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Thread: Martial Arts in Scientific and Academic Journals

  1. #1
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    Martial Arts in Scientific and Academic Journals

    We have a lot of these already in our Tai Chi as medicine and Qigong as Medicine threads. This thread addresses more general studies. I just got two so I'm launching this new thread to compile them.

    Man the martial artist
    The human hand evolved partly as a tool for fighting, researchers argue
    By Erin Wayman
    Web edition: December 19, 2012

    A human hand (right) has shorter fingers, a shorter palm and a longer, stronger thumb than a chimpanzee hand (left). These hand proportions, which allow humans to make a fist, may have evolved in response to fistfighting, a new study suggests.
    Denise Morgan/Univ. of Utah

    Ancient rumbles in the jungle might have left a lasting mark on the human hand.

    The hand’s proportions are such that clenching the fingers creates an effective bludgeon, a pair of researchers observes. Perhaps, they propose online December 19 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, evolution played a role in making the hand such a punishing weapon.

    But other scientists are skeptical. “There’s no compelling evidence that the hand evolved in this way,” says Mary Marzke, a physical anthropologist at Arizona State University in Tempe. It’s more likely that the ability to throw a good punch was just a lucky (or unlucky) consequence of evolving nimble hands suited to making and using tools.

    Humans have shorter fingers, a shorter palm and a longer, stronger thumb than other apes. These features give the human hand unparalleled dexterity, and most anthropologists agree these characteristics evolved as early human ancestors began making stone tools.

    David Carrier, a comparative biomechanist at the University of Utah, says aggression also shaped the hand. In many early hominid species, males seem to have been much bigger than females. In living primates, such disparity in body size is often associated with a lot of fighting among males. While most male apes bite, tear or scratch their opponents, Carrier suggests that early hominids might have switched to fistfights as they spent more time on the ground and their hands became freer from climbing.

    Although toolmaking undoubtedly influenced hand evolution, Carrier notes that there are many ways in which an agile hand could have evolved. The fingers could have stayed long while the thumb got bigger, or while only the palm changed. But only one hand configuration allows the formation of a fist. “We’re saying it’s obvious the hand has evolved for manual dexterity,” he says. “But a clenched fist does a better job of explaining the [exact hand] proportions we have.”

    To investigate the idea, Carrier and University of Utah medical student Michael Morgan recruited 12 men with experience in boxing or martial arts for several trials that examined the strength and stability of clenched fists. When hitting a punching bag from various angles, an open-palm slap and a fist punch — with the fingers curled into the top of the palm and the thumb wrapped in front of the folded fingers — exert a similar force. But because a fist has about one-third the surface area of an open hand, a punch probably does greater damage since the force is concentrated over a smaller region, Carrier and Morgan suggest. A clenched fist also keeps the joints between the fingers and palm four times as stable as a hand simply folded in half, suggesting a buttressed fist helps protect fingers from bending and breaking during a fight.

    “More work needs to be done to make this a compelling argument,” says Erin Marie Williams, a functional anatomist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Future studies should actually measure how much force per unit area is delivered by punches and slaps. The entire hand is probably not making contact with a victim during a slap, so the stress of such a strike may be greater than Carrier and Morgan suspect, she says.

    The researchers also need to consider how an ape actually hits, Williams says. The team assumes an open-hand slap is the ancestral condition, but other forms of striking may better resemble what apes do. And others ways of hitting — like with the base of the palm — might be just as powerful and stable as a fist punch, Marzke adds.

    It’s also not clear how early hominids would have fared in a boxing match. For example, the more than 3-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis — who has not been definitively linked to using stone tools (SN: 12/18/10, p. 8) — still had a primitive hand in some ways. Whether the species’ curved fingers, for example, would have allowed individuals to form a strong fist is an open question, says Randall Susman, a functional morphologist at Stony Brook University in New York. Susman doesn’t understand why, once tools became vital, a hominid would have endangered his livelihood in a fistfight. “The last thing you want to do is expose your hand and get your fingers bitten off,” he says. “You’ll lose your toolmaking capacity.”

    Another way to examine the fistfighting hypothesis, he says, is to look for evidence of punching-related fractures in the fossil record. It’s hard to find large samples of hand bones, but there might be enough Neandertal hand fossils to see whether these hominids beat each other up with their fists.
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    Citations

    M.H. Morgan and D.R. Carrier. Protective buttressing of the human fist and the evolution of hominin hands. Journal of Experimental Biology. doi: 10.1242/jeb.075713. [Go to]

    Suggested Reading

    B. Bower. Fossil finds offer close look at a contested ancestor. Science News, Vol. 180, October 22, 2011, p. 14. Available online: [Go to]

    B. Bower. Ancient hominid butchers get trampled. Science News, Vol. 178, December 18, 2010, p. 8. Available online: [Go to]

    B. Bower. For ancient hominids, thumbs up on precision grip. Science News, Vol. 177, May 8, 2010, p. 15. Available online: [Go to]
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  2. #2
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    The second one

    This a blog, not a true journal pub, but it's a noted journal.

    I didn't cut&paste the sounds. You'll have to follow the link to get those.

    The Science of Swords: The Sound of Approaching Doom
    By Charles Q. Choi | November 15, 2012

    The sword is silent as it leaves its scabbard in an expert draw. The only sound it makes is when it whistles as it cuts through the air. It might be the last sound you ever hear.

    When I’m not writing about science, one of my pastimes is swordsmanship. Specifically, I’m studying Toyama Ryu Batto Do under Sang Kim sensei in New York, a style that heavily emphasizes cutting and sparring with the Japanese sword known as the katana. I’ve also tried out the German longsword tradition following the works of Liechtenauer with the New York Historical Fencing Association, and would love to learn more.

    Sang Hissatsu Resized
    (That’s Sang Kim sensei cutting. Pretty awesome, right?)

    Why study the sword? Tales of swords have entranced people for centuries — for instance, Excalibur from the legends of King Arthur, Durandal from the Song of Roland, and the famous (and infamous) blades of Masamune and Muramasa. Even now, swords keep creeping into pop culture, such as is the case with the artificial intelligence Cortana in the video game series Halo, who is named after a legendary sword in the Song of Roland, or the Hattori Hanzo swords of the action flick “Kill Bill.”

    In this new series of articles, I hope to add to the magic of swords by showing how they can help one learn science. I’ll begin with the sound that swords make when they are swung.

    Why care what sounds a sword makes? Flippantly, I might say they help the blind swordsman Zatoichi hear his enemies:

    More seriously, I would say the sounds a sword makes can reveal whether or not it might cut through a target. A key goal in our style is achieving proper hasuji, or “edge line.” The sword’s edge should be the same angle as the sword’s cutting path. If the edge wobbles or tilts wrong as the sword is swung, the cut might not make it through a target.


    Credit: Josh MacDonald

    Credit: Josh MacDonald

    You don’t need to swing at a solid target to know if you had good hasuji — the sound a sword can make when it is swung, known in Japanese as tachikaze, or “sword wind,” can serve as a sign. If the hasuji was right, tachikaze will sound like sharp whistling. If the hasuji was wrong, tachikaze will sound like flat whooshing, or there will be no tachikaze. Ideally, you should hear tachikaze from the beginning of a cut, when power is needed to begin slicing through a target.

    Good hasuji sounds like this.
    Bad hasuji, if you can hear it, might sound like this.

    Why does the way a sword is swung lead to different sounds? To find out, I consulted aeroacoustician Ken Brentner, a professor of aerospace engineering at Pennsylvania State University, who studies the sounds that aircraft make. After all, swords might resemble airplane wings in this matter.

    When it comes to blades such as propellers, rotors or swords, Brentner explains there are two main kinds of noise they generate — “thickness noise” and “loading noise.”

    Thickness noise occurs when air must essentially get out of the way of an oncoming blade and then reoccupy its original space once that blade has moved on. Thickness noise can get very large as a blade approaches the speed of sound.

    Loading noise is generated when a blade acts directly on the surrounding air, generating forces that causes the air to speed up, slow down or change direction. Loading noise can originate from steady aerodynamic effects such as lift on a wing, or unsteady aerodynamic effects such as turbulence. Noise from unsteady loading is the dominant source of sounds from blades moving at relatively low speeds, “and is what I believe is the primary source of noise from swords,” Brentner says.

    The secret of whistling tachikaze heard when hasuji is good might have to do with what are called Aeolian tones, Brentner says. These are named after Aeolus, the Greek ruler of the winds.

    To explain, when air passes a cylinder, vortexes of air are shed from the top and the bottom of the cylinder in an alternating sequence with a very regular frequency. This pattern is known rather grandly as a von Karman vortex street.



