How do you head butt someone?

Answers to your questions about the news.
July 10 2006 7:17 PM

How To Head Butt Like a Pro

Does Zinedine Zidane know how to use his head?

Download the MP3 audio version of this story here, or sign up for The Explainer's free daily podcast on iTunes.

French soccer great Zinedine Zidane was ejected from Sunday's World Cup championship game after head-butting an opposing player. After exchanging words with Italy's Marco Materazzi, Zidane bent down and thrust the top of his head into Materazzi's chest. (Here's a video clip.) How was Zidane's head-butting technique?

Impeccable. Experts in self-defense and mixed martial arts say Zidane's head butt was a flawless demonstration of the form. He positioned his feet close to his opponent and stepped into the blow, contracting his abdominal muscles to curve into the attack. He was also careful to keep his chin down as he approached, which helped him land the strike with the top of his head as opposed to his brow or face.

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

Advertisement

Zidane employed a classic "forward head butt," favored by street fighters in Europe and the United States. Also known as the "Liverpool kiss" or the "Glasgow kiss," the forward head butt is used most often on an adversary's face. The head-butter tries to smash the relatively hard bone at the top of his head into the head-buttee's softer nose, cheeks, or jaw. Aiming for the mouth can do a lot of damage, but it can result in a laceration for the attacker. Likewise, it's very important to avoid forehead-to-forehead contact.

The proper motion for a forward head butt is described as something like a sneeze, or even a bout of vomiting. The attacker steps in with his neck muscles relaxed and his mouth closed. Then he bends at the stomach and snaps his head down while stiffening his neck. Another type of forward head butt works with an uppercut motion, as the attacker springs from the legs.

A head butt to the face can be very dangerous, and the maneuver is banned in almost every kind of professional fighting. Even the freewheeling Ultimate Fighting Championship has a rule against head-butting.

Zidane aimed his head butt at the chest, not the face. If he had been in a real street-fighting situation, this move would have put him in a perilous position—up close to his opponent with his head bowed down, perfectly set up for a guillotine choke.

Zidane isn't the first soccer player to deliver a head butt on the field. Indeed, footballers who train at "heading" the ball will have an easy time mastering the proper head-butting technique. Strong neck muscles can increase the power of the "big knuckle" and may help stave off self-inflicted head-butting injuries.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Marc "Animal" MacYoung of No Nonsense Self-Defense, Dennis Newsome of Os Malandros de Mestre Touro, and Burton Richardson of JKD Unlimited.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.