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The head butt survives today mainly among bar patrons and soccer fans, for whom it is a first and signal move in any serious confrontation, more readily applied in the economically depressed areas of Scotland and Germany (there is a good reason the head butt is known as a “Glasgow Kiss”). It is also, no doubt, available to more expert hand-to-hand combatants, but less as an opening gambit than a gesture in extremis. If you are grappling with CIA or Mossad, they will head butt you if they have to.
The Head Butt in Popular Culture
This intensity, this purity, perhaps, is why the head butt intrigues us: it is an act of sacrifice that channels millennia of human struggle into one primeval moment of barbarism; it is dumb and brutish, but in its way, it is selfless. “This confrontation,” it says, “matters more than my brain. My skull is my hardest weapon, and so I must use it.” There is existential gravity to the head butt, a seriousness of purpose that transcends the slappiness-at-a-distance of the punch or the panicky self-preservation of the kick.
Speaking of dumb and brutish, the head butt enjoys particular prominence in Scottish tradition, so it is no surprise that two other examples of the head butt in popular culture arise from films set in that godforsaken, thistle-choked blight of land. The first occurs in the 1996 Danny Boyle film, Trainspotting, in which the character played by a young Robert Carlyle wanders around poor urban Scotland looking for any excuse to use his head as a weapon.
The second is in the 1995 Mel Gibson film, Braveheart, in which the head butt is used often as a close-quarter battlefield solution, mainly by the Scotsmen, and their pint-size Australian leader, Mel Gibson. (The head butt has also survived in those British colonies populated by Scots and Irish, with Australia taking a slight lead over Canada in usage, but not by much.)