Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Damage: Dealing It, Avoiding It

Science Concepts: kinetic energy, work, momentum, impulse, integrals, derivatives

“If you think I look bad, you should see the other guy!” This common phrase, sometimes spoken sarcastically, reflects a fundamental principle of fighting, which is the one who receives the least damage “wins”.  The goals in a fight are to inflict damage and avoid taking it.  There is a lot that goes into achieving those goals.  What I’ll address here is the damage inflicted when a strike is landed.  Sorry, no joint locks or grappling slams today.  I’m going to assume, for the sake of discussion, that the attacker (whether that is you or your opponent) has landed a strike in the desired location.  So, assuming that happens, if you’re dishing it out then how do you maximize the effect, and if you’re dishing it in then how do you minimize the effect?  (A little forewarning: this one is going to get really nerdy.)

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Daft Punk got it right.  Harder, better, faster, and stronger are all unique and separate things.  Speed is great, but without structure behind it, then there’s no strength in the strike (which is fine, by the way, in knife fighting).  You can have structure and strength in your movement, but if you move slowly then you won’t be knocking out too many people even if you manage to hit them.  A speeding feather riding a gust of wind isn’t going to hurt you and neither will a slow rolling car (assuming it doesn’t roll over you).  We need both speed and strength.  This is where momentum comes in…

The Science
Momentum is the product of an object’s mass and its velocity, often written p = mv.  (Aside: You may be wondering why ‘p’ is used for momentum.  Let’s ignore the fact that using ‘m’ would just be confusing since ‘mass’ already uses that.  Newton originally used the word ‘impetus’ to describe the quality we now know as momentum. The Latin for ‘impetus’ is ‘petere’, which means “to go to; to seek.”  So, ‘p’ is for ‘petere’.  Etymological nerdery completed.)  You might guess that I’m getting at the point that both speed and mass are important for striking.  You’d be right, but that’s only a tiny part of the picture.

Momentum is necessary for striking, but consider this: simply by existing on planet Earth you have huge amounts of momentum.  You have mass (some of you more than others) and are on a planet that is speeding around the sun, which is in a solar system speeding around the galaxy, which is traveling at ridiculous speeds across the universe.  “Ah,” you say, “relative momentum is the key.”  That’s a move in the right direction, but still not quite there.  If I’m in a car that gently accelerates me up to 60 mph, then it has taken me from a relative momentum of zero (to the ground) and up to 60 mph times my mass.  My momentum at the end of that is huge, but I wouldn’t say that my body was devastated from the “strike” the car gave me.  Time is important.  If we change the momentum of something very quickly, then we’re talking about serious impact…or as they say in physics, “impulse.”
Impulse is the measure of the change of momentum over time.  Here’s a quick derivation of the formula:

F = ma                    , Newton’s 2nd law of motion
F = m Dv/t               , a = Dv/t by definition of acceleration (see my post on Physics)
F t = m Dv               , multiplicative inverse and multiplication property of equality (ok, now I’m just being a pedantic jerk)

Now m Dv is the change in momentum (the Greek letter delta, ‘D’, is commonly used in math to indicate the change in a value.  Think of Dv as (v2 – v1).), and that is equal to force times time.  Now we are getting somewhere.  If you change the momentum, say of someone’s face, by applying a large force in a little time then you can bet that it’s going to hurt.  But what if the same force is applied over a larger amount of time?  Depending on how much large the time interval is, it might not hurt at all.  This is where the concept of “rolling with the punches” comes from.  When on the receiving end of a strike, if you loosen up and move your body back with the punch so it doesn’t hit full force all at once, then the force is dissipated over a longer period of time, which reduces the maximum force you feel at any one time.  Consider the following graphs.

