How to improve your chin and take a harder punch… POW!
A question that has plagued pugilist and grappler alike for generations. Some people are of the school of thought that the only factor in being knocked out is the jaw or “chin”. This is the largest misconception. Many believe that its the chin itself, but I’m here to tell you, from experience (I’ve never been knocked completely out in a match or practice) that awareness combined with a strong neck and strong jaw is the key. Contrary to popular belief when a fighter loses consciousness the main contributing factor is the force in which the head is jerked and not merely the impact on the jaw (although that is a factor). When the head is jerked around front to back or side to side your brain (which is floating around in your skull in fluid) can be jarred and moved and even touch the inner walls of the skull. This results in a loss of equilibrium rattling the brain around inside of your skull like a bead in a can of spray paint.
Armed with that knowledge we have an idea of the areas in which we need to improve to avoid being knocked out. My main areas of focus are cardio couple with a closed clenched mouth, visually seeing the strike and a strong neck.
The cardiovascular endurance is first on my list for a couple of reasons. The first being breathing. If you are in shape and have your breathing under control your mouth will be closed or clenched and you will do most of your exhaling and breathing from the nose. As a workout or fight drags on you body craves more oxygen. You can breathe more air in from your mouth than your nose, with the mouth open the jaw and surrounding tissue/muscles are relaxed not tight and clenched for an impact. These are the masseter muscles, both superficial (top) and deep (underneath). These muscles play the main part in mastication, or in layman’s term chewing. I’m sure most of you have chewed on a tough piece of steak and had a sore jaw, that’s the masseter muscles and part of a series of muscle groups that control the opening and closing of the mouth. Strong muscles chew strong and bite down strong but they also keep that area of the face safe and protected The second is fatigue playing a factor in your bodies reaction time. If you can see a strike coming and react to it by defending or tensing up the probability of being KO’d goes down. A professional dental grade mouth piece is highly recommended as well to make sure you bite is clean and your airway is unobstructed.
The fatigue and reaction time plays into the visual component as well. Every high profile fighter, kickboxer, boxer never remembers the strike that knocked them out. This coined the term “the strike you don’t see is the one that knocks you out”. This is due to the ability your body has to react to any given situation from a visual responsive stand point. The situation we just happen to be talking about is reaction and avoiding damaging strikes to the head. Good reactions give you ample time to react to strikes. If the reaction is evasion, a technical striking defensive technique or a simple bite down flinch reaction all of these are better than not seeing the strike at all thus not being prepared for it!
A strong neck is key for stabilizing the brain stem and head. A short strong neck makes for very little give or movement upon impact or strike. The muscles which control this are the Sternocleidomastoid or more commonly known as the SCM. Two muscles on either side of the neck that control vertical and to a lesser extent horizontal movement of the head from your neck. The yes-no-maybe workout targets this group of muscles excellently! The stronger the neck the better resistance you will have to a jarring blow to the head. As seen above in the reaction paragraph this is a fantastic tool in improving your “chin” but virtually useless without the cardiovascular ability to react properly to strikes by tensing the neck. In addition to this a strong neck is excellent for wrestlers bridging from a pin, resisting chokes in mixed martial arts and being strong in the Thai plum (or a neck clinched position).
Here’s a video explaining some exercises and things you can do to help improve your resistance to being stunned, rocked or knocked out!
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