Muay Thai Clinch: Techniques, Tips, and Benefits (2023)

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If you’re a Muay Thai enthusiast or a novice just dipping your toes in, the clinch is one of the essential Muay Thai techniques to master. It’s a dynamic game-changer in fights, a blend of power and strategy. But what makes Muay Thai clinch so distinctive and potent? Let’s dive in and find out.

Understanding the Muay Thai Clinch

The Muay Thai clinch, often called the “plum position”, is the art of securing an opponent in a vice-like grip from where various strikes can be executed. It’s not just about holding or gripping the opponent; it’s a strategic maneuver requiring strength, technique, and much practice.

But why is the clinch so crucial in Muay Thai? What benefits does it offer? And most importantly, how can you master it? Let’s dive in and unravel these mysteries!

The clinch is one of the essential Muay Thai techniques to master
The clinch is one of the essential Muay Thai techniques to master
(image source:

1. Importance and Benefits of the Muay Thai Clinch 

Ever watched a Muay Thai fight and wondered why fighters clinch so often? That’s because of the strategic benefits that clinching offers. The clinch is a potent weapon in a fighter’s arsenal, allowing them to control their opponent, land decisive strikes, and potentially sway the fight’s outcome. 

  • Control: The clinch allows a fighter to control their opponent’s movements, limiting their ability to strike back. It’s all about dominance and dictating the pace of the fight.
  • Powerful Strikes: From the clinch position, a fighter can unleash a series of devastating knee strikes and elbow strikes. These are some of the most powerful and damaging strikes in Muay Thai.
  • Exhaust the Opponent: Clinching drains energy as the opponent struggles to break free. This can wear them down over time, making it easier to land effective strikes.

2. Mastering the Muay Thai Clinch 

Mastering the clinch in Muay Thai isn’t something that comes overnight. It takes time, effort, and a lot of practice. But don’t worry. I’ll share some tips and techniques that can help you improve your clinching skills. 

  1. Balance and Positioning: This is the foundation of a good clinch. Maintain a strong base and evenly distribute your weight between your feet.
  2. Hand Positioning: Your hands should be positioned around your opponent’s neck, with your forearms pressing against their collarbone. This helps you maintain a tight grip and control the opponent’s movement.
  3. Use Your Weight: Don’t just rely on your arms; use your body weight to apply pressure and control the opponent. The more weight you can put into the clinch, the harder it is for your opponent to break free.
  4. Practice: Like any technique in Muay Thai, mastering the clinch requires training. Regular clinch drills and sparring sessions will help you improve your technique and build strength and endurance.
Your hands should be positioned around your opponent's neck
Your hands should be positioned around your opponent’s neck
(image source:

Essential Techniques for Executing the Muay Thai Clinch

Ready to discover the basic techniques to master the Muay Thai Clinch? Buckle up, my friends, as we explore this essential aspect of Muay Thai!

1. Establishing the Clinch Position 

The first step to executing a perfect clinch is to establish the position. This is where the real dance begins. It’s not simply about holding your opponent. It’s about gaining a superior position. So how do we get there? 

  • Hand Placement: Place your hands on the inside of your opponent’s collarbones. Your palms should be flat, and your fingers spread wide, giving you a firm grip. Your forearms should be horizontal, parallel to the ground.
  • Body Alignment: Once you’ve got your hands in position, align your body correctly. Your hips should be close to your opponent’s, and your head should be positioned under their chin. This forces their head up and back, making it harder for them to break your hold.
  • Footwork: Footwork is as crucial as hand placement and body alignment. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart for balance. Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet.
Your hips should be close to your opponent's, and your head should be positioned under their chin
Your hips should be close to your opponent’s, and your head should be positioned under their chin
(image source:

2. Offensive and Defensive Techniques 

Once you’ve established your position, it’s time to focus on offensive and defensive techniques. These techniques will allow you to maintain control of the clinch, deliver strikes, and prevent your opponent from doing the same. But what are these techniques? 

  1. Swimming: This defensive technique involves moving your arms in a swimming motion to regain inside control when you’ve lost it.
  2. Jockeying: This is an offensive technique where you use your forearms and shoulders to jostle your opponent, breaking their balance and creating openings for strikes.
  3. Striking: The final technique involves delivering offensive strikes. This could be sharp knee strikes to the body or elbows to the head.