Graph - Force vs Time

Both graphs show force vs. time.  In the graph on the left, the force is dealt in a short interval of time, spiking the graph above the pain level.  Receiving this type of strike hurts.  The graph on the right is an example of what happens when you roll with the punches.  The blue areas of the graphs are equal (or at least they’re supposed to be…just pretend), and the area is the amount of impulse experienced.  This comes from the Calculus version of the impulse equation above:

F dt = m Dv

This almost gives us the whole picture.  “There’s more?!” Yes, there’s more science, but the conclusion is worth it.  Now, when someone rolls with the punch, they are applying some force to the fist.  If they weren’t, then they’d just be moving backwards until the punch hit them full force.  So, the force has to be dissipated a little at a time, but how should you do that exactly?

We know that the incoming strike has both mass and velocity, which means that it has kinetic energy, which is the energy an object has due to its motion.  Work is when a force is applied to an object that then moves in the direction of the force.  Kinetic energy and work are the final pieces of the puzzle that we need.  The formula for kinetic energy is KE = ½ mv2.  The formula for work is W = Fd.  So, if the incoming punch has kinetic energy, then the face needs to do work to dissipate that energy.  That gives us the equation W = Favgd½ mv2.  To stop the incoming strike, the guy rolling with the punch will need to provide an average force over a distance d.  You could also think of the average force as the impact force felt by the face (remember that every action has an equal but opposite reaction).  The greater the distance is the smaller that average force can be.  So, impulse told us that we need to increase the impact time and the energy equations told us that we need to increase the impact distance (to avoid taking damage, that is).  Those two conclusions both being true isn’t all that surprising.  What is interesting about the energy equation is this: when striking, velocity is a much bigger factor than mass.  I can say this because of the squared velocity.  Let’s consider a qualitative example.

Suppose puncher A has a mass m and puncher B has a mass m/2.  Also suppose that puncher A punches at v m/s and that puncher B punches at 2v m/s.  So, puncher B has half the mass, but twice the velocity.  The momentum equation will tell us that both punchers have the same momentum on their punches.  However, the energy equations tell a more complete story.  The punch from A has a kinetic energy of  KEA = ½ mv2 .  The punch from B has a kinetic energy of is
KEB = ½ (m/2)(2v)(m/4)(4v2) = mv2 = 2KEA.  So, B’s punch has twice the kinetic energy of A’s punch, which means that someone will need twice the distance to “roll with the punch” or they’ll just have to feel twice the average impact force.  This explains why Bruce Lee had such devastating strikes despite his small size.


There was a lot of math and physics getting here, but the results were quite useful.  First, we noted that both mass and velocity matter when striking.  In particular, we want to change the momentum of our target in as little time as possible.  If we’re getting hit, then we want the impact to last as long as possible.  Finally, based on the energy equations, we saw that even though mass and velocity matter in striking, velocity matters more.  So, when you’re practicing, learn good form to have structure that will allow you to use the mass of your body in your strikes and from there ... get faster!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Striking Structure (with pictures!)

Science concepts: vectors, torque, Newton’s 2nd and 3rd laws of motion, static structures

Striking is a quintessential part of most martial arts.  Different martial arts strike differently.  Knife hand chops, ridge hand strikes, hammer fist strikes, backhands, punches, kicks, elbows, knees, head butts…the list goes on.  There are seemingly many kinds of strikes, but they really only boil down to a handful of different categories.  As Hock Hochheim says, “a strike is either going to be straight or curving and either committed or hit-and-retract.”  Here, I’m only concerned with the actual structure of the attack.  So, I’m not going to worry about whether a strike is committed or non-committed.

For any strike to be effective, you need the correct structure.  Otherwise, some of your effort is wasted.  There are quite of a few scientific concepts involved here.  So, let’s dive in.

The Science
Punching is what most people are familiar with.  So I’ll use a straight punch and a hook punch as my examples, but know that the same principles apply to kicks.  Elbows and knees work on the same principles too, and they’re even easier to apply because there are fewer joints involved.

