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”)


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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