Is there a concept that can be used to understand and study all physical techniques taught within the martial arts and used in violence generally? I concluded the previous blog by suggesting there is.
In Fundamentals of Biomechanics, Ozkaya and Nordin (2010) explain that 'a force acting on an object can deform the object, change its state of motion, or both.'
The Committee for Trauma Research (1985), in Injury in America: A Continuing Health Problem, provide the following explanation of what causes injuries from impacts: 'Impact injuries of the human body occurs by deformation of tissues beyond their failure limits, which results in damage to anatomic structures or alteration in function.' Note the reference to deformation. Forces can deform a body or object, therefore, forces can cause injuries.
The four basic types of tissue are epithelial (e.g. skin), muscle, connective (e.g. tendons, bones, and ligaments), and nervous tissue. Forces can cause the deformation of all these tissues, and an injury will result if the deformation is beyond their failure limits.
The deformation does not necessarily have to result in injury. An understanding of the effects of loads (external forces) on tissues is illustrated in a load-deformation curve. As loads are applied to tissues they deform to varying degrees. Hall (2007) explains in Basic Biomechanics that 'if the force applied causes the deformation to exceed the structure's yield point or elastic limit, ... some amount of deformation is permanent. Deformations exceeding the ultimate failure point produce mechanical failure of the structure, which in the human body means fracturing of bone or rupturing of soft tissues.'
As the applied forces deform a tissue towards its yield point, pain is often experienced even though injury does not result. Joint-locking techniques (kansetsu waza) are techniques where the joint is moved towards but not necessarily beyond their range of motion to deform the joint tissues and inflict pain without damaging the affected tissues.
Changing the state of motion is referred as acceleration in mechanics. Acceleration is a term used in mechanics that has a definite meaning which differs from its everyday use. McGinnis (2005) provides a very accessible explanation of acceleration in Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise: 'Mechanically speaking, something accelerates when it starts, stops, speeds up, slows down, or changes direction.' Mechanical speaking, acceleration includes everyday acceleration, deceleration, and changes in direction. A force is something that can cause a body or an object to start, stop, speed up, slow down, or change direction.
In Biomechanics: A Qualitative Approach for Studying Human Movement, Kreighbaum and Barthels (1996) suggest:
Because forces account for the motion and changes of motion of all things in the environment, including the body and the body segments, it is important for the movement specialist to understand what forces are and how we can picture them as they are applied to or by a body. The visualisation of forces ... is a necessary skill for professionals in sports medicine, physical therapy, exercise evaluation and prescription, work safety programs, and teachers and coaches.Forces not only account for the changes in motion of all things in the environment, including the body and the body segments, they also account for the changes in shape, or deformation, of all things in the environment, including the body and the body segments.
When you think about every physical technique taught in every martial art and used in violence generally, you will find that they are designed to cause a change in the motion of an opponent and/or to deform their tissues. In addition, there are other techniques or methods that are designed to avoid having our motion changed and/or our tissues deformed.
Because forces account for all changes in motion and deformation of all things in the environment, an understanding of what forces are and how we can picture them as they are applied to or by a body or object can facilitate the understanding and study of all physical martial arts techniques and those used in violence generally.
The absolute beauty of using the mechanical concept of force to understand and study these techniques is that it is a very simple concept to understand and apply - very simple. For more details you'll have to purchase a copy of the books I'm writing.
The next few blogs will demonstrate the veracity of the rather expansive claim that every physical technique taught in the martial arts and used in violence generally is designed to cause a change in the motion of an opponent and/or to deform their tissues.
Lets wet your appetite a little by referring to the father of modern-day combatives, Col. Rex Applegate. In Kill or Get Killed (1976), he wrote that there a number of fundamental principles in hand-to-hand combat and the most basic fundamental of all is that of balance. He instructs that 'physical balance must be retained by the attacker and destroyed in the opponent.' The 1971 U.S. Army’s close combat manual, Combatives FM 21-150, commercially reproduced under the title Deal the First Deadly Blow (n.d.), follows suit and suggests the hand-to-hand fighter needs to understand balance in two important aspects: (1) how to strengthen and maintain his balance during a struggle, and (2) how to exploit the weakness of the enemy's balance to his advantage.
What is balance? Carr (2004) explains in Sport Mechanics for Coaches, that 'balance implies coordinate and control. Athletes with great balance are able to neutralise those forces that would otherwise disrupt their performances.' He identifies the enemy the athlete fights to maintain balance is any external force: 'Gravity, friction, air resistance, and forces applied against them by opponents can all destroy their performance.'
The legendary karate master, Masatoshi Nakayama, wrote that 'if the body lacks balance and stability, offensive and defensive techniques will be ineffective' (Dynamic Karate 1966). We want to retain, maintain, and strengthen balance in ourselves so our offensive and defensive techniques will be effective. The enemies of balance, external forces, threaten our balance and the effective execution of offensive and defensive techniques. Sun Tzu, in strategy classic The Art of War, suggests that 'if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.' Methods have been developed within the martial arts to retain, maintain, and strengthen balance by neutralising disruptive forces. Knowing the enemy in this case means knowing something about disruptive forces. This knowledge can facilitate the understanding and study of these methods and increase our odds of success in battle.
We want the opponent's body to lack balance and stability so their offensive and defensive techniques are ineffective. We want to destroy balance in our opponent or exploit the weakness in their balance to our advantage.An Arabic proverb states, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' Methods have been developed within the martial arts to destroy an opponent's balance and exploit the weakness in their balance. The enemy of balance is any external force, thus, external forces that disturb balance is our friend when engaged in combat with an opponent. Extending Sun Tzu's advice, knowing the enemy of our enemy, external forces, can facilitate the understanding and study of these methods and increase our odds of success in battle.
In the next blogs we will look at specific classes of techniques and methods taught within the martial arts.