The Straight Punch
Let’s start from the business end of the punch: the knuckles.  How should the knuckles make contact with the target?  Having already covered vectors, I’ll bet you can make a good guess.  As with many problems involving vectors, we define our axes first. 
 Here, the axis that is parallel to surface of the contact point is the “wasted” axis (red axis), and the axis that is perpendicular to the surface of the contact point is the “useful” axis (green axis).  Now, break the vector of the incoming fist’s motion (blue vector) into components along these axes (red and green components...take note of my superbly mediocre mspaint skills).  Hopefully, the axis names make the point for me here.  Any motion that is parallel to the surface is wasted.  This kind of motion is what produces strikes that glance off of the target.  Only the perpendicular motion affects the target.  So, this is our first structural insight: hit perpendicular to the surface for maximum effect.

When that perfectly landed punch makes contact, the target impedes the motion of the fist.  This is a phenomenon described by Newton’s 3rd law of motion, which states that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.  Informally, the target pushes back on the fist.  Where does that force go?  That depends on your structure.  Let’s now focus on the next joint in this chain of effects, the wrist.  Just like the knuckles ran into the face, the forearm runs into the hand.  We can do the same thing that we did early, define our axes, break the incoming vector into components, and see how much is useful and how much is wasted.

We see in the first picture, that some of the incoming force is wasted.  Actually, it’s worse than wasted.  It’s harmful.

I had mostly done Taekwondo as my primary martial art all the way through college.  After college, my roommate and I got a punching bag, the kind that has a plastic stand that you fill with water.  I had spent years kicking and punching the air and always pulling my strikes when sparring because control was paramount.  I was excited to finally get to hit something and see what kind of damage I could do.  We filled it up with water and I started hitting full force.  Kick, kick, kick, punch……..ow!  For the first time ever, I punched something as hard as I could.  At that speed and force, any little structural flaw was going to be felt in a big way.  Like the picture above, my wrist was bent down, ever so slightly, but that meant that the force from my forearm didn’t transfer into my hand.  It sent my forearm past my hand, but my knuckles were firmly planted on the bag.  Therefore…sprained wrist.  It’s not a mistake I’ve made twice.  Lesson learned: align your forearm bones with your hand bones.

This principle applies all the way up the arm.  Keep things in line if you want the force to transfer properly.  This is also the reason that martial arts instructors will tell students to extend their arms when doing straight punches because it puts the strain on the bones rather than the muscles, which might give way.

This is all well and good, but the astute observer will note that the force transfer doesn’t stop at the shoulder.  It has to go somewhere.  Well, it wants to take your shoulder straight back.  To prevent this from happening, we use our core muscles.  This is where all the linear force gets converted, at least partially, into torque.  I say “partially” because it depends on the angle of your spine relative to direction of the punch.  If you were leaning forward a bit, then some of the force transfers straight down the spine and the rest of it tries to torque the spine backwards.
Light blue is linear force transfer; Yellow is linear force that is converted to torque (about the hips).
The abs and other core muscles counter that torque (orange) to keep your torso from rotating backwards.  As long as the torque provided by the abs is equal to the torque resulting from the punch's linear force, the torso will remain steady.  It should be noted that the longer the torso, the more torque necessary to balance this out.  Tall guys, beware.

But we’re still not done.  Remember Newton’s 3rd law.  If the abdominal muscles are torquing the torso forward, what are they basing off of to apply that torque?  And where does that linear force that went straight down the spine go?  The answer to both of these is “the legs”.  Now, just like the arms, if the structure is right, then the force gets transferred through the bones.  If not, then the muscles have to apply torque to make sure that you don’t fall over.
In this stance, I'd have to apply virtually all of the torque with my toes to counteract the force of the punch.
The idea is so ridiculous that I can't even keep a straight face for the picture.

Where does the buck stop?  In the ground.  The foot does the final transfer of linear force and torque into the ground, and the massive size of the planet takes care of the rest. I may have covered the structure of the punch from fist to foot, but the punch is produced in the opposite way.  The power or base of the punch comes from the ground.  If you have a good structure that transfers the reaction force from the contact back into the ground, then you’re not going to buckle.  His face will.

Again, the blue arrow represents the linear force, the yellow arc represents the transferred torque from the punch that
will tend to tip me backwards, and the orange arc is the counter-torque supplied by my foot to make sure
that I remain upright and balanced.  The ground takes care of things from there.

