It was a boxing match that will probably never be forgotten – or at least not this particular event in it:
On Saturday night, June 28, 1997, in what would later become known as “the bite fight”, Mike Tyson – the youngest boxer ever to win the WBC, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles – bit his opponent’s (Evander Holyfield’s) ear, purportedly in retaliation for Holyfield headbutting him earlier in the round.
I take it you already know of this incident.
Tyson lost a point for this long lost secret boxing technique, but the fight continued. However, Tyson was still hungry (pun indeed intended), and bit again just moments later, ripping Holyfield’s ear off. Well, not the whole ear, just a chunk of flesh.
The result? Holyfield was rushed to the hospital for surgical re-attachment, while Tyson was disqualified and later fined $3 million, as well as having his boxing license revoked.
All because of some simple ear nibbling!
So, how come we almost never hear of these kinds of things in real fights? How come we never see that taught in the dojo? Seriously, if biting your opponent proved that effective (as in $3 million effective) against a trained war machine like Evander Holyfield, shouldn’t we be giving some more thought to this “technique”?
I think so.
Or at least I’m going to write about it.
After all, it hardly requires any training!
Just some thought.
I mean, you’ve been chewing (“training”) all of your life when you eat stuff (probably the only time food works as a kind of makiwara… sweet…) so it should be pretty easy for basically any human being to use biting in self-defense, as an attack. You don’t even need to learn the how, just the when.
Granted, you will still need to overcome the feeling of barbarism that undoubtedly accompanies biting other people.
But that’s another story.
However, is biting really that effective?
Of course Iron Mike (Iron Bite?) could do it, since nobody really expects to be bitten in a normal professional boxing fight, right? And if we are really struggling against somebody, they won’t literally hang/lean on us like a sack of potato (which is my description of a heavyweight boxing clinch), making it easy to just chew off some ear.
Well, fighting strategies for biting will be pictured later. For now, let’s just agree that biting is very effective. To the best of my knowledge, the human bites comes in at number 3 in terms of dangerousness, preceded only by dogs and cats (and just in case you are worried, the odds of getting bitten by a shark are about 1 in 5 million. This fact I found on the internet, so therefore we know it’s true.)
In fact, human bites are amongst the nastiest ones in the animal kingdom. No joke. Our saliva contains at least forty two species of bacteria, far exceeding that of a dog which carries a measly two, or sometimes three.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what really makes biting dangerous.
I’m talking about infections
At a whopping concentration of around 100,000,000 organisms per mL, it is not surprising that bite wounds contaminated with human saliva are very likely to become infected.
I bet you never thought of that!
And if you are lucky enough to avoid the chance of an infection, human bites may potentially transmit diseases instead. But we’re not talking a little sore throat here – a serious bite wound can infect you with some scary stuff like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes simplex-virus (HSV), syphilis, tuberculosis, antinomycosis and tetanus.
Oh, and as some self-defense experts claim – yes, you could theoretically be infected with HIV too, although this is overwhelmingly improbable according to sensei Google.
Anyways, we need not worry (okay, we do, but just a little).
Since about 70% of human bite injuries affect upper limbs, and only 10% of these injuries get infected, the chances of receiving a nasty infection is pretty small. However, a randomized very serious study found that in patients who consulted a doctor within 24 hours after being bit – without signs of infection and not even deep structural damage – 50% still became infected.
Obviously, these are things that are not easy to detect, even for professionals.
And if you don’t know what a human bite infection looks like, here’s a real picture from a 65 year old male who punched somebody in the mouth and got infected in his hand.
Scroll past the picture if you’re sensitive!
Gross picture, right?
I know. Don’t show it to your kids.
Remember, many people do not even seek treatment for things like this (due to prompt resolution of the bite injury, embarrassment, fear of legal repercussions, etc.). Considering that the Journal of Emergency Medicine cites the following effects from a bite wound though, I think we should be paying more attention to biting in self-defense, or Karate:
“Cosmetic deformities, loss of function, residual pain, osteomyelitis, necrotizing fascitis, septic shock and death.”
Okay, enough with horrible facts.
You came here for Mr. Miyagi, not Count Dracula.
So, what I now would like to do is find some kind of surfer-MMA dude with beach blonde hair (who knows all sorts of locks, holds, submissions, throws and pins) and put him up against a Karate man. Let’s see, like a fight bite experiment, how many of the most common holds and locks of MMA (of which many are used in Karate too) actually end up quite uneffective (if not pretty much useless) against our Karate man who knows to use his… fangs.
Because, even though I’ve see some very famous Karate historians and researchers frequently teach these kinds of painful holds at seminars, they rarely mention that a simple bite from their opponent will make it quite hard to get these submission holds to work in the first place (in a non-dojo environment)!
We mustn’t confuse techniques meant for a sport or recreation with self-defense techniques.
So let’s take a look at some effective biting submission counters, demonstrated by Tobias The Karate Man and Tommy The Handsome Beach Bum.
Enjoy (you sicko!):
1. Straight Armbar (Ju-ji Gatame)
Probably the most common submission hold in MMA, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (sic), the straight armbar becomes totally useless if done in the classical way against somebody who doesn’t have a mouthguard in.
You would want to keep your achilles tendon and/or calf muscles intact if you ever intend to surf again, you know.
2. The Guillotine
Another common hold, but this time a strangulation/neck crank. Defend by twisting you head slightly, taking a nice big bite of your opponents love handles with you.
Works even if the attacker has a jacket on.
Yes, I tried.
3. MMA Clinch/Thai Clinch
Just like in the boxing clinch, this is a perfect biting situation. You can basically bite anywhere – which teaches us that the clinch is a highly dangerous position (and not as safe as it is sometimes portrayed).
4. Triangle (Sankaku Jime)
If the straight armbar or guillotine isn’t the most popular submission lock, then the triangle sure is. And when it comes to biting, it is also one of the most worthless.
Grab a McThigh and chill.
Or a McGroin (if that’s your thing). Works only if the lock isn’t tight yet.
5. Side Control
Practically a buffet.
6. Figure Four/Americana
You guys have no idea how many kids I submitted with this exact hold in kindergarten. Since biting is such a taboo (especially in fights ‘mano a mano’), it worked every time.
I owned the playground!
But I could have had my tricep shredded to pieces if somebody ever had the guts to.
7. Straight leglock
“Oh no! He has you in a leglock!” [fake voice pretending to be afraid]
Do a sit-up.
Let him worry about overextending your ankle when you’re busy chewing on his tibia. Win some, lose some.
8. Kimura/Ude garami
Very (read: VERY!) effective hold.
But that thigh just looks so…
9. Rear Naked Choke (RNC)
Note to self: This will not work when the choke 100% in.
But neither will any other of these bite things.
End of note.
10. Reverse Side Control/Kesa Gatame
This must be the most common hold in Judo ever. It’s very solid.
And it is probably the nastiest bite you’ll ever have too, since it’s an armpit.
But darn, it hurts. That pectoralis major right in front of your face is just begging to be eaten!
Okay, end of cool slash scary slash fascinating (“is that a his real hair or a wig?”) pictures.
Point proven. Hopefully…
Here’s some more random wisdom we can take home from the above:
- Before being impressed with a technique (any!), consider the context.
- Never play by anyone elses rules.
- MMA/Judo/BJJ/Wrestling/Thai boxing etc. is not for the street (if unaltered).
- Never punch people in the mouth.
- Brush your teeth.
- Biting is unexpected, nasty and evil.
- Biting is cool
- Biting is really cool.
- Use it.
- Bite me.
Now go get your Mike Tyson on.