The Knockout

Ending Violence the Bartitsu Way 2 (click for part 1: Guarding the Mark)

Last time, we discussed the hit to the mark, and why it is important to guard the mark. This week, we’re going straight to the most impressive fight-finisher, and the event most people associate with boxing: the knockout punch.

Regarding the knockout punch, let us again get the opinions of the experts of their time:

Boxing by R. G. Allanson-Winn (1889)


“I suppose more men have been knocked out of time by hits on the point of the jaw than by all the other hits put together. When this hit is delivered on either side of the chin and a little upwards a very severe shock is communicated to the head and base of the brain, and the reason for this is that the distance between the point of application of the blow and the pivot on which the head works is considerable.

“The ‘pint o’ the jaw hit’ is a horrid head-jerking affair, compared with which a flush hit on the nose, with all its concomitant stars and stripes, is a mere fleabite. Even a moderate infliction of this terrible hit is sufficiently punishing to make you feel uncertain whether you are twisting round the surroundings, or the surroundings are twisting round you, or whether both are not waltzing away together; but a severe visitation, if it does not break the jaw, is likely to produce and absence of interest in subsequent proceedings, or a complete forgetfulness of all immediate and pressing engagements.”

This instructor put the knockout blow first in order of merit, before the hit to the mark, which we discussed in the first post in this series.

Jiu Jitsu and Other Methods of Self Defense by Percy Longhurst (1906)

pp. 85

“if one assailant be badly hurt, knocked senseless by a well-directed blow on the point of the jaw, or thrown hard on the pavement by a clever stroke, the moral effect on his companions is immense.”

Scientific Boxing by James J. Corbett (1912) 



“What is known as the knockout punch is landed on the jaw usually on the side. It can be delivered from the side or in front. The force of the blow necessary to produce unconsciousness depends upon two things —- the jaw that is hit and the power of the blow. A comparatively light punch will be sufficient for the average untrained man, while there are some professional boxers whom it is almost impossible to knock out, because of the strength and formation of their jaws.”

The Off Switch

The knockout is a concussion, and therefore a form of brain damage. “Concussion” means “to shake violently or strike together” and the thing they’re talking about is the brain against the skull. The only treatment is rest.

Why does it work? Current research points to the rotation of the skull as a major component. Concussions can also occur from linear hits to the front or back of the head, but are far more frequent when the head turns. Since the jaw can act as a lever to turn the head (better than the nose, the cartilage of which can compress and move), a hit to the side of the jaw deals the appropriate vector for a knockout.


In class, we do not practice taking hits to the head, because no one “gets better” at absorbing brain damage. A person cam improve their responses to punches to avoid being hit, so we do train punches toward the face and the correct reactions. However, we do not condone knockout punches in class, because every concussion is worse than the last and can lead to serious brain damage.

The Flinch

Training in boxing need not emphasize guarding the face from the knockout punch because the flinch response is so natural and effective. When anything approaches the eyes rapidly, the instinctive and immediate response is to evade the head and raise the hands to ward the blow away.

This partly explains why most knockouts in boxing and MMA occur from low hooks and uppercuts: the eyes do not see the approaching fist, circumventing the flinch response.

The Knockout as Strategy

There is no doubt when witnessing a knockout that it is effective at stopping the fight. Whether “out cold” with eyes closed and seemingly asleep, or lying supine and dizzy, that combatant is no longer attacking.

On the other hand, due to the flinch response, and the relatively small size of the target, it is not a particularly effective strategy. Look at how many professional boxing matches and MMA bouts end in knockouts… not many. Multiple blows to the temples, cheeks, neck and head do not stop a fight, and that’s what you’ll hit every time you miss the jaw (if you do not miss entirely). When the opportunity presents itself, it can be brutally effective. But a prepared fighter will not give you that opportunity.


Boxing Tactics

Train to guard your jaw and the mark. Your head can easily move to avoid the worst blows. On the offensive, change up between high and low strikes. The Bartitsu way is to get close enough to throw the assailant to the ground while remaining standing yourself. With this strategy, you can accomplish:

  1. Causing the attacker harm from the fall (the ground is better than your fist)
  2. Running away while he struggles to stand
  3. Fight off other attackers
  4. Demoralize the assailant and leave them open to further strikes as they regain their feet.

In Bartitsu, we try to avoid going to the ground. Here is why:


Next time, we’ll discuss the remaining ways of Ending Violence the Bartitsu Way.

(Go back to part 1: Guarding the Mark)

Don’t miss the next Introduction to Bartitsu workshop coming up this Saturday, 8 October. In four hours, we’ll learn the basics of the four weapons of this Victorian self-defence style: Boxing, Savate, Jujitsu and the iconic Walking Stick.

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