Using the Muay Thai Clinch Against a Boxer

Boxing vs muay Thai clinch; which one wins? It’s a question which gets thrown around a lot, and it’s also a question that has no answer. Actually, they beat each other. It depends who’s best at doing each of them.

I came across this video whilst browsing my Google+ feed, it’s from David Ross’ YouTube channel, which has some cool tutorials shot at Charn Chai Muay Thai gym in Pai, Thailand.

In this video, the trainers are demonstrating some of the ways a fighter can use the muay Thai clinch against a fighter who uses a lot of boxing techniques.

In typical Thai style, the techniques in the video come thick and fast, so I have singled out a few below and explained them a little.


Examples of  using the muay Thai clinch against a boxer


Inside control is always the preferred position

Muay Thai Technique GIF

In this clip, Bee is looking to “palm” punches with his left hand while he looks for a way in to grab hold of his partner’s head, he finds his way in via a right hook from his partner. Bee’s right arm simultaneously comes inside the puncher’s guard to grab the left bicep.

The head/inside arm control is a very strong position to be in, giving the clincher great control and mobility over the arms and head of the opponent to deliver knees.


Going outside #1

Muay Thai Clinch Techniques

It’s all a waiting game; Bee waits for his partner to retract his hands after throwing the combo, so he can use his left hand to reach inside and grab the neck, but comes outside of his opponent’s arm to gain leverage for the knee.

Outside control isn’t such a strong position, but taking control of the head with the other arm makes it a lot stronger than say, having two arms on the outside. For taller fighters, it’s not that bad being on the outside as long as you’re strong with it, because we can still land knees at that range, while our opponents may not reach us.


Going outside #2

Charnchai Muay Thai Gym

In this example, trainer Bee waits for his partner to hook while his own arm is still up protecting his face. He uses this opportunity to shoot his left arm forward and inside the puncher’s hooking arm to grab hold of the head and pull his partner into his knee. Again, his right arm comes from protecting his own head, directly to the outside of his partner’s arm.

Sometimes going outside is the quickest way to gain control of your opponent to throw the knee, knowing that you already have one hand on the head.


Going outside #3

Knees vs Punches

Bee shoots his left arm forward to grab the head as the hook is on its way in, minimising the power in the punch and ensuring his partner can’t pull his arm back before the head is captured. This time, he has chosen to keep his right arm protecting his face; this arm could be used to launch a straight elbow right down the middle.

If you’re fighting somebody who literally won’t engage in the clinch and only uses punches, don’t worry so much about arm control, just use your arms to elbow the face. If they don’t lock your arm in position the they aren’t putting up any kind of defence for elbows. So elbow them!


Over the top

C Shaped Muay Thai Knee

The hand can also be placed on the top of the head. It’s probably best to time this technique for when the puncher retracts his shot to avoid getting caught with punches coming from underneath your guard.

This position is advantageous and preferable to taller fighters who want to take control their opponent’s head while keeping them at a range where they can land knees, but their opponent cannot.


Reaching across

Charnchai Muay Thai Camp

In the next example, Bee reaches over to the opposite side of his opponent’s head, using his right arm to parry (what would normally be) the jab and using his left arm to pull the head while he throws the left knee. As you can see, it puts Bee’s partner in a pretty bad position; it pulls him down, forward, and to the right of Bee’s body. His weapons (hands) are now on the left of Bee and he is blind-sinded.

This is normally a harder position to get as it’s a further distance to reach for, but using the attacker’s arm as a lever makes it easier. A variation of this technique can enable the clincher to deliver a much more powerful knee by using foot placement.


One arm forward

Aaron Jahn Vs. Charnchai Keithavorn Muay Thai Clinch

As well as the “two hands up” method to moving in, you can also extend one arm while using the other to protect like Charnchai did against me in this fight from a couple of years ago. He covers with one hand, keeping his chin down and head forward, while his other hand goes straight into my face and then slides around the back of my neck to pull me in for the right knee.

This method can blind your opponent and can even prevent them from getting their shots off in the first place, although it leaves the body exposed. Taller fighters are usually fans of this technique.


Most of the techniques shown in this post involve the clincher moving forward while covering and gaining control of the head and/or the inside or outside of the arms.

Firstly, you must make sure you’re defending your head.

If you perform any of these techniques, make sure your head is well protected and your chin is down when moving in. You’re going to take some damage when using this method as you’re meeting the punches head-on, but it’s the quickest and most direct way of getting on the inside.

If you want to move in and stay in, inside arm control is king. However, if you want to stay outside and knee from distance, then outside arm control and palming your opponent’s hands is key. Remember, a knee can naturally beat a punch without gaining any control over your opponent’s arms or head, just make sure you have a good lean back or you WILL die.

These aren’t the ONLY ways of getting in the inside, but Thais frequently use methods similar to this to clinch their opponents, usually because of their superior training in the clinch and in knees.

About Aaron Jahn

Aaron is an active muay Thai fighter and coach from the UK. He holds a BSc (hons) degree in Strength & Conditioning and is currently studying a Sports Therapy Master's degree in Leeds, UK. Aaron has fought over 20 times in Thailand and has spent years training at different muay Thai camps all over the country.
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