Note: Always remember that the Muay Thai clinch is a dynamic position. Always stay active, and always stay moving. If you’re static in the clinch, you’re a sitting duck. Keep your opponent guessing; keep them off balance. That’s the key to mastering the Muay Thai clinch.

The Importance of Footwork in the Muay Thai Clinch

As an experienced Muay Thai practitioner, I can’t emphasize the significance of footwork in the Muay Thai clinch. Picture this: two fighters locked in a clinch, each vying for control. The one with superior footwork has the upper hand, dictating the pace, controlling the position, and effectively landing knees and elbows.

But why is footwork so vital in the Muay Thai clinch? Let’s delve deeper. 

1. The Power of Positioning 

The clinch is not just about strength – it’s a dance, a struggle for dominance where your feet are as crucial as your hands. Good footwork allows you to maneuver your opponent, disrupt their balance, and create openings for attacks. It’s akin to a chess game, with each step setting up your next move. 

2. Enhanced Control 

Ever watch a clinch-heavy Muay Thai fight? The fighter who controls their footwork controls the clinch. You dictate the clinch’s rhythm by effectively stepping, pivoting, and shifting your weight, forcing your opponent to react to your movements rather than setting their own pace. Have you ever wondered how a smaller fighter can control a larger opponent in the clinch? The answer lies in the artful maneuvering of their feet. 

3. Effective Strikes 

Footwork is the foundation for powerful strikes in the clinch. The ability to place your feet properly, pivot on the balls of your feet, and shift your weight allows you to generate power for your knees and elbows. Without solid footwork, your strikes will lack the necessary force to make a significant impact. 

Remember, the clinch is not a static position. It’s a dynamic, ever-changing state where footwork can mean the difference between landing a powerful knee or receiving one.

So, how can you improve your footwork for the Muay Thai clinch? Here are a few tips: 

  • Practice your footwork separately. Spend time during your training sessions to focus solely on footwork. This will help improve your agility, balance, and overall movement.
  • Drill clinch scenarios. Get a partner and simulate different clinch situations. Pay attention to your foot placement, balance, and how you maneuver your opponent.
  • Incorporate footwork into your shadow boxing. Visualize an opponent and practice your footwork as you would in a real clinch situation.
  • Watch and learn from the pros. Study how professional Muay Thai fighters utilize their footwork in the clinch. See how they pivot, step, and shift their weight to control the clinch and land devastating strikes.

Maintaining Control in the Muay Thai Clinch

The clinch is not just about getting a hold of your opponent. It’s about maintaining control. It’s a dance, a battle of wills. It’s about balance, leverage, and strength. So, how do you maintain control in the Muay Thai clinch? 

1. Understanding Leverage and Balance 

The first and foremost thing you need to understand is leverage and balance. These two elements are the cornerstones of a successful clinch. Leverage comes from correctly placing your hands and arms, while balance concerns your stance and footwork. A well-executed clinch can disrupt your opponent’s balance, allowing you to land devastating knees or elbows. 

2. Developing Strength and Endurance 

Strength plays a role, but it’s not just about brute force. It’s about functional strength, which allows you to maintain your grip and control your opponent’s movements. In the clinch, endurance is just as critical as strength. You need the stamina to maintain your position and keep your opponent off balance, especially during long, grueling matches.

In the clinch, endurance is just as critical as strength
In the clinch, endurance is just as critical as strength
(image source:

3. The Techniques 

Now, let’s talk about the techniques. How exactly do you maintain control in a Muay Thai clinch? Here are some key principles to remember: 

  • Hand placement: Your hands should be placed on the inside of your opponent’s arms. This gives you more control and prevents them from easily breaking the clinch.
  • Body positioning: Stay close to your opponent to minimize their striking options. Control their movements by manipulating their body with your own.
  • Use your elbows: Your elbows can be used to control your opponent’s arms or to create space for strikes.
  • Control the head: By controlling your opponent’s head, you can control their body. Use your forearms to apply pressure on their collarbone and neck.

4. Practice Makes Perfect 

I cannot stress enough the importance of consistent practice. It’s where the magic happens. It’s where you transform knowledge into skill. It’s where you perfect your technique, build your strength and endurance, and develop that instinctual understanding of balance and leverage.

Breaking Your Opponent’s Posture in the Muay Thai Clinch

Breaking your opponent’s posture in the Muay Thai clinch is a critical skill that can give you an edge in a fight. But how do you achieve this? What techniques and strategies can you employ? Let’s delve into it! 