 This is another key point:   ultimately, you want your punch to come from the ground.

The Hook Punch
There are actually a lot of variations on hook punches for various situations, but I’m going to cover the one that allows for the greatest bone structure involvement.  Just like the straight punch, you want to make contact perpendicular to the surface.  Similarly, you still need your forearm and wrist aligned to minimize the amount of forearm muscles you need to use to stop yourself from spraining your wrist, like me.  For those things to be true, your knuckles, wrist, and elbow need to be lined up.  The elbow is what pushes the fist into the target. 

Blue is the applied force (note the alignment).  Yellow represents the consequential torque.
Orange, again, represents the counter-torque.

This is where things get different from the straight punch.  At this point, it’s all about torque, which is going to come from the muscles.  The amount that the elbow is bent is very important.  If the elbow is fairly extended, then the bicep needs to supply enough torque to transfer the force into the fist without the elbow buckling under the impact.  If the elbow is too bent, then we lose velocity, the ability for the elbow to push the fist, and the tricep muscle needs to engage to prevent the elbow from buckling under the impact.  To avoid these two extremes, go to the middle with a perfect 90 degree bend.  (NOTE:  I am not claiming that hook punches done without this 90 degree bend will not be effective.  I’m just making a claim about ideal bone alignment for transferring force.  If having to engage your bicep is worth it to you to gain some range on your hook, then by all means swing for the fences.  Just be aware of the trade off.)

This makes things easy on the arm muscles, but just like the force in the last example, the torque has to go somewhere.  The pectoral muscles end up being next in line.  This isn’t so bad since it’s a very large muscle, comparatively speaking.  This means that the torso now feels the torque, and just like the last example, the torque ultimately ends up in the feet and the ground.  The reaction force goes to the elbow and converts to torque (because of the 90 degree angle).  That torque is applied to the shoulder via the humerus.  The shoulder and chest muscles counter that torque, which then results in a torque in the hips that also need to be countered.  The feet counter that torque and the ground takes it from there.

Having good contact with the ground is essential.  Imagine doing a hook punch on someone while you’re standing on ice or while wearing roller skates.  The punch would end up rotating your body rather that transferring all of that motion into the target.

The Other Side
Knowing the proper structure to deliver a strike has another benefit.  It allows you to notice when your opponent doesn’t have proper structure for absorbing a strike.  The phrase “caught on your heels” is used in boxing to describe a structure that is leaning back rather than sinking down and forward.  If you’re leaning back, then there’s no way to absorb an incoming strike.  You just take it and get knocked over.  We don’t want to be receiving a strike in that situation, but we definitely want to be delivering one if the other guy is in that situation.  Watch for poor structure in your opponents to determine the best time to deliver a strike.  In another post, I’ll cover how to produce poor structure in your opponents.

Structure Tip
Some of you may have seen or heard of the “sun fist” (not to be confused with Sunkist). 

Good for punching

Good for thirst quenching
Also, "it's different because of the spelling" (Eddie Izzard) 

(Actually, there is not a nice one-to-one relationship between the name “sun fist” and my intention illustrated here.  If you call this something else, then just assume that’s what I meant and don’t get hung up on nomenclature.) I saw someone do this in a class I was teaching and tried to correct him because I thought he was doing a less extreme version of this:

He then had me make a fist and said he would try to bend my wrist and that I was to prevent him from doing so.  He was able to bend it fairly easily.  Then he had me make a sun fist and repeat the exercise.  He couldn’t bend my wrist this time.  It wasn’t just that he wasn’t trying as hard either.  I actually felt the structural difference.  It felt stronger.  To confirm, I repeated the exercise with several other people.  This time, I was the one trying to bend the wrist.  Sure enough, the sun fist was stronger.  It almost seemed like magic.  Seeing as how I wasn’t prone to believing about the mystical and mysterious aspects of martial arts, I spent a fair chunk of the rest of the class analyzing my hand.  Then I realized why the sun fist was working.  Luckily, my hands are fairly lean, which revealed the essential anatomy.  It turns out that the sun fist, by positioning the thumb knuckle (the one by the web of the hand) up closer to the back of the hand, allowed for an additional tendon to tighten and provide support.  In particular, the extensor pollicis longus tendon. 

