A fighter who attempts to power his way through techniques will soon find himself fatigued and will fall victim to his opponent.

SABAI SABAI

This is how Thai’s say “Easy, easy!”  In other words, one must learn to RELAX in the clinch.  As stated above, a good and proper clinch game is built around leverage and technique.  A fighter who tenses up and tries to use power will ultimately lose.  Just as when one is punching and kicking, a fighter should stay totally relaxed until the point of impact, or in the case of clinchwork, the fighter should stay relaxed until the very moment he executes a strike or a throw from the clinch.

Fighter in black is NOT demonstrating “Sabai Sabai”

PUSHING & PULLING

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Fighters should understand that “neck wrestling” techniques are equal parts “Push” and “Pull”.  You pull your opponent’s head while pushing his shoulder to twist him off balance,  you push on his shoulders to create room, then pull him in as you drive your knee forward.

Understanding the basic concepts of the Muay Thai Clinch will help fighters immensely as they practice the many techniques they will learn throughout their training.

(Next:  Part 3 – “The Double Neck Tie”)

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Building a Better Muay Thai Clinch Fighter (Part 1 – “Introduction”)

“Do all those knees count?”

This was a serious question asked by a ringside official at a Muay Thai event in Richmond, VA.  We were working the corner for our fighter when one of the officials at the scoring table leaned over to ask us that question.  Of course, our fighter, who was dominating the clinch, wound up losing the match.

The Muay Thai Clinch is one of the least appreciated aspects of Muay Thai fighting in the West, and especially in the United States.  In Thailand, the Clinch is “the game within the game”.  Fights are often won or lost within the clinch.  Therefore, mastering the fundamentals of the clinch game is paramount for success!  Unfortunately, there are many outside of Thailand who have a very simplistic view of what the Muay Thai clinch is.

Much of the world sees one fighter trap his opponents neck in a pincher-like grip and pull it down to deliver knee strikes as the “Muay Thai Clinch”.  In the public view, this is the end-all-be-all of the clinch game.  In reality, this technique, commonly referred to as the “Double-Neck Tie” is the most rudimentary version of the Thai clinch.  Despite being the most basic form of the Thai clinch, the Double-Neck Tie is the foundation from which all fighters must build their clinch repertoire.

For many, learning the Thai clinch is intimidating because it brings you up close and personal with Muay Thai’s most fearsome (and devestating) weapons:  elbows and knee strikes.  This intimidation factor appears to be a leading reason why many Muay Thai students and fighters neglect this facet of Muay Thai training.  (I believe another reason why so many neglect clinch training is because they prefer striking arts over grappling arts.  Those whose intersts are in grappling usually gravitate to actual grappling arts such as wrestling, Judo, or Brazililan Jiu Jitsu.)

Whatever one’s reasons for eschewing the clinch, it is necessary for students of Muay Thai to put these prejudices aside and embrace this facet of training to become a well-rounded fighter.

(Next:  Part 2 – “Fundamental Concepts”)

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A Layman’s Guide to Scoring a Muay Thai Fight

The scoring practices of Muay Thai are unique amongst all combat sports.  Typically in combat sports events, fighters are judged on the amount of legal strikes that are landed and on how effective the fighter is.  While this is also true in the sport of Muay Thai, what are considered to be scoring strikes and effective strategies are often misunderstood, especially in the West.

