Head movement is an under-utilised yet essential skill in Self Defence training. Its one that probably isn’t given the time & attention it deserves, particularly if you are training in a holistic manner. It is understandable that it isn’t covered in a short course but for those who are more than hobbyists it needs to be part of your arsenal.
Head movement can be divided into two categories, defensive & general. Defensive head movement refers to movement in response to a strike such as slipping or bobbing & weaving. General head movement is head movement that a boxer would engage in whilst squared off, so as to be a moving target or to set up offense. In self defence training people generally say that general head movement shouldn’t occur because once you get in that posturing zone you can turn and run. This is true to some extent but first – can you run? Are you in shape? Do the circumstances allow it ie Are you cornered, do you have significant others with you that you can’t leave? Are you in this situation due to employment? On top of the obvious what happens if the initial engagement occurs, you separate & they come back at you? I’d encourage general head movement without a doubt!
It’s a great 2nd line of defence. Aside from use in actual real Self Defence & combat sports examples, how many times have you seen something out the corner of your eye that is moving toward your head & you instinctively move out of the way? As a sports coach I’ve done it many times dodging a ball that’s been thrown or kicked to me when I’m not ready, particularly when I’ve picked it up at the last moment & I didn’t have enough time to get my hands up to catch it.
On that note it’s not always possible to get your hands up in time to defend yourself for a variety of reasons.
1 Sometimes you just don’t have the proximity. Blocking is useful in the right context just as covering is also, but what happens when you pick up the movement a touch too late?
Your only choice like the examples above is head movement.
2 We all know the 90degree rule & it definitely has validity but what happens when the attacker is much larger than you? If you are outweighed significantly by your attacker it may not hold up even if the stars align and you get the perfect structure it can fail you, particularly if they have greater momentum etc. Force on force isn’t always the best option, particularly if you are lighter. Lighter people increase their chances significantly by being able to move, like a matador. It’s how I got by!
Also speaking strategically, if you do successfully block the shot you are halting their momentum at the expense of a portion of your structure, so they still have the advantage – and please don’t talk about blocking and striking simultaneously. Even though it occurs occasionally in the boxing world making it the premise of your defence shows you have no experience in fighting. You do any 2 tasks at the same time you are doing them both inadequately, particularly at the speed required. If you do successfully block the attack remember the next shot will proceed immediately – it’s not like the technique workshops you commonly see where an arm freezes mid air. Blocking that first shot would enable them to fire back immediately due to stopping their momentum. Whereas ducking successfully opens up so many possibilities, escapes, counters…so many options. Getting out of the way buys you time.
3 Head Movement can still work when you are holding something. I have had someone take a swing at me while carrying shopping bags and on a basketball court holding a ball (more than once!). I have seen Youtube videos where people even throw a punch at people holding an infant. You can’t always just drop what you have and then get back in the game.
4. Head Movement still works if someone has hold of your hands/arms. Maybe they have your arm and are hitting you, perhaps the aggressor’s friend or maybe your friend or significant other has hold of your arms also. There are many scenarios where this is a possibility.
5. Head Movement still works if you have an arm injury be it in a sling or in plaster.
6. It can also be applied if they have an implement both bladed or blunt.
Lastly it is not always appropriate to have your hands in a defensive position. I work in a field where I’m trying to gain the trust of some historically violent people. If I have body language that conveys nervousness or fear or even that I’m ready to fight this would nullify any progress I have made and potentially make me a target. Most conventional, under the radar RBSD stances may have this effect. This is also the case whilst I’m walking through these areas, walking with your hands in a tactical position makes you look a bit socially awkward maybe makes you a target. I’m probably an exception to the rule here but I don’t want you to look like an oddball for the sake of being tactical. Imagine going on a first date insisting on sitting with your back to the wall, locating exits and potential risks, scanning the environment with your head on a swivel. When it comes time to pay you take your ridiculous coin pouch that you doubles as a cumbersome weapon off your tactical belt to pay dinner I almost guarantee you won’t be getting laid! Why not train your body to be a functional weapon, you don’t need to carry a tool that makes you look like a tool! HEAD MOVEMENT!
I’m not going to discuss how to do this you can go to any reputable boxing gym the world over and they’ll show you but what I will add is to make sure you train it from both stances including disadvantages ones with an emphasis of maintaining proactive structure. That is your feet are under you, you are in a position that you can initiate offence or more defence if required. So if head movement is not in your curriculum it is incomplete.