1. Understanding the Importance of Posture 

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand why posture is vital in Muay Thai clinch. A good posture enables a fighter to maintain balance, control, and power. Breaking your opponent’s posture, thus, disrupts their balance, reduces their control, and diminishes their power. But how can you achieve this? 

2. Techniques to Break Your Opponent’s Posture 

  • Use Your Weight: Lean on your opponent, making them carry your weight. This can wear them down and compromise their posture.
  • Push and Pull: Use a push-pull technique to push your opponent’s face while pulling their body towards you. This causes them to lose balance, thus breaking their posture.
  • Distraction: Sometimes, a well-placed knee or elbow can distract your opponent, giving you a chance to break their posture.

Using Knees and Elbows in the Muay Thai Clinch

1. Mastering the Knee Strikes 

Let’s start with the knees. In the Muay Thai clinch, knee strikes become your most powerful weapon. But how do you make the most out of them? How do you deliver a knee strike that can be a game-changer? 

  • Placement: The first thing to remember is that you aim to strike your opponent’s body with the point of your knee. This requires precision, not just power.
  • Timing: The next critical aspect is timing. To land a successful knee strike, you must understand when your opponent is most vulnerable. Is it when they’re attempting a strike? Or when they’re off-balance?
  • Force: Lastly, you have to consider the force. A knee strike is much more than just lifting your knee. You need to thrust your hip forward to amplify the force of the strike.
In the Muay Thai clinch, knee strikes become your most powerful weapon
In the Muay Thai clinch, knee strikes become your most powerful weapon
(image source:

2. Using Elbows Effectively 

Now, let’s move on to the elbows. Elbow strikes are some of the most damaging in all martial arts and can be particularly devastating in the clinch. But how do you use them effectively? 

  • Positioning: Your elbow should be bent at a 90-degree angle. This gives you the best chance to deliver a decisive strike.
  • Targeting: Aim for your opponent’s head or face. These are the most vulnerable areas; a well-placed elbow strike can be highly effective.
  • Rotation: Rotate your body with each strike. This will add momentum to your elbow strike and increase its power.

Remember, mastering the Muay Thai clinch and effectively using knees and elbows takes time and practice. It’s not just about strength but precision, timing, and technique.

Defending Against the Muay Thai Clinch

1. Basic Defense Techniques 

  • Hand Control: A clinch’s first line of defense is good hand control. Make sure to keep your hands inside your opponent’s. This inside control allows you to push your opponent away or maneuver into a more advantageous position.
  • Body Position: Position your body correctly. Keep your hips square to your opponent’s and your center of gravity low. This stance will make it harder for the opponent to throw or sweep you.
  • Footwork: Use footwork to your advantage. When your opponent moves, you move. Stay light on your feet and make it difficult for them to control your movements.

2. Advanced Defense Techniques 

  • Swim Technique: The “swim” technique involves swiftly moving your arms in a swimming motion to break your opponent’s grip and regain control.
  • Long Guard: The long guard involves extending one arm to keep your opponent at a distance while the other is used for defense.
  • Throwing Techniques: Perfecting techniques such as the “hip throw” can help turn a defensive situation into an offensive one.

3. Drills for Defense 

Now, how do you incorporate these techniques into your training routine? Here are a few drills that can help: 

  • Hand Control Drills: These drills involve practicing maintaining inside control and constantly pushing and pulling to simulate the struggle in a clinch.
  • Position and Footwork Drills: These drills involve maintaining your stance and footwork while a partner tries to move and control you.
  • Throwing Drills: Practice your throws on a partner, starting slow and gradually increasing intensity as you improve.

Training Exercises to Improve Your Muay Thai Clinch

Passion and persistence are the lifeblood of mastering the Muay Thai clinch. It’s a powerful weapon in your Muay Thai arsenal but requires a firm understanding and consistent practice. Thankfully, several training exercises can help you hone your clinching skills. Let’s dive into it! 

1. Neck Strengthening Exercises 

Maintaining a strong grip on your opponent’s neck or head is crucial for an effective Muay Thai clinch. But how can you build this strength? Here are a few exercises that can help: 

  • Isometric Neck Bridge: This powerful exercise strengthens your neck muscles. You’ll need to position yourself on the floor in a bridge position, using your head and feet for support. Hold the position for as long as you can.
  • Neck Harness Training: You can use a neck harness to do resistance training. Attach weights to the harness and perform nods and shakes to strengthen your neck muscles.

