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Hi everyone,

 

Happy New Year! One of my resolutions this year is to improve my clinch. When I started muay thai, I believed myself on the safe side, thinking I'd stay away from breaking wood planks and close contact stuff such as in jiu-jitsu. Well o well...

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Explain to your trainer that you find the whole clinch concept difficult, then get him/her to have a one-one-one session with you where you just do clinch work. You won't have to worry then about standing away and avoiding it - they'll come into you and start it! It is weird at first, but once you've started you will quickly forget about how you are disagreeably close to someone and just concentrate on getting in the moves, especially once you start being able to snake in, grab your opponent and get in a sneaky knee - it's very satisfying and that will definitely help you overcome your dislike of the close contact.

I think you do need to know how to cope with clinch though, even if you choose never to use it yourself; if nothing else you need to know how a) avoid a clinch attack and b) get out of one if you are caught up.

I'm not mad on clinch because my trainer is a lot taller, stronger and obviously more competent than me, and I find it very hard to judge when I can get in with it; but nevertheless I now quite enjoy making an attack with it when I do manage to work it out!

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Do you have anyone your same size and experience level to train with? Maybe if you are able to have really competitive rounds it will be easier to forget about the closeness. Sometimes when there is a big size or experience discrepancy it slows everything down so much that there is more time to think about it.  

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I usually clinch with a younger girl, she's smaller than me and lighter in weight but she's good. I think I'm the most comfortable with her, but when I get with someone taller and heavier than me I tend to freeze when things get more serious. As I am in school I only train once a week and we don't do clinch work that much either, so sometimes I can be like 4-6 weeks without clinching at all. Maybe if I did it regularly it would become more natural?

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Yes, I think you are correct. When you do it often, you'll eventually forget about it completely. 

 

So much of clinching is feel , and we can only develop that with time spent. Time with another novice can be valuable, especially if you are doing rounds with an objective or make situational drills out of it (pull the head down, one person tries to land 20 knees without being swept, etc.). It will be important to work with more experienced people sometimes because they'll correct mistakes you both may be making, but clinching with another novice is still far better than not clinching at all. For instance, the addition of elbows, like you'd have in a fight, will make certain habits a bad idea. It would be inadvisable to spar with elbows as or with another novice, so having an experienced person being present will help you keep those type of things in mind without having to get cut to learn them. 

Have fun with it and try not to worry too much about winning or doing well. You are in the lab! Try different things out, see what works for you, what works on some body types but not others, see what works on tall or short peeps - slender or thick- experienced or novice. 

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Kaitlinrose: ok, yes, good points. I'm pretty rubbish at clinch, and in an effort to improve I've recently taking to chanting as I go in: " Hand SNAKE, Head UP, chin DOWN, hips IN, KNEE". Obvs this only works when practicing and not actually sparring...!!! But it does help to remind me not to make certain errors. It would be lovely to be able to have a go with someone more my own height.

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It's kind of hard to find a good clincher in my gym because the advanced guys we had don't train anymore, and the few remaining I don't come across them much as our training schedules don't match... and we never clinched together anyway. The majority of people at my gym are novices like me.

 

We're always under coach's supervision when we do clinch or sparring, so he can correct us when something is wrong. I have told him before of my unease with clinch, so it seems that we just leave that question aside for the moment. We don't clinch together, never ever, or once in a blue moon for 30 sec. When he wants to show me something, he takes my partner to do a demonstration so I can catch on. Maybe I should ask him if we could focus more on clinch exercises, but isn't it best to leave the class planning to him? After all, he's the one who knows stuff and when we're ready to do things.

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NCK: Yes, your trainer is the one who knows stuff and when you're ready - but you're the one paying for the classes, you've raised the question of your unease over clinch, but he doesn't appear to be addressing it. So I would say ask him again - he may say to leave the whole issue alone for a bit until he considers you more ready for it (or he has a suitable partner for you, whatever) - but at least then you'll know where you are. It may be that if the whole class is novice then your trainer wants to wait until everyone is ready for clinch work, but that still won't address your issues of feeling uncomfortable with the whole getting in close bit. And if nothing else, you want help with your knee strikes, as your first post suggested that you're not comfortable getting in close enough for them either (although God knows, you can learn to do that horrible knee kick where you spring in from miles off - my trainer got me with that just recently when sparring!) You can learn knee kicks on the heavy bag, but you want practise with a real opponent. Ask again!

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I remembered feeling awkward about proximity in the first 5 mins of my first Jiu Jitsu class, when I saw the instructor demo a move with someone. Trying jiu Jitsu wasn't something I thought through very thoroughly. And up until that point I haven't been that physically close to ppl. But I quickly forgot about the awkwardness when I became so focused on doing the new movements. I mean the kind of intense focus that you completely forget about who's watching and whether they are judging.

 

I wonder if it may be possible to consciously direct your focus to just the movements and dim everything else.

 

If it's something you want to do, you will find a way to override the problem, given time and effort. Good luck

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