The Muay Thai “clinch” is the number one technique that separates kickboxing from Muay Thai.  It is a close-ranged grappling system, that sets up knees, elbows and sweeps.  There is a lot of strategy and technique involved, to set up proper positioning for leverage and angles.

  • The Neutral Clinch:  Both fighters have the same position, with one hand on the back of the head, and the other at the elbow crease.
  • The Dominant Clinch: When one fighter has both hands on the back of his/her opponent’s head, with both arms inside of his/her opponent’s arms.
  • The Steering Wheel: This is when you have your hands on your opponent’s shoulders, inside of their arms. This position is ideal for blocking elbows, by pushing on the bicep or lifting your elbow and controlling your opponent’s attacks.
  • Straight Knee: The knee that shoots straight forward into the opponent’s abdomen or face.  One must make space in order to proper execute this technique.
  • Side Knee: A knee that can be thrown at extremely close-range, within the clinch.  The leg gets extended to the side, then pulled in quickly and turned over into the opponent’s side.

What throws are legal in Muay Thai?

muay thai knee

  • You are NOT allowed to sweep with the back of your leg.
  • You are NOT allowed to hip toss.
  • You are NOT allowed to single or double-leg takedown.
  • You ARE allowed to sweep with the front of your leg and bottom of your foot.
  • You ARE allowed to catch kicks/knees and drive or dump your opponent.


They Muay Thai clinch is an art in itself — stand up grappling, if you will. Round robin is a great drill to practice the clinch with partners.


Round Robin – 2 people will clinch (without gloves, wraps, or any jewelry on), while other training partners are watching on standby. In order to “win” you must do 1 of the 3:

  • Pull your partners head down, low enough to where they could get kneed in the head
  • Land 4 consecutive knee strikes in a row, without being interrupted
  • Sweep your opponent to the ground

Once one of the above happens, the “loser” goes on standby, and the winner faces a new training partner.

If you have any questions about the clinch, please comment below!


4 thoughts on “Muay Thai Clinch & Knees: Everything You Need to Know

    1. Greco-Roman is GREAT, I agree! I actually witnessed a wrestler get annihilated in a sparring match against a Muay Thai fighter with a strong clinch, though. Forearms on the collar bones acted like a sprawl, stopping the wrestler from penetrating in. It was a bad night for the wrestler — ate a ton of knees to the body. My point? Train both!

  1. any one uses an explosive type of deep lunging snap down ?

    i eat people up with that move, directly into a knee to the head.

    additionally i use modified russian arm drags with gloves ..
    there are many moves to do if you get sideways or better yet behind your opponent.
    this is really brutal and suprises all the muay thai clinchers…
    yes its within there system but not particularly popular .

    muay thai dont allow most judo throws so clearn them out of your head early on . no over the hip – ever allowed..

    muay thai don`t have use for any of them leg grabber tricks either.
    if you shoot you are D-Q `ed-loose..
    there is a differance in the fundamental meaning of throw vs take down.

    un-nit your wits and think clear in this area .


  2. clinch techniques . this is just for starters .

    please remember if there is no clinch it aint muay thai any way at all.

    stand up wrestling moves listed. hand fighting – neck wrestling .

    PUMMELING AND HAND FIGHTING: aid in long guard . this will be transitioned into other grips.
    hand fighting into ELBOWS !!
    that`s real muay thai style and very deadly.

    wrestling by pass

    snap down



    collar ties – single and double

    elbow pass

    duck under

    shrugs and level changes.

    some very good throws to be done from the clinch .

    1 ) Under hook to Pinch Headlock Attacks

    2 ) Pinch Headlock To Twist throw.

    3 ) Push pull bump throw muay thai.

    4 ) LATERAL DROP !!


    any of the below moves should be done from pummeling for starters with progress slap knees into a transition for a new grip.

    1 ) elbow pass wrestling move
    2 ) wrestling slide by
    3 )wrestling duck under
    4 ) wrestling snap down drills.
    5 ) pummeling and hand fighting
    6 ) single and double collar tie wrestling.
    7 ) Wrestling- Under hooks & Over hooks.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *