It’s well known that having a full stomach, or worse being bloated, can impact coordination, balance, posture, response times, etc... in a wide range of activities. So I’m curious as to how the opposite condition would affect martial arts activities.

Would it even be noticeable to someone trained or under duress?

2 Answers 2


The answer should be pretty obvious to anyone who's had bloating. Yes, it does affect your martial arts performance. It would affect your performance in class as well as in a real fight or self-defense situation.

Bloating is caused by gas that's trapped in your intestines. The gas is generated by bacteria consuming your poop. It can last hours, until the bacteria run out of whatever they're eating, or until you get rid of the solid waste.

Because the gas irritates the walls of your intestines, it triggers your intestines to secrete mucous and water. That, in turn, causes more bacteria to grow, more gas, and more pain. Worse, it can cause acute diarrhea.

So in the worst case, you will not be able to move. Your gut will hurt too much, or you're going to fear having an accident in your pants.

A full stomach, however, is a much different situation. You're just feeling stuff sloshing around in your stomach. It goes away within an hour as your stomach partially empties into your small intestines. No big deal. But some have been known to vomit if they get kicked in the stomach too hard right after a big meal. Or if they go too hard on their own selves in training.

If you have painful bloating after meals, see a gastroenterologist to help you diagnose the issue. It's not normal. And the cause can vary. The obvious way to mitigate it is just to avoid eating 3-6 hours before training. And continue to drink water.

Hope that helps.


Stuffing yourself to bursting is no kind of preparation for a fight, but in the Chinese Classic "Outlaws of the Marsh", characters routinely do this we beef and wine before leveling opponents. In reality:

  • blood & energy going to digestion is going to take those resources away from attacking/defending.

In Tai Chi, it is usually recommended to do morning practice especially before eating, so the body is "light", and I've found it improves practice. (My own teacher would generally not eat a full meal throughout the entire day of teaching and practicing, and only do so at the end of the night.) But you need to have at least a little fat to burn if you're not going to eat a sufficient meal, and nutrition is important between training to allow the body to heal and strengthen.

However, we always used to hold that bagua, and walking the circle especially, is a great remedy for an overfull stomach, and my personal experience is that pans out.

In a real world self-defense situation, you don't have the luxury of knowing when an attack is coming, and you may have just eaten a large meal, so you must be capable of prevailing regardless of the specifics of your present condition.

(Many martial arts masters however, in my experience, tend to eat sparingly in general—I don't know if this is strategic or a function of expending energy more efficiently such that less food is required.)

It's only in competition fighting that one can determine when one eats in relation to combat.

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