For Clinch Purists – The Technique of Tanadet’s Long Clinch and the 9th Limb
This post is in the spirit of this site, showing things in progress, as if passing reading notes so others can think along (and even train along) with me. I’ve thought a lot about this clinch since first witnessing it about 3 years ago. I’ve finally gotten myself to the position where I can teach it to myself. I first wrote about Tanadet (Poda) 2 years ago. The extended film clip below Kevin made as a study film for me, so I could figure out just what it is that Tanadet was doing. If you want a very good sense of it it is best to watch that film.
You can read more than 20 articles on Muay Thai Clinch here.
Video Compilation of Tanadet Tor. Pran49’s Long Clinch Over A Few Years
Above, we put together about 20 minutes of Tanadet’s fight career, isolating just long clinch moments – watch THIS to really know what this post is about –
Tanadet is one of my favorite fighters to watch. Part of it is that I know him, as he used to come to Lanna Muay Thai (where I trained for 2.5 years in the North of Thailand) some afternoons to clinch with our young Thai men in preparation for his fights down in Bangkok. He was maybe 14 years old then and fighting at 44 kg (97 lbs), which I found unbelievable, given his walk-around size at that time; he’s just got these broad shoulders. But he was a sweet kid, very quiet, from the Hill Tribes above Chiang Mai, and very disciplined. His trainer could tell him to knee the bag and literally leave the gym on his motorbike, come back an hour later and Tanadet would still be kneeing the bag. His fight name was different back then, which I can’t remember now, but his name is Poda (pronounced like Yoda, with a “p”). Eventually, Poda was sold to a gym down in Siracha and has been fighting on huge Lumpinee and Rajadamnern shows since. Now he’s about 108-112 lbs in his fights as Tanadet Tor. Pran 49.
Tanadet’s style has developed, but one thing that he’s brought with him from his early success as a northern fighter is the “long clinch.” I’ve only really seen it as a persistent feature from northern fighters (although that’s just my observation) and Tanadet is especially prolific with it.
Tanadet’s style has developed, but one thing that he’s brought with him from his early success as a northern fighter is the “long clinch.” I’ve only really seen it as a persistent feature from northern fighters (although that’s just my observation) and Tanadet is especially prolific with it. The young men at Lanna, namely Big, would kind of slump down with the arms extended out behind the opponent’s head and the forearms resting on the shoulders, their own bodies making this exaggerated “C” shape. Tanadet is slightly different. He pulls and pushes with the long clinch, less as a resting or transitional position and more as a tactic to itself. He’s able at times to get great extension. It’s marvelous, really. He straightens one arm and then uses the other one like a “zip tie” to sometimes be locked behind the head, far up on his own extended arm, or sliding up to his other wrist in a double-long position. pinching down. In any case, when his lock comes closer to the back of his head his elbows are pushing the opponent’s arms apart so they can’t grab him, or they’re extended out long and he pinches his own shoulders together to create this amazing vice, with the head acting as a wedge (this is important). When he needs to change position, he bends his knees and kind of hops or pulls himself into the correct distance to keep attacking with his knees or turning the opponent. He’s relentless.
So, I’ve known about this long clinch for a while, but it’s only recently that I’ve really dedicated myself to practicing it. In my first attempts, I would just get my head pulled down and I failed to pinch my shoulders together enough, so my practice opponent would just slide their hand through that gap and grab the inside position for themselves. Not successful for me. But then I got a clue from Den, my trainer at Lanna (video below), that the head is of massive importance in this lock. The head is the “9th limb” in the “Art of 8 Limbs” – in Boran styles you could headbutt – but in modern Muay you use the head in the clinch to secure your lock or to make space for yourself. It’s an incredibly useful part of the body. So, pinching the shoulders is very important to create a tight “vice” with your extended arms, which you can adjust for distance and position, but your head should be tucked under your opponent’s chin for maximum effect in this long guard (or sometimes sliding up against the side of the jaw). Getting my head in the right position has made massive difference in my own progress with the long clinch in the only 10 days I’ve been focusing on it. It brings it from a momentary, transitional technique to move between dominant positions to a dominant position in itself.
Den Kamon Lanna Muay Thai Shows Some Principles of the Long Clinch
I had asked a few Thai trainers about the long clinch and mostly they only kind of knew what I was talking about, and those who have even a slight idea advise that it’s only a transitional position. Not Den, however. Because Poda had trained at Lanna as an adjunct fighter Den knew and really liked Poda, as well as being a northern fighter himself, so he knew immediately exactly what the long clinch is and how to execute it to the great effect – though he too has his version, which doesn’t quite match what Tanadet is doing.
You’ll see in the video (above) how he puts weight on my shoulders and “C’s” out his upper body to the hips. Then he bends his knees for balance and hopping ability, and puts the top of his head on my chin.
You’ll see in the video (above) how Den puts weight on my shoulders and “C’s” out his upper body to the hips. Then he bends his knees for balance and hopping ability, and puts the top of his head on my chin. My immediate response to the hard top of his skull on my chin is to lift my head, which puts me in a worse position than before. I’d have to consciously prepare to not do that, which isn’t something 99% of people you put this on are going to do. Once his head was under my chin, I had no leverage. He pinched his shoulders and kept his elbows on the front side of my shoulders (which he shows me a little later on the minor corrections; when I get my elbow properly on his shoulder it hurts him and we break and laugh). He can control me with his elbows and it keeps me from being able to pinch his neck, but I also can’t swim inside because his elbows are accessible at the front to bar me from doing so. This is a little different from what Tanadet does, but it works. As I experiment with my own comfort with the long clinch, I consider this a facet of the entire set of techniques that are possible.
