View Full Version : Summary: Impact forces of karate punches

04-27-2003, 03:31 AM
Dear Biomch-Listers,

I would like to express my great thanks to all members who replied to my
query on "impact forces of karate punches". As assumed in my original
message (see below), it appears that only a few studies have been realized
in this field and, surprisingly, most of them have been presented in
congresses and are only available as abstracts. All these references are
listed at the end of this summary, together with those we already collected
in an early literature search.

In order to complete this summary, excerpts of my own replies to some
interested members are quoted below their respective message.

Best regards,

Philippe VASLIN (Ph.D.)
Université Blaise Pascal
ISIMA - B.P.10125
63173 AUBIERE CEDEX - France
Tel : + 33 (0) 473 405 038
Fax : + 33 (0) 473 405 001

-----Original Message-----

Dear Biomch-Listers,

A MS student in Physical Education at Blaise Pascal University is planning
to measure the impact force of some karate punch techniques. From his search
in different databases (PubMed, Herakles; keywords: biomechanics, karate,
martial arts), he only found a very few relevant references where impact
forces were measured in various fighting sports. Among these, was the

J. Atha, M.R. Yeadon, J. Sandover and K. Pearson (1984). Measuring the
mechanical properties of a heavyweight's punch. J. of Sports Sciences (UK),
2(3): 188-189.

Unfortunately, this paper is only an abstract of a Sports Sciences
Conference, so measurement and computing methods are not fully described.
The very poor results of this bibliographic search lead me to ask you:

- Has the above study been fully described in some scientific article(s)? Or
can the authors contact me and give some more information?

- Does somebody know if other studies have already been done on the same
purpose in any fighting sport?

For those interested, I'll post a complete summary of the collected

Many thanks in advance.


Hi Philippe,

Two problems that I see: 1) Your question is ill-posed and 2) there is
little human impact data available.

1) I say ill-posed because it is very unlikely that you will be able (OR
WANT TO !) measure force. To do so correctly would require an infinite
inertia frame for four load cell - that is it would have to be mounted to a
rigid wall. Padding the load cell to prevent the inevitable injuries during
impact would alter you values, probable in a complex manner.

2) As far as I know the only similar work that has been done is measuring
the acceleration of the head from impacts, most of these in sports. There
were two studies in the '70s that measured head acceleration in american
football players and a recent study last year - I think. The automotive
work on humans is all whiplash - not direct impact. I also remember seeing
a study on punching bags in boxing.

Good luck!

J.J. Trey Crisco, Ph.D.
Dir. Bioengineering Laboratory
Assoc. Professor, Dept. of Orthopaedics
Brown Medical School / Rhode Island Hospital
Adjunct Assoc. Prof.
Division of Engineering, Brown University
Research Dir. NOCSAE

1 Hoppin Street
Coro West, Suite 404
Providence, RI 02903
Tel: 401-444-4231
Fax: 401-444-4418
email: joseph_crisco@brown.edu
REPLY: Dear Joseph,

Thank you for your very interesting answer that confirms the scarecity (and
the difficulty?) of studies in this field. I agree with your analysis
developped in (1) and in that way my question was ill-posed:

I know one study (1977) that tried to DIRECTLY measure the impact forces of
French national level karatekas with a force sensor fixed on a wall (see
reference below). The main limitation of this study was that subjects might
have not hit the target as hard as they could because they were fear of
hurting themselves (fingers, fist, wrist), which we can fully understand!

For that reason, I was looking for studies were impact forces have been
INDIRECTLY measured or, should I write, calculated: the abstract of Atha et
al. I mentioned in my original message was one of these and shortly
described such a method, unfortunately without enough details and physical
equations to understand or reproduce it. At this stage of our
investigations, we are trying to built a method based on the measurement of
several dynamic and kinemetical parameters and on a mechanical model that,
we hope, will allow us to compute an estimation (?) of the impact forces
developped in some controlled but realistic

There are still many problems to solve, like padding the target as you
rightly pointed out, and we are not sure at present to be able to succeed.
But isn't it the way scientific research goes further?



There is very little information on impact forces/pressures related to kicks
and punches in Martial Arts. I am also looking for measured values.

Does the paper-abstract by Atha et al. report forces?
Is it possible to read the abstract via the web?


Norman Murphy, Ph.D.

To answer your first question, Atha et al. (1984) reported values of:
- 4130 N from the corrected force transducer records;
- 3600 N calculated from the film data;
- 4600 N from the accelerometer records;
for the most powerful punch of a world-ranked British heavyweight boxer.

They further precised: "The force-equivalent of the blow against the human
head, it was calculated, could be as high as 6300 N (0.63 ton) when a
correction factor was used based on two approximately equivalent submaximal
punches delivered with and without supplementary padding."

To answer your second question, I don't know if this abstract can be read
via the web, however I am sure it wouldn't be difficult for you to get a
copy of it from any university library.

Dear Philippe,

I was studying the Taekwondo kicking force before. I hope that I can provide
some idea to you.

There were several methods in the punching or kicking force measurement from
the literature such as putting a accelerometer into a punching bag, punching
on a force platform that mounting on the wall and putting a pressure sensor
into a water filled punching bag.

I fully understand that little paper stated clear about the measurement
procedure. Please found the following paper that were using water filled
punching bag to measure the Taekwondo kicking impact force.

Pieter, F., & Pieter, W. (1995). Speed and force in selected taekwondo
techniques. Biology of sport, 12(4), 257-266.

Good Luck !!

