The Martial Arts:
Let me acknowledge those who contributed to the development of this paper. ␣ Morgan State University SCMNS ␣ Dr. Aradhya Kumar – Morgan State University Physics Department ␣ Henry Corcoran – Morgan State University Physics Department ␣ Ron Chapel, Ph. D. – Martial Science University
␣ James Frederick – Frederick’s Kenpo Karate ␣ John Edmunds, Sr. – House of The Dragon Martial Arts Institute (R.I.P.) ␣ Dr. Richard Ochillo – Morgan State University Biology Department ␣ Dr. Joseph Montes – Morgan State University Biology Department ␣ Dr. Lurline Whittaker – Morgan State University Family Sciences ␣ Dr. Grace Coffey – Morgan State University English Department
The Martial Arts: An Introduction To The Arts Themselves And The Sciences That Make Them Work.
I. Introduction A. Definition of Martial Arts B. Examples & Brief History of Some Martial Arts
1. American Kenpo Karate 2. Tae Kwon Do
3. Five Animal Kung-Fu 4. Ju Jitsu 5. Ryukyu Kempo
The Sciences of the Arts A. Physics
1. Structure and Stability a. Stances
b. Blocks 2. Force and Absorbing Force
a. ForceEqualsMassxAcceleration b. Utilizing Gravity on Downward Motions c. Torque d. Transmittance of Force
i. Recoil, Energy Transfer and Work ii. Surface Area
iii. Structural Integrity of Weapon iv. Stability of Target
a. SpeedEqualsDistanceDividedbyTime b. Decrease Distance to Protagonist’s targets
i. Positioning ii. Maneuvers
c. IncreasedistancetoAntagonist’stargets i. Positioning
ii. Maneuvers d. Decreasing Time of Actions
i. Biomechanical Efficiency (Biology) ii. Elasticity
iii. Target Selection
iv. Positioning 4. Leverage and Mechanical Advantage
Various Fulcrums i. Hips
1. Lifting & Throwing
2. Joint Breaking ii. Shoulders
1. Lifting & Throwing
2. Joint Breaking iii. Arms
1. Joint Breaking
b. Joint/Tissue Isolation i. Joint Locks
ii. Chokes c. LeverageofPinning
B. Biology 1. Target & Weapon Selection or Protection
a. HardandSoftTargets b. Body Geometry and Weapon Fitting c. WeakerVitalPoints
i. Vital Organs ii. Joints
d. Never Clusters i. Creating Pain
ii. Nerve Activation KO’s 2. Joint Manipulation
a. Hyper-Flexion b. Hyper-Extension c. Twisting d. Shearing
3. Choking a. AirPassageCompression
b. Carotid Artery Compression 4. Body Reactions (Autonomous Nervous System)
a. StrikingSequences b. Joint Manipulation c. “Herding”
5. Biomechanical Efficiency (Physics Crossover) a. MusculoskeletalStructure
i. Stability ii. Force Transmission
iii. Leverage b. Muscle Firing Sequences
i. Force Generation ii. Speed Enhancement
6. Maintaining Health a. Nutrition
i. Carbohydrates – Energy ii. Proteins – Maintenance and Upkeep
iii. Fats – Joint Lubrication b. Proper Exercise Methods
i. ii. iii.
Energy Output versus Caloric Intake Removal of Lactic Acid Resting Periods
Throughout various parts of the world people study the martial arts. Each region of the world has its own native forms of martial arts. While the martial arts have been designed to be used in combat situations, they have developed a reputation as having a mystical quality to them. The martial arts are often considered a set of unexplainable skills that are only known to a select few. This, however, is a fallacy. Martial arts are nothing more than physically applied scientific knowledge. The main bodies of science that explain all of the feats of the martial arts are physics and biology.
Physics is used in the martial arts to generate force, through the formula force equals mass times acceleration. Physics is also used to determine the structural conformation of the martial artist’s body so that the force generated can be adequately transmitted to a target. Physics is also used for the purposes of enhancing the speed of the martial artist’s actions as well as increasing the amount of functional strength a martial artist has through the use of proper leverage.
Biology is utilized for the purpose of understanding the human body’s anatomy and physiology. This knowledge is used by the martial artist to not only select which targets to attack but also which parts of the martial artist’s own body to defend. Once the viable targets are selected for attack, biological knowledge is then applied to select the manner in which the target should be attack. This ranges from which direction and with what amount of force a target should be struck with to in what manner a joint should be manipulated and/or twisted. Biological knowledge is also applied to determining the nutritional
content of the martial artist’s diet and the proper types and amounts of exercise the martial artist’s should utilize to build up their bodies properly.
Introduction To The Martial Arts
Throughout the history of mankind, man has constantly searched for various means to have an advantage over other men. This research and development is generally in the area of armed combat. However, the area of unarmed combat is yet another area in which man has searched ceaselessly for various means to dominate other men. The realm of unarmed combat is generally referred to collectively as the martial arts. The martial arts have gained a reputation of being ‘mystical’ in nature, mystical in the sense that there is some undefined and unproven energy or skill that is associated with the application of martial arts techniques. There are thousands upon thousands of different forms of martial arts but only five will be presented here to provide some background information on the question “what exactly is a martial art?” The five martial arts chosen are American Kenpo Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Five Animal Kung-Fu, Ju Jitsu, and Ryukyu Kempo. These arts are chosen as they represent 5 different methods of unarmed combat from four different parts of the world that all share a very important commonality. That commonality is the use of proven science.
American Kenpo Karate is a martial art that was founded in the United States of America by Edmund K. Parker in the 1950’s. Mr. Parker constantly refined his martial art until his death in 1990. American Kenpo Karate specializes in utilizing various parts of the body to strike the opponents body. The parts of the body that are used as weapons, the parts of the opponent’s body that are used as targets as well as the specifics of when to hit the designated targets are all governed by a set of rules that the Kenpo practitioner learns (Parker, 1982). The aforementioned rules are based on the principles of biology and physics (Parker, 1982). These principles will be discussed in detail later on.
