Clinching is an aspect of Muay Thai that makes it unique amongst the many striking disciplines and anyone who’s fought will tell you that it’s both incredibly exhausting and extremely brutal. The close-range exchange of knees and elbows also makes it extremely dangerous—a single misstep can lead to a knockout—so it is essential to know how to escape from the clinch if you ever find yourself outmatched.
This article examines 4 common clinch escape techniques that should be a staple in every fighter’s arsenal and includes information on how and when they should be used. So, if you are new to clinching and sick of being dragged across the ring whenever someone grabs your neck, or you simply prefer to fight using your long-range strikes then you’ll definitely want to read this and take notes.
1) The Knee Guard
The knee guard is a staple clinching maneuver that can be used to impede your opponent’s knees and, when done correctly, it can force the referee to ‘break’ the clinch or give you the opportunity to score knees of your own.
To achieve a knee guard from the clinch you must push one shin horizontally across the front of your opponent’s thighs so that they cannot lift their knees to strike. This will leave you balancing on one leg, so to stop your opponent from countering your block with a sweep you must also control their arms, making it impossible for them to reach forward and grab you.
To see the knee guard demonstrated in greater detail, watch the video above featuring Muay Thai World Champion Chaowalit Jocky Gym.
2) Disrupt Your Opponent’s Balance As They Knee
A strong clinch fighter will look to score in the clinch with a heavy barrage of knees. Knowing this, you can anticipate the moment that they come up onto one leg, turning them off balance so that they cannot score.
To do this you need to secure a grip on your opponent’s arms or neck whilst maintaining an upright position. Ideally, you will minimize the distance between you both so that they will have to knee around the side of your body, making this technique much easier.
Once you are standing upright with a solid lock, wait for your opponent to come up onto one leg and simply step to this side, pivoting your body away from it whilst you pull your opponent back down onto their raised leg. This is a good alternative to use if you are looking to land a big scoring knee yourself, but it can also be modified to create a sweep, breaking the clinch.
Sweeps are known to score very well on a Muay Thai judge’s scorecard especially when it’s a successful counterattack. Check out the above video on the various ways to sweep your opponent from the clinch and be sure to keep some in your arsenal because you’ll never know when you’ll need it!
3) Knee Block And Shove
This is a simple, yet effective way to break a Muay Thai clinch that can be used when you have a solid stance and the inside arm position so that you can control your opponents’ arms without them being able to trap you in any of their own locks.
Once you have this arm position, you bait your opponent into throwing a knee around to the side of your body. When their leg is raised, you lift your own same-sided knee up to their hamstring so that they can’t put their foot back down onto the canvas. While they are stuck on one leg you simply shove their biceps so that they fall backwards.
4) Stalling And Using The Ropes
A referee will break the clinch when it becomes inactive and neither fighter is landing scoring techniques. This is something that you can use to your advantage when you find yourself matched against a stronger clinch fighter.
To stall the clinch, you need to form a strong lock around your opponent whilst keeping your hips close to theirs so that they are unable to land scoring knees or elbows. This is easier said than done. A good clinch fighter will be skilled at stepping back or pivoting off to one side so that they can create space for a powerful knee. An easy way to stop them from doing this is by pushing them against the ropes where they won’t have the space to utilize their footwork.
Alternatively, you can pull them towards you as you lean back against the top rope so that their head is positioned in front of their hips. From this position, they will find it nearly impossible to pull you back into the center ring. After a few seconds of inactivity, the referee with separate you both giving you the opportunity to resume striking at range.
These techniques may be effective at escaping from the clinch but remember, once you have escaped from a dominant clincher’s grasp, they will probably try to grab you again. You are going to need to stay out of their clutches if you want to beat them. So, once you have perfected these techniques it is important to practice your evasive footwork and fighting on the back foot so that you can avoid getting caught again.
That being said, clinching is an essential part of Muay Thai and if you have the courage to step over the ropes to fight then there is always going to be a chance that you will find yourself locked in a clinch and knee battle. So, whether you love it or hate it, you are going to need to clinch as much as possible in your Muay Thai training.
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