    “I believe this is what is happening when you hear the whistling sound when the blade is moving straight,” Brentner says. “What you hear is a tone, like what you might hear when wind is blowing over telephone wires. The reason it is a tone is because the unsteady loading noise is very regular — only at a few certain frequencies.” Since the back part of a katana is not tapered, “it would have a very similar vortex street, like a cylinder’s.”

    However, when hasuji is bad, “I believe the flow over the blade is separating in a much more chaotic way — if it were an airfoil, we would say it is stalled,” Brentner says. “Thus it has a larger region of turbulent flow, which consists of a wide range of random-sized vortices or turbulent eddies.” Such turbulence “would generate a more whooshing sound, much like the sound you get from a cooling duct when the flow is coming out fast enough to hear it.”

    In the below figures, you can see the turbulent eddies generated by deep stalls, which might approximate what one hears from bad hasuji, as well as the alternating vortices generated by blunt trailing edges, which might approximate what one hears from good hasuji.



    The thickness of a sword and the geometry of its edge are also key factors regarding how easily a sword will generate tachikaze when swung. Intriguingly, the biggest factor behind tachikaze is whether or not a sword has a groove along its backside known as a bo-hi — swords with this groove are louder than swords without it. The blunt swords known as iaito that beginning students practice with typically have bo-hi, so the students can hear when they are getting hasuji right or wrong.

    My iaito, with bo-hi visible along the backside.

    Why does a bo-hi cause louder tachikaze? Brentner says this groove would shed vortices as air flowed over it. “This would potentially be as big a noise source as the vortex shedding from a blunt trailing edge, and the two might even couple to produce stronger unsteady loading and hence more sound,” he explains.

    I hope you found the vortices that swords can generate interesting! More posts on the science of swords will be coming soon.

    Charles Q. ChoiAbout the Author: Charles Q. Choi is a frequent contributor to Scientific American. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Science, Nature, Wired, and LiveScience, among others. In his spare time, he has traveled to all seven continents. Follow on Twitter @cqchoi.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  3. #3
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    You beat me to it. Anyway, here is another science blog about your first post:

    http://phenomena.nationalgeographic....lved-to-fight/

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    HUman hands evolved for fighting?

    http://jeb.biologists.org/content/216/2/i.1.full

    The human hand is a finely tuned piece of equipment that is capable of remarkable dexterity: creating art, performing music and manipulating tools. Yet David Carrier from the University of Utah, USA, suggests that the human hand may have also evolved its distinctive proportions for a less enlightened reason: for use as a weapon (p. 236).

    Carrier recalls that the idea occurred to him during an impassioned discussion with fellow biomechanic Frank Fish about sperm whales. Explaining that he had published a paper suggesting that the whales might use their spermaceti organs as battering rams, Carrier says ‘Frank didn't buy the argument and at one point he raised his fist and said, “I can hit you in the face with this, but that is not what it evolved for.”’ A light went on in Carrier's head. Sure, the human hand evolved for dexterity, but he adds, ‘You could manipulate the proportions of a chimp hand in ways that would enhance manual dexterity, but they would not necessarily end up with the proportions that we have.’ Maybe there was more to Fish's challenge than met the eye.

    According to Carrier and colleague Michael Morgan, modern chimpanzees have long palms and fingers with a short thumb, while the human palm and fingers are much shorter and the thumb longer and stronger. Carrier explains that this squat arrangement allows us to clench our hand into a fist when we fold the thumb across the fingertips; however, chimp fingers form an open doughnut shape when curled. Could the tightly packed human fist provide internal support – buttressing – to the digits to protect them from damage during combat? In addition, Carrier wondered whether curling the fingers into a fist could allow punching men to deliver a more powerful blow (increase the peak force of an impact) than slapping with the open hand. Carrier and Morgan decided to find out whether hands are more effective when balled into a fist or wielded in a slap.

    ‘Fortunately, Michael had a lot of experience with martial arts and he knew people who were willing to serve as subjects’, Carrier recalls. Asking the athletes to thump a punchbag with their hands in a range of shapes (from open-handed slaps to closed fists) using various delivery styles (over arm, sideways and head on), Morgan and Carrier measured the force of each impact. However, they were surprised to see that the punch did not deliver more force per blow. ‘In terms of the peak forces or the impulse, it did not matter whether the subjects were hitting with a clenched fist or open palm’, Carrier says.

