This article originally appeared on Evolve Vacation.
Strong, incredibly durable, and relentless; a Muay Khao is a specialist in the clinch, and without question, a force to be feared and reckoned with. Operating at their best and most effective in closer ranges and in the clinch, Muay Khao fighters are usually the most physically conditioned type of Muay Thai fighters.
Relying on their often unshakable durability, physical strength, and relentless forward pressure, Muay Khao fighters have but one main intention in any fight they have been placed in – to break their opponent down both physically and mentally using the clinch. And once they have figured out how to establish the clinch against their opponents, succeeding in that intention is usually only be a matter of time as they begin to dominate and control their opponents.
A strong, firm clinch hold, effective arm and hand positioning and fighting, devastating knees, elbows, sweeps, and throws; the Muay Khao is an expert at these. And many fighters, even some of the very best in the beautiful art’s rich combat sport history, have not been able to successfully deal with them.
It’s not difficult to wonder why, when you realize that some of the most dominant Muay Thai fighters in history are exceptional Muay Khao stylists or masters in the clinch. These include feared Muay Thai World Champions such as Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn, Petchboonchu FA Group, Sagetdao Petpayathai, and Yodwicha Por Boonsit.
However, many great fighters and fights throughout history have shown us that the task of conquering a Muay Khao can be possible. With the right approach, tactics, and techniques appropriate to a fighter’s adopted style, there’s no doubt that he/she can and will be able to succeed in this daunting task of taking on a Muay Khao.
And if you’re looking for help in dealing with a Muay Khao in Muay Thai, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a more detailed look at How To Combat A Muay Khao In Muay Thai:
An Important Consideration Pt. I: The Style You Are Using
As we’ve discussed in many of our other guides – in your progress and journey as a Muay Thai practitioner (training and sparring etc.), you’ll find yourself gravitating towards and developing a style that works best for you in terms of how you are naturally built, not just physically, but mentally as well.
And every style, however unique, can be generally categorized under the three common, yet distinct styles of Muay Thai. The three styles are the Muay Mat, Muay Femur, and of course, the Muay Khao styles.
In going up against a Muay Khao stylist, it is crucial that you first understand the style that you have adopted. Doing so will not only allow you to better understand how your style should be used effectively against a Muay Khao, it will also help you to do the same against any other style you ever have to deal with in the ring.
In other words, there is no one set answer or approach to facing a Muay Khao; what works against a Muay Khao for one fighter doesn’t necessarily mean it would work for another or even for you. And whether you’re a Muay Mat, Muay Femur or Muay Khao fighter yourself – you will have to find and apply only the approaches, tactics, and techniques that are most appropriate for your adopted style.
For example, if you are a Muay Femur fighter, you shouldn’t fully rely on an approach used by a Muay Mat or Muay Khao fighter that was highly effective against a Muay Khao. Though it would be beneficial to take into consideration what was good about the approach, tactics, and techniques used by that successful fighter, you should always look to examples set by other Muay Femurs who have been successful in dealing with a Muay Khao, as the approach used by him/her would very likely come more naturally to you.
An Important Consideration Pt. II: The Type of Muay Khao You Are Facing
Another important consideration we have talked about in our other guides is recognizing the type of fighter of an adopted style you are facing.
Every fighter is unique, and so, every Muay Khao you face in the ring will very likely be slightly different from the last. And though it goes without saying that while Muay Khaos excel mainly in the aspect of the clinch, it’s also logical to expect that most fighters will excel more in certain aspects of fighting and not as much in others regardless of what they are specialized in. This is because every fighter’s body and mind are built and trained differently.
What this means is that, if possible, you should always try to find out the type of Muay Khaoyou are about to face in the ring. Understanding the type of Muay Khao you’re facing will help you prepare and shape your game plan and approach against that particular Muay Khao.
For example, if you know that the Muay Khao you are facing has shown a tendency to lose focus on maintaining balance in a tight clinch against the ropes, then using sweeps or throws to manipulate that opponent’s balance would be an approach worth considering. But if the Muay Khao has shown a great ability to maintain his/her balance in the clinch against the ropes, then perhaps you should play it smart and work on how to limit his/her output in the clinch or how to avoid the clinch altogether.
Applying the first two considerations listed in this article will definitely also help compliment the application of the tips provided below to help you combat a Muay Khao stylist.
Tip: Work on Your Physical Conditioning
By now, you should already know how a Muay Khao operates in the ring; they win their fights by overwhelming their opponents both physically and mentally in the clinch. They are able to do this most of the time not just because of their good clinch sense and knowledge in the clinch, but also because they have conditioned their bodies incredibly well in order to carry out their style effectively. This is where they have uncanny strength and endurance in the clinch comes from.
Working on your physical conditioning will help you to have the durability, endurance, and strength to defend and attack successfully in the inevitable outcome of a clinch with the Muay Khao. It will also help you mentally as you head into the fight because of the confidence you will have from your physical conditioning.
Being able to withstand damage in the clinch and other exchanges on the feet will help you maintain a good frequency of your own offensive output throughout the fight. And having to deal with this level of stamina in a three or five round fight can definitely be discouraging and frustrating for your opponent as well.
Tip: Use Good Lateral Movement and Angles
Muay Khaos generally rely on good forward movement and pressure to force their opponents into the clinch. This is why it is crucial that you use good lateral movement and angles in the ring to avoid engaging in the clinch as often as you can if avoiding the clinch is indeed an approach you wish to take in the fight.
To do this effectively, you need to remain calm, work on your ring awareness, and focus on pivoting well instead of always moving backwards in a straight line. Making the Muay Khaochase you in this manner can frustrate him/her and also open up a lot of opportunities for you to counter as well (see Tip: Countering on the Backpedal); which can help you score well in the aspect of ring/action control and effective striking.
Tip: Counter on the Backpedal
While almost every fighter is well-versed in pushing out offensive while moving forward, not every fighter knows how to fight while moving backwards. In Muay Thai, having the ability to fight and counter moving backwards (or on the backpedal) is one of the most important skills you can have against any opponent and especially against a Muay Khao.
This is because if you are looking to avoid the clinch, you will be forced to move away from the standard Muay Khao’s forward movement and pressure. Without counterattacks being executed while moving away, you will be missing out on the main bulk of opportunities for you to score against any Muay Khao in a fight. Not only that, you will allow the Muay Khao to advance without any hesitation or worry of incoming attacks or losing out on points at all.
This will allow the Muay Khao to build up a lot of confidence in the ring and in his abilities, which is definitely not something you would want him/her to have at any point in the fight.
Tip: Master Clinch Escapes
No matter how good you can get in avoiding the clinch or how well you handle yourself in the clinch, there will always be the risk of ending up in a bad position in the clinch or being caught and forced into a clinch when you don’t desire to.
Such situations can expose you to receive bad damage from elbow, knees, or even sweeps. It can also tire you out both mentally and physically. In times like these, knowing how to escape the clinch would come very much in handy.
Learning how to escape from the clinch will not only get you out of terrible clinch situations and improve your overall defense against the clinch, it can also enhance your overall offense in the clinch. This is because if you learn to combine escaping and repositioning yourself in a clinch, you will be opening up a larger range of possibilities for attacks in terms of disengaging and re-engaging.
Also, it is important to note that escaping the clinch doesn’t always mean that you have to work your way out of the clinch. It can also come in the form of you nullifying your opponent’s offense in the clinch and completely hindering any activity in the clinch so much so that the referee is forced to break off the clinch and separate you and your opponent.