If you’ve ever trained in an authentic Muay Thai gym in Thailand you will almost certainly do the following in a training session: Hit the heavy bag, hit pads with a traine and take part in sparring and clinching. There are many people who get very good at hitting the heavy bag and pads, they develop beautiful technique and power and anybody who would watch them at work could easily think they are a top level fighter. Those who have put the hours into pads or bags however but abstained from sparring and clinching will quickly find themselves out of their depth when teamed up with an experienced opponent. Sparring and clinching is essentially imitating a real fight where you will put to the test all your reactions, speed and techniques learnt. It doesn’t matter if you’re sporting the latest and most trendy Booster gloves or shin guards your experience and hours put into both sparring and clinching will quickly show.
There are also many who think their strength and power will be able to make up for their lack of technique, they will throw hard shots hoping to intimidate their opponent which may work on some folk. Then they will try the same on a Thai fighter or trainer who could have easily had in the range of 100 to even 300+ fights and are no stranger to aggressive opponents. This is where you will see a true work of art, as the highly technical Thai fighter will showcase a brilliant display of movement agility and most importantly, trickery. With hundreds of fights comes an IQ level of fighting your average Joe in the gym has never seen the likes of before. They have learnt how to throw all their attacks with such ease that you will never know what is about to be thrown next, they then use this to their advantage by feinting attacks and leaving your brain even more tired then your body. A great example of this would be one of the greatest to come into the sport, Saenchai who has become world famous for his flashy style of dancing around the ring almost looking like he is in the club throwing dance moves more then fighting top level opponents in the ring.
Alas these days the majority who train Muay Thai do indeed engage in sparring but most commonly neglected and an absolutely essential part of real Muay Thai is clinching. Clinching is so often forgotten by so many, some barely even recognise that it is what truly separates the sport from kickboxing. At the highest level of Muay Thai fights you will see fighters predominantly engaging in clinch wars, especially between rounds 3 – 4 which are considered the most important rounds to score points on the judges card.
So why is such a major component of Muay Thai neglected by so many? The truth most likely lies in the fact that it is such a refined skill and art perfected by the Thais that outside of Thailand it gets either watered down or not deemed essential enough by those who train, that they lose sight of just how effective and powerful the art of the clinch really is. It’s not until you come to Thailand and get wrapped up by an experienced Thai do you start to realise the intricacy and attention to detail that goes into the clinch. You may even confuse yourself and think you’ve accidentally stumbled into a Judo class. Go to throw a knee? you’re swept onto the floor. Push your weight too far forward? On the floor. Step your footing ever so slightly in the wrong place? Hello floor my old friend. It can be incredibly frustrating when you are new to the clinch but when you start to treat it like a separate martial arts form to that of Muay Thai striking and just like BJJ, wrestling or Judo where you start to understand leverage and self balance you can make quick progress.
So there you have it, if you want to be proficient in the sport and truthfully tell your friends that you train ‘real Muay Thai’ you must incorporate both sparring and clinching equally into your training routine. If you are looking to improve your skills and learn from the very best trainers and fighters in Thailand I highly recommend you take a visit to Muay Thai Academy in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. There you will be learning under some of the best Thai fighters who have years and years of experience. Wether you’re a beginner or professional fighter they will be able to craft your style to make you the very best version of yourself.
While you are training at Muay Thai Academy, you can also take a quick trip a minute down the road to the biggest fight shop in Asia, Super Export Shop and treat yourself to some of the most affordable fight gear on the market. As they stock almost every fight brand imaginable, Booster, Fairtex, Twins, King Pro Boxing, Top King to name just a few! You will truly feel like a little kid once again in a candy store as your eyes gaze upon the mountains of boxing gloves, shin guards, Muay Thai shorts, and fight apparel shirts. If you aren’t able to make it to their store due to the ongoing Covid situation then pay them a visit online at www.superexportshop.com
Written by, JL