Tag Archives: hair pulling

Did you guys get my ask about fighting with long hair? I never saw it answered…I asked about the logistics and realistic complications of having long, unbound hair in close range fights.

We’ve answered questions similar to this one in the past. The simple answer is the old adage: “Where the head goes, the body follows.”

Control the head. You control the fight.

Grabbing someone by their hair is an easy means to controlling the head. You see people with no training go for this one all the time, especially with women. It’s not just men versus women, it’s also women versus women. It also happens to men with long hair. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it hurts like hell.

This is the major reason why long hair, especially left unbound, and at very close ranges, is trouble. It’s an easy grab. It’s also very painful for the person on the receiving end, your hair is dead but the follicles are full of nerve endings. Very, very, very painful when grabbed. More than that, you can haul them around by their hair and use that pain to control the head. There more hair there is, the looser it is, then the easier it is.

It gets in the way, it gets in your eyes, it snags on your surroundings. It’s bad news bears. The last thing you want after being knocked to the ground is some jackass stepping on your hair and forcing you to choose between actually tearing it out as you try to escape (ouch) or lying there and taking it as his buddy starts launching kicks into your stomach/ribs/head.

And, no, that’s not an abstract. Hair is trouble.

Bind it into a tight braid, roll it up beneath a hat, and get it out of the way. You don’t want it around when shit starts going down. Hair grabs, scalp grabs are an easy thing that every basic idiot knows how to do. It’ll still happen with short hair, it’s just harder to maintain a grip and you have to get closer.

Allow me to repeat that anyone, anyone will do this when presented with the opportunity. It doesn’t matter if they’re fresh of the street or have twenty years of training. The ones who know what they’re doing will know what it does, the ones without it will just go for it on instinct alone.

Your body will protect your head. That’s instinctual. If your head is in danger, your body will move to protect it. That’s not always beneficial to you because as we’ve said before native instinct can and will get you killed. It leads to some very stupid choices, like rolling onto your stomach while someone else is sitting on your back beating your head to escape. (That just traps you with no means of defending yourself, but it’s natural instinct.) The same will happen with your hair. Natural instinct when your head is trapped is predictable and it can be abused/exploited by someone else.

“Real fighting” is that there are no rules, nothing is off limits, you use every advantage you can to survive. If you don’t someone else will, and they will use the openings you’ve left open against you. That’s it.

Now, if you want the fantasy of the warrior woman with the long flowing locks who flawlessly kicks ass and goes back inside to drink a scotch then by all means run with it. Accept the fantasy for what it is and go to town. That’s the vast majority of female action protagonists in fiction.

People love them. They’ll go down defending them.

You want that? Do it. Embrace it.

Embrace it for everyone.

Because there is nothing worse than a piece of media that claims to be realistic then invents a whole separate subset of rules for its female characters in order to have its cake and eat it too. (I’m looking at you, Dark Knight Rises. Otherwise known as the moment we realized Catwoman’s current comics costume was more realistic. Short hair. Hood to cover head. Goggles. Boots.)

The logistics are:

People grab it. It hurts. It can kill you.

It gets stuck on things. It hurts.

It gets in your eyes.

When it gets pinned under your body, it hurts.

Throwing it in someone else’s face makes it easier for them to grab.

It gets stuck on things.

It hurts.

It hurts like hell.

If you must have your hair long, then put it in a braid. Put it in a tight bun. Nothing loose, no loose braids, no loose ponytails, no loose hair. Very tight, bind that shit down. Get it up and out of the way.

-Michi

Is pulling hair a good way to escape or win a fight (in the case you’re a male fighting a female)?

Sure. It’s also a fine way to win a fight if you’re female fighting a guy with long hair. Guys fighting guys. Girls fighting girls. This isn’t a gender thing. Or if the hair is long enough to get a decent grip. There are a lot of nerve endings there and you can use it to take control of them.

