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Skillset Fight Club: Breaking Down The Headbutt

You’ve seen it in the movies, in an MMA fight, and maybe even on the mean streets. But do you know how to deliver a headbutt effectively? This somewhat stand-alone self-defense technique can be highly effective in combat or a huge mistake if performed incorrectly. 

Here, we’ll explore its mechanics, the proper form for success, and, most importantly, how to avoid taking yourself out of the fight by “going for it” without the proper training and practice before knocking heads in a real-life scenario. 

Breaking Down the Headbutt

Naturally, you shouldn’t open with this offensive self-defense technique. Though some may argue that a surprise head butt when two people are within inches of each other, and puffing their chests outward, can give one person a quick advantage, the odds of landing it properly are too great to risk. 

The best scenarios for using a headbutt occur when you and your attacker are close to one another in a grappling situation. By grappling, I mean it could be a bearhug, a two-handed grab to one’s shirt or jacket, or a fight that quickly goes to the ground(as most do.) The common denominator is to be close to your opponent. 

This way, you’re close enough to sneakily throw in the butt and hopefully turn the tide of the fight in your favor. This self-defense technique is subtle and powerful if done correctly (more on that later), and when you have it learned and practiced, it can become another extremely useful weapon in your arsenal. 

(Photo by iStock)

Think Before You Strike!

You need to use your head to use your head correctly in a headbutt. Let that sink in for a moment. Roughly translated, it means if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will fail in a big way. Learn the proper way to deliver a headbutt before attempting this effective move in a street fight.

Take private lessons from an experienced practitioner, attend MMA classes to get the feel of a grappling situation, and get a practice dummy to help with the placement of your head strikes. Any martial arts or self-defense techniques must be practiced consistently and on people of different body types until they become second nature and instinct during a conflict. 

Having a false sense of security by only training superficially can lead to a terrible outcome if push comes to shove and a fight ensues. 

The Headbutt Basics

To be effective, a headbutt must have two primary parts. First, you need to use the proper part of your head as the striking mechanism, and second, you need to strike the most vital areas of your opponent’s head. The human skull is naturally hard, especially at and above the forehead, starting at the hairline. 

This is your contact point with your foe. Conversely, your opponent’s facial area is quite fragile and delicate compared to the upper skull area. The eyes, bridge of the nose, and mouth are target areas for your headbutt. Once these areas are hit, either once or repeatedly, the unlucky recipient could very well start bleeding, have his lip or eye area swell, or even incur a broken nose. Also, most importantly, with the distraction you created, you may be able to get the upper hand in the fight. 

You need to use your head to use your head properly in a headbutt. Let that sink in for a moment. Roughly translated, it means it you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to fail in a big way.
(Photo by iStock)

Full Body Involvement

To the inexperienced practitioner of a headbutt, it may seem natural to use one’s neck to throw the cranial strike. However, when breaking down the headbutt, we learn that one won’t be able to generate the force needed to make the headbutt highly effective. However, there are exceptions, especially if most of one’s body is incapacitated. 

The best way to generate flesh-tearing or cartilage-cracking results is to use your whole body as a “torpedo” to your opponent’s vital areas. This means locking your neck and shoulders in place, bringing your chin to your chest, and moving your entire body as one streamlined unit. 

The Element of Suprise

The headbutt is a technique to pull from your arsenal as a surprise tactic. As mentioned, it can turn the tide of a fight, help you escape a lock, or put your enemy at a severe disadvantage by impairing his vision or causing extreme swelling to his face. It shouldn’t be telegraphed but rather a subtle move that pays off with huge benefits. If your arms and legs are immobilized, it could also be your last attempt at offense. 

If done incorrectly, the headbutt can hurt you and help your opponent. Just the slightest shift in positioning from you or your opponent at the last second can spare him the impact and cause you pain and injury. If fighting is not an exact science, then a headbutt takes that much further by not guaranteeing partial success if you decide to go that route. It’s best to use it as a last resort to help your situation unless, again, you’re an experienced practitioner. 

To the inexperienced practitioner of a headbutt it may seem natural to use your neck to throw the cranial strike. However, this isn’t the case.
(Photo by Skillset Staff)

Self Defense Techniques

There’s no denying that knowing a wide spectrum of self-defense techniques is beneficial in a fight. You never can predict how a street scuffle may go down. It may end in seconds with a knockout or last for long, hard minutes with the combatants rolling on the ground as they try to punch, kick, or choke the other to victory. Knowing how, when, and where to use a headbutt can be the technique that turns the odds of winning the fight in your favor.

Now that we have broken down the headbutt, learn how to apply it correctly!

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