    Next the duo tested whether buttressing the hand by curling the fingers and thumb stiffens the structure. They asked the martial arts experts to roll their hands into variations of the fist shape – two with the thumb extended sideways – and then push the first joint of the index finger against a force transducer to measure the rigidity of the knuckle joint in the presence and absence of the buttressing thumb. Impressively, the knuckle joint was four times more rigid when supported by the thumb. And when the duo measured the amount of force that the athletes could deliver through the fist surface of the index and middle fingers, they found that the presence of the buttressing thumb doubled the delivered force by transmitting it to the wrist through the metacarpals (palm bones) of the thumb and the index finger.

    So our short, square hands are perfectly proportioned to stiffen our fists for use as weapons and allow us – well, males predominantly – to deliver powerful punches without incurring injuries.
    Psalms 144:1
    Praise be my Lord my Rock,
    He trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle !

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    http://jeb.biologists.org/content/216/2/236.full

    Protective buttressing of the human fist and the evolution of hominin hands
    SUMMARY

    The derived proportions of the human hand may provide supportive buttressing that protects the hand from injury when striking with a fist. Flexion of digits 2–5 results in buttressing of the pads of the distal phalanges against the central palm and the palmar pads of the proximal phalanges. Additionally, adduction of the thenar eminence to abut the dorsal surface of the distal phalanges of digits 2 and 3 locks these digits into a solid configuration that may allow a transfer of energy through the thenar eminence to the wrist. To test the hypothesis of a performance advantage, we measured: (1) the forces and rate of change of acceleration (jerk) from maximum effort strikes of subjects striking with a fist and an open hand; (2) the static stiffness of the second metacarpo-phalangeal (MCP) joint in buttressed and unbuttressed fist postures; and (3) static force transfer from digits 2 and 3 to digit 1 also in buttressed and unbuttressed fist postures. We found that peak forces, force impulses and peak jerk did not differ between the closed fist and open palm strikes. However, the structure of the human fist provides buttressing that increases the stiffness of the second MCP joint by fourfold and, as a result of force transfer through the thenar eminence, more than doubles the ability of the proximal phalanges to transmit ‘punching’ force. Thus, the proportions of the human hand provide a performance advantage when striking with a fist. We propose that the derived proportions of hominin hands reflect, in part, sexual selection to improve fighting performance.

    ...


    There appears to be a paradox in the evolution of the human hand. It is arguably our most important anatomical weapon, used to threaten, beat and sometimes kill to resolve conflict. Yet it is also the part of our musculoskeletal system that crafts and uses delicate tools, plays musical instruments, produces art, conveys complex intentions and emotions, and nurtures. Starting with the hand of an arboreal great ape ancestor, it is possible to imagine a number of evolutionary transformations that would have resulted in a club-like structure adapted for fighting. Similarly, as suggested above, there are a number of alternative hand proportions that are compatible with enhanced manual dexterity. There may, however, be only one set of skeletal proportions that allows the hand to function both as a mechanism for precise manipulation and as a club for striking. More than any other part of our anatomy, the hand represents the identity of **** sapiens. Ultimately, the evolutionary significance of the human hand may lie in its remarkable ability to serve two seemingly incompatible, but intrinsically human, functions.
    Psalms 144:1
    Praise be my Lord my Rock,
    He trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle !

  6. #6
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    Interesting theory. Still, compared to more specialized defensive organs of other animals such as large canine teeth, tusks, horns, and the like, the fist is a pretty poor defensive weapon. A large male chimp can easily best an unarmed human of similar weight with his powerful musculature and crushing jaws, armed with large interlocking canines.

    Personally, I suspect that the morphology of the human hand has much more to do with dexterity and tool use than fighting. The same strong hand-shape that makes a good fist can also wield a weapon like a club, axe or spear. A band of armed humans is a whole lot more dangerous!

    Or it could just be that my love of Eskrima has biased me a bit...
    "No contaban con mi astucia!" --el Chapulin Colorado

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumblegeezer View Post
    Interesting theory. Still, compared to more specialized defensive organs of other animals such as large canine teeth, tusks, horns, and the like, the fist is a pretty poor defensive weapon. A large male chimp can easily best an unarmed human of similar weight with his powerful musculature and crushing jaws, armed with large interlocking canines.

    Personally, I suspect that the morphology of the human hand has much more to do with dexterity and tool use than fighting. The same strong hand-shape that makes a good fist can also wield a weapon like a club, axe or spear. A band of armed humans is a whole lot more dangerous!