We did a post on it: Fight Write, On Hair Pulling

-Michi

-A wild long-haired person appears- re: hair pulling: Generally, I think a neat French braid that you then dropped down the collar of your clothing would work nicely to keep it outta the way in a fight. A milkmaid braid would probably work too. Or, putting things like spikes in a plain braid would teach some people not to pull hair. Also! If it’s a cultural thing to have long hair, is it possible as well that it’s culturally unacceptable to pull hair in a fight, making it a relative non-issue?

Nah, people will still pull hair (and other less savory things) even when it’s culturally unacceptable. There’s always a delineation between what people are supposed to do (or their culture says they behave) and how we actually behave. Some knights did actually follow the Code of Chivalry (including the part that involves suicide for failure), but most didn’t. The same is actually true for the samurai, because killing your most experienced and well-trained warriors for screwing up just isn’t cost effective in the long run.

There’s a similar truth to be had with the hair and high heels (and Beka Cooper’s gorget). In European tradition, there are essentially two different strains of thought, one comes out of the Northern Germanic tribes and their willingness to wear long hair because it’s a very good insulator. It had nothing to do with combat and everything to do with comfort. The short hair tradition comes from the Romans, where having short hair was an indicator of military service. Outside of military service, male or female they didn’t care, but for combat you had to crop it. While it’s become a gender difference now, short hair once meant (and still does mean) combat professional/warrior/military for Europe. Long hair can be worn by those, such as officers and others who are unlikely to see combat. Even today in the American military, men and women must both have hair that doesn’t touch the collar because it’s the most effective method available.

On the Eastern side, such as in China and Japan, they tied their hair up before going into combat, often in some form of bun and then wore a helmet over it. This is the second most effective method of preventing your hair from being used against you as a weapon. It’s a simple, easy, and readily available solution to the problem.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s actually very easy. Now, wearing spikes in your hair is, ultimately, going to be more dangerous to you in the long run than it is to whoever is planning on attacking you. It’s essentially an unnecessary fashion accessory for a problem that could be solved easily by Beka just wearing her hair short (in testimony to European combat tradition for lower class personnel) or hiding it down her collar (like you already suggested). Now, the gorget justification surprised me because I remember Beka Cooper essentially working as a constable in the slums of Tortall’s capital city and that’s a very expensive piece of equipment to gift someone who has the life expectancy of a mayfly. The gorget was originally worn by women in the middle ages as a piece of linen worn around the throat, it later became a steel or leather neck protector between the backplate and breastplate of platemail. In the renaissance, they were larger and extended down the front and back to protect the heart. Usually, it would be gifted as part of the military uniform for heavy armor units. The guards at the Tower of London, for example, traditionally wear gorgets as part of their uniform. It’s a very prestigious position which puts them ahead of the general rank and file. A constable is on the low end of the equipment pay scale, a constable working the slums isn’t going to rank high for the best equipment.

The reason for this is not because the slums are less important, but that upon the death of an officer you have a greater chance of losing their equipment to the local thugs. An officer wandering around in expensive equipment becomes both a target for the local criminal element to take down (like a juicy duck being led to the slaughter) because they can sell that equipment and makes it harder for the officer to identify with the rest of the locals who live in the neighborhood (who they need to be able to do their job). In a sense, you want the uniform to distance the officer from the locals, but not so much that it sets them apart into a visibly different social class. Stomping around the slums in fancy armor is just a reminder to them that your character thinks that they’re better, more reason for there to be resentment, and the faster the character will die because no one is going to step in to help them when things go south. The last thing an authority wants is their enforcement group fully relegated to the status of Other by their own people. When the people view the enforcers as Other, the enforcers will often come to view them as Other, which essentially leads to Martial Law or the quote from Commander Adama in the BSG reboot about why you never want to put the military in charge of policing your civilians. (Hint: It has something to do with the military being trained to fight enemies and the police being trained to protect the people, when the military become the police then the people become the enemy.)