This picture is from
and is the clearest and best illustrated picture I could find for the extensor pollicus longus.
Props to the one who runs that blog.
This made me happy because it meant that I didn’t have to tuck my thumb in, which I still didn’t like, even though it’s only slightly in the sun fist.  I just position my thumb alongside my index finger and flex that tendon.

The thumb is pressed up against the index finger.  Note you can really
see the flex of the extensor pollicus longus tendon here.

If only I’d known this before I sprained my wrist!  This little tip will allow the force of your punches to transfer through your knuckles better and avoid bending your wrist.  I believe this is the secret to the attribute known in MMA as “heavy hands”.  Sure, some guys just have meatier hands, but the weight difference is actually quite minuscule.  The ability to punch with good structure is a much bigger factor than a couple of ounces of weight difference.


By applying this knowledge, you could really punch in just about any wacky way you want as long as your structure can transfer the force of the punch into the target.  This knowledge should also affect how you hit various targets.  The head can be a tricky target.  Getting that perpendicular shot can be difficult when your opponent is bobbing, weaving, and shuffling around.  Knowing what it takes to make a good punch (and a bad one!), you can choose at the last moment whether or not to follow through or pull back to avoid injuring yourself.  Traditional martial artists are always talking about having good structure and stances, and they’re right.  Though the set of good stances is much bigger than most people realize and it changes with the situation.  Learn to feel your way through good structure and you’ll do well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Quick and Dirty Physics Primer

Before I can dive into the martial arts and how the science applies, I need to at least introduce some concepts from physics.  If any of this sounds completely confusing to you, then you may want to find an alternate source to get a deeper explanation.  I recommend  The following text is a bit dry for the typical martial artist.  So, you can skip it if you want, but you may need to come back to understand later articles.

Displacement, Velocity, and Acceleration
Displacement (which is like distance and will be treated as such in most situations here) is one of the fundamental concepts in physics.  Space exists.  Displacement is the measure of how far apart two points in space are.  For example, “that punch missed me by 3 inches”.  Here, “3” would be the measure and “inches” would be the unit of measure.
What happens when we put time in the mix?  When we go a distance over a period of time?  Then we get velocity (which is like speed and will also be treated as such in most situations here).  For example, if a person runs 100 meters (m) in 12 seconds (s), then their (average) velocity is 100m/12s = 8.33 m/s.  In general, the units for velocity are distance divided by time (distance/time).
Most people are familiar with the standard of testing an automobile’s “0 to 60” time, which means “the amount of time it takes a car to go from 0 mph to 60 mph”.  Just like velocity was a difference in displacement divided by time, acceleration is a difference of velocity divided by time.  So, a car that goes from 0 mph to 60 mph (note that ‘mph’ means miles/hour, which is distance divided by time) in 5.2 seconds has an acceleration of (60mph – 0mph)/5.2s = (26.8224m/s – 0m/s)/5.2s = 5.16m/s2 = 11.54mph/s.  The whole “seconds squared” unit is sometimes hard for people to grasp.  So it helps to think of it this way: the car can increase its speed by 5.16 m/s per second.
For those of you who know calculus, acceleration is the derivative of velocity, which is the derivative of displacement (all with respect to time).

No, I’m not talking about Star Wars or “force fields” (well technically…oh nevermind).  I’m talking about physical forces.  Gravity is a force.  Atoms are held together by various forces.  Pushing someone involves applying a force.  This is something that is highly applicable to fighting.
According to Sir Isaac Newton, force (commonly depicted with the capital letter ‘F’) is equal to mass times acceleration, or more succinctly: F = ma.  Much like distance, mass is another fundamental measure of the physical universe.  It specifically measures the amount of matter an object has.  Note that this is different from “weight”, which can change depending on the force of gravity (like on the moon).  I also want to highlight the importance of this concept by pointing out that the formula, F = ma, is the second of Newton’s three laws of motion (the first being inertia and the third being that every action has an equal but opposite reaction).

