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.


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.


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.


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.


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”


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”)


About khunkaogym

Kru Brooks Miller has been training in both Muay Thai & Boxing since 1992. He is a 3x Muay Thai champion in 3 different weight classes. His "Khun Kao Promotions" was the first to feature full rules Muay Thai competition in the state of Virginia (DC Metro Showdown - Feb. 23, 2008 in Lansdowne, VA). He currently assists Operation Octagon Productions promote the "Thai Championship Boxing" Muay Thai series and coaches his fight team in Alexandria, VA Kru Brooks is available for Muay Thai seminars. For more information, contact
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