Join Date: May 2005
Bruce Lee's amazing Kung Fu one inch punch
Bruce Lee Store
It's always cool to see amazing almost superhero type strength and abilities in real life, and Bruce Lee not only played a superhero on television he had abilities that were almost beyond normal human capacity. The power he could summon in just one inch of space was amazing.
From Popular Mechanics
Martial Arts Neuroscience
In a 2012 study, Ed Roberts, a neuroscientist at Imperial College London, compared the punching strength (at a range of slightly less than 2 inches) between practitioners of karate and physically fit people with similar amounts of muscle who do not practice martial arts.
"The first thing we found was that karate experts can punch much harder than normal, untrained people. Which isn’t exactly what you’d call Nobel Prize–worthy work," he says.
But Roberts also discovered that for the karate practitioners, muscle alone didn’t dictate strong punches. Rather, when he used motion-tracking cameras to track the puncher’s joints, he found that strikes that synchronize the many peak accelerations in one complex move—like Bruce Lee’s—were also the most powerful.
And when Roberts took brain scans of his study’s participants, he also found that the force and coordination of each participant’s two-inch punch was directly related to the microstructure of white matter—the substance that manages communication between brain cells—in a part of the brain called the supplementary motor cortex. This is important, because this brain region handles the coordination between the muscles of the limbs, which close-range punches rely on. The altered white matter allows for more abundant or complex cell connections in that brain region, Roberts says, which could increase the puncher’s ability to synchronize his or her movements.
So Bruce Lee owes his master feat in part to a beefed-up glob of white matter. But that doesn’t diminish the grandeur of the one-inch punch one bit. Like his muscles, Lee earned his brainpower the hard way, with many years of practice. Roberts says the white matter changes in his study’s participants can be traced to the concept of neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to fundamentally rewire itself to cope with new demands. The more karate experts practiced these coordinated moves, the more the white matter in their supplementary motor cortex adapts.
Of course, neuroplasticity diminishes with age, so it’s better if they start young. In the words of an ancient Chinese proverb, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now."