Clinching in Thailand
Clinching is one of the most overlooked aspects of Muay Thai in the west. However, it is one of the most important aspects of Muay Thai in Thailand. Stadium judges score knees and close combat very highly and the ability to stay balanced, throw elbows, and spear in the knees can earn a fighter a decision in a close bout.
There are a variety of reasons why westerners don’t engage in the plum, or clinch. The scoring criteria in the west, especially in America, doesn’t highly value the skill as many of the judges and referees are improperly trained. In addition, getting good in the clinch takes time and skilled training partners, two things that can be lacking at gyms in America. Unsurprisingly many westerners come to Thailand and while decent outside fighters, will easily get destroyed in the clinch by even a mediocre Thai fighter.
The Importance of the clinch
The importance of the clinch cannot be emphasized highly enough. The large stadiums such as Rajadamnern, Lumpinee, Omnoi and others are built around a scoring system that highly favors kneeing and knee fighters. This is because the scoring is geared towards fighters that become stronger as they continue. Rather than a sprint, bouts are judged holistically favoring marathon fighters that finish confidently. Engaging in the clinch can be physically taxing on a fighter. It requires intense stamina along with a super strong core to stomach the hard knees that can pierce in.
While the three-round fight doesn’t favor the clinch as much, it is still very important. Referees will generally be quicker to break up the clinch but you’ll often see clinch fighters still able to score devastating knees in the clinch. A leaky gas tank in a three-round fight can be especially problematic as the fighters only have a limited amount of time to fight and wow the judges.
Often, you’ll see fighters clinch up after being hurt on the outside. Being adept at the clinch gives them time to recover while potentially still scoring points. A hard head shot can be turned around with pounding knees to the mid-section. It can also protect them from getting damaged on the outside with subsequent punches. Thus, clinching is also a form of effective defense for an injured fighter.
Muay Khao Style
FA Group embodies the Muay Khao, or knee fighter, style. There are several different types of Muay Thai fighters; Muay Fimeu, Muay Mat, and Muay Khao. Both the technical fighting style of the Muay Fimeu and the heavy-handed approach of the Muay Mat can be neutralized with an aggressive walk forward Muay Khao style. The knee fighter strives to push forward on their opponent cornering them. Once trapped the Muay Khao will latch on and unleash a salvo of knees.
The technical Muay Fimeu will try to evade the grasp of the clinch using lateral movement and or stalling techniques once in the clinch. They commonly attempt to sweep the Muay Khao off balance to prevent more draining knees from coming in. Often the Muay Fimeu will be unable to withstand the pressure and stamina of Muay Khaos.
Muay Mats, or technical brawlers, will attempt to brace and or push off the Muay Khao as he comes in to throw heavy hands. The Muay Mat will also attempt to slow the forward momentum down with leg kicks. Generally, the power of a Muay Mat will fade quickly as their explosiveness is sapped away by knees. By closing down the distance the Muay Mat is unable to effectively punch or leg kick as well.
The Muay Khao style is developed over countless hours engaging in the clinch. This is not something that can be achieved quickly, one of the reasons why the style is not seen in the west. Every day Muay Thai fighters must engage in the clinch not only to improve their technical abilities but also increases their stamina. As stated before knee fighters are well known for their unlimited stamina and will power.
The Muay Khao style relies on an ability to grind out the win. Steady constant pressure is necessary and the Muay Khao trudges on like a juggernaut. Ultimately the biggest weapon in the Muay Khao’s arsenal isn’t their knees, their clinch, or their stamina. The Muay Khao’s secret to success is having more will power. Sheer determination in a fight is what differentiates a Muay Khao from other styles of fighters.