The art of Tae Kwon Do is a martial art that also has the distinction of being the official national sport of Korea (Chun, 1976). Tae Kwon Do translates to “the art of foot and hand fighting.” The central philosophy of Tae Kwon Do is to defend one’s self utilizing the hands and feet at striking weapons (Chun, 1976). With the legs being the most powerful limbs of the body the feet are used as the major striking weapons. Foot strikes consist of 60-80% of the techniques used depending on where someone learns Tae Kwon Do.
Five-Animal Kung-Fu is a martial art originating from China. This art derives it’s techniques from mimicking the movements and fighting strategies of various animals (Parker, 1982). For example: a practitioner of Five-Animal Kung-Fu may use darting movements to strike quickly by mimicking the motion that a snake’s head makes when striking its prey. While considered one of the more ‘mystical arts’ Kung-Fu’s fighting techniques are comprised of basic scientific principles coupled with dance-like movements to conceal the fighting applications from observers.
Ju Jitsu is a martial art that originated in Japan as an unarmed form of battlefield combat. It is widely considered to be the “father of the martial arts” as its techniques can be found scattered throughout other martial art forms in varying amounts. Translating to “the gentle art” Ju Jitsu’s core philosophy is to yield to an attacker’s force in order to subdue the attacker (Gracie, 2003). For example: when an attacker pushes a Ju Jitsu practitioner the practitioner will “yield” to the push by pulling the attacker. This combines two forces in one direction which can be used to off balance the attacker and set up many techniques such as throws, takedowns, limb breaks and concession holds.
Originating in Japan and later refined in the United States is the art of Ryukyu Kempo. Ryukyu Kempo is known throughout martial arts circles as “pressure point fighting”. Once thought to be an art based solely on “chi flow” and an unproven “death touch”, American martial artist George Dillman refined what he learned about pressure point fighting and verified it with proven medical knowledge. He dubbed the art he created as “Ryukyu Kempo” in respect to the Ryukyu islands of Japan where his knowledge originated. Simply put, Ryukyu Kempo utilizes strikes to the opponent’s body at various “pressure points”. When done properly and in the proper sequence, these strikes directly affect the central nervous system resulting in a range of effects including temporary paralysis of a limb and unconsciousness.
The five aforementioned martial arts all stem from varying parts of the earth and each possesses a different philosophy of fighting coupled with a different library of techniques to support the respective fighting philosophy. These arts do however share a few important commonalities. One common trait is that all of these martial arts are designed to aid one person in defeating another in combat. Another common trait is that all of these martial arts use techniques that are based on proven sciences. Every facet of martial arts from the way a practitioner stands to the way a practitioner delivers a punch is based on the laws of physics. Every target that is chosen for striking, grabbing and twisting is selected based on the
biological limitations of the target(s) chosen taken in relationship to the biological advantages of the attacking weapon(s). Therefore, there are no “mystic” or unexplainable aspects to the feats that are performed by martial artists; all of the various abilities attributed to martial arts study are based on the proven natural sciences of physics and biology.
The Sciences Of The Martial Arts Part 1: Physics
A large portion of the effectiveness of martial arts techniques is rooted in the fundamentals of physics. With regards to physics, the first consideration of martial arts is stability. In order to hit a target with any kind of power the practitioner has to have a stable base to transmit the power from. Without a stable base the practitioner’s power will not be transmitted to the target. In other words the opponent will remain unharmed from the martial artist’s strikes. In order to achieve a stable platform from which to launch strikes a martial arts practitioner assumes a variety of stances. One such stance is a ‘Neutral Bow Stance’ or ‘rooted stance’. This stance has the practitioners knees about shoulder width apart with both knees slightly flexed. This position provides a compromise between stability and mobility by allowing the legs to function in a fashion similar to the shock absorbers on automobiles (Parker, 1983). The foot and leg configuration in figure 1 allows the legs to maintain the practitioner’s position if necessary but also allows enough give to move when necessary due to the flexion of the knee joints.
Fig. 1. – The Neutral Bow Stance While this stance has a measure of stability it is not stable enough to transmit the full force of a focused
blow. In order to accomplish this task the martial artist must assume a different stance. From physics studies with regards to stability, it is known that a triangular formation is inherently stable. In fact, ONLY a triangle is stable on its own requiring no support or anchors to retain its form (Cutnell, 1998). Therefore, many structures that are designed by man use triangles whenever stability is required. An example of this would be a wall brace as seen in figure 2.
Fig. 2. – Wall Brace Diagram The triangular structure of the brace allows the brace to support the weight of the wall without needing any
additional support. One reason for this stability is that the angle of the brace redirects the horizontal force vector of the wall into the ground (Cutnell, 1998). In keeping with this idea Kenpo, Kempo, Tae Kwon Do,
and Kung-Fu practitioners assume a ‘forward stance’ when delivering focused blows directed forward with the hands (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3. – The Forward Stance This stance has the rear or ‘trail’ leg locked in a straight position that resembles the conformation of the
aforementioned wall brace. This position serves the same purpose as the triangle formation of the wall brace. This position redirects the opposing force vector of a delivered strike into the ground instead of towards the practitioner’s rear. This allows the practitioner to remain stationary upon contact, thus allowing a better transfer of force to the intended target. More force leads to more pain, damage, etc.
While stance stability is of utmost importance and primarily utilizes the static stability provided by geometrical conformations, blocking stability is of equal importance. Blocking stability is achieved in a different manner; blocking stability utilizes a 135° angle of the arm to facilitate an ‘open-ended triangle’ between the fist and the respective shoulder (Figures 4a and 4b).
