Clinch fighting (also referred to as clinch work) is the part of stand-up fighting where the combatants are grappling in a clinch, typically using clinch holds. It is typically anintermediary phase of combat, somewhere between the free-movement phase and the ground-fighting phase.
In a grappling style of combat, clinching the opponent can be used to eliminate the opponent's effective usage of some kicks, punches, and mêlée weapons. Quite often, the clinch will then be used to set up takedowns and take the fight to the ground by using takedowns or throws.
However, a second way of using the clinch is in a last resort to keep the fight in the standing position. This is especially the case for fighters whose specialty lies in striking in the standing position. The primary effort of this type of fighter is to break out of clinches at the first opportunity and return the fight to the free-movement phase.
Clinch fighting is emphasized in Greco-Roman Wrestling, Freestyle Wrestling, Grappling, Judo, Mixed martial arts, San Shou, Muay Thai, Sambo and Sumo.
The two main advantages of the clinch are, firstly, that if a fighter is clinching correctly, his opponent won't be able to do much to hurt him. Secondly, it allows the fighter to throw his opponent without bending over or otherwise bringing his face closer to his knees, without turning his back, and without needing cloth to grab.
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Photos by Gregory Brophy (hand wraps), Gerville Hall (TaeKwonDo girl), Lucian (Karate fight).
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Two competitors clinching with the competitor left attempting to throw his opponent to the ground
There are broadly six types of clinches:
1. Double collar tie
2. Pinch grip
3. Double underhooks, a position that can be used to perform throws or takedowns;
4. Bear hug
5. Collar-and-elbow clinch
6. Over-under clinch
The latter two are so-called neutral or symmetrical clinches, where both opponents have the same grip on each other, giving no clear advantage to one or the other opponent.
The type of techniques employed are heavily dependent on whether or not the participants are wearing clothing heavy enough to be grabbed and used to gain leverage or unbalance them to set up throws. In competition where such clothing is being worn (almost exclusively referred to as a gi) there is a strong emphasis on grip fighting where the fighters will attempt to gain a dominant hold on the oppopnent's gi to unbalance and throw them. Examples of such competition would be Judo, Sambo or some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions although in BJJ there is frequently a division for both gi and no-gi competition.
In no-gi competition getting double underhooks is generally considered advantageous, as the position can be used to perform throws or takedowns.
A multitude of striking techniques exist that can be used effectively from the clinch. Punching in the clinch, also sometimes referred to as "dirty boxing" is an important aspect of Muay Thai and mixed martial arts. Short looping punches such as hooks and uppercuts can be used effectively from the single collar tie position. Although disallowed in many combat sports, elbows and headbutts can also be effectively used from the clinch. The short distance in the clinch nullifies kicking to some extent, but some kicks are still effective. In Muay Thai the double collar tie is used to control an opponent while kneeing to the head or midsection, and stomps are used in some mixed martial arts competitions to kick the feet of the opponent. Wing Chun disciplines develop the clinch in its close-fighting method which generally involves chi sao ("sticky hands").
There are very few submission holds that can be applied effectively from the clinch, without engaging in ground fighting. The most well known submission hold is the guillotine choke, which can be attempted from a single or double collar tie. Height is advantageous in applying the guillotine choke from the clinch, since sufficient leverage is needed.