Over 5 years ago when I had my first Muay Thai fight in Thailand, I ended up training with a young Rajadamnern Champion named Kanongsuk Chuwattana (Chai). Chai went on to corner me in my first few fights and was an excellent pad holder and trainer.
Something that set Chai apart from the rest of the Thai trainers was the fact that he was a BIG Thai and he was still an active fighter (21 at the time). He probably has the biggest calves you will ever see on a Thai fighter and is built like a brick. Chai is actually half Taiwanese/half Thai and lived in Japan for many years as a trainer and K-1 fighter.
When I went to Singapore to train at Evolve MMA, Chai was one of the trainers who I was looking forward to seeing the most. Given the fact that we had a previous relationship together, this was a reunion that was long awaited.
If you want to see what it looks like to get thrown around like a rag doll make sure you watch the video below:
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I’m pretty sure that one sweep I had is equal to the 20 times I got dumped in the video….right?
Running Out of Gas in the Clinch
One of the biggest issues you will encounter in the clinch is running out of gas. In sparring you can sit back and conserve your energy as your opponent attacks. Unfortunately, you can’t do that in clinching. Clinching requires you to engage actively against someone who is pulling on you.
Running out of gas in the clinch is extremely dangerous if you are in a fight. If it happens in a fight the referee will either stop the fight or you will end up getting knocked out. There is little you can do if the gas tank is empty and you have someone who is still fresh in the clinch. That is one of the reasons why Thai fighters train between 30-60 minutes every day in the clinch.
If you want to get stronger in the clinch you need to clinch as much as you can. When you clinch you will natural build your neck, shoulder and arm strength. In addition to the natural strength you will develop in the clinch, you will also develop a cardio system that becomes efficient at clinching and it will allow you to improve your overall game.
When you watch Kanongsuk (Chai) in the clinch, you can see how relaxed he is the entire time. He is often waiting for me to make a move and then he goes for a sweep. Even though Chai is much bigger than me in size, he doesn’t try to “outmuscle” me in the clinch. He simply uses good technique to dominate me in the clinch.
If you want to improve your Muay Thai game the best thing you can do is train with people better than you. While it may boost your ego to be a big fish in a little pond (the best guy at your gym), when you aren’t at the top of the totem poll it forces you to step up and improve.
If you want to have a well rounded Muay Thai game you need to develop good clinching skills. A fighter who is lacking in the clinch can never compete with a well rounded fighter. That is one of the reasons why you will NEVER see a K-1 fighter ever compete against a high level Muay Thai fighter. Unless the Kickboxer learns how to clinch, they will get completely destroyed.
My clinching session with Kanongsuk was a humbling reminder that I have a lot of room to grow. I love sparring and clinching with fighters who are better than me because it shows me where I can improve my overall game.
If you want to train with Kanongsuk and other Muay Thai champions of the sport you can check them out at Evolve Vacations over in Singapore. I had a great time over there working with a lot of my favorite Thai fighters.