Tanadet on the other hand seems to be ready to swim back to his favored position at any moment. He’s constantly moving when his opponent tries to change position, whereas Den’s tactic is mainly to lock the opponent out from being able to move him off his vice-grip. Den explained that with the top of his head under my chin, he can look down at my feet and knows every time I try to shift my weight or throw a knee, so he can off-balance me or even throw me based on visual cues. Tanadet is definitely using his head in the long clinch, but I don’t see him looking down and off-balancing the way Den likes to. Tanadet’s far more a drag you back, push you forward, knee the living hell out of you kind of guy.
You’ll notice in the 20 minute compilation that Tanadet, as he faced better and better top stadium opponents, he was forced to modify his long clinch and transition in and out of it more frequently. Though a brilliant clincher like Sataanmuanglek (see his clinch here) really couldn’t handle Tanadet’s long clinch – he had to beat him in other ways – in general Tanadet was forced to use the long clinch more sparingly, as part of a larger repertoire…though he could still turn to it to dominate as he did this last January against the Japanese fighter Kaito.
Some Stills of Tanadet’s Positions
My Process and Development With Long Clinch
- slumping down/out
- head jamming
- cinch tie
- knee bend
So I’ve been trying this out in my clinch for the past few weeks. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely progressing. The first few times I tried it, as I said, I just got my head yanked down and I would be KO’d. Then I got a better head position, right under the chin or even to the side of the face to push the head off-center, which made a huge difference in my lock and ability to control. But I wasn’t pinching my shoulders together and my usually-bigger sparring opponents were swimming in to grab inside position pretty easily. They also don’t wear gloves in practice, so this would be slightly more difficult in an actual fight but it should still be something I can lock them out of even with no gloves on. So, in order to pinch my shoulders I figured out that I have to get up on my toes and hop a bit – kind of the position I’d be in to do the “chicken wing” jumping knees on the bag, but with the long clinch pinch. I stay light on my feet, on the balls of my feet and even distance between them, and kind of shifting my weight back and forth and hopping a bit. That way I can “C” my body the way Den and Tanadet do and changing my arm position from right behind the head of my opponent to full extension is easier to do. If I want to pull my opponent toward me, I straighten my arms and lock my hands/wrists, then hop and tug and backwards – either both feet moving together or one foot stepping back deeply so I can knee with that leg right away.
When I get stuck with one arm behind my opponent’s neck and my shoulder is too close (so I’m at risk of being sideways – not good, you can be thrown), I straighten that arm, square up so both arms can go over the shoulders, and slide the stuck arm backwards (toward myself) until I have that elbow on the front of my opponent’s shoulder and then I’m gold. I can knee all day. Once I get my head into a position, I can generally knee from any direction at will.
above, the bend at the knees and the C, with head pressing is important in this clinch style
I’ve had difficulty getting into the right position with Gan, who is simply the tallest person I clinch with. He’s a full head, if not more, taller than I am. He’s not super skilled, but he’s strong and he’s learned how to wiggle straight away when I’m reaching for a lock behind his neck. His knees come up all the way to my chest, so I risk some serious strikes while trying to close in on him. All that said, when I do lock Gan, tugging backwards to bend his body in half is the best tactic. With boys closer to my size I can have a bit of difficulty getting my head under the chin while keeping my shoulders pinched together. If I don’t have the shoulders pinched right away, my head can be jerked down before I have the chance to set up. But if I bend at the knee and “C” out my upper body – so my hips are in, my knees are slightly bent and kind of bowed into the thighs of my opponent – I can get into an ideal position with nearly any of my clinching partners, including Bank, who is a lot stronger than I am and heavier, so his lock is really difficult to avoid and almost impossible to get out of. But I can lock him this way and he simply can’t get out. It’s like a magic trick.
But if I bend at the knee and “C” out my upper body – so my hips are in, my knees are slightly bent and kind of bowed into the thighs of my opponent – I can get into an ideal position with nearly any of my clinching partners, including Bank, who is a lot stronger than I am and heavier…it’s like a magic trick.
I’m still working out all the minute details, but so far the important differences have come out of the position of my head against the opponent’s chin or cheek, off-centering their head; the pinching of my shoulders to vice-grip the neck of my opponent and being able to slink backwards to create more space when I need it; and bending at the knees and kind of bowing them into the thighs of my opponent, so I can keep my hips in but still have the right leverage in my upper body to change distance and position. It’s a work in progress, but on days that I have success with it, I have unbeatable success with it. On days it’s not quite working, it’s tiny adjustments that make the difference.
I’ll keep you updated on the progress of this, perhaps with video examples, as I become more fluid it the position. I really felt I needed to develop an additional distance to clinch from besides just my vice grip clinch lock, which is very successful, but not against everyone. If I can manage both the long clinch and the vice grip lock, together, in multiple positions, places I can transition through, I should be even more difficult to deal with.