    Or it could just be that my love of Eskrima has biased me a bit...
    In addition to their jaws and overall strength, an adult chimp can easily use his hands/fingers to tear into a human body. Their hands alone are unbelievably tough and powerful, especially compared to even the strongest human hands. They use them to dig a lot without sustaining any damage to their nails, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    We have a lot of these already in our Tai Chi as medicine and Qigong as Medicine threads. This thread addresses more general studies. I just got two so I'm launching this new thread to compile them.
    They neglect to mention however how much harder chimps can hit, lol!
    I was on the metro earlier, deep in meditation, when a ruffian came over and started causing trouble. He started pushing me with his bag, steadily increasing the force until it became very annoying. When I turned to him, before I could ask him to stop, he immediately started hurling abuse like a scoundrel. I performed a basic chin na - carotid artery strike combination and sent him to sleep. The rest of my journey was very peaceful, and passersby hailed me as a hero - Warrior Man

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    Evolved for fighting? As in punching?

    I need to read through that again.
    Kung Fu is good for you.

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    Ants and the Art of War

    I just read this article from Scientific American Magazine December 2011 Issue. It was an excellent read and made me reconsider my opinion of ants.
    Battles among Ants Resemble Human Warfare [Preview]
    Battles among ants can be startlingly similar to human military operations
    By Mark W. Moffett

    The raging combatants form a blur on all sides. the scale of the violence is almost incomprehensible, the battle stretching beyond my field of view. Tens of thousands sweep ahead with a suicidal single-mindedness. Utterly devoted to duty, the fighters never retreat from a confrontation—even in the face of certain death. The engagements are brief and brutal. Suddenly, three foot soldiers grab an enemy and hold it in place until one of the bigger warriors advances and cleaves the captive’s body, leaving it smashed and oozing.

    I back off with my camera, gasping in the humid air of the Malaysian rain forest, and remind myself that the rivals are ants, not humans. I have spent months documenting such deaths through a field camera that I use as a microscope, yet I still find it easy to forget that I am watching tiny insects—in this case, a species known as Pheidologeton diversus, the marauder ant.
    Gene Ching
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  11. #11
    humans are not evolved to use the fist. thats rediculous. we are evolved to use weapons. a stick turns into a living thing in human hands.
    Last edited by bawang; 02-04-2013 at 07:22 PM.

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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by bawang View Post
    humans are not evolved to use the fist. thats rediculous. we are evolved to use weapons. a stick turns into a living thing in human hands.
    agreed - tool use is both the product and the driver of human capacity for abstract reasoning; from the very moment someone picked up a stone to pry open a shell or crack a piece of hard fruit, we set upon a path that will eventually end in a level of biotechnological interface that wi in some sense mean the end of the human species as we know it...

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    The hand is the fundamental component of human survival, whether its tool use or simple foraging. It makes no sense to risk destruction of your primary means of survival in acts of combat. This goes against nature in general. Very very few organisms will engage in acts of violence against other members. Most disputes over territory are in the form of displays and minor physical contact. The conflict is broken off with one submitting before actual harm is done. And while apes may at times take it to a true fight, even killing, its more common that acts end in more peaceful means. This should be obvious, since killing or maiming each other places a severe constraint on fitness. Even if you win, if your hand (or any other major structure for that matter) was destroyed you would likely not survive much long after. And lets be real, there's no chance in hell punching a predator was in any way part of the equation. Teeth and claws > fists every time. How would a human or pre-human ape manage to survive in a maimed condition in which their hands are non-functional?

    This study doesn't surprise me though. Chemists (the researcher that produced this is a biochemist) typically have trouble marrying their focus on internal functioning of a cell/body with the actual "skin out" observations. Not everything can be figured out with chemistry, you do actually have to take it into the real world and see if its not just correlation without actual causation. This is a problem in science lately. People have gotten so enamored with their theoretical approaches that they've had a disconnect with the observational half of the equation.

  14. #14
    yeah, I think it's all about the tool grip and tasks that require dexterity like weaving etc...

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by taai gihk yahn View Post
    agreed - tool use is both the product and the driver of human capacity for abstract reasoning; from the very moment someone picked up a stone to pry open a shell or crack a piece of hard fruit, we set upon a path that will eventually end in a level of biotechnological interface that wi in some sense mean the end of the human species as we know it...
    One could argue that we could say that already. Before it was so gradual, now it's really taking off. Curious to see what affect artificial light and advanced tools will have on our bodies.

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