If Beka received her gear because of her special relation with the Provost, then that just sets her apart from the other cops and is likely to generate resentment over her special treatment. It also makes her a more likely target by the criminal element in the city (though she’s supposedly protected by the King of Thieves, but he can’t be everywhere and w/e for this example), who know that she would be a good target to loot. If all the cops in the city get gorgets, then that’s really a rather expensive proposition for the Magistrate that won’t be worthwhile in the long run because of the high likelihood of losing them to the city’s criminal element.

The spikes are dumb, there’s no way of getting around that and no number of justifications that are going to make it better regardless if what culture their from. It makes more sense to wear them as part of a hair net, but that’s still likely to get the character stuck in a wall or the hair caught on themselves. It ultimately leads to an unnecessary level of preparation for a character who is going to be constantly on call and need to be able to get ready quickly. A character in a culture with a reason for having long hair isn’t going to wear something in their hair that can tear it, because it’s counter productive.

I admire Tamora Pierce a great deal as an author, for forwarding the cause of female combatants, and for writing complex and realistic female protagonists in her work. This one just isn’t going to get better though and there isn’t much more we can say on the subject, so I’m going to call it here.

-Michi

I have a character with long hair (because of cultural reasons), so what hairstyle would you recommend to keep it out of the way in a fight?

oocbox:

obsidianmichi:

muttluver:

howtofightwrite:

We did an article on this! FightWrite: On Hair Pulling

You want a hairstyle that keeps the long hair tightly bound (skin tight) so that no opponent can get a good grip. A loose ponytail isn’t good enough. Modern “conventional” wisdom likes to assume that only girls are wussy enough to pull each others’ hair or that it’s “cheap”. It’s actually not true. Regardless of what is right or fair, both men and women will yank someone else around by their hair in a fight. The reason is that the hair is full of nerve endings, when yanked on their cause pain, and a good solid grip on someone’s head means that you can control where they go in a fight.

A character with long hair is going to need to keep their hair bound up and out of the way, or their opponent will snatch it and yank. The longer and looser the hair, the easier this is.

A ponytail, a loose braid, and even a loose bun will allow another character to simply walk up behind the character and take a hold of them, or grab it during a fight when they get in close enough. There’s no practical reason to ignore the hair, so most don’t.

-Michi

So what type of hairstyle would that be? The only thing I can think of (that would leave little to no room for hair pulling) is a really tight, complicated braid that kinda winds around your skull, all fancy-like.

….clearly I don’t work with hair very much.

In the article, I mention a female cop who used to bind her hair skin-tight to her skull in a braid, then pin it to the back of her head. Not a wrap around, just a coil. Any hairstyle like that will work, so long as you make sure it’s tight and close to the skull so that they can’t get a good grip even on the hair that’s bound up. Now, the hair will loosen over time as you’re fighting. So, it’s something the character is going to have to watch out for as the fight progresses.

-Michi

I’ve seen Tamora Pierce use a braid with barbed wire in it for Beka Cooper. I don’t know how practical that actually is but it seems to work?

I’m going to go with that’s not a good idea. It is one that sounds good on the surface, but it comes with a host of problems that don’t really make it worth it.

1) You have to thread the barbed wire into your hair and take it out, even if you use thick gloves you run the risk of nicking both the back of your neck, destroying your clothes, and harming your scalp. You’d also need someone else to put it in.

2) The hair will get tangled in the barbed wire, pull on it, and make it a bitch to take out at the end of the day. The barbed wire can hook into your clothes, the skin on the back of your neck, someone else’s clothes as you’re patrolling on a busy street, random objects you brush up against, catching on wooden walls and doorways, and just about anything else you can think of.

3) It’s probably just going to end up hurting the character more in the long run. The same is true to pins or needles. You don’t want to be wearing something that’s as likely to hurt you as it is to hurt the people your fighting.