Early, I said that displacement was like distance and velocity was like speed.  Vectors are what make them different.  Distance and speed are known as “scalars”.  They are represented only by a single quantity (5 meters, 55 miles per hour, etc).  Vectors, however, are represented by two quantities: magnitude and direction.  So, 5 meters might become 5 meters to the left.  55 miles per hour might become 55 miles per hour North. 
Understanding the concept of vectors is extremely important for fighting.  As you may have guessed, forces are vectors.  We don’t just push people.  We push them in a direction.

I realize that all of that text was really light on the fighting and martial arts, but just like studying any subject, you need to understand the vocabulary and base concepts before you can absorb any of the really good stuff.  The next post will be juicier.  I promise!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Science Behind Martial Arts: Introduction and Purpose

What is this all about?
I love martial arts, and I love science.  I also love teaching, and I believe that by looking at martial arts from a scientific perspective, I can teach people to become proficient in martial arts in relatively little time.  Now, when I say “science” I’m not talking about vague claims about “power” and “speed”.  No, I’m talking about the details: formulas, vectors, integrals, solving equations, etc., and how understanding those things can quickly help anyone to master the art of fighting.  By applying some established knowledge from various areas of science, you can take a shortcut to martial mastery.  Skip all of the stuff that is provably ineffective, and focus only on things that can be scientifically shown to work.

Could you achieve the same effectiveness the “old fashioned way” by just practicing a lot?  Yes.  However, most people don’t have the time for that kind of trial and error process, and even then many of them are simply parroting what they’ve been taught and don’t understand why a technique works or how to modify it for a new situation.  I advocate that understanding the scientific principles behind martial arts will allow you to progress more quickly and become more adaptable in a fight (competitive or defensive).

Why should you listen to me?
I’m generally not a fan of touting my own skills and credentials, but seeing as how there is an ocean of self-proclaimed experts to choose from and I really believe I have some valuable information that I want people to devote their limited time and attention to, I see no alternative.  So, let me explain why I’m qualified to talk about both martial arts and science.

I started doing Taekwondo (TKD) and Judo back when I was 9 years old.  I did it for a few years, then stopped for a few years, then I started again (back at white belt, though I really shouldn’t have…my choice) and got up to brown belt.  I did TKD on and off throughout college, getting approximately 5 total years of practice under my belt (I’m an engineer…bad puns are required).  After college, I joined a Hapkido school that also taught a fair amount of ground fighting.  I was there for two years and did A LOT of sparring.  Black eyes, bloody noses, and split lips were the norm, and I loved it.  I would have stayed with that school, but I moved out of state and got involved in another school.  This school claimed to practice “reality-based” martial arts.  There was a lot of grappling, weapons, street tactics, trapping, and the like there.  Eventually, I left to start a dojo with a friend where we emphasized modern fighting tactics with influences from traditional ninpo taijutsu.  My “style” has evolved to be anything that works for me.  I take what’s useful and ignore the rest, which makes answering the question, “which style do you practice?” a somewhat difficult one to answer accurately in any short span of time.  In any case, I’ve been doing modern reality-based fighting for the last 8 years or so.

As far as ranks that I’ve achieved that are worth mentioning:
  •       Level 11 in the Scientific Fighting Congress (SFC*) Unarmed program (equivalent to 2nd degree black belt)
  •       Level 11 in SFC Knife
  •       Level 10 in SFC Pacific Archipelago Combatives (PAC), which includes a lot of Kali and Silat and fighting with two weapons in hand
  •      4th degree black belt in tactical ninjutsu (which focuses mainly on taijutsu, Filipino martial arts, Silat, and JKD)

(There are a number of honorary ranks I have received as a result of several of the above as well as a collection of certifications for various systems that I’m now certified to teach, but that’s not the point.  The point is that I am qualified to train people in the use of their hands, knives, and sticks, award them black belts for it, and have their black belts be recognized by an international organization [].)