Fig. 4a – The Upward Block Fig. 4b – The Middle Block This angle of the arm places both the biceps and triceps muscles at approximately 50% flexion. What this does is allow each muscle group to equally split the strain of absorbing an impact. This arm conformation utilizes the same type of cable tension that is utilized in a cantilever suspension (Gordon, 1981).
Having built a stable platform from which to launch attacks, the martial artist must now generate a powerful attack to subdue the attacker. In this regard, martial artists utilize the physics formula for force. This fundamental formula states that Force generated is equal to the mass of a given object multiplied by its acceleration (Cutnell, 1998). Martial artists apply this formula by accelerating the mass of the entire body towards a target as quickly as possible. Utilizing this principle a martial artist who weighs 165lbs can utilize the entire 165lbs of his body to generate force instead of merely the weight of his arm alone. Also, when delivering strikes martial artists utilize the physics principle of ‘relative velocity’ (Cutnell, 1998). Relative velocity is a phenomenon that considers the speed of two connected objects traveling at different speeds. If a train is traveling at sixty miles per hour and a person on the train is running at ten miles an hour in the same direction, then the person is actually moving at the sum of the two speeds which would be seventy miles per hour in this instance. Martial artists apply this principle to their punches. First, the martial artist accelerates the body mass using the legs. The martial artist then accelerates the striking hand away from the body utilizing the arm and shoulder muscles. The striking hand is now traveling at the combined speed of the initial body mass acceleration combined with the acceleration of the hand from the body. This simple method of moving body parts in a chained sequence as opposed to all at once lends a great deal of total acceleration to a martial artists strike. This increase in total acceleration yields an increase in force generated.
Martial artists also use the force of earth’s gravitational pull to aid them in generating force on their strikes. Since the earth’s gravitation already provides an average acceleration of 9.8 meters per second squared, it is easy for a martial artist to accelerate downward simply by yielding to gravity. This principle is utilized when martial artists break boards, bricks, and cinder blocks in demonstrations. The martial artists utilize earth’s gravity to provide the initial downward acceleration of the body mass. They then utilize their own muscles to accelerate their arm downward away from their body mass. This is combining earth’s gravitational acceleration with the relative velocity discussed earlier. The results of this principle can be seen in figure 5.
Fig. 5 – Breaking Bricks Though the aforementioned forms of generating force were all linear in nature the martial artist
also utilizes circular forms of generating power. By rotating the body at the hips the martial artist generates angular acceleration (Cutnell, 1998). This angular acceleration is combined with the body acceleration and arm accelerations discussed earlier to further increase the total acceleration of a blow. Also the arms can be swung in a circular manner as in the “karate chop”. This is also a form of angular acceleration that can lead to generating force.
Having found a multitude of methods that can either be combined or used individually to generate force a martial artist must now have an effective means of transferring the generated force to a target. At the same time that a martial artist generates force a martial artist also generates momentum which is defined as mass multiplied by velocity. This momentum is what is actually transferred to a target upon impact. Momentum can either be transferred by applying a large amount of force over a small period of time or a small amount of force over a large period of time (Chananie, 1999). Martial Artists utilize this momentum to move the surface of a struck target. This movement multiplied by the force applied equals work. Therefore a martial artist must aim through a target to ensure that the targets surface moves (work) and at the same time must make sure that the momentum is transferred in as small a time as possible (impulse) (Chananie, 1999). This involves the important concept of recoil. A martial artist is trained to recoil blows to minimize the amount of contact time between a target and the striking weapon. This is to ensure that a target is struck rather pushed which increases the amount of deformation when the target is hit. By increasing the deformation of a target and transferring more energy to a target than it can absorb the martial artist insures that the target “breaks”.
Another facet of transferring energy is the area over which the energy is transferred. In causing damage to a given target the force transferred must be transferred to the smallest area possible. This relates to the surface area of the striking weapon. In order to transfer the maximum amount of force to an area and ensure that the amount of energy that can be absorbed is overcome martial artists are trained to strike with small hard weapons. For example a martial artist does not strike with all four knuckles of a clenched fist. The martial artist concentrates the strikes on one or two knuckles at a time depending on the target. By striking with only a knuckle or two the martial artist ensures that the force of the blow is delivered to a small unit of area. This increases the likelihood that the force transmitted will exceed the amount of force
that the target can absorb at the given area of contact. Yet another facet involved in the transfer of energy is the structural integrity of the weapon. The
weapon being used must be able to withstand the force of the blow being delivered. With this in mind a martial artist is trained to keep a tight fist when delivering a punch to protect the small bones of the hand from breaking on impact. The martial artist is also trained to keep the wrist aligned straight to avoid fracturing the wrist on impact. The principle of structural integrity also crosses over to the realm of target selection. A trained martial artist is to have a general knowledge of the amount of force different targets can withstand. This knowledge dictates that certain weapons be used to strike to certain targets. For example, the fused bones at the top of the skull can withstand more force than a clenched fist. Therefore the clenched fist is generally not used to strike the top of the skull. The reason for this is that the skull can resist a higher amount of force per square inch than a clenched fist can.
The final consideration to be discussed with regards to transferring force is the stability of the target being struck. Target stability is not to be confused with target integrity which was touched on in the earlier paragraph. Target stability is a measure of how likely it is for a target to move away from the force of impact, thus reducing the transfer of momentum. Martial artists are trained to strike quickly and when the opponent is “settled” to reduce the amount by which the opponent can ride the force of the blow and lessen the impact. A “settled” opponent is one who is moving towards the strike being delivered or one who is stationary. The martial artist is taking advantage of inertia in this instance. Inertia is the tendency of a given mass to remain at rest or to remain in motion (Cutnell, 1998). When striking an opponent the martial artist wants to strike when the opponent’s inertia is in favor of colliding with the martial artists strike or remaining at rest in the path of the martial artists strike. This ensures that the mass of the target absorbs the force of the blow in an effort to overcome the inertia. By insuring that the target has to absorb the force of the blow, the likelihood of the blow exceeding the amount of energy that the target can absorb is greatly increased (Chananie, 1999).
Having built a stable base to work from and having utilized various physics applications to generate and transmit force, a martial artist must now act with greater speed than the opponent to be successful in combat. According to the laws of physics, speed is defined as the distance traveled by an object divided by the total time it takes to travel that distance (Cutnell, 1998). With this in mind, the martial artist has to control either the distance between combatants, the time it takes to execute techniques, or both (Parker, 1986).
One of the first steps to increasing speed is for the martial artist to decrease the distance between himself and the targets he chooses to attack. The first method of accomplishing this is controlling positioning. A martial artist is trained to keep his hands up to decrease the distance between the opponents head and the martial artist’s fists. This results in faster strikes to the head and the face by decreasing the travel time of the strikes. Martial artists are also trained to fight with their sides facing the opponent rather than the center of their chests. This places one hip and shoulder closer to the opponent, which decreases the distance between the opponent’s body and the lead hand/foot of the martial artist (Parker, 1986). Another method for decreasing the distance between a martial artist and his targets are body maneuvers. Body maneuvers are the steps a martial artist uses to move around. An example of one of the maneuvers used can be seen in the ‘lunge punch’ (figure 6).
Fig. 6. – The Lunge Punch
In the classical karate lunge punch the martial artist takes a long step forward to suddenly decrease the distance between the martial artist and the attacker. This has both the benefit of increasing the speed of the strike and generating momentum for the punch. Martial Artists are taught dozens of foot and body maneuvers that decrease the distance between the martial artist and the attacker. By decreasing the distance, the speed of offensive actions is increased as well.
While positioning and maneuvers can be used to decrease the distance between the martial artist and the attacker, they can also be used to increase the distance between the attacker and the martial artist (Parker, 1986). This decreases the opponent’s speed by increasing the distance between the opponent and the martial artist’s vital areas. The first aspect of this distance control is positioning. The martial artist is trained to keep the hands up to decrease the distance between the hands and the opponent’s head. However, by having the hands up, a barrier is created between the attacker and the martial artist. The hands prevent the attacker from having a straight line entry to the martial artist’s head. This forces the attacker to go around the hands of the martial artist which increases the distance that the attacker’s hands have to travel. This decreases the speed of the attacker’s attacks. Martial artists also fight by having one side closer to the opponent than the other side. This sideways stance increases the distance between the martial artist’s lead hand and the rest of the martial artist’s body. What this means is that the main barrier between the opponent and the martial artist’s body have a greater area of separation. This serves to further increase the distance that an opponent’s hand has to travel to make contact by widening the angle required to circle around the martial artist’s lead hand. Another method of increasing the distance between an attacker and a martial artist is the use of body and foot maneuvers. Just as body and foot maneuvers can be used to move closer to an opponent they can also be used to move away from an opponent. Martial artists are taught a variety of foot and body maneuvers to increase the distance between the opponent’s weapons and the opponent’s targets. One such maneuver is the “drag-step reverse” (Parker, 1983). This maneuver has the martial artist drag the lead foot way from the opponent until it touches the rear foot. The martial artist then steps the rear foot back two to three feet. This simple maneuver creates two to five feet of space between the martial artist and the opponent. This increase in distance further increases the amount of distance an opponent’s actions have to go to make contact. This has the effect of making the opponent’s actions take longer to execute which gives the martial artist more time to defend.
While it is highly effective to control speed by controlling its distance component, speed can also be directly controlled by utilizing it’s time component. The most effective way for a martial artist to accomplish this is through decreasing the execution time of his own actions (Parker, 1987). The first step to decreasing the time it takes to execute a given maneuver is to utilize biomechanical efficiency. What this means is that the martial artist is to use no wasted motion. Martial artists are trained not to “wind up” for powerful blows but to use physics to deliver the power from whatever position the martial artist is already in. Martial Artists are also trained to only move the body parts that are directly involved in the technique being applied. By only moving the parts of the body that are required in a given technique, the martial artist is utilizing biomechanical efficiency to reduce the amount of inertia that must be overcome in order to move his own body. The martial artist is also insuring that every part of the body is actually moving in the direction of the given technique. If any part of the body is moving in a different direction than the given technique that extra direction creates another force vector in another direction. That extra vector transmits some of the force of the given technique in a different direction, which reduces the amount of force transmitted to the target. This reduces the amount of damage inflicted which in turn reduces the effectiveness of the technique. In short, biomechanical efficiency is utilizing only the body parts that are needed at the time and ensuring that the entire body is working in harmony with the technique being utilized.
Another important physics tool that the martial artist uses to enhance speed is the principle of elasticity. Elasticity is the property of certain materials to deform in an effort to absorb energy (such as from impacts) and then return to their original shape. The human body has this property and martial artists use this property to decelerate and accelerate strikes. For example, when a boxer misses a punch he is trained to use his own muscles to stop the blow from traveling and then use another set of muscles to retract the misfired arm and use it again in another punch. This takes a considerable amount of time as the muscles have to overcome the body’s inertia three times just to initiate another attack. The muscles must first overcome the body’s tendency to remain moving, in order to stop the errant punch from traveling. The muscles must then reset the body into a position to launch another attack. Finally, the muscles must overcome the body’s tendency to remain at rest in order to start the motion required for another attack. This is a very slow process that also has the detriment of causing the muscles to fatigue from the
unnecessary actions. In some martial arts, such as American Kenpo Karate, the martial artist is trained to allow an errant circular punch to continue its path of travel until it returns towards the martial artist’s body. If the punch continues on its circular path the forearm bone will eventually collide with the stomach muscles of the martial artist. As the stomach muscles absorb the force of the impact they deform a bit and collapse inward. The elasticity of the stomach muscle fibers will absorb the kinetic energy and then exert an opposite push as the muscles return to their original shape. This return to shape is due to the latent tension of the muscle fibers and does not require any energy or effort on the martial artist’s part. As the muscles return to shape they push the forearm bone away from them. This acceleration of the arm away from the body can be added to by the martial artist’s muscles. Since the arm is already in motion back towards the opponent, the muscles do not have to overcome any inertia (Cutnell, 1998). This reduces the amount of energy that the muscles have to exert. This also allows the initial punch to be recoiled and re- fired much faster as the direction change of the arm from the elastic collision occurs at a much faster rate than the previously mentioned method where the muscles continually decelerated and accelerated the arm in-between each attack.
The final method of decreasing the execution time of his own techniques is for a martial artist to use proper target selection in conjunction with proper positioning (Parker, 1987). For example, we will assume that the martial artist is standing three feet from his opponent. We will assume that the opponent is six feet tall. Using geometry we can conclude that the martial artist’s foot is roughly 6.7 feet away from the opponents head. This is using the Pythagorean Theorem. Now we will look at the hands. If the same martial artist is also six feet tall and has his hands up at head level his hands would be only three feet away from the opponent or closer. With his hands being closer they can hit the opponent’s head in a shorter period of time due to having less distance to travel. Thus, by selecting the head as a target for the hands the martial artist increases his speed of action or more accurately his speed of contact. Conversely, the same effect could be accomplished by using the feet to strike the opponent’s legs. This is how the martial artist uses the positioning of his body relative to the opponent’s in conjunction with proper target selection to be able to act faster than the opponent and “beat the opponent to the punch.”
Though the principles of physics are utilized extensively in the martial arts to generate force and enhance speed, the relation between martial arts and physics does not end there. The previous sections of this paper dealt primarily with the physics of striking an opponent from a martial arts perspective. However, martial arts are not solely about hitting a target. Many martial arts (i.e. Ju Jitsu, Judo, Aikido, Wrestling, etc.) are more focused on grabbing an opponent to manipulate him. The laws of physics are also utilized to ease the manipulation of the opponent’s body through pushing and pulling. Specifically, the laws of physics pertaining to leverage and mechanical advantage are adhered to.
The first and primary principle of physics and leverage that is utilized by a martial artist is the principle of the fulcrum as illustrated below in figure 7.
Fig. 7. – The Basic Fulcrum Concept Martial artists are taught to use various parts of their own bodies as well as their opponent’s bodies as
fulcrums. This action is used to create mechanical advantage so as to ease the effectiveness of techniques such as throws and joint breaks. The primary fulcrums utilized are the hips, shoulders and arms. An example of using the hips as a fulcrum for a throw would be the classic ‘Hip Throw’ as seen figure 8 (Walker, 1980).
Fig. 8. – The Basic Hip Throw. The human body has a fair degree of stability as long as the body remains aligned upright. This position
places the center of mass directly above and in-between the feet that support the body weight. However, when the body is tilted in any given direction the center of mass is no longer aligned with the supporting feet. This results in instability that makes it easy to move the human body with minimal effort (Kano, 1986). The physical dynamics of this example is illustrated in figure 9 below.
Fig. 9 – Misalignment of Center of Mass and Support Point The martial artist combines this instability with a fulcrum to further leverage the opponent’s weight. The martial artist uses his own hip as a fulcrum to divide the opponent’s weight. The majority of the opponent’s weight is placed on the side of the fulcrum closest to the martial artist and then combined with the martial artist’s own weight. This combined weight is then used to lift the remainder of the opponent’s weight off of the ground and throw the opponent over the martial artist’s hip. This is illustrated below in figure 10.
Fig. 10 – Physics of the Hip Throw While the fulcrum concept is used in throwing it is also applied to breaking joints as well. An example of
this would be the standard ‘armbar’ as shown in figure 11.
Fig. 11 – The Standard Armbar In any mechanical device that uses a load arm, a lever arm, and a fulcrum there is one factor that must
remain constant in order for the device to work (See figure 7 for example). The arms of the device must be able to withstand the strain of the forces applied to both sides of the fulcrum. In the martial arts in order to break a limb, the martial artist places the limb to be broken in a position so that the limb comprises the lever arm and the load arm while the joint is placed at the fulcrum. The martial artist then applies enough pressure to the limb so that the amount of strain that the joint can withstand is exceeded. The joint then breaks. In the straight armbar illustrated above, the martial artist’s hip is the fulcrum again. The opponent’s arm is the lever arm and load arm. The martial artist uses the hands to apply pressure to one side of the arm while the legs apply pressure to the other side. This combination of forces combined with the placement of the hip (fulcrum) easily exceeds the amount of strain that the arm joint can withstand. All martial arts joint breaks follow roughly the same configuration.
Yet another important principle of physics that is utilized by martial artists is the principle of deformation. This principle states that any given object has a certain amount of force it can absorb before it must change its shape to accommodate the excess force and stress. Martial artists apply this principle to joint locks and to chokes by isolating the joint and or tissues to be attacked. The aforementioned examples of leverage and fulcrums applied excess force to the joints to cause a deformation or breakage of the joint. In the case of chokes martial artists are armed with the knowledge that the jugular veins and carotid arteries can only withstand a certain amount of pressure before the walls of the blood vessels must collapse to absorb the force. Martial artist’s then encircle the opponent’s neck in a variety of ways so as to isolate the blood vessel tissues of the neck. The martial artists then apply enough force to cause the blood vessels to collapse. By collapsing the aforementioned blood vessels the blood supply to opponent’s brain is either stopped completely or drastically reduced. This generally results in unconsciousness within nine to fifteen seconds due to oxygen and nutrient deprivation to the brain of the opponent. Some examples of chokes used in the martial arts can be seen below in figures 12 – 15.
Fig. 12 – Rear Naked Choke Fig. 13 – Shoulder Choke
Fig. 14 – Triangle Leg Choke Fig. 15 – Collar Choke There are three main components of martial arts that require grabbing the opponent. These are
joint locks, chokes and pins. The previous sections dealt with the science of joint locks and chokes. Now we will address the science of pinning an opponent with regards to leverage. In the martial arts various pins are used to hold an opponent to the ground. This is done to either tire out the opponent as he struggles to get up or set the opponent up for a joint lock or choke as he flails about trying to escape. All martial arts pins use the concepts of weight, leverage and fulcrums to keep an opponent on the ground. The easiest way to keep someone on the ground is to control their head and one of their arms. Some examples of this are shown below in figures 16 – 19.
Fig. 16 – Top Hold Pin Fig. 17 – Reverse Top Hold Pin
Fig. 18 – Side Hold Pin Fig. 18 – Scarf Hold Pin With regards to the leverage of pinning there are two main physics concepts that are utilized. The first is that in order to use a lever, there must be an ability to exert a force on the side of the lever arm (Cutnell, 1998). Therefore if the opponent’s ability to exert force on the lever arm side is reduced or eliminated the opponent has no leverage to escape and must expend a large amount of strength (Hatmaker, 2002). The pins in Figures 16 and 18 utilize this principle. In both pins the martial artist on top is minimizing the opponent’s ability to lift the hips off of the ground by controlling the opponent’s legs. The top hold pin example uses the legs to control the opponent’s legs, while the side hold example uses the hands to lift the opponent’s leg off of the ground for control. The other physics principle that is utilized is the principle that states that the further a mass is away from the fulcrum the more force must be exerted on the lever side to
move it (Cutnell, 1998). In other words if the load arm side is increased in its length the system requires more energy to move the load. Martial artists use this principle as demonstrated in figures 17 and 19. The martial artists are controlling the opponents’ heads and arms while spreading out their own body weight. This places more of the martial artists’ own mass further away from the fulcrum point which is the opponent’s shoulders. This makes it considerably more difficult for the opponents to lift their hips and shoulders off of the ground. By applying the principles of physics the martial artists are able to expend less energy holding onto their opponent’s by letting gravity, body mass and leverage do the work instead.
The Sciences Of The Martial Arts Part 2: Biology
In Sun Tsu’s The Art of War Tsu wrote that one of the ways to ensure victory over the opponent was to have a thorough working knowledge of one’s self and of the enemy (Tsu, 1983). Martial Artists apply this concept by having a fairly intimate knowledge of biology as it applies to human body. At its most basic level, by knowing how the body works martial artists know which parts of their own body to protect as well as which parts of the opponent’s body to attack. This concept however goes much deeper.
The very first aspect of biology that concerns a martial artist is the area of anatomy. Anatomical knowledge is used to determine which areas of the body are viable targets. Martial Artists are trained to know the difference between hard and soft targets. Hard targets are targets that break when struck forcefully such as bones. Soft targets tend to be vital organs such as the eyes and kidneys. These targets are chosen based on whether the martial artist wishes to cause pain to the opponent or a debilitating injury.
Martial Artists also study anatomy to have a thorough working knowledge of the geometry of the body. This knowledge is used to set the guidelines as to which weapons will strike which targets. The general rule of thumb is that the chosen weapon must fit the target. For example, the solar plexus of the human body consists of a groove that is slightly smaller than a quarter on must persons. Martial Artists are trained to hit this target with small, pointed weapons such as fingertips and knuckles, because these weapons can fit into the groove. Weapons such as the forearm bone or the shin bone are not advised because these weapons will not fit the groove of the solar plexus. If the weapon does not fit the target, the full force of the impact is not absorbed by the target. The force is instead spread over the entire surface of the impact. This renders the martial artist’s strike less effective.
In addition to the mere knowledge of the difference between a hard and soft target, a martial artist is trained to have catalog of vital points committed to memory. Vital points consist of vital organs and joints and the angles from which to attack them. For example, the primary vital organs a martial artist strikes are the eyes, trachea, solar plexus, kidney, testicles and bladder. Each one of these points has a location where it is located and a direction it should be struck from to cause the most damage. The trachea is best strike at angle that is perpendicular towards the spinal column, where as the testicles are best strike from underneath on an angle parallel to the spinal column. The primary joints attacked are the elbow and the knee. The elbow is only struck from the outside of the arm, when the arm is straight, at an angle perpendicular to the bones of the arm. The knee however is struck at varying angles depending on its position. The knee is struck from front to back on a forty-five degree angle towards the floor when it is straight in order to cause a break. However, the knee is struck at this same angle from the side when it is bent in order to cause a break. This anatomical knowledge is of utmost importance for a martial artist to succeed in a combat encounter.
In addition to having a working knowledge of the skeletal system and internal organs, a martial artist is trained to have working knowledge of the nervous system as well. Specifically martial artists are to have an understanding of where nerve endings and nerve clusters are (Dillman, 1995). These locations are often referred to as ‘pressure points’ and can be used in myriad of ways. By striking these locations a martial artist can simply cause pain or “overload” the nervous system resulting in loss of equilibrium, motor functions and/or consciousness. One example of a common pressure point is a point located in the depression behind the ear. This is where the jaw hinge is located. This location is a juncture where the posterior auricular artery, the superficial jugular vein, the great auricular nerve and the facial (seventh cranial) nerve intersect (Dillman, 194). This location is struck from back to front on forty-five degree angle towards the center of the skull to result in unconsciousness. This same point has been used by professional boxers for years resulting in “flash knockouts.” This occurs when the opponent’s jaw is struck sideways and the jaw bone (hinge region) shifts and slams into this point. Therefore the mystical pressure point knockouts and “death touch” are nothing more than scientific applications of knowledge of the central nervous system used for combative purposes.
Not only is knowledge of anatomy important but also knowledge of physiology as well. This knowledge can most readily be applied to the area of joint locks. Martial artists are taught not just the
locations of the various body joints but also their ranges of motion. There are four ways in which a martial artist attacks a joint. The first method is by hyper-flexion which is the process of bending a joint past its range of motion. This has the effect of damaging and or separating the tendons responsible for straightening the joint. An example can be seen below in a technique known as the “bicep-slicer” which separates the triceps tendons and forearm tendons from the bones of the arm.
Fig. 20 – The Bicep-Slicer The hold above uses the martial artist’s own forearm as a fulcrum to add tensile stress to the tendons of the
opponent’s arm this hold quickly results in separation of the tendons from the elbow joint. The second method by which the martial artist affects a joint is by hyper-extension. This involves
straightening a joint past its range of motion in order to dislocate the joint and in some instances separate the tendons. An example of a hyper-extension can be seen on page 19 of this document in the “standard armbar.” This technique uses the hip as a fulcrum to exceed the amount of force the elbow joint can support. The joint breaks or dislocates when this value is exceeded. Strikes also hyper-extend joints as discussed previously in the section dealing with vital points (Pages 23-4).
The third method by which a martial artist attacks a joint is by twisting the joint. Twisting the joint causes the joint to dislocate due to the tension placed on the muscles surrounding the joint. When a certain level of tension is generated the natural pulling action of the muscles pulls the joint out of place. This is due to the fact that the combined tensile strength of the muscles surrounding a joint far exceeds the amount of force the joint can inherently withstand. An example of this can be seen below in the shoulder lock. This technique has the martial artist twisting the opponent’s shoulder joint until the ball of the shoulder joint is pulled out of the socket by the tension in the biceps, triceps and deltoid muscle groups of the opponent.
Fig. 21 – Shoulder lock The final method by which a martial artist attacks a joint is a method referred to as shearing.
Shearing is accomplished by straightening a joint to its limit and then applying pressure at a sideward angle in reference to the angle of the joint’s natural motion. An example of this would be to place the opponent’s arm in the position of the straight armbar in figure 11. However, instead of pulling the arm down across the hip the martial artist would pull the arm sideways towards either thigh. Rather than dislocate the joint, shearing separates the tendons and sinews in much the same way that hyper-flexion does. The key difference is that shearing can be accomplished on a straight limb where as hyper-flexion cannot. In addition to the four methods described above, some joint locking techniques use a combination of the four
methods. For example many wrist locks combine hyper-flexion and twisting due to versatility of the wrist joint’s range of motion.
Another vital section of biology that martial artists depend on is the human body’s dependency on oxygen. This knowledge is combined with knowledge of physiology to develop techniques to remove the body’s ability to intake and process oxygen. There are two methods used to accomplish this. The first is denying the lungs of air. This is generally done by compressing the air passage or by smothering the nasal and oral passages of the opponent. However due to the potential lethality of air passage compression, techniques that squeeze the windpipe are frowned upon. There is also the fact that people can hold their breath for several minutes without losing consciousness. Therefore, martial artists favor techniques that cutoff the supply of oxygen to the brain. This is accomplished by constricting the carotid arteries and jugular veins. This method is not only safer to use from a legal standpoint, but also more efficient. Unconsciousness from carotid artery compression results in seconds as opposed to minutes. Examples of various chokes have been shown in figures 12 – 15.
In addition to knowing where the various nerve centers and nerve endings are, as discussed in a previous section, martial artists are taught to have a catalog of the various reactions of the autonomous nervous system. When different kinds of pain are inflicted on the human body certain automatic responses take place. An example of this would be that when someone is struck in the eye they automatically life their hands up to grab their eyes as well as lift their chin up and away from the direction that the blow came from. Another example would be that when a man is struck in the groin his knees will draw together, his head will drop towards his groin and his hands will draw to protect his groin. This knowledge is applied in myriad of ways. The very first way this knowledge is applied by a martial artist is in the martial artist’s striking sequences. When a martial artist hits someone it is known that the person’s body will move in a certain number of ways. This movement is calculated to determine the next target to be struck. For Example, a martial artist may begin a combination with a strike to the bladder. This strike will cause the opponent’s head to drop down and towards the martial artist as the opponent’s hips drop down and away. This bladder strike causes the opponent’s head to present itself as a target. We will now assume that martial artist wishes to strike the opponent’s ribs after striking to the head. If the martial artist were to strike the head with a full power uppercut punch, the opponent’s head would snap up and away, however the opponent’s body would counter balance this reaction by dropping the hands to remain balanced and standing. By dropping the hands, the opponent’s ribs remain covered and protected. Now if the martial artist uses an eye strike instead of an uppercut the opponent will snap his head back and draw his hands up to grab and protect the eyes. By the hands lifting up the rib area is now exposed and is therefore a viable target.
Another area of combat where the autonomous nervous system is used as a weapon is the area of joint locks. Just as striking the opponent’s body in certain places causes the opponent’s body to react a certain way, twisting the joints a certain way also causes predictable responses (Dillman, 1992). For example, most wrist locks used in the martial arts are used to drop an opponent to his knees. This is used to set up various takedowns. Entire martial arts systems have been developed utilizing the autonomous nervous system combined with joint manipulation. Ju Jitsu and Aikido are the most prominent. The concept of using the autonomous nervous system’s reactions to painful stimuli in order to manipulate the opponent’s position is known as “herding.” Herding allows the martial artist to force the opponent to move into a certain position without the martial artist having to exert the energy required to put the opponent in the desired position.
