Did men's beards evolve to absorb a punch to the jaw?

May 14, 2020
1
0
10
Alexander the Great is said to have initiated shaved beards to prevent enemy combatants from grabbing hold of the beard with one hand and clobbering with some weapon in the other. Hand to hand combat (especially jaw punching) would be, practically speaking, a third-rate strategy. Weapons aimed to expedite the opponent with a single action requires less energy overall. Since weapons in prehistoric times brought down game animals (according to cave paintings), there is little reason to believe they weren't used in tribal warfare. Some chimps have been observed using clubs in warfare, and dance what appeared to be war dances using clubs. The working hypothesis that beards deflect blows, and therefore had evolutionary value for that reason is open to question, to say the least. A trained warrior would, in any case, go for the nose or the forehead rather than the jaw, using the heel of his hand if no weapon were available.
 
May 21, 2020
1
0
10
I am going to say no. It's silly really. The amount of energy absorption from this would be minimal. It could, potentially decrease the chance of sustaining a laceration from a blow. That being said it would be very much used against you. Long hair on any body area is a grip.
 
Aug 8, 2020
2
0
10
Alexander the Great is said to have initiated shaved beards to prevent enemy combatants from grabbing hold of the beard with one hand and clobbering with some weapon in the other. Hand to hand combat (especially jaw punching) would be, practically speaking, a third-rate strategy. Weapons aimed to expedite the opponent with a single action requires less energy overall. Since weapons in prehistoric times brought down game animals (according to cave paintings), there is little reason to believe they weren't used in tribal warfare. Some chimps have been observed using clubs in warfare, and dance what appeared to be war dances using clubs. The working hypothesis that beards deflect blows, and therefore had evolutionary value for that reason is open to question, to say the least. A trained warrior would, in any case, go for the nose or the forehead rather than the jaw, using the heel of his hand if no weapon were available.
Actually that's too simplistic. Alexander the Great prefered clean shaven, however, short beards are sufficient--you can't grab short beards, yet he preferred clean shaven and not scruffle (which you can't grab). The historical reason why Alexander the Great preferred clean shaven is, through hygiene, to distinguish his army from those dirty uncivilized barbarians. Same reason why the US military prefers clean shaven, it's not because beards are grabbable--but because soldiers look cleaner and more disciplined.

More importantly though, grabbing a beard while you opponent has a weapon is not a good idea. You lose one arm since it is tied up, and your opponent has two arms to attack with. I dare you to grab your opponents beard while they are swinging their sword and shield at you. One little cut to the arm and you'll bleed to death. Grappling is a bad idea in such combat situations. In fact, if I'm in a fight with knives, I'd prefer my opponent grab my beard/shirt, that (1) puts them in range and (2) gives them one less arm to defend with while I have two. That would be way better than if they keep a distance from me, strike and then retreat and we wail our knives around--I'd rather be grabbed and be in range.

Now you said something about going for the nose or forehead rather than the Jaw if the opponent has a beard--while that is true, consider that without a beard the opponent can go for the nose, forehead AND Jaw. So having a beard is better than not considering your scenario. Also note that attacking the nose/forehead is different from attacking the soft tissue of the Jaw/Neck.

Large beards may also be helpful to hide the location of the Jaw so it is harder to target. Also helps protect against neck lacerations from sharp weapon slices. Also helps make you look like a formidable opponent--fear is a major factor: if your opponent is scared and threatened by you and you see them as weaker, that is and advantage and they might get submissive and lose the fight. If you feel that you are bigger and stronger than your opponent, and the opponent sees that they are smaller and less formidable, that is an advantage for you. Confidence and morale is very important in a fight. We see this a lot in boxing/MMA, one fighter is confidently just throwing fists and the other opponent being less confident doesn't throw fists as well gets on the defensive and gets knocked out.

Other notes: When vision is hampered by dizziness or blood, and/or if a fighter is merely surviving and striking out on instincts, a big beard could have the effect of throwing off someone's aim just enough to potentially help the bearded fighter stave off damage from strikes to the chin area. The beard kind of acts as a form of camouflage, it blurs the contour of the wearer's facial structure--especially like a large bushy one. Beard hairs tend to be coarser than head hairs.

This article may be on to something on top of that. The question is: will the reduction of force from a heavy punch by a beard be significant enough, or is it not significant? Sure the beard reduces the force, but is that reduction enough to not get knocked out? Maybe it can be with weaker punches and that is significant enough to yield better outcomes (since perhaps being without a beard and being attacked by those same weaker punches would do more harm than if you have a beard), but I'm not so sure.

One more thing to mention: there is no reason to think that stone age humans couldn't/didn't cut their hair. Even in extant hunter gatherers, they all do "hair stuff" and cut their hair. Even using stone tools, or clams to trim their hair. These humans are hunting animals and likely know how to cut meat and cut animal skin--they can also cut their own hair--especially if it gets in the way. So now, if you have a beard that you can trim: you can gain the advantages of camouflaging your chin area and intimidating your opponent reducing their confidence/morale in a fight (which is an advantage for you in a fight) while keeping your beard short enough such that grabbing it is difficult and thus not as much of a disadvantage. Beards thus can confer significant advantages compared to not having one.
 
Last edited:
Aug 8, 2020
2
0
10
I am going to say no. It's silly really. The amount of energy absorption from this would be minimal. It could, potentially decrease the chance of sustaining a laceration from a blow. That being said it would be very much used against you. Long hair on any body area is a grip.
At the same time, the beard is in the front of the body (it's not like head hair), so if your opponent grabs your beard, they are (1) in range and (2) have one less arm to attack/defend with while you have 2.

Beards may also distract from grabbing head hair. Grabbing head hair is worse because you can pull it back and control the opponent's whole body--with a beard not so much since it is in the front--it's more like grabbing a shirt collar, and your opponent will focus on your beard and not your head hair, and so you'll be in a better place than if the opponent grabbed your head hair.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

Latest posts