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Further compounding the misunderstanding of Muay Thai scoring practices is that many Thais simply are unable to effectively express what is different and/or unique about Muay Thai scoring.  When asked, most Thais will often insist that all strikes in Muay Thai score equally.  What they are *really* saying is that all strikes in Muay Thai have an equal opportunity to score.  In other words, many strikes count more “equally” than others.
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In most combat sports, a strike that lands is a strike that scores.  In Muay Thai, not all strikes that land count, and some that don’t land do (more on this later).
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To begin, one must first understand what strikes score, and what strikes don’t.  In a nutshell, the strikes that consistently score in a Muay Thai match are Roundhouse Kicks and Knees to the torso and head.  Other strikes such as Punches, Push Kicks, Elbows, and Roundhouse Kicks to the legs typically do not.  While these do not TYPICALLY score, they *will* count if they have a VISIBLE effect on one’s opponent.  For instance, punches will count if they stagger one’s opponent or cause him to show pain.  Merely snapping one’s opponents head back with punches is not considered enough to score.  Push Kicks count if they cause an opponent to lose their balance.  As in the case of punches, a fighter who moves back in a controlled manner upon receiving a Push Kick will negate the liklihood of it scoring.  Elbows typically only count if they cause a cut, and Roundhouse Kicks to the legs will only count if an opponent’s leg buckles, or if the fighter begins to favor the leg or starts limping.
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All things being equal, strikes in Muay Thai fights are typically scored similar to the following “sliding” scale (explained below) from highest to lowest scores:
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These first 7 strikes are the technques that consistently score:
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1.  Sweeping an opponent off of their feet
2.  Knee strike to the head
3.  Roundhouse Kick to the head
4.  Straight Knee to the body
5.  Roundhouse Kick to the body
6.  Side Knee to the body
7.  Roundhouse Kick to opponents arms
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These next strikes are techniques that only score under given criteria (mentioned above)
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8.  Push Kicks to the body
9.  Side Knees to the legs
10. Roundhouse Kicks to the legs
11. Push Kicks to the legs
12. Punches/Elbows
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*Please note that the above list is not official in any capacity, but is merely the result of years of study and observation.
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As stated above, the above represents a “sliding” scale.  The power and effectiveness of a given technique can cause it to move up or down the list accordingly.  A strong punch that staggers one’s opponent may score higher than a weak roundhouse kick to the opponent’s head.
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A fighter’s balance is a hugely significant part of determining one’s score, but unfortunately this is often underrated in the West.  A fighter who maintains his balance as he moves, attacks, and defends throughout the fight will appear to be a stronger fighter who is more in control of the match.  Therefore, any attack that disrupts an opponents balance will be worth significantly more on the judge’s scorecard.  As an example, one fighter lands a roundhouse kick to his opponent’s torso, but his opponent maintains balance and counters immediately with a punch that forces his opponent to stumble.  The punch, which normally does not not score highly (if at all), is now worth more than the roundhouse kick, which normally scores well.  Another example would be an elbow strike.  As previously mentioned, elbow strikes typically will not count towards your overall score unless they create a cut.  When they *do* create a cut, this is often a very high scoring technique because a cut has an immediate and lasting impact on the rest of the fight.
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What’s more, for any attack to be considered a scoring strike, it must be thrown from a balanced position, and the fighter must successfully return to a balanced position.  For instance, if a fighter throws a kick, but is clearly off balance, it is likely to not count towards the score even if it lands successfully.  Likewise, if the kick is thrown properly, but the force of impact causes the fighter to stumble as he regains his position, the strike may not count as highly, if at all.
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This is why any strike that causes your opponent to fall, regardless of whether a referee begins to count, is a very highly scoring technique.  However, please note that there is a distinct difference between putting your opponent to the canvas with a strike vs. a throw.  While they are legal techniques and *can* count towards your score, throwing techniques typically do NOT score as the fighter is being pulled/pushed off balance.  (more on this later)
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Also, please make special note of the technique of landing a Roundhouse Kick to your opponents arms.  Earlier when it was mentioned that some strikes that do not land have the potential to score was referring specifically to this.  In other combat sports, a kick to your opponents arms is considered a blocked kick, even if one’s opponent is staggered.  In Muay Thai, however, a kick to your opponent’s arms is considered a scoring technique!
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Finally, please also note that the strikes that do not typically score will count in the absence of other scoring strikes.  For example, if one fighter is landing punches while the other fighter is merely trying to evade (but is otherwise unaffected), the fighter using punches will score.