I've also done some training with JKD instructor Tim Tackett, and I draw most of my JKD drills and techniques from his teachings.

What about my scientific credentials?  While not as impressive as the above (or at least, I think so), I do have some experience with science.  First, I have an engineering degree from The Ohio State University (with extra emphasis on the “the”… it’s required). I got good grades.  I also took ridiculous math classes that the orientation people said that engineers had no business taking, which of course meant that I had to.  I’ve also spent the last five years tutoring high school and college kids in math and physics.  I’ve tutored math from algebra 1 up to multi-variable calculus and differential equations.  I’m comfortable with physics up through college level electricity and magnetism, though that particular topic won’t be necessary for what I’ll be covering here.  The point here is that I’m very comfortable with classical mechanics -- comfortable enough to teach other people how to do it.

I’m also very logical, almost to a fault (actually, my wife would probably argue that I make it all the way there ;-) ).  I like deconstructing concepts and finding the common elements in order to better categorize a topic.  My degree is actually in computer science and engineering.  So, much of that desire for structure and abstraction comes from my software engineering skills.

Combining all of these things, I’m in a fairly unique position to deconstruct, simplify, categorize, and communicate the essentials of martial arts/fighting.

But aren’t “martial arts”, you know, an art?
Yes and no.  It’s really just like anything else.  Seeing the science behind the art is a matter of comprehension.  From a casual observer’s perspective, all martial arts might appear to be more art than science (or maybe just pure chaos!), but that’s only because they don’t see the structure and principles at work.  Once those principles are understood, what used to seem like chaotic motion of fighters becomes structured and predictable.  Is that to say that there’s no “art” aspect to fighting?  Not at all.  I’ve tried my hand at many skills in the past and was proficient, for a time, in most of them.  However, martial arts is the only one in which I would label myself an “artist”.  What do I mean by “art” though?  I define “art” as a means of self-expression through a medium.  In my case, I can express myself through fighting.  I can be playful, angry, happy, sad, or just about any other emotion and have that emotion come out in the way I fight while still being effective.  After expressing myself through fighting, I could then scientifically analyze what I did and demonstrate all the scientific principles at work to other people.  The science of fighting is the toolbox and raw materials.  The art is the house that you build with them.  Rather than showing you how to build pre-designed houses, I’ll show you how to apply the tools to design and build your own house.  I’ll show you how to apply scientific principles so you can practice a style of fighting that works for your body.

What not to expect
Don’t expect me to trash particular fighting styles or systems or to provide any sort of hierarchy of effectiveness for different arts.  All systems that have been around for any significant amount of time have survived for a reason.  It’s important to know what those reasons are, both so you know when to apply the art and when NOT to apply the art.  I’m not here to step on toes.  I’m here to show you the principles that apply to all fighting, regardless of system or dogma.  People should be able to take this information and apply it in the art that they practice to become more effective.
That being said, I’ll probably criticize certain generic dogma here and there, but the goal will be to help people understand different arts better, not to try to change them.

What to expect
Since science is the main driving force (ah, the puns) behind these writings, things will get a bit nerdy.  I’ll do my best to separate out the really nerdy stuff from the application, but seeing as how I love both martial arts and science I humbly request that you read through the nerdy parts.  Martial arts is as much, if not more so, a brain activity than a physical activity.  So, it’ll be good for you.

Expect to see principles from math, probability, classical mechanics, engineering, physiology, sociology and psychology.  I’ll cover striking with all parts of the body (hands, feet, forearms, shins, elbows, knees, shoulders, hips, torso, and head).  I’ll also cover joint locks, throws, grappling (both standing and on the ground), weapons, multiple opponents, surrounding environments, essential fighting attributes and anything else that might come up in a fight.

This is going to be fun!  I have a huge list of topics that I want to cover eventually, but if anyone has a particular topic they’d like to see, just send me a message and I’ll see what I can do.

*  Hock has decided to rename his SFC program to "Force Necessary".  This is largely because he is tired of the overuse of the word "combatives" (even though he was the one who drove the word to popularity in the first place).  I prefer the SFC name...for the "science". :-)