One of the best things you can do if you’re just starting out training or if you’re looking for a way to integrate your martial arts with self defense is to learn or improve your clinch. There are some distinct advantages to learning the clinch first, before sparring with strikes or when first learning grappling.
Training the clinch teaches you about balance, space, and pressure. It teaches you to use leverage, timing, and precision. And most important of all, working on the clinch gets you comfortable with working at a very uncomfortable range. If a smaller person can use position and leverage to make himself “heavier” or harder to deal with, that person can use his strikes, weapons, or make decisions during a fight about what to do next while operating confidently in a range that most people ignore. Most fight training consists of either striking or grappling with the idea that you can only devote significant attention to one or the other. Starting with the clinch forces you to learn range and position that allows you to expand outward into effective striking and grappling easier than if you were to start with either one individually. If you’re serious about learning to fight, you’ll have to learn all ranges and the best place to start is in the clinch. A guy with a good clinch can learn to strike fairly easily and a guy with a good clinch can be taught takedowns and groundfighting much easier since the context is already ingrained.
For self defense purposes, fights are won and lost in the clinch. If you are attacked and you successfully defend the ambush, you will be in a clinch situation. Nobody attacks another individual and then runs away after a single successful defense by the person being attacked. A clinch fight should be assumed and prepared for. This is especially important if you carry weapons since attempting to access a weapon at the wrong time could lead to it being used on you. You will also recognize your opponent accessing a weapon earlier and you may be able to prevent your opponent’s access.
In this series of videos, I take you through a progression to get you started with some fundamental Greco-Roman wrestling techniques that should form the basis of your clinch. They can be learned and then used as a warmup for training session, as a starting point for stand-up sparring or for practicing entangled weapons access, or as a base for learning takedowns. Grab a partner and give these a shot.