*On September 13-15, 2018, 5 PMA students tested for and earned their Black Belts in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Follow along over the next few weeks, as we share some blog posts that were written by PMA’s newest Black Belts during their preparation for Black Belt. Today’s post is from Matt Thomas. Matt is 35 years old and has been training at PMA for 11 years. Alongside Bill Molony, Matt became one of the first PMA students to earn Black Belts in both Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu!
Many fighting arts contain various strikes to an opponent’s face and head. A problem arises with this however–human beings have an aversion to being struck in the face. An opponent will usually protect his head and face to the fullest extent of his ability because he understands the devastation of a well placed and timed shot to the head. One of the answers to this problem has come from Thailand.
“Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. It was developed several hundred years ago as a form of close combat that utilizes the entire body as a weapon” (tigermuaythai.com). Muay Thai has its origins in the city of Sukhothai. An army was raised here to defend the government and inhabitants against invasion from surrounding tribes. This army was taught to use weapons as well as using their entire body as a tool to defeat enemies. Muay Thai or “The Art of Eight Limbs” formulated the primary martial combat system in Siam (now Thailand) and was widely taught to commoners and high society individuals as well (tigermuaythai.com).
Modern Muay Thai has transformed over the last 100 years while being spread throughout Europe and America through the teachings of Thai soldiers. This formidable combat system will continue to be regarded as a staple for the progressive fighter, and, as we will see, the Muay Thai clinch can be useful in a variety of situations which call for overwhelming an opponent with high-power, close range strikes.
Combat Muay Thai can easily be recognized by violent punches, elbows, kicks, and knees. However, like the closed guard in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, what decisively separates Muay Thai from the other striking arts is its unique clinch position (muaythaipros.com). A traditional Muay Thai fighter’s most distinguishable advantage when put in the ring with another opponent of differing style will be his ability to close to the clinch position, and be extremely adept at the inner workings of the technique.
First, the entry into the position must be achieved. Most times this will involve closing distance with an effective guard while taking minimal damage. Using strikes to close distance can be useful as well. By forcing the opponent to defend strikes his attention will be minimal in regards to the impending doom of the clinch. Once the inside control around the head is obtained, one misconception is brute force is all that is necessary to control the individual. Balance must be maintained while employing a “snap” of the opponent’s head when delivering strikes. Once balance is achieved, which will most likely involve off balancing the opponent, precise knees, elbows, and headbutts can be delivered. Unlike other combat styles, in the Muay Thai clinch, a fighter can place the opponent’s head in the optimal position for the strike. In addition, the head can be “snapped” into the strike, thus creating more combined power. The pattern of off balancing and striking continues until the opponent defends and pummels to inside control and reverses the position, gains distance, or is incapacitated. If for some reason the clinch must be abandoned, a take down can be attempted or a quick forearm shove to create distance for traditional striking can be used.
Being an effective Muay Thai clinch fighter entails “relaxed, efficient application of strength, not just brute force” (heatrick.com). One must use large, primary muscle groups to maintain the position. An active core is paramount to maintaining balance, keeping tight elbows, and delivering forceful strikes. Thai fighters will set aside 30 minutes after training to develop the ability to battle in the clinch for long periods (muaythaipros.com). For the application in self defense scenarios, the Muay Thai clinch gives the martial artist the ability to deliver slicing elbows, crushing knees, and sneaky headbutts all the while controlling his opponent’s balance and distance. This technique from Muay Thai will continue to be taught, learned, and evaluated by professional fighters and serious martial artists as a primary in-fighting and fight ending tool.