Starting at the top of the body, as was mentioned, the head is vulnerable to concussion,
which has an automatically impairing effect. Though blows to any part of the head
can potentially cause concussion, unconsciousness or even death, certain areas are
much more likely to produce these effects than others. A great deal of misinformation
has been given over the years regarding what are the prime areas of the head for
causing a "knockout" due to confusion as to just what type of injuries produce a
concussion within the brain.
Primarily, it is the acceleration or rapid movement of the head that produces concussive
effects. Sometimes this is a result of the brain, which essentially fl oats freely
inside a liquid atmosphere within the skull, banging into the inner wall of the
skull; sometimes it is the result of sheering or other forces upon the brain itself.
The two basic ways the brain is accelerated to cause these effects are through the
application of translational force and rotational force. Translational force is
any force that would snap the head straight back, straight forward or directly to
the side. Rotational force would make the head rotate along its central vertical
axis as if you were turning your head to look to the left or right. Translational
force is generally produced by strikes that come straight in to the front or back
of the head or straight strikes that come in directly from the side and land against
the side of the head. Rotational force would typically be seen in more circular
type blows or straight line strikes that land at an angle against the face. Most
strikes that land against the head tend to produce a certain mixture of both translational
and rotational forces.
This is important to understand simply because one needs to realize that the translational
forces seen in many strikes to the head are often, by themselves, not enough to
produce the type of head accelerations that cause concussions. However, rotational
forces applied to the head, even if they do not produce extremely high accelerations,
seem particularly effective in causing concussion, especially when combined with
translational forces. Essentially what this means is that blows to the head which
cause it to move the most are often the ones most likely to cause concussion.
The Chin as a Target
The point of the chin is frequently mentioned as being the best area to cause a
knockout and certainly examples of its effectiveness abound in matches from boxing
and other combat sports. Various reasons have been put forth for this target’s effectiveness
including such fallacies as "the jaw bone presses against a nerve which causes unconsciousness".
Although there is some medical speculation that blows to the point of the chin can
affect the submental nerve which runs directly under the chin, there is little hard
evidence that this contributes signifi cantly to a knockout blow.
However, the point of the chin probably is one of the best, if not the best, areas
to cause a concussion upon an opponent. But the reason is most likely one of simple
physics. The chin is a point of leverage. On most people it is the furthest spot
from the head’s center of gravity. This means that when it’s struck, it will tend
to cause more movement to the head than any other location would, which means more
translational and/or rotational force is applied to the brain making concussion
more likely. It is often said that fighters with long, thin jaws are more susceptible
to knockouts and those with more of a square jaw are better able to withstand blows
to the chin. The physics we’ve been discussing would tend to give some credence
to this theory since a longer jaw would make a person’s chin even more of a leverage
Besides containing sufficient power, the angle and type of blow that lands on the
chin is important when looking to cause concussion. Hand strikes are probably the
best weapons to go about striking at the chin, either punching with a closed fist
or sometimes striking with the “heel” or bottom portion of the open palm. Either
can prove effective. With a bare hand, the closed fist is believed to be somewhat
more effective since the power is focused over a smaller and less padded area. But
the heel of the open palm is sometimes seen as a better alternative when striking
the head barehanded due to the possibility of damaging the knuckles against the
hard bones of the skull with a closed fist. However, the chin is not quite as solid
a target as the skull and much of the surrounding facial tissue is also far softer
than the skull so even if the blow is off target, there is less chance of damaging
a closed fist when hitting to the chin.
Any type of kick would be much more difficult to land accurately against the point
of the chin. It is simply harder to be accurate throwing a strike with the foot
than with the hand and even a front kick that comes straight in to the chin, besides
taking far longer, will have more difficulty landing accurately on a relatively
small area. However, these drawbacks are sometimes mitigated by the inherent surprise
factor of throwing such a high kick.
Elbow strikes, though possible, tend to be used at close quarters and most of these
would probably land against the side of the opponent’s head at this range. Elbow
strikes that rise straight upward, in an uppercut type fashion, are theoretically
possible though the distancing between you and the opponent would have to be almost
perfect. If you are too close, the elbow would brush against the front of the opponent’s
chest, too far and the elbow would pass harmlessly in front of his chin.
It would therefore seem hand strikes are the best option when hitting to the chin.
As for the specific angle you’ll attempt to strike on, a blow that comes in perfectly
straight and hits an opponent directly in the center of the chin would produce a
fair amount of translational force snapping the opponent’s head straight back. But
unless you’re someone who possesses significant punching power or you catch the
opponent when he’s moving into you, such a pure translational blow may not be enough
to produce a concussive effect if you haven’t already worn the opponent down with
many other blows. Throwing a perfectly straight punch to the center of the opponent’s
chin that hits on a slight downward angle would likely produce even less effect.
Uppercut punches that come in directly underneath the center of the opponent’s chin,
although they possess less power than normal straight line punches since you can’t
place as much body weight behind them, will snap the head back significantly. The
other factor an uppercut has to its advantage is the fact that by rising straight
up from underneath the chin, usually right between the opponent’s defending arms,
it seems to be almost naturally targeted toward the point of the chin. However,
it still takes significant punching power to cause concussion with a single uppercut
strike. Keep in mind, although we are talking primarily about the effect of single
strikes, blows can be delivered together in combination which will make them somewhat
more successful in producing concussive effects. This may be particularly true of
an uppercut blow if you use it to lift an opponent’s chin upwards, then strike it
with a follow up punch like a hook when it’s in a more vulnerable position.
Additionally, the uppercut can be very effective against an opponent whose head
is already tilted back slightly making it more difficult for him to see it coming.
It is a truism in boxing and other combat sports that the blows which knock you
out are most often the ones you never see. This is because when you see a blow coming,
you will naturally tense up to brace yourself against it. This tensing, primarily
of the neck muscles, can lessen the movement of the head, thus lessening the chance
of concussion. But when you don’t see a strike coming, you won’t tense up to protect
yourself and the blow will probably move your head to a greater degree.
Hand strikes that land against the chin at an angle may be the most effective blows
for causing a concussion because of the extreme amount of rotational force they
can generate along with their translational forces. These strikes can be either
straight line blows that land slightly toward the left or right sides of the chin
or hooking type blows.
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