Research in the Martial Arts

While the primary focus of the Indiana University Martial Arts Program is in the teaching of martial arts skills, the department has an active interest in supporting academic research in this field. Any student interested in pursuing academic research should not hesitate to contact the Martial Arts Program for assistance. Traditionally research in the martial arts has been through the Kenisiology Department; however, the department is more than happy to accommodate interdisciplinary research and students in any academic field with an interest in research in the martial arts are more than welcome.

Past Research in the Martial Arts at Indiana University:


A comparison of the reverse and power punches in oriental martial arts.

Keith Gulledge 2006

Keith Gulledge preforming a Kempo form

Keith Gulledge preforming a Kempo form

ABSTRACT: Traditional martial arts punches such as the reverse punch rely on the acceleration of the combined mass of the arm and parts of the torso through a long range of motion to generate momentum for transfer to the target. However, there exists also a series of martial arts maneuvers called "focus striking techniques" that make use of very small ranges of motion prior to impact. A typical example is the three-inch "power punch". In this technique, the martial artist begins with the knuckles of the punching hand about three inches (5-10 cm) away from the target, and then drives directly into the target from this position without any countermovement. Some martial artists believe that the power punch is an extremely effective and/or potent technique, at least as potent as the reverse punch. This is surprising, because the limited range of motion should not be expected to allow the fist to reach a large velocity before impact.

PURPOSE: To find out if the power punch is as potent as the reverse punch, and if so, to find out what are the mechanical reasons for it.

METHODS: Twelve expert male martial artists stood on a force plate, and executed reverse and power punches against a padded target affixed to a wall-mounted force plate. The padding consisted of a focus mitt approximately 10.0 cm thick with the grips removed. The motions of four markers attached to the punching arm were collected with an Optotrak 3020 infrared motion tracking system. The force plates were used to measure the horizontal forces exerted by the ground force plate on the feet and by the punching hand on the wall-affixed force plate in the direction perpendicular to the wall. The Optotrak location data were used to calculate the velocities of the markers, of the center of mass (c.m.) of the arm, and of the knuckle in the horizontal direction perpendicular to the wall.

RESULTS: The reverse punch produced larger velocities immediately before impact than the power punch (p<0.01) for the whole body (0.31 0.13 m/s vs. 0.14 0.10 m/s), for the whole arm c.m. (4.68 0.53 m/s vs. 2.86 0.22 m/s), and for the knuckle (6.43 0.82 m/s vs. 4.09 0.52 m/s). The peak force exerted by the fist was also larger in the reverse punch than in the power punch (1446 292 N vs. 790 134 N, p<0.01). However, the linear impulse exerted by the fist during the main part of the impact was similar in the reverse and power punches (25.8 6.7 N s vs. 24.1 5.0 N s during the first 0.05s, p=n.s.; 32.3 10.1 N s vs. 35.1 9.2 N s during the first 0.10s, p=n.s.).

CONCLUSION: The results suggest that the power punch is less potent than the reverse punch, but is similarly effective for throwing the opponent off-balance.


Selected personality traits, mood states, and pain tolerence in Tae Kwon Do.

Paul McCarthy 2006

Paul McCarthy instructing Adv. II Hapkido

Paul McCarthy instructing Adv. II Hapkido

ABSTRACT: Within recreational activity, sports competition and daily life the ability to cope with pain has an effect on performance. While research studies have investigated several aspects of pain tolerance in athletes, few have focused on any connection between psychological variables and the ability to withstand pain. The goal of this study was to explore the differences in pain tolerance between participants with differing psychological profiles. 17 participants, eight females and nine males were tested on a physical pain test similar to the "horse stance" in many martial arts, pain was measured using Borg's CR10 pain scale. Prior to taking the physical pain test participants filled out Eysenk's Personality Questionnaire and a Profile of Mood States questionnaire, all participants were members of Indiana University Taekwondo club and/or an academic Taekwondo class, within the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University. Major findings indicated that those participants with a higher mental disturbance, as shown by the Profile of Mood States, reached their pain tolerance in less time than those with more desirable mental health profiles. Extraversion was shown to be negatively associated with pain tolerance at a statistically significant level (p<0.05) indicating that those participants who would be described as being more extroverted by the Eysenck's Personality Questionnaire also took less time to reach their pain tolerance level on the physical pain test.


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