above video, 5 minutes of the 52 minutes spent with the Golden Age legend Sangtiennoi
Read About Sangtiennoi’s Gym an Hour North of Bangkok: Tough, Traditional Muay Thai with a Legend
An Outside Counter to Inside Clinch Position
Finding yourself on the outside position when both clinchers are locked can be tricky, because the inside position is far more dominant and requires way less power to get anything done. However, when you have your arms tied up in the double-inside lock (the “Thai Plum” as Rogan calls it), you are naturally susceptible to the straight arm cross-face. Basically at least one side of your face is always open and so the person with the outside position can plant an open glove (the heel of the palm) against the cheek or jaw and pry the opponent off of herself. This is a basic escape, and is often down more or less straight on, or at a slight angle creating space. From an outside position the leverage can be tricky, so generally you want to do a burst of movement rather than trying to muscle it. Sangtiennoi’s version I really like. It creates a hard angle to one side, stepping behind, and has the advantage of pinning the opponent’s shoulder leaving her open to possible control and attack. He specifies that you should grab the jaw of the opponent as you make this move so they can’t wiggle their face out of your grip. You push out and lean your head up and back at the same time (like standing tall and then even leaning back a bit) to increase the pressure on your opponent’s shoulder as you press it forward with your own straightened arm. Watch the video with that description and you’ll see what I mean. The straighter your arm at the peak of your stretch, the less power and leverage your opponent has to try to counter you or get out. My own trainer has showed me this many times before and I never get it quite right, and I always attributed it to being shorter than everyone I work with or fight. That’s a legitimate issue. But it wasn’t until drilling it here with Sangtiennoi that I realized why my height made it difficult, and it’s getting the inside of my elbow/forearm to engage the shoulder of my opponent and force it forward. I was bending my arm too much; the straighter, the better. And you need to step to the heel of your opponent’s foot that’s right next to you, essentially getting partially behind them.
Key to a Powerful Muay Thai Clinch Turn
I’ve been in Thailand for nearly 5 years now, and I have to admit that I completely mis-read how the “turn” in Muay Thai clinch is done. When you watch it in video, or even in real life, it looks like it is a kind of sweeping arc with the pulling hand, and try as I might I never could quite get the power that high level Thai fighters seemed to have with it, so this was a little difference that makes a big difference to me. In my last session with Yodkhunpon (a legendary knee fighter) he showed me that the key was to not pull out and around, but rather directly into your armpit or shoulder (picture opening a fridge or pulling a lever, rather than opening a cabinet with a kind of arc). Just a month later Sangtiennoi shows me the same thing. Once you recognize something, you start seeing it everywhere. Here is a gif of Sangtiennoi showing this basic movement, and how it off-balances with very little strength or effort. It’s the pivot that completes the turning motion, not the arm. And it’s getting the head tight against your shoulder that makes your opponent’s body whip.
Solving the Overturn
I’ve written before about the importance of building a frame in clinch and that my frame consists of usually a hand on the neck with control of the opposite arm at the elbow. One of the difficulties of this frame is that, while the hand can usually get to the neck, the inside position at the opposite arm is harder to achieve. You’ll often have your “off” hand on the outside (not controlling your opponent’s arm), especially if you overturn on the arm that goes around the neck, like if your elbow goes past your opponent’s shoulder instead of on the collarbone. Under pressure this can result in overturn, especially against taller opponents, where you’re almost sideways. Very hard to get out of that. Usually you just want to be aware of this and work your arm back, getting the elbow into the collar. It’s basically back-tracking. But Sangtiennoi shows me a fast and really powerful correction that off-balances your opponent while getting back to a better position for yourself. A quick jerking turn with your overturned arm (your opponent is already in your shoulder if you overturn), and a swim-in with your outside hand at the spot where you just created space, into the dominant double-neck tie. In top competition you can’t hold this double-inside neck grab position too long – there are several easy counters – but in the midst of battle if you off-balance on the pull this turn and swim you can definitely serve up some dramatic straight knees and head-jerks, before the opponent recovers. Also, in Sangtiennoi’s unbelievably beautiful shadow, you can see the relation of his bent arm to his head – his head is in, working with his grip for the turn.
You can read all my Muay Thai clinch articles here
As I’ve written above, this 5 minute video is part of a 52 minute video for my Patreon supporters. This is some of what I wrote in my Patreon Only post which you can jump to if you are already a member (or you can become a member in just a minute or so).
“…The gym is large but relatively cluttered. Not in a bad way, more like how old houses that are actually lived in are filled with the memorabilia and life collected over a lifetime: framed photos, animals, plants, pets, family, equipment and fighters. I’m always taken by gyms which also house fighting cocks, usually under these domed wicker basket cages – it’s just a cultural feeling that I dig at Thai gyms, fighting is fighting for them – but I was really charmed and a little alarmed by the chickens and baby chicks that run free, everywhere. The chicks scuttle between your feet while kicking pads, when you’re sitting before a session, just all the time. And there’s a sweet dog, which follows around the reigning queen of the gym, Gigi, the 200 kg hog. This place is amazing.