Jim Luk

Human Movement Laboratory
Department of Sports Science and Physical Education
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Tel : (852) 2609 6079
(852) 2609 6098
Fax : (852) 2603 5781
Email : jimluk@alumni.cuhk.net


Kyung-Mo Han conducted some research along this line while at Brigham Young
University and may be able to provide some feedback/assistance. He is
currently at Cal State Dominguez Hills, email address: KHAN@csudh.edu

Gary Christopher
Texas Woman's University

Dear Dr. Vaslin

I left BYU in the middle of the research. I did not participate in depth of
that research, that time I was an instructor for TaeKwonDo class and they
asked me to come to the lab.....I believe that it was a study of one of
Undergraduate Student Grant Research. Sorry, I do not have any information
about that...but, I will ask to others who might have information, when I
have the information, I will let you know. Thanks.

KyungMo Han, PhD, ATC
Assistant Professor
California State University, Dominguez Hills
School of Education, PER Dept.
Athletic Training Education Program
1000 E. Victoria St.
Carson, CA 90747
310-243-2219/310-217-6946 (fax)

Dear Dr. Vaslin,

I have a very strong personal interest in Karate. I would be most greatful
if you somehow could keep me update on your research. Can I find your
results or interests on a webpage?

Good luck with your research!

Best regards,

Per Slycke
ir. Per Slycke
Xsens Motion Technologies
P.O. Box 545
7500 AM Enschede
the Netherlands
m.+31 (0)62 905 6751
t. +31 (0)53 483 6444
f. +31 (0)53 483 6445

I am sorry but as we are just at the beginning of this study, we are only
looking at the different ways to do these measurements and calculations. So
no results are yet available, and as soon as we will get some we will try to
publish them in a specialized scientific review (and perhaps on the webpage
of our laboratory).

Here's a paper presented at the 14th ISB (International Society of
Biomechanics Congress XIV, Paris, France, 1993) on measuring boxing punches:


D. Gordon E. Robertson, Ph.D.


I would suggest you do a literature search for Marcus Smith and Rosemary
Dyson, who have published in this area recently. Think it was in the
Journal of Sports Sciences

Neal Smith PhD
Senior Lecturer in Sports Biomechanics
University College Chichester
College Lane
West Sussex
PO19 6PE
Tel: +441243 816295
Fax: +441243 816080


I believe that Atha et al. may have published the data from your cited
abstract in following paper:

Atha J. Yeadon MR. Sandover J. Parsons KC. The damaging punch. British
Medical Journal Clinical Research Ed.. 291(6511):1756-7, 1985 Dec 21-28.

Otherwise, I also had difficulties finding much more regarding the
biomechanics of punches.

Best of luck.

Greg Wohl


ABRAHAM C. DYSON R. KINGMAN J. (2001) Muscular activity of the striking leg
during the martial arts front, side and turning kicks (Annual Conference of
the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES): Liverpool
John Moores niversity , Liverpool, 29 Aug. -1 Sept. 2000). Journal of Sports
Sciences. 19(1):3-4.

ATHA J. YEADON MR. SANDOVER J. PARSONS K. (1984) Measuring the mechanical
properties of a heavyweight's punch (Abstract of the Sports Sciences
Conference, Bedford, 13-15 sept 84). Journal of Sports Sciences.

ATHA J. YEADON MR. SANDOVER J. PARSONS KC. (1985) The damaging punch.
British Medical Journal Clinical Research Ed.. 291(6511):1756-7, 1985 Dec

COSTELLOE R. KINGMAN J. DYSON R. (2002) Speed and muscular coordination
during the karate punch (Annual Conference of the British Association of
Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES): University of Wales College, Newport,
4-7 September 2001). Journal of Sports Sciences. 20(1):4-5.

FELD MS. Mc NAIR RE. WILK SR. (1979) The physics of karate. Sci Am.

FORTIN Y. LAMONTAGNE M. GADOUAS A. (1993) Punching bag dynamometer. XIVth
ISB Congress, Paris, 4-8 July. Abstracts I:416.

GOTTSMANN F. (1977) Yoko-geri : 200 kilos de poussée. Officiel Karaté
(France). 6:30-31.

GOTTSMANN F. (1977) Etude technique de la frappe au karaté en vue
d'applications pédagogiques. Mémoire pour le Diplôme de l'INSEP. Paris:
INSEP, 99 p.

IMAI H. HOHDA K. TSUBOI S. (1987) The study of thrust is pressure in kendo.
Bulletin of Institute of Health and Sports Sciences (Japan). 10:149-156.

PAIN MTG. CHALLIS JH. (2001) Analysis of the contribution of soft tissue
motion to energy dissipation in a karate strike (Annual Conference of the
British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES): Liverpool John
Moores University , Liverpool, 29 Aug. -1 Sept. 2000). Journal of Sports
Sciences. 19(1):10-11.

PIETER F. PIETER W. (1995). Speed and force in selected taekwondo
techniques. Biology of sport. 12(4):257-266.

SMITH PK. HAMILL J. (1986) The effect of puncting glove type and skill level
on momentum transfer. Journal of Human Movement Studies. 12(3):153-161.

Dynamics of the martial arts high front kick. Journal of Sports Sciences.

VOS JA. BINKHORST RA. (1966) Velocity and force of some Karate
arm-movements. Nature. 211(44):89-90.

YAMAGAMI SI. NAKIRI F. OKAKA Y. AE M. (1994) Impact forces of the
tobikomi-men and kiki-men striking in kendo (XIVth ISB Congress, Paris, 4-8
July 1993). Journal of Biomechanics. 27(6):697.

ZEHR EP. SALE DG. DOWLING JJ. (1997) Ballistic movement performance in
karate athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 1366-1373.

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