Barbed wire is less than 150 years old, so I don’t buy that people did it historically. The best idea is to look into how Manchurian warriors (and other cultures that had similar traditions) did it, because the queue was important to their cultural traditions. The best solution is simply to tie it tightly and then hide it under a hat or a helmet so that your opponent has to go through something else to get to the hair, which makes it a less appealing target. A short ponytail, for example, can be pinned up under a cap.

-Michi

I have a character with long hair (because of cultural reasons), so what hairstyle would you recommend to keep it out of the way in a fight?

We did an article on this! FightWrite: On Hair Pulling

You want a hairstyle that keeps the long hair tightly bound (skin tight) so that no opponent can get a good grip. A loose ponytail isn’t good enough. Modern “conventional” wisdom likes to assume that only girls are wussy enough to pull each others’ hair or that it’s “cheap”. It’s actually not true. Regardless of what is right or fair, both men and women will yank someone else around by their hair in a fight. The reason is that the hair is full of nerve endings, when yanked on their cause pain, and a good solid grip on someone’s head means that you can control where they go in a fight.

A character with long hair is going to need to keep their hair bound up and out of the way, or their opponent will snatch it and yank. The longer and looser the hair, the easier this is.

A ponytail, a loose braid, and even a loose bun will allow another character to simply walk up behind the character and take a hold of them, or grab it during a fight when they get in close enough. There’s no practical reason to ignore the hair, so most don’t.

-Michi

meltedwaxwing said: I figured the asker meant if an assailant has you by the hair, what is the best way to get out of it (have them let go so you can escape)? At least that’s what I wonder.

I interpreted it as “Someone is pulling my hair and I want to punch them, what do I do?”. Not, “if someone is pulling my hair and I’m in danger and I need to fight back, what do I do?”. The question was vague enough that it could mean anything. They could be getting their hair pulled by their best friend, the high school bully, or their little sister. So, it’s best to cover the bases to make sure. However, we did do an article on that. So here, have fun.

Fight Write: On Hair Pulling

For the OtherSidhe, nine times out of ten whoever gets to the nearest authority figure first to report the incident is going to look like the victim to that person, regardless of what actually happened. The guilty party is already framed in the mind of the authority figure, they’ve already made the decision by the time the second person gets to them and they act accordingly. They’re own prejudices also influence that decision.

But “hit them, then run to a teacher and lie your ass off” is a far more devious suggestion than I feel comfortable giving. Nevermind the fact that what we say on the internet can have real and lasting consequences in the “real world”.

-Michi

Fight Write: On Hair Pulling

Where the head goes, the body follows.

This is one of the most important tenants of self-defense and it’s why every combatant, male or female, should keep their hair either short or bound to their heads in a braid that is so skin tight the fingers cannot seize it. The fighter who does not risks having the back of their head grabbed in the middle of combat by providing a decent, easily accessible grip for their opponent. Regardless of what television will tell you, the ponytail is not good enough.

The hair is a much easier target than attempting a headlock or grabbing behind the neck. Once an opponent has their target in their grasp and control of their head, they can take them almost anywhere they wish.

Your hair may be dead, but beneath the skin it is very much alive. Wrap your fingers in your own hair and pull, you’ll find it to be fairly painful, then, imagine the pull from the hands of someone who doesn’t care about your feelings or maybe your hair was pulled by someone when you were younger. It can hurt a great deal and pain has a way of locking us up when we are unprepared or it or when we haven’t been properly trained to deal with it.

It’s important to remember, no matter what folks say about hair pulling, that it is a real, acceptable, and commonly used tactic, especially against women. It will also work against men with hair long enough for a good grip. Honor has very little place in real world combat, remember that an advantage taken is an advantage gained and the only true imperative is survival.

Hair pulling is very common in fights among groups, such as in clubs, mobs, etc as a means of taking someone down. The best advice for when someone takes you or your character by the hair or by the head is to go with them, not politely, but in the same general direction by ramming sideways, forwards, or backwards in the direction of their grip and to keep going until they fall or are driven into a wall or another individual. This will keep you from being injured or having your hair yanked out, it will also save on the pain because it releases tension.