I spoke with Sangtiennoi while sitting on some benches. He patted Gigi’s enormous body as he asked me about my fighting. We’d spoken before my arrival about what I was looking for, a private session with him on any technique he wanted to show me – just Sangtiennoi’s style – but he doesn’t really do private sessions. A lot of older elite fighters who own gyms don’t really offer private sessions; it’s a different role than gym owner and over-seer, which is what Sangtiennoi is at his gym, really a lesser role. It’s like asking a General to run the troops through drills. It took some explaining, but finally Sangtiennoi locked on to the part in our conversation where I said I am Muay Khao (he is also a knee fighter) and so he decided to focus on that. I am so grateful he did, because his knowledge and choices for focus are fantastic. He doesn’t hold pads for me and up until the last 10 minutes or so had me working with a fighter or one of his trainers while he watched and jumped in for instruction or corrections. The techniques he gave me are immediately practical and endlessly practiceable. Really, really useful and not “tricks” so much as tactics.
Clinch Lock Escape
Cross Face if in the Double Outside Position
Outside Arm Swim in on Turn
Clinch Entry – Long to Short
The first thing he shows me is how to pull your body all the way over to one side in a clinch lock in order to create room for the opposite side’s arm. So, if you want to get your right arm to the inside, you pull your body over to your left, hard, and then snake your right arm through the tiny gap you’ve created.…” read the rest here
By pledging a suggested $5 a month you get immediate access to not only this long session, but also the full Library of training videos below, and will benefit from new long form videos published from Thailand added more than once a month, now more than 8 hours of instruction from some of the best who ever fought in Thailand.
The Growing Technique Library
Yodkhunpon “The Elbow Hunter” pt 1 – Slicing Elbow (37 min) watch it here
Simultaneous Raja and Luminee title holder at 118 lbs, Yodkhunpon was one of the most feared elbow fighters in Thailand, and in this session he teaches the looseness and spacing that made his lead elbow such a viscious weapon. He also shuns the traditional rocking chair knee, and instead teaches a powerful stand-in crossing, open-hipped knee that compliments his elbows up top.
Karuhat Sor. Supawan – Be Like Sand (62 min) watch it here
2x Golden Age Lumpinee Champion (112 lb and 122 lbs), Karuhat is considered elite among the elites. Mixing an explosive style with constant off-balances, angling, and melting aways, he was nicknamed the Ultimate Wizard. I can only describe the things he’s teaching here as: Be like sand. This is very subtle, advanced stuff, far above combo techniques or specific defenses. It may take a few viewings to absorb what he is teaching. Everytime I watch this I learn something new.
Namkabuan Nongkipahuyut – Explosive Attack (28 min) watch it here
266 wins, 15 losses, 2 draws. Namkabuan may be the best fighter I’ve ever seen, and it was an intense privledge to train with him. I can honestly say that it changed me as a fighter, inspiring to become more. He combines Muay Khao fighting with technical precision and explosive energy. The knee he teaches in this session is really like no other I’ve seen, like it is shot out of a cannon.
Hippy Singmanee – Developing power (69 min) – watch it here
Two-time Lumpinee champion Golden Age legend Hippy Singmanee takes me though one of the most unique and valuable hours I’ve spent with a top trainer. He is building ground up how power and relaxation are related to each other. This session has been highly influential upon my own training. Learn how spacing+timing+relaxation produces dynamic power.
Yodwicha – Clinch and Muay Khao (Knee) Specialist (35 min) – watch it here
Yodwich shared the Fighter of the Year award as only a 16 year old, and his success in the Lumpinee ring made him one of the most feared clinch fighters in Thailand. In this session he goes through his favorite Muay Khao techniques, shows why he prefers side-attack locks, and turns.
Dieselnoi pt 2 – The King of Knees (54 min) – watch it here
Dieselnoi is the greatest knee fighter who ever lived, and it just wasn’t because of his height. Spending this hour with him lets you feel how much love and energy he pours into his Muay Thai, even at this age, the real secret to what make him dominant in the Golden Age of the sport. There is nobody like Dieselnoi. Nobody.
Joe Hongthong – Developing Muay Khao Style (87 min) – watch it here
This is nearly an hour and a half of straight on Muay Khao instruction. Joe was a top stadium fighter and he’s watched me fight for several years, so this is Advanced Level tweaking, as he teaches how to bring elbows and knees together, discussing the ways that dragging back can work for a forward fighter, and the differences with more technical (femur) approaches. Muay Khao is a technique unto itself.
Pi Earn – Head Trainer of PTT Petchrungruang (34 min) – watch it here
PTT is the rising star of my gym Petchrungruang. He was so sought after he turned down title fights at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern and instead signed with Thai Fight where promoters feel he’s going to become an International star. Pi Earn has been the trainer who has sculpted PTT’s methodical Muay Khao fighting style, and in this session he starts right away making the tiny changes in my technique that are necessary for the strong, forward fighting approach that he favors.
Read About Sangtiennoi’s Gym an Hour North of Bangkok: Tough, Traditional Muay Thai with a Legend