A list of Martial Arts that allow Headbutts - BudoDragon (2023)

When it comes to most martial arts, headbutting is viewed as a taboo way of fighting. The reason for this is that it can easily concuss either fighter and is viewed as brutal rather than technical. That’s not to say headbutts don’t require technique, but more that they’re a dangerous way of fighting that can lead to CTE.

Of course, concussions are always a risk when fighting. However, it seems that most people would argue that headbutting is the easiest way about getting a concussion compared to strikes by kicking or punching.

Having said this, there are still a number of martial arts that use headbutting. Although some of these disciplines are quite obscure, the art of headbutting is not completely lost. Read on for more information on what martial arts allow headbutts.

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Lethwei originates from Myanmar and for the most part, looks very similar to Muay Thai. There is of course one key difference; headbutts. If Muay Thai is the martial art that uses 8 limbs, then Lethwei uses 9 which is the head.

Headbutting is used from a close proximity and can easily knockout or daze your opponent. As you can imagine, allowing headbutts from the Thai clinch sounds pretty chaotic. Lethwei embraces this chaos and it’s perfectly legal.

In fairness, you won’t see that much headbutting in sparring in the gym because it’s considered dangerous. Most of the time it will be done at 5% power, or trained in drilling against a pad. Still, when a proper fight takes place, anything goes.


Kudo is a lesser-known martial art that hails from Japan. This is a cross between Karate and Taekwondo with a twist. You may have guessed that this twist is the legality of headbutting. In short, Kudo allows for headbutts, and practically all forms of striking are allowed in this discipline.

There is a catch though. Kudo involves sparring with headgear and this looks similar to the padded gear that boxers sometimes train with. In other words, it’s quite hard to inflict damage whilst headbutting someone if you’re wearing this headgear. It may still hurt, but the impact is minimized drastically due to the skull being protected by either fighter.

Arguably, Kudo is the safest martial art that allows headbutts due to the padding. This could be an option to pursue if you’re safety-conscious, but sadly it’s not trained much outside of Japan.

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Kyokushin Karate

It’s no secret that Kyokushin Karate is considered the most brutal and tough form of Karate. It’s also one of the oldest and originated from the island of Okinawa. Because of its tough reputation, Kyokushin allows headbutts…in some circles at least.

These days, the average Kyokushin dojo will not allow for headbutts due to the health and safety risks. Still, if you can find a hardcore gym then you may see headbutts being practiced. This will be in a similar style to Lethwei, where most people aren’t sparring with much intent.

Back in the day though, if you had the joy to watch a Kyokushin tournament then headbutting would be perfectly legal. This is a far cry away from the strip mall Karate found these days which is substantially less violent. In general, Kyokushin is seen as hardcore, and this is one of the many reasons why.

Combat Sambo

Combat Sambo is often viewed by many as MMA-lite. Over the years, the likes of Fedor Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov both became champions in Sambo before switching to MMA. In short, Combat Sambo is probably the toughest, most mainstream martial art going at the moment.

This also allows groin strikes but is mostly known for its similarities with Judo (whilst having fewer rules are regulations). One of these rules includes headbutting. What’s more, Sambo fights take place whilst wearing the Kurtka which is like a Judo jacket. This means you can literally drag someone in by the collar and pull them into a headbutt.

It should be added that headbutting is generally quite rare in Sambo and throwing is its main focus. Still, it’s something to think about if you ever want to compete in Combat Sambo. It should also be known that this is only the case in Combat Sambo where strikes are allowed. In regular Sambo, it’s illegal to strike.

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Kung Fu

These days, there’s a lot of misinformation on Kung Fu and some people confuse it as a singular martial art. However, Kung Fu is an umbrella term that basically covers loads of martial arts that originated in China. Specifically, some of the older Shaolin Kung Fu involved headbutts which would be trained and used in certain Kung Fu tournaments.

As you can imagine, Kung Fu practitioners can be pretty dedicated at times and condition their bodies perfectly. So, if you got a headbutt from someone with a well-conditioned forehead, then it’s bound to hurt.

These days, the art of headbutting in Kung Fu has mostly been lost in time. In the west, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Kung Fu school that teaches headbutts. However, if you looked hard enough in a Shaolin monastery then it’s possible you could be taught. In some cases, you can also learn headbutts in Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do, which are both heavily influenced by Kung Fu.

Vale Tudo

Vale Tudo is a Brazilian martial art that is often viewed as the predecessor to MMA. Unlike MMA, Vale Tudo was more stripped back though with fewer laws. This means fighting without gloves and in general, it had fewer regulations.

One of these regulations was headbutts. Here, you could headbutt from any position, including the ground. MMA legend Wanderlei Silva was actually known as a top Vale Tudo fighter before making the switch to MMA.

In fact, you could see Vale Tudo’s influence in earlier editions of the UFC. Here, headbutts were perfectly legal and would often be used as a part of ground and pound. One example of this was done by BJJ coral belt Joe Moreira. In one fight, he used headbutts to concuss both him and his opponent which is possibly the reason why headbutting in the UFC eventually got banned.

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Perhaps the oldest martial art known to man is Pankration. This was developed in ancient Greece and was used in earlier editions of the Olympic Games. In short, this was a version of fighting that had very few rules. Therefore, it was kind of like street fighting without weapons, or another way of looking at it is that it was MMA with fewer rules.

This meant headbutting was fully permitted and legal. Remember, back in ancient Greece, there was a warrior culture so stuff like this wouldn’t have been viewed as barbaric or dangerous at this point.

Fast-forwarding to the present day, it turns out that UFC Champion Khabib Nurmogomedov was also a Pankration Champion before switching to professional MMA. These days, Pankration doesn’t allow headbutts but it was certainly a part of its bloody past.

Krav Maga (not allowed in sparring)

If you’ve ever witnessed Krav Maga sparring then it looks quite similar to Kickboxing with the odd submission thrown in too. However, for obvious reasons – Krav Maga doesn’t allow dirty and dangerous moves in sparring. This means attacks such as eye gouges and groin strikes aren’t legal during sparring, but they are drilled.

Another technique that is taught in Krav Maga without being sparred is the headbutt. This is often used from close range and is usually practiced by headbutting a pad. Krav Maga practitioners will learn this to use as a sneak attack against an aggressor who won’t leave their personal space.

Therefore, it’s fair to say that headbutts are allowed in Krav Maga. They just aren’t allowed during sparring as they’re deemed too dangerous which is a fair point.

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If you’d like to practice headbutting safely, then this kit is a good starting point as it can be done in isolation or with a partner.


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