If you're not familiar with the Thai Clinch, sometimes referred to as the Muay Thai Clinch or the Plum Blossom, you should be. The Thai Clinch is widely considered the most advantages clinch for a couple of reasons. First, by achieving the Thai Clinch you are controlling the suspect's head and where the head goes, the body follows. Secondly, you are in a dominant position to launch effective personal body strikes (especially knees to the abdomen and head) in preparation for a takedown and subsequent prone handcuffing.
What is the Thai Clinch?
The Thai Clinch originated from Muay Thai, the national sport of Thailand. In Muay Thai, fighters are permitted to use their fists, feet, knees and elbows to strike an opponent. Most Americans were not exposed to the Thai Clinch until the recent explosion in popularity of events like the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters have used this tactic with great success.
To execute a Thai Clinch, grab the back of the suspect's head with the palm of your hand and stack your second hand on top of the first. It's best to avoid interlacing your fingers. Doing so places you at risk of sustaining injury to your fingers and could hinder your ability to smoothly transition to another technique. Squeeze your elbows tightly together to form a cage around the suspect's head. Pull the suspect's head down to your chest. This can best be accomplished by jerking his head as opposed to simply pulling with steady pressure.
Clinch after collision
In a fight between equally aggressive opponents of similar size, there is likely to be a point where their bodies collide and they instinctively clinch. What transpires after this "human collision" can significantly impact the outcome of the encounter. To tilt the odds in your favor, strive to achieve the Thai Clinch as soon as possible. From there, respond immediately and aggressively with strikes to establish control of the suspect.
Flinch to clinch (defensive response)
A realistic method to overcome an onslaught of punches is to use your elbow(s) to cover your head, momentarily providing a degree of protection and hopefully damaging the suspect's hands in the process.
Rather than trying to block several punches individually, tuck your chin, shrug your shoulders, and place an elbow in front of your head either vertically or horizontally while closing distance with the suspect.
When you are inside the arch of the suspect's blows, grab the back of his head to achieve the Thai Clinch in the manner previously described.
Pin hands to clinch (proactive approach)
When the suspect is in a fighting stance with his fists held up in front of him, shuffle forward and use your palms to strike his hands. This momentarily pins the suspect's hands to his chest, providing a window of opportunity for you to achieve the Thai Clinch.
The pivotal moment
Pivoting in the Thai Clinch can place the suspect in an even more precarious position. To execute the pivot, step to the outside of one of the suspect's legs. Pivot on the balls of your feet so that you are facing approximately 90 degrees away from the direction you stepped to initially. At the same time, wrench the suspect's head in the direction of your pivot. This should off-balance the suspect, exposing his head to knee strikes and leaving him vulnerable to being taken down.
When delivering the knee strike, it's important to use the leg that you stepped with initially. Using your other knee will greatly reduce your target area, since your arms will block much of the suspect's head.
When delivering a knee strike to the head, concentrate on driving your knee upward, while pulling the suspect's head down, into the strike.
Knee to body and takedown
After delivering one or more knee strikes to the suspect's abdomen or groin to double him over, jerk down on his neck. Step back with the leg you used to deliver the last knee strike. Immediately push the suspect's shoulders down and back to topple him over backwards onto the ground.
When targeting the suspect's abdomen or groin, drive your knee into the suspect, along a horizontal plane to maximize the effectiveness of the strike.
Countering the Thai Clinch
Hopefully by now, you realize that you don't want to be on the wrong end of the Thai Clinch. You've got to have an escape plan because any hesitation could lead to you taking a knee to the head. While taking a knee to the head is never a good thing, it is even less appealing from the Thai Clinch, since your head is so well supported by the structure of the suspect's arms.
The nature of the Thai Clinch prevents the head from being able to move away from a knee strike upon impact, which could dissipate the force of the blow. Instead, your head would absorb the full impact of the strike.
One simple and effective escape is to stack your hands on the suspect's face (preferably under his chin) and fully extend your arms. Simultaneously, thrust your head back to break the hold. Follow up with knee strikes, elbow strikes, palm strikes, etc. to establish sufficient distance to access a weapon from your duty belt.
Muay Thai fighters, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, as well as legions of fans of these combative sports are familiar with the Thai Clinch. They have seen how effective it is and they know how to apply it.
As law enforcement officers, we must be familiar with the Thai Clinch in order to escape from it. Why not strive to attain proficiency in the Thai Clinch so that we can add this vital tactic to our close quarter skill set?
Be safe. Never give up!