I’m not a Kru. I’m not a teacher. I’m still a full time fighter, I’m still a student, I’m still nowhere near the Legends and Krus and fighters who have taught and guided me. But, that said, I’ve put in the work for nearly 8 years in Thailand, and I’ve given my love for clinch a lot of thought – and I really do love it a lot – so I’m more than happy to share what I know with anyone else who wants to learn. Everything I know comes from the Legends and Krus in the Muay Thai Library (90 hrs of long-form instruction) some good links below, my trainer Kru Nu, my training partners at the gym, and the hours upon hours of work I’ve put into immersing myself in clinch to improve. That’s how you learn. But because I come from the West, I think like a westerner, I break things down, I think about positions and mechanics, so I am kind of a bridge between the Thai method of throwing the kid in the water and letting her learn to swim, and the western method of analyzing something and turning it into drills. Conceptually, I can break things down and isolate important elements, which can be helpful. But in order to be able to do them, you have to be thrown in the water.
My Clinch Seminar for the SMAC Gym Group from Australia
This video is kind of an informal “introduction to clinch” seminar or clinic. You can take these elements and plug them in to any training program in the world. They’re basic enough that they don’t depend on height, weight, level or even particular style of Muay. But they’re important enough that they can always keep developing and improving, along with any and all other skills and techniques one develops over time.
I’m a clinch specialist in a way. It’s because of my own natural tendencies and my love for Muay Khao, but it’s also because I’m small and fighting bigger opponents all the time. My clinch allows me to fight up. But fighting up has also shaped my clinch and my style in many ways. It’s an interchange between the two, and so without blowing my own horn too much I do believe I’m a good ambassador for the importance of, and beauty of, clinch as part of the Muay Thai art form. The art within the art. It has helped me thrive and do things nobody, including myself, thought were possible.
The Basics Covered
- Building A Frame – internal control
- The Dynamics of Turn – pull or push
- The Lock – the crushing squeeze
- Escaping the Lock – the face smush
- Escaping the Face Smush – the elbow breaks you free
- The Arm Loop – asymmetrical control
We filmed the clinch clinic and are posting it for free for everyone. There’s enough explanation and examples of movement that I think you can get a lot out of it just by watching, then taking these ideas and movements into your gym and trying them out yourself. There was a great question at the end of the session about how to train clinch. You have to spend lots of time “in the water.” You just have to get in and keep moving, it’s about continuity, it’s about getting a good position and then losing it and then finding something else. It’s about letting things not work for a while, until they do; or letting them work until they don’t. Like language, you just have to keep having conversations. It’s about immersion. This session is giving some ideas for topics and vocabulary, a little about sentence structure. But you have to go talk to other people; talk to everyone. Talk to kids whose vocabulary is small and whose topics are crazy; talk to professors whose vocabulary is large and whose topics you don’t understand. Take from everyone. Give to everyone.
Matt and Kyl both have been sponsoring the Muay Thai Library project, and have been great supporters of mine for a long time. I was happy to share my point of view with their group. Matt runs SMAC gym in Australia and Kyl runs CMA Chikara Martial Arts gym, also in Australia.
Read more 8limbus articles on clinch here
If you really want to learn clinch I do suggest you study these sessions below, as they formed a basic part of my own education. I have traveled around the country filming and archiving the techniques of some of the greatest fighters who have ever fought, and in so doing I’ve also documented the subset of Muay Thai devoted to clinch and Muay Khao. These sessions below make up much of that documentation.
Sessions in the Muay Thai Library with focus on Clinch:
#77 Kru Diesel F.A. Group – The Art of Knees (84 min) watch it here
Perhaps no single kru has had more success teaching the Muay Khao style than Kru Diesel. From Fighter of the Year Yodwicha, to the most decorated fighter Petchboonchu, his students disabled the elite Muay Femeu tacticians with ease. In this special session you learn the secrets of his knees and clinch, in real time breakdowns and elucidation.
#74 Samson Isaan 2 – Muay Khao & Western Boxing Excellence (59 min) watch it here
In 1991 there was no fighter more of a force than Samson Isaan, who took Fighter of the Year then. His relentless style combining Muay Maat punching aggression with Knee Fighting pressure and clinch made him a wrecking ball. In this session discover what made this little fighter so impossible to handle.
#59 Satanmuanglek Numpornthep – Beautiful Clinch Throws (65 min) watch it here
This session is focused on clinch throws. Satanmuanglek Numpornthep is an active fighter, both in Muay Thai and – in recent years – Western Boxing (he boxes under the name Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart, and already has a boxing title to his name – note, you can take privates with him at Chatchai’s world famous Sasakul Boxing Gym).
#56 Tanadet Tor. Pran49 – Mastering Long Clinch (63 min) watch it here
This is one of the most interesting and, if mastered, dominant clinch positions one can use, and the entire session is devoted to it. I filmed with young Long Clinch master Tanadet, and discover all the small refinements he created that turned what for many fighters is just a transitional position, into an entire system of attack. This is a rare session, capturing a little known and used clinch system.
#21 Rambaa Somdet – Clinch Trips & Throws (34 min) watch it here
Thailand’s first MMA World Champion, and one of the most aggressive, stinging fighters to grace the ring shows his philosophy on how to handle the clinch, using quick attacks, lifts, body-weight shifts to upend an opponent often before they are set. Some of my favorite trips are in this.
#10 The Clinch Techniques of Yodwicha – Session 2 (34 min)watch it here
This is my second session with Yodwicha, you can see the first further down below. This one really gets into the specifics of clinch technique and defense. One of the best clinch fighters in Thailand, co-Fighter of the Year, sharing his unique attack style.
#8 Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj – Advanced Clinch (52 min) watch it here
The Golden Age Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Champion, a legendary Muay Khao fighter who fought all the greats instructs on the finer points of clinch technique. Small differences that make big differences. Advanced tips on the swim-in and turn, and the importance of going from long distance techniques to short distance grab and lock.
#4 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.
#42 Boraphet Pinsinchai – Muay Khao Fighting Techniques (50 min) watch it here
Kru Ten is probably the best Muay Khao (knee fighting) private in Thailand, and one of the best in the Muay Thai Library. He not only is expert at clearly illustrating techniques, he has a perfect energy pace in his instruction.
#76 Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn 4 – How to Fight Tall (69 min) watch it here
There several sessions with the King of Knees in the Muay Thai Library, this is the fourth, but this is the first one where he gets the chance to teach a tall, long fighter like he was. If you are a tall fighter this is the session you don’t want to miss. He is arguably the GOAT, an in this session he unfolds his entire fighting system of knee fighting pressure and distance control.
There are lots of great sessions above, but this extended clip from Dieselnoi is one of my favorites: