Clinching & Knees
Robot Muay Thai
These past few weeks we have been focusing on clinching and knees. We must understand the importance of clinching and also know how knee strikes are scored in traditional Muay Thai. Fighters will usually use the first two rounds as a “feel out” process. They will use it to gauge their distance and loosen up. The 3rd and 4th round are the rounds that will determine the winner of the fight. By the 5th round both fighters will know who is ahead and will attempt to catch up during the first half of that round. If the fighter can not score points in the last round they will admit defeat and take the last minute of the round off. Sometimes the fighters will just circle around the ring or throw their weapons so light it will look like they are sparring. The 3rd and 4th round are usually clinching rounds where both fighters will try and out score each other with the use of knees and dumps. If a fighter who is slightly behind in round 5 manages to throw their opponent off balance and follow with a strong knee, the technique would win the round and the fight for that fighter. Although the rules suggest that all techniques have an equal chance to score, certain techniques are favored by judges as being more effective than others. Judges generally consider strong body kicks and well-timed teeps (push kicks) that cause a loss of balance to be more effective than leg kicks (unless the low kick knocks an opponent off their feet or causes them visible injury). Strong knees are more effective than punches (unless the punch staggers or drops the opponent). Straight knees are more effective than round knees.
In the U.S., Muay Thai scoring is a bit different because of the officials who are judges and referees. For the most part our officials come from a Karate or Kickboxing background which makes it difficult for them to understand proper Muay Thai techniques. They still don’t know when a strike lands clean and when one is blocked. For example, a kick to the forearm is not considered a clean strike unless the strike throws the opponent off balance. Maintaining physical and mental composure is essential for a fighter if they are to win a fight. This is the reason fighters in Thailand place so much emphasis on stance, footwork and balance. Just because a technique makes clean contact with a target, it doesn’t mean they will score. Techniques don’t result in points if they are weak and not delivered with force or are off balance. If a strike is immediately countered by an equally strong technique, the points will offset each other. We are also accustomed to Western Boxing, so a lot of the judges favor punches over kicks and knees. You can easily see the effects of a punch to the head as opposed to a clean knee to the body. As you gain more experience, you will learn that a clean knee to the body will do a lot more damage than a punch to the face (unless the punch drops or knocks out the opponent). A fighter’s balance is a hugely significant part of determining one’s score, but unfortunately this is often underrated in the West. A fighter who maintains his balance as he moves, attacks, and defends throughout the fight will appear to be a stronger fighter who is more in control of the match. Therefore, any attack that disrupts an opponent’s balance will be worth significantly more on the judge’s scorecard. As an example, one fighter lands a roundhouse kick to his opponent’s torso, but his opponent maintains balance and counters immediately with a punch that forces his opponent to stumble. The punch, which normally does not score highly (if at all), is now worth more than the roundhouse kick, which normally scores well. Having a better understanding of how Muay Thai is scored will help you focus on which techniques are most important and also which counters you will need to use against those techniques.
Here is a video of one of the top fighters in Thailand right now. He was last years “fighter of the year” and is the best clinch fighter right now. Oh one more thing he is only 17 years old.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?
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