The first thing I need to point out is that I am not an expert in clinch. I am a clinch fighter and I’ve had success in clinch (78-38-4 in Thailand), but I have only been seriously training “like a Thai” in clinch for roughly the past 16 months out of the 3 and a half years I have been here. The “experts” are the thousands of Thais who have been raised in rigorous clinch training – made up of countless hours in the ring – and then for me, below those top experts are the next layer, the young Thai boys (and Phetjee Jaa) who I’ve trained with and who are mid-way through their development. I’m just someone who has been training very hard in this difficult-to-learn art within an art – which is much under appreciated and limited in the west – I’m just now an intermediate student. What follows is a series of techniques or principles that I’ve discovered in my own development in clinch in Thailand, shown in a long running session. Some of these things have been explicitly taught to me as technical instruction, but as there is not a lot of direct clinch instruction in Thailand, some of them are aspects I’ve worked out for myself; my style. It is all completely a work in progress, but I share it with you because part of my 8limbs.Us mission is to bring technique learned here to the west. And in the case of clinch technique in particular, to bring it to western women who often find ourselves at a disadvantage, receiving only a shallow version of a very deep art. I’m very privileged to be learning at this deep a level. I want to pass it on, if I can.
So what follows below is an informal 20 minute clinch session with Kate Allen this week. Kate is an amazing woman. She’s a fighter from Philadelphia who had some pretty negative gym experiences in the past, so she quit her very dependable career, which had allowed her to save some money, and she and her partner opened their own gym; a gym she could run in a much more all-embracing way and offer to a community something of what turned her own life around. That gym is 8 Limbs Academy in West Philadelphia. This is Kate’s first time in Thailand, but we’ve been in contact online over the years. She’s currently at Sitsongpeenong in Bangkok, and will be fighting her first Thai fight next week. I convinced her to come and visit me and have this session, mostly because I wanted to meet her in person, but also I know how thin clinch instruction to women can be and Kate as an instructor will pass some of the things I’ve discovered through my struggles and opportunities here on to her own students. Our size difference distorts techniques a little bit, but it also shows how effective position and control can be to overcome angles.
I include this video of me and Kate with an audio commentary – and there is a little bit at the end with Kate’s very nice friend from London, Nina, who accompanied her and is a reader of 8limbs.Us herself – because this is the kind of extra content I’m trying to bring to you, given the remarkable support I’m getting from my Patreon supporters. My readers are keeping me here, and I’m doing my best to bring really unique reporting of Thailand each week.
So even though the video is extremely informal I hope you get a lot of out of it!
Special thanks to Kate and Nina for making the trip down to Pattaya to play with me – it was so fantastic to have more women in they gym and my trainers were excited to have them as well. And thanks again, Ladies, for such a lovely lunch beforehand!
(above – my 20 minutes with Kate Allen, with commentary)
PTT and His Brother Clinching
I include here also a minute or so of our gym’s star fighter, PTT, and his younger brother Baum clinching. It just shows that what Kate and I are doing is a pale version of what Thais do. Everyday for more than a year I’ve been involved in very “Thai” clinch practice, more or less thrown in with the boys at Petchrungruang – which is why I moved down here from Chiang Mai – but I’m not even close to what Thai clinch is, aesthetically or technically. PTT is a huge rising star with a very slow, relentless style. Here he just schools his younger brother, who compared to PTT is still a kind of beginner. (PTT is a clinch fighter, Buam isn’t; PTT just turned 18 and has been at the gym for more than 10 years and, though Buam is close to PTT’s size, he’s only 14 years old and has much less experience than his brother!) But notice how much displays of dominance are the very fabric of clinch. There are “moves”, there are “locks,” but they are all part of a much deeper art of imposition. There is very little stop and start other than after throws and aesthetic submissions. Buam stands no chance and, while he is learning skills through all this, his main lesson in getting schooled like this is composure. That’s been my lesson for these 16 months a well.
After our clinch session Kate, Nina and I all watched transfixed at the beautiful display.
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If you learned something here, you may like my commentary rounds with Kru Dam from Sitmonchai.