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Now that you have a basic understanding of how the individual techniques score in a Muay Thai bout, it is essential to know that striking techniques alone are not enough to win the round.  Below is the criteria, in order of importance, for determining the winner of each round of a fight:
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1.  The fighter who lands the most scoring techniques.
2.  The fighter who lands the most effective techniques.
3.  The fighter who causes the most damage.
4.  The fighter who controls the pace of the round.
5.  The fighter who has the best defense.
6.  The fighter who fouls the least.
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In most instances, the winner of an individual round can be determined by examining the first 2 (or 3) criteria.  As a reminder, please remember that to score, a technique must be thrown with power from a balanced position, and meet any additional criteria outlined above.
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In regards to clinchwork, it was previously mentioned that throwing one’s opponent from the clinch typically does not score.  The reason why is that throws take your opponent off their feet by pushing/pulling them, rather than striking them.  Any fall inititated by a strike, regardless of what kind of strike, will score very highly.  In regards to throws from the clinch, a fighter who throws his opponent with ease from the clinch does give the ‘appearance’ of being the stronger fighter, which can sway the judges.  So while throwing one’s opponent does not directly score, it does give one the appearance of being the stronger fighter, especially if one is able to throw their opponent down multiple times throughout any given round or during the fight.
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Another facet of clinchwork to bear in mind is gaining the dominant position.  If a fighter is able to demonstrate a dominant position in the clinch, such as the double-neck tie, then he is demonstrating himself to be the stronger fighter and can sway the score in his favor even if minimal strikes are landed from this position.
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Unlike International Boxing, when a fighter is put to the canvas with a strike, the referee does not immediately begin a 10-count.  In Muay Thai, there is what is called a “Flash Knockdown”.  Typically, when a fighter is knocked down, the referee makes a split second judgement call if the fighter was truly hurt, or merely knocked off-balance, by watching the fighters eyes.  If the referee determines the fighter is not genuinely hurt, he will wave the standing fighter out of the way to allow the downed fighter to regain his feet.  If the fighter immediately pops back to his feet, the referee will signal the fight to continue, otherwise the referee will begin his 10-count.  If the knockdown is deemed a “Flash Knockdown”, this does not result in a point deduction on the scorecards, though the fighter who caused the knockdown will have scored very highly.
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One of the things that makes Muay Thai scoring truly unique is the ability for a judge to change the score of an earlier round later in the fight.  A perfect example would be if during round 2, a fighter lands a powerful kick to his opponent’s leg.  At the time, the fighter receiving the kick did not display any outward sign that the kick affected him and wins the round 10-9.  In round 4 and 5, however, it becomes obvious that the fighter’s leg has stiffened, hampering his mobility.  The judges then have the option to go back and change the score of round 2, indicating that the powerful kick in round 2 had a lasting effect on the fight, and that the fighter who threw won the round 9-10.  (This ability to change scores of earlier rounds does not apply to title fights, or outside of Thailand)
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This illustrates another important factor when judging a Muay Thai contest, watching the fighters for any sign of weakness.  Fighters are trained to maintain a “poker face” while they fight.  They show no pain or fatigue.  This is not always possible, though, and this is also taken into account when tallying the score.  A fighter who winces in pain when struck will cause his opponent’s strikes to become more valuable.  A fighter who shows signs of fatigue such as gasping for breath or allowing his guard to sag will likely find his score reduced.
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In traditional Muay Thai fights in Thailand, fights are 5 rounds long.  Standard practice is for judges to score the first 2 rounds as even (10-10) as most fighters use these first two rounds to feel one another out and gauge each others abilities.  Though these rounds are typically scored 10-10, judges will mark their scorecards to indicate which fighter *should* have won the round, and these indicators will come back into play when the outcome of the fight is very close.  Rounds 3, 4, and 5 are scored normally.  It is standard practice in Thailand that the 4th round of a fight is the most important round.  A fighter who wins the 4th round will typically win the fight, and the 5th round often sees both fighters doing just enough to keep the action going without hurting one another (unless there is a significant prize at stake, such as a title belt).  The reason for this is that many fighters support their families with the income they earn in the ring, and therefore avoiding injury is paramount.  Another reason for this practice is that Thais view Muay Thai matches as though they are a footrace.  It is not as important how you start the race, but how you finish it.  The early rounds are akin to a warm-up.  Rounds 3 and 4 are the actual race, and round 5 is the cool-down period.
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*Special Thanks to Tony Myers, Liam Harrison, Stephen Strotmeyer, Fred Fitzgerald, and Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) for their guidance over the years in helping me understand Thai scoring practices.
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