I am studying how stability affects the ability to perform movements. A physician friend of mine has noticed that certain critical kinetic chains (i.e. muscles that work together to perform movement) are needed both in small movements and in large ones requiring large force. After studying his arguments for a bit, I realized the basic idea he is describing is the same principle I have seen in martial arts texts. Specifically, from what I understand, the power one generates in a given martial arts maneuver depends greatly on how efficiently you use the body to exert the force it generates. In other words, you need to essentially use proper body positioning in order to concentrate all the force you are generating into the output. Physicists define power as work / time. I would like to say using a similar idea that martial arts is about maximizing work / energy. You in essence want to exert the most force possible on your target while using the least amount of energy possible.

What I Need:

I would like a martial arts resource that takes these factors into account. I want something that not only describes positions but explains why the combination of muscles or positioning of limbs in question is ideal for generating the particularly maneuvers described. I own The Anatomy of Martial Arts and this book is not sufficient. It is an anatomy book that has very little explanation of why particular groups of muscles are so good at generating force. It also doesn't offer expected limits as to how much force a given move can generate. So, as I say, I want something with a little more advanced descriptions. It doesn't necessarily need to involve physics explicitly. It could contain qualitative analysis (i.e. deltoid stabilizes the scapula and this permits such and such which results in much greater force).

Note, I am not seeking to learn martial arts, so any "how to" discussions are irrelevant. I care only about the stuff I mention above.

My Question:

What resource should I consult? Please include some info about the resource so I have some sense of how well it satisfies the description I gave.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site. While I really like your question and want to know the answer(s) myself, I suspect it might not a good fit for here. Firstly, it cannot really be answered here as it would take way too long. Secondly, it asks for references which tend to be just a long list of things which in turn is frowned on. Lastly, it is all about physiognomy and not really related to martial arts at all: would a physiotherapist or medical sport doctor be a better source of knowledge there? However, I am not voting to close because I think it could be a good question if narrowed down a little. Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 6:41
  • In my experience, resource questions are usually frowned on but can occasionally be accepted and useful if framed correctly. It was my hope to do this. On the third point, in a sense, you are correct. This question explicitly states that all the elements of strategy and practical application are not of interest and therefore the text I am looking for isn't really about that aspect of martial arts. HOWEVER, understanding biomechanics can prove extremely useful for experts in any sport. Slight adjustments in technique depend on understanding these biomechanical principles. Thus, I would think... Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 7:33
  • ...a good answer to this question would provide a valuable long-term reference point for future martial artists who similarly are looking for these kinds of details. Regarding point 1, what makes you think answers would be long? How can you tell? Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 7:36
  • No no I got that lol Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 7:36
  • 2
    Can you clarify what you are looking for? You want a physics-based analysis of force generation based on anatomy? And if that doesn't exist you want a book that does not tell you how to do things, but does what?
    – mattm
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 3:42

2 Answers 2


Expect disagreement about both ideas of how to generate power and in explanations, because every style has its own theories about how to best generate power. The training for how to generate power for particular techniques may also be beyond the average person, as in stretching required for head kicks, for example.

Also remember that the maximal or most efficient force may not win. If you can't hit the mosquito, it doesn't matter how much power you have.

The best match I know for what you are looking for is: Principles, Analysis, and Application of Effortless Combat Throws by Tim Cartmell. This book, while nominally about throwing techniques, basically covers the principles of motion from an internal martial arts point of view. Most of the discussion of body mechanics and alignments is equally applicable to striking.

This book has three Chapters:

  1. Types of Throws and Basic Principles
  2. Body Use
  3. Analysis and Applications: Throws

You are interested in Chapters 1 and 2. The Table of Contents for those chapters:

  • Types of Throws and Basic Principles p. 1
  • Introduction p. 2
  • Types of Throws p. 4
  • Basic Principles p. 5
  • Non-Opposition of Force p. 5
  • Connect and Join Centers p. 7
  • Apply Force Where the Opponent Cannot Resist p. 9
  • Transfer Momentum Through the Hold p. 11
  • Break the Opponent's Posture p. 13
  • Cause the Opponent to Fall p. 15
  • Follow-up p. 17
  • The Intent Flows Outward like Water p. 19
  • Conclusion p. 21
  • The Eight Allies p. 22
  • Body Use p. 25
  • Introduction p. 26
  • Align with Gravity p. 26
  • Relax Completely and Let the Body Weight Sink p. 37
  • Calm the Mind and Expand the Awareness p. 38
  • Generate Power Through Stretch/Rebound and Rotation p. 39
  • Move at the Speed of Gravity p. 42
  • Move Rhythmically p. 44
  • Exhale Smoothly When Applying Force p. 46
  • Move the Body as a Coherent Unit Centered in the Hips p. 48
  • Conclusion p. 50

Short quotation "from Generate Power Through Stretch/Rebound and Rotation":

Swinging the limbs and torso is the primary method of generating such momentum. Swinging movements are by far the most powerful that a human can generate...the momentum generated through compression-stretch/rebound from the base (legs) is often translated into a swinging momentum in the torso and upper extremities. It is swinging that allows us to generate maximum power (that's why we "throw" rather than "push" a punch).

  • Woof... $100+ for the current editions. I'm guessing that this is the Building the Gymnastic Body book of martial arts... Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 19:32
  • @SeanDuggan I bought this from Amazon some years ago, and it was inexpensive then. It looks like you can still find used copies on Amazon at a reasonable price. I'm not familiar with books on gymnastics, so I am not sure what to say about your analogy.
    – mattm
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 21:23
  • :) Building the Gymnastic Body is probably one of the best books for static strength exercises, but it had a limited release, so copies go for $100 or more. Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 1:41

Bruce Lee was fascinated with this also, so if you study his writings it is all about reducing the amount of effort used to deliver the most powerful blow in the shortest time possible. For example the "straight blast" would be thrown on the shortest line of attack (straight) and speed*mass to deliver the power into the blow.

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