When it comes to getting stronger in the clinch, the best way to improve is to clinch. That being said, if you are inexperienced in the clinch it is important to work on the basics before trying to put everything together.
If you take a beginner and throw them into the clinch, they will develop a stronger neck and learn how to defend a few locks, but they will only learn how to fight for survival without developing technique. That is where drilling comes into play.
Drills allow you to work on specific techniques, without having someone resisting. This will allow you to execute the technique and work on it over and over. Through repetition you can develop the technique and timing that is necessary to perform a technique during a clinching session.
In the past month I’ve written two articles that detailed an overview of the clinch and also talked about some of keys to being successful clinching. You can read both of them in the links below:
For those of you who don’t have the luxury of training at a gym that emphasizes much clinching, here are 3 basic clinching drills that you can work on with a partner.
Each of these drills emphasize a basic skill that you need to learn in the clinch: arm position, balance, knees and pulling.
Drill #1 – Working on Your Arm Position in the Clinch
Clinching is a constant battle for arm position and control. Rarely will your opponent allow you to lock onto a position and hold it without resistance. The following drill is designed to get you comfortable changing your arm positions in the clinch.
Start off going slowly and getting comfortable working for different positions. You can start adding more resistance when both guys start getting into a rhythm inside the clinch.
Drill #2 – Basic Knees inside of the Clinch
Throwing a knee in the clinch requires you to develop timing and balance. If you throw a knee off balanced, it is very easy to be swept by your opponent. Before you throw a knee it is important to have a good lock on your opponent, so if they do try and sweep you off balanced, you can counter them with your arms.
This drill is an easy drill that involves maintaining your balance and arm position as you throw your knees. The key here is to get used to throwing your knees while being locked inside the clinch.
Once you are comfortable throwing knees you can start working on your arm position at the same time. For now, don’t worry about trying to throw sweeps or off balance your opponent. Simply work on your arm position and throw basic knees from that position.
Drill #3 – Pull and Knee from Clinch Position
The next drill we are going to work on is the basic pull and knee from the clinch. This drill requires you to have one hand gripping your opponent’s neck and the other hand control the inside of his arm. This drill is designed to help you develop better timing and rhythm when it comes to pulling your opponent’s neck and kneeing at the same time.
It is important that you take a step back as you are pulling in one motion. That way it is a single pull and knee, instead taking 1 step to pull and 1 more step back to knee. That is the biggest mistake that most people make when performing this drill.
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Create Good Habits and Fundamentals
While most people hate working on the basics, the reality is you need a strong foundation to reach a higher level in Muay Thai. If you watch Thai trainers working with young Thai boys, they grill them on their technique until it is perfect. They ensure that they have perfect technique right from the start.
By working on the basics, you will be able to add more things to your game over time. While you may be tempted to try and master Muay Thai in your first few years of training, the reality is it takes years to develop a complete game.
The more work you put into your training, the more you will improve. The key is to enjoy the process as you slowly progress and improve one step at a time.