“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”)