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OhioMike's picture
Teaching clinching skills to smaller students

An interesting problem posed to me by my daughter a couple of weeks ago.

I was teaching covering and crashing in to counter a hook strike and to locate the head, and she made the comment that she could not imagine doing that given that she weights 50 kilo less than most adult males. I then showed her the "two dragons play in the water" style of cover out of Chinte followed by the anvil strikes and throw out of that same kata and commented that was generally more appropate for a smaller individual to use against a larger one, but I realized that other than Chinte and a little bit out of Pidan Sandan I do not have very many clinching techniques for smaller individuals against a larger persons grab (other than normal grip stripping) does anyone in the group have some good female vs male clinching techniques?



Wastelander's picture

The trouble is that technique only overcomes a physicality gap of a certain amount. Smaller, weaker people are naturally at a disadvantage when trying to clinch with larger people, and have to work harder and train to a higher level to overcome the disadvantage than an average sized or stronger person would. This isn't a perfect analogy, but let's game-ify it as a sort of visual aid--for my nerds out there, this would essentially be an opposed Ability/Skill check in Dungeons and Dragons:

Imagine that every time you are attacked, you and the attacker are rolling a 20-sided die (d20) to determine the outcome, and whomever has the highest number wins.

Then, imagine that you get bonus points to add to the number on the die for your physicality--speed, strength, size, fitness, etc.

Then, imagine that you get bonus points for being proficient in martial arts, depending on your level of training

Then, imagine that you get a bonus point for having a background in high level competition or a history of violence

You will still be rolling the dice in any combative encounter, because anything can happen, but these bonuses help even the odds a bit. If you only have +4 based on your physicality, proficiency, and background, while your attacker ends up at +6, things don't look good for you unless you manage to do something to catch them by surprise, or other people intervene, or something in the environment gives you an advantage, etc.

With all of that in mind, you can tailor her training to methods that don't require her to be tall, heavy, or strong, but she is still going to have to work to increase her strength, and you are going to have to build up her knowledge of leverage and how to use the bodyweight and strength she has as efficiently as possible, and that takes times and experience. There isn't a quick fix to that. If you want some good material on how a smaller woman can dominate people with clinching, you can find nothing better than what Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu has published on her website (https://8limbsus.com/) and her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgFe05f-DrPpaunE4Gaz3cQ). She has hours and hours of videos, and pages and pages of articles. It still comes down to a lot of hard work and in-depth study, but it can give you ideas on what to focus on. Once she has a good understanding of that type of skill, adapting it to a self defense context isn't too hard, especially when you're drilling those methods as well in her training.

OhioMike's picture

Thanks for the heads up on Sylvie, a lot of great material there. The D&D reference was excellent as well, I have played since long before it was cool. 



Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

Maybe look at the problem from a different angle. Rather than looking for clinching and grappling techniques that are effective with a large weight disparity, look for other responses to the initial problem of a hook to the head from a taller and / or heavier opponent. If one is particularly small, then perhaps the first choice to an unanticipated attack should not be crash in, but move out - e.g., use Iain's first bunkai from Heian Yondan rather than his first drill from Tekki Shodan (links available on request!)

deltabluesman's picture

In case it's helpful, here's a link to an older thread on this topic:  https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/clinch-fighting-training-women

That thread covered similar topics.  I personally am a big advocate of the "flinch & clinch" or "cover & crash" method, and I use it a lot, but it does break down when you have a significant size disparity.  Of course, a lot of techniques break down when you have a significant size disparity.  I do not teach self-protection and I am not well-versed in the specifics of women's self-protection, so I will keep my comments brief and will only throw out a few ideas.  All of this should be taken with a grain of salt:

For clinch fighting, it is essential to break the enemy's grip on you immediately.  This can be very challenging if someone has a strong grip, and it's even more difficult if someone has hold of clothing or a purse.  

Even though it is challenging, it is important for women and smaller students to have experience with clinch fighting.  Only diligent, consistent training will give them the unconscious reflexes necessary to overcome the challenge of clinching with stronger enemies.  

Eye gouges and groin strikes/grabs can be used in self-protection scenarios to set up escapes.  (Fingerlocks can sometimes be used but also require some time investment to perfect.  I consider them a backup technique.)  Depending on the circumstances, these Unsu eye pokes are brutally effective options to include in the close-range fighting toolkit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJpHE8_OUH8.  Might not be available though if you have too much of a height difference.  

 I think Two Dragons Play in the Water can be very effective for women and smaller men, even against a stronger opponent, but it has to be done with full commitment and with extreme aggression.  It also needs to be a flash, transitory movement that you follow-up on immediately.  Of course, this one also won't work if you have too much of a height difference.

For self-protection, the goal isn't to outwrestle or outfight the enemy in the clinch.  Instead, if the situation ends up in the clinch, the goal is to be surprisingly good at clinch work.  To be able to surprise the enemy with your aggression and your movement, giving you an opportunity to attempt an escape.

Ultimately, it's best for women and smaller individuals to stay out of the clinch and away from clinch range.  Clinching with a larger, stronger enemy will make it harder for them to escape.

Unless they are very, very skilled, I would recommend that most women and smaller individuals avoid relying on throws or standing joint locks when they are clinching with larger, stronger enemies in a self-protection scenario. 

Lastly, I'll throw out one other cautionary bit of advice.  When introducing smaller people to clinch work, be cautious of too much tugging on the neck/head.  Sometimes people can get really sore from that (a soreness that lasts for a while).  It takes time for some people to get used to that.  Best to ease in gradually.

Those are my initial thoughts.  I suspect a lot of it is material you already know, but I figured I'd mention it nonetheless.   

Heath White
Heath White's picture

My view would be that the advantage of size and weight increases as the range shortens.  In other words, if I have to fight a stronger, heavier person, I would prefer to be at the longest range possible.  I would least like to be rolling on the ground with them.  I believe women should generally avoid clinching and instead figure out ways to escape from that range.  Eye/throat/groin strikes to distract and cause pain, and then run away.

(Caveat: the advantage of reach is greatest at longer ranges, so if I have to fight a longer opponent, I might close.  But the point here is that if you are at long range already, you can generally choose to escape.)