You may not be interested in clinching, but clinching might be interested in you!

25 Aug

Today, most Chinese martial artists are stuck in the kicking and punching phase. Despite how frequently they use the word “kickboxing” in derision, as an insult, that is in fact what they are doing; and doing it rather poorly for the most part! “Oh, but in a real fight I don’t want to grapple / clinch / wrestle” they will tell you… But can they really avoid this phase of combat?

dominant angle

Have you ever watched a professional boxing match? Did you realize that the clinch is actually illegal? Yet it seems to be unavoidable. Then watch a Lei Tai, San Da or Muay Thai match, where the clinch and wrestling is legal, and see who those who have developed these skills dominate. Or, even those who have the skill to ESCAPE the clinch may be successfully, note how they had to DEVELOP the skills to escape! How do you develop those skills if you never engage in the phase / range?

head inside single leg

Whether you chose to close the distance or your opponent does, the clinch happens. Once the distance has been closed, the fundamental nature of fighting changes. In clinching, fighting for position, establishing grips, breaking grips, and unbalancing all become essential skills. They are used to control both the neck and the body and to set up strikes, knees, some kicks, throws and takedowns.

leg blocking graphic

The clinch may be the most important position in a fight but in most traditional martial arts it has been virtually ignored. Despite their best intentions, those who rely upon striking will find themselves in the clinch at some point in a fight. They need to learn clinching in order to remain standing. On the other side of the equation, most grapplers will rely upon clinching as a defense against strikes and to set up their throws and takedowns.

kao graphic

Thus, all fighters must learn to clinch. The first priority in the clinch is to establish CONTROL. The first few seconds are the most important and the most dangerous. Fighting for position, establishing grips, breaking grips, and unbalancing are all essential skills. In general terms, clinching will either be used to control the neck or the body. Once you have established control, you have several options; striking (knees, elbows, etc.), throws and takedowns, or escaping.


The clinch for striking

elbow strike upward 2

If we examine different combat sports we will find that striking in the clinch varies depending upon the format. In Western boxing, the rules limit the options to either (1) punching out of the clinch with short punches such as the uppercut, or (2) throwing body punches, or (3) holding the arms to prevent punching and waiting for the referee to break the hold. In Muay Thai, the cultural aesthetic has led to the development of knee and elbow strikes, with some basic wrestling to throw the opponent to the canvas. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has incorporated elements of both of these sports while also introducing new methods. An intelligent fighter familiarizes themselves with ALL of the options in the clinch and understands their relative advantages and disadvantages.

knee face

The primary method of clinching for strikes is to use the neck tie or double neck tie (often seen in Muay Thai). A neck tie keeps your opponent from escaping while also maintaining enough distance to strike. There are some opportunities to strike from other positions like the “50/50 clinch” which we will also discuss

knee to body

The clinch for throws and takedowns

middle inner hooking graphic

The advantage of using a throwing technique is obvious. A good throw can inflict as much damage, if not more, than a combination of strikes. You are hitting your opponent with the ground. For the purposes of definition, a full body throw involves both of the attacker’s feet leaving the ground as the body goes up and over your center of gravity. A properly executed throw also places an opponent in a position where you can strike, including STOMPING on their head!

vertical lifting uchi

A takedown is a much simpler undertaking. Any technique which puts the attacker on the ground and which is not a full body throw is considered a takedown. Full body throws can be devastating but are more difficult to set up and complete. A takedown is much easier. The disadvantage of takedowns is that they seldom disable the opponent and thus require a submission technique to complete the encounter.

body contact two

More to come
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3 Responses to “You may not be interested in clinching, but clinching might be interested in you!”

  1. pateticorecordings August 25, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    Reblogged this on Integrated Kung Fu Academy.

  2. Zsolt Sándor April 24, 2016 at 8:06 pm #


    I would like to add that in till the beginning of XX. century the clinch and throws from the clinch was an integral part of the boxing curriculum. Grabbing the hand in various headlock and giving a good deserved punishment, or pinion the opponent arm, or giving him a vicious hip throw, or back-hip fall was part of the game. If you are interested in more details I highly recommend Kirk Lawson’s book “Banned from boxing”.


  1. You may not be interested in clinching, but clinching might be interested in you! | New York Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - August 25, 2015

    […] You may not be interested in clinching, but clinching might be interested in you!.via You may not be interested in clinching, but clinching might be interested in you!. […]

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