2. Clinch-Specific Drills 

Practicing clinch-specific drills can significantly enhance your abilities. These exercises simulate the actions you’ll be performing during a fight, strengthening the necessary muscles and improving your technique. Here are a couple to try: 

  • Hand Fighting Drill: In this drill, you and your partner will fight to gain control of each other’s head. The goal is maintaining control while preventing the other from doing the same.
  • Knee Strike Drill: This drill incorporates knee strikes, a common move in Muay Thai clinching. You and your partner will alternate delivering knee strikes while maintaining the clinch.

3. Sparring 

There’s no better way to improve your Muay Thai clinch than by sparring. It allows you to apply the skills you’ve learned in a realistic setting against an opponent trying to win. However, always spar with control and respect for your training partner.

Note: Always ensure you’re properly warmed up before starting these exercises and adequately cooled down afterward to minimize the risk of injury.

There's no better way to improve your Muay Thai clinch than by sparring
There’s no better way to improve your Muay Thai clinch than by sparring

Implementing these exercises into your training regimen can help you build a formidable Muay Thai clinch. Keep pushing, stay focused, and the results will show in your performance. It’s all about the journey, isn’t it?

Tips for Developing Your Own Unique Clinch Style in Muay Thai

Like a ballet dancer finding their rhythm or a jazz musician improvising a new tune, developing your unique clinch style in Muay Thai can be rewarding. It explores personal strengths, weaknesses, and preferences while respecting the traditions of this ancient martial art. It’s about using your muscles, mind, and spirit. So, where do we begin? 

1. Understanding Your Strengths and Weaknesses 

First and foremost, self-awareness is key. What are your physical strengths? Are you agile, strong, or have exceptional endurance? You may be a strategic thinker, able to predict an opponent’s move before they even make it. Recognize these strengths, but also acknowledge your weaknesses. Understanding your limitations is not a sign of defeat but an opportunity for growth. Don’t you agree? 

2. Experiment With Different Techniques 

Next, feel free to experiment with different clinching techniques. The beauty of Muay Thai lies in its diversity; no two fighters are the same. There are several ways to perform a clinch, and each technique has its benefits. So, why not try them all? See what works for you and what doesn’t. Remember, it’s through trial and error that we truly grow. 

If it doesn’t, its challenge doesn’t change you. Embrace the challenge to discover your unique style.

3. Study the Greats 

Thirdly, take a page out of the book of the greats. Study the techniques of Muay Thai legends, watch their fights, and observe their clinch styles. What can you learn from them? How can their experience shape your style? Remember, we stand on the shoulders of giants, and there’s much wisdom to be gained from their experiences. 

4. Consistent Practice 

Lastly, but certainly not least, practice, practice, practice. There’s no shortcut to mastering the clinch. It requires consistent effort, dedication, and persistence. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect, right? 

  • Sparring: Regular sparring sessions can help you apply what you’ve learned in a real fight simulation. It’s the perfect opportunity to experiment with different techniques and see what works for you.
  • Shadow Boxing: Don’t underestimate the power of shadowboxing. It’s a great way to practice your clinch, improve your footwork, and visualize your techniques.
  • Drills: Drills can help you hone specific techniques until they become second nature. It’s all about repetition and muscle memory.

Learn More about Muay Thai Clinch


As we wrap up our discussion on the Muay Thai clinch, it’s clear how vital this technique is in Muay Thai. It’s a defensive move and an offensive tactic that can deliver devastating blows and control the opponent. But remember, mastering the Muay Thai clinch requires time, dedication, and consistent practice. 

Let’s take a moment to summarise what we’ve learned: 

  • Muay Thai Clinch Technique: A strategic hold that allows fighters to control their opponents, land effective strikes, and set up sweeps or throws.
  • Benefits: Enhances strength, agility, stamina, and strategic thinking. It can also be a game-changer in fights, turning the tide in your favor.
  • Practice: Regular training, drills, and sparring are vital to improving your clinching skills in Muay Thai.

And remember, it’s all about the journey rather than the result. So, keep pushing, keep learning, and most importantly, enjoy every step of your Muay Thai journey!

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Michael B. Ryan

Michael is a passionate Muay Thai enthusiast and founder of Fancy Muay Thai. He shares tips and resources to help others improve their skills and provides unbiased product reviews. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliated sites. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates.