If you want to pursuit excellence, start from the basic laws of science.

The traditional martial arts invite passion in the pursuit of excellence. Often where there is passion there is controversy – and conflict is at the very essence of the martial arts.

Throughout the centuries there has been debate and discussion about the effectiveness of one technique or another. Arguments have raged over the particular ways of applying a position when engaged in a strike, block or evasion. Different styles and schools have emerged from the heat of this moment and discussion.

I can quote many experts, but I will choose one between this “sea of masters”: Hidetaka Nishiyama that in his book ‘Karate, the Art of Empty Hand Fighting’ affirm that in karate the basic laws of science are used to attain the maximum benefit by the correct application of a technique.

The remarkable strength manifested by many individual karate techniques, both offensive and defensive, is not the mysterious, esoteric things many observers, as well as certain proponents of the arts itself would have you believe. On the contrary, it is the inevitable result of the effective application of certain ell known scientific principles of the movements of the body.

Now, why a martial artist should start to ask himself about the scientific principles that underpin, explain and quantify the effectiveness of fighting techniques?

Well some suggestion about this claim can be the following:

  1. Knowledge of the related scientific principles provides a true understanding of the reasons why a technique should be performed or implemented a certain way.
  2. Understanding the why helps enormously with the study and improvement of the methods employed which must be followed, of course, by personal practice and instructions of others.
  3. With the understanding and proper application of science we can further develop and improve our art. Understanding is crucial to future development and progress.
  4. The understanding of science will be a main part of the critical examination of all techniques, including any new innovations that may be promoted.
  5. We can use technology at our advantage, to measure the effectiveness of technique and thereby provide impartial judgement. Moreover than that, instructors can measure their student’s abilities and progress.

Of course that I can bet on a statement, that simply shows how most of us amateur or deeply passionate in a sport, will not get very close to the maximum achievable strike force – and really, do not care about it. We just want to know that we are striking as hard as we personally can. Aiming to achieve a maximum recorded force is not a sustainable reason to train and to achieve the perfect execution of a basic movement in MMA, for example. Just as millions of runners all over the world have no ambition to compete in the next Olympic games; they run because they feel a sense of freedom and contact with their body and the limit beyond it that makes their lives better.

Now I want to tell you about something I read days ago, regarding the kinematics and kinetics of the Tae Kwon Do Turning Kick analyzed by Jake N. Pearson (1997).

The work made by Pearson records the measurement of the linear and angular velocities of the kicking leg joints. It shows also the average linear velocity of the toe, knee and hip, from commencement of the kick (0%) to the point of impact (100%). A particularly striking figure is the virtual straight-line relationship between the velocity of the hitting foot and the distance traveled. Pearson pointed out that the foot speed just keeps on getting faster and faster  – at the almost linear acceleration- from floor to target. This is a remarkable synergy of a body of a martial artist that want to achieve a truly feat.

A “good” and powerful kick is performed starting by an initial speed of the hip, followed by the knee and then the foot. This indicates the way in which the kick is performed, with the body leading the transfer of momentum through to the thigh of the leg with the lower leg waiting to ‘take over’ as the knee almost reaches alignment with the target. This process is similar to an athlete intent to throw a javelin, where his body and limbs lead and are ahead of the throwing arm, with a transfer of momentum through to the arm, hand and spear.

Basic steps performing a Taekwondo style round kick. Photo credits by Shawn Hill founder of non-profit MARTiAL YOU

Both cases are a beautiful and near perfect sequential transfer.

Well of course that size and musculature may determine the force that can be delivered, but proper techniques of delivery and defense likely determines the force that is received. Moreover, if numerical values are often a way to indicate the best values achievable, allowing comparison that provide an insight, a traditional martial artist perspective who study and make question on the art as a lifelong behavior do not aim to be the best an the practice of excellence, above all others.

It simply allow people, who really care on it, to have an aim: be the best they can be.

And probably the first question they ask themselves is:

Am I, right now, doing all that I should?

Personally, I found this very important, in order to be relevant and say what you meant and mean what you say. With the many parts of your body, mind and soul.






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