The final aspect of anatomy and physiology that the martial artist is concerned with is the area of biomechanical efficiency. This area was mentioned in the physics section of this paper but there a few points that need to be addressed from a more biological standpoint. The first area of concern is the stability of the body with regards to stability, force transmission and leverage. For example most boxers are taught to turn the fist all of the way over when punching so that the palm is facing the ground. This position causes the ulna and radius bones of the forearm to overlap. This overlap causes the bones to no longer run parallel to the force vector of the delivered punch (Dillman, 1994). This over rotation also places extra stress on the forearm muscles which weakens the strength of the forearm. This weakening attributes to the number of sprained wrists in boxing. Also, since the forearm muscles are the ones responsible for a tight fist, weakening them loosens the fist which results in broken hands. Martial artists, however, are trained to turn the fist half-way or three-quarters of the way over so that the small finger side of the hand is facing the ground. This places the forearm bones in alignment with the force vectors of the punch which decreases the likelihood of the arm crumpling under the impact of its own punch. This is also the same position that
drivers are taught to hold steering wheels with because it decreases the likelihood of the arm bones breaking on the impact of a crash. Some examples of this internal arm structure can be seen in the following figures.
Fig. 22 – incorrect alignment. Fig. 23 – correct alignment By increasing the stability of the forearm the amount of force transmitted by the punch is increased by decreasing the amount of force that the forearm absorbs due to deformation (See Physics section). This same position of the forearm is also used when the martial artist grabs someone. By increasing the stability of the forearm the martial artist’s grip strength is improved as well. The aforementioned example of musculoskeletal structure is only related to the forearm; however, martial artists apply this concept in similar fashions throughout the entire body.
Another biological aspect that is important to the martial artist is the aspect of muscle firing sequences. Muscle firing sequences refers to the use of certain muscle groups in a certain order to enhance the effectiveness of certain actions. In the physics section of the paper there is a section that explains relative velocity. In order for a martial artist to properly use this concept the martial artist must know which muscles to activate and in what order. For example when executing a proper kick the martial artist must first use the muscles of the abdomen to pull the kicking leg into action. Once the kicking leg starts moving inertia causes the foot to move closer to the buttocks. The martial artist then uses the hamstring muscles to add to the previous action and pull the kicking foot as close to the buttocks as possible. Finally the martial artist must activate the muscles of the quadriceps to launch the kicking leg into the target. This sequence must be executed in this order to ensure the fastest possible kick. Also by sequencing the muscle groups there is a relay of power much in the same manner of a whip cracking, or a water wave crashing. Thus, proper muscle firing sequences not only enhances speed but inherently enhances force generation through the enhanced speed.
While martial artists turn to the sciences to enhance their fighting they also use the sciences to help them take care of their own bodies. Martial artists are taught to be moderately versed in the concepts involving a balanced nutrition. They are instructed on the purposes of carbohydrates, proteins and fats as it relates to martial arts. Therefore, carbohydrates are consumed to provide energy, proteins are ingested for building up the body’s structures and maintaining them, and lastly fats are consumed in moderate amounts for joint lubrication and energy. Martial artists are also taught the proper amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to ingest as well as the foods that contain them and in what amounts (Shamrock, 1998).
Martial Artists are also extensively trained in proper exercise methods and how to combine them with a proper diet. For example there is a delicate balance that must be maintained between the amount of energy ingested and the amount of energy expended. Therefore, martial artists are taught about maintaining a proper caloric intake with relation to their personal level of exercise. This is to ensure that the martial artist’s body is in the proper condition when the time for combat comes. Martial artists are also trained to be experts in the art of stretching to remove lactic acid buildup from the muscles. Proper stretching not only increases flexibility, but it also removes fatigue poisons from the muscles. These poisons tend to have an adverse effect on future workouts and therefore martial artists are taught how to expunge them so that the martial artists can workout more often at one-hundred percent. Lastly, martial artists are versed in the use of proper resting periods. Too much exercise without rest breaks the body down instead of building it up; therefore, martial arts training stresses the importance of proper rest to give the body time to heal from the rigors of combat training.
In conclusion, the martial arts have a mystique about them that their techniques are some highly guarded secrets that are known only to a select few. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Martial arts are nothing more than a human physical expression of the laws of physics and biology. The scientific concepts that power the martial arts are common knowledge on their most basic levels. There is nothing mystical to the martial arts and nothing that cannot be explained; there is only science, the body that applies the science and the body that has the science applied to it.
Figure 1 – The Neutral Bow Stance – Page 4 Figure 2 – Wall Brace Diagram – Page 5 Figure 3 – The Forward Stance – Page 5 Figure 4a – The Upward Block – Page 6 Figure 4b – The Middle Block – Page 6 Figure 5 – Breaking Bricks – Page 8
Figure 6 – Lunge Punch – Page 12 Figure 7 – Basic Fulcrum – Page 17 Figure 8 – Basic Hip throw – Page 17 Figure 9 – Misalignment of Center of Mass and Support Point – Page 18 Figure 10 – Physics of the hip throw – Page 18
Figure 11 – Standard Armbar – Page 19 Figure 12 – Rear Naked Choke – Page 20 Figure 13 – Shoulder Choke – Page 20 Figure 14 – Triangle Leg Choke – Page 20 Figure 15 – Collar Choke – Page 20 Figure 16 – Top Hold Pin – Page 21 Figure 17 – Reverse Top hold Pin – Page 21 Figure 18 – Side Hold Pin – Page 21
Figure 19 – “Scarf Hold” Pin – Page 21 Figure 20 – The Bicep-Slicer – Page 25 Figure 21 – Shoulder lock – Page 26 Figure 22 – Incorrect alignment of punches – Page 30 Figure 23 – Correct alignment of punches – Page 30
List Of Figures
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