The Ninjabot

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The neuroscience behind Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch is this…

Posted on August 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm by Maxx Plank

Remember the movie Enter The Dragon? Of course you do, otherwise you wouldn’t care to read this post in the first place, right?

In the movie, Bruce introduces his famous one-inch punch that could send the opponents flying with a close range strike.

When you saw that for the first time, it probably blew your mind. I know it blew mine away, especially considering how young I was when I first saw the film.

But even to this day, I’m still amazed at this physical feat, which seems totally out of this world and stretches the boundaries of human physical potential that much further.

Well, according to new research by neuroscientists, it turns out his ability to strike so hard at close range has more to do with his brain structure than his physical training.

Recent brain scans comparing the neural structure of non-martial artists and expert black belts revealed subtle yet consequential differences that could account for the prowess of the latter vs. the former.

Such a difference, ultimately, is great enough to produce extraordinary feats in martial arts experts, like the one-inch punch for example.

According to researchers from Imperial College London and UCL, it’s not your raw muscles that pack power in your punch—it’s the speed of the punch, which depends on your brain’s ability to command muscular movement faster than average.

According to Dr. Ed Roberts, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the study:

We think that ability might be related to fine-tuning of neural connections in the cerebellum, allowing them to synchronise their arm and trunk movements very accurately.

The study was conducted with 24 people, including 12 black belt martial artists and 12 non-martial artists who nonetheless exercised regularly and were in overall good shape.

Through what is known as Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) scans, the research team found significant structural differences in certain areas in the brain, namely the white matter of parts of the brain called the cerebellum and the primary motor cortex—these two areas are very involved in controlling movement.

Two important differences revealed by the brain scan were: a) the synchronicity of the subjects’ wrist and shoulder movements when they punch, and b) the age at which karate experts began training and their total experience of the discipline.

This implies that people who trained at a younger age, when neuroplasticity is the most malleable, were able to wire their brains more efficiently to perform this feat; thereby showing that a well wired brain is more powerful, and even physically more relevant, than raw big muscles when it comes to packing hard punches.

As a clear visual reiteration of this fact, visit Youtube watch this video of a skinny little Bruce Lee knock the hell out of this piece of wood with a one-inch range. Wataaaa!

Geekz Up, Trollz Down!

About the Author: Maxx Plank is Geek Blogger of all trades, writing about everything from science and comics to hip hop. He is also an undergraduate in Physics and Neuroscience.

    • Rudy del Rio

      Bruce Lee had unbelievable power. When you take into account his smaller size, the things he did were unbelievable. Great post.

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