World Champion Martial Arts Masters Meet Cutting-Edge Technology To Test the Most Complex Weapon on Earth –
the Human Body
National Geographic Channel’s Fight Science Builds Extraordinary
Studio-Laboratory to Measure and Map the
Impact, Range, Speed and Force of Martial Arts Moves
(WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 2, 2006) It strikes four times faster than a snake. It kicks with more than 1,000 pounds of force. And it can rival the impact of a 35 mph car crash. It’s the most complex weapon ever designed – the human body.
Now, the National Geographic Channel (NGC) brings together a dream team of scientists, motion-capture specialists and CGI animators, along with a cross-section of champion martial arts masters, to analyze the world’s greatest fight techniques. The tests are designed to separate fighting fact from martial arts myth and provide unprecedented insight into their astounding strengths and capabilities. The results will be presented in the two-hour world premiere special Fight Science, Sunday, August 20, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
For the first time, Fight Science brings together members of the crash-test industry, the sports biomechanics industry and the Hollywood animation industry – applying their combined expertise and technology to a diverse range of martial arts techniques, including karate, kung fu, jiu jitsu, tae kwon do, muay Thai and wushu, among others. The results reveal the comparative strengths, advantages and limitations of the various martial arts styles. And in a breakthrough combination of technologies, scientists are able to peer inside a fighter’s body in real time.
Fight Science tests and films world-renowned martial artists, hand-picked to represent various disciplines, in a custom-built combination dojo (a school for training in the various arts of self-defense), high-tech lab and film studio that took over a year to design and build. Are the legends true? Is there such a thing as a death punch? How much force does each fighter exert? With 32 infrared motion capture cameras, three high-definition cameras and three ultra-high-speed cameras, the studio allows the crash test and biomechanics scientists to measure and map the speed, force, range and impact of muscles and bones in the fighters’ bodies.
The motion-capture technique, requiring reflective markers over the fighters’ entire bodies, allows for sophisticated real-time three-dimensional models (seen in films like King Kong, Lord of the Rings, and The Polar Express). These results are combined with other data to create separate sophisticated animations of the fighters’ bones, muscles and nerves. Fight Science juxtaposes the fighters’ movements with their animated selves for unprecedented insight into exactly how the body generates each move.
The lab, administered by engineer Randy Kelly – an expert in automotive testing and human-injury studies – also records data received by the recipient of the fighter’s strikes, a $150,000 government-certified crash-test dummy known as the “Hybrid III anthropomorphic test device.” Outfitted with sensors and measurement capabilities created especially for this research, it allows scientists to measure the impact of blows, throws and kicks, providing data that frequently astounds Kelly and the other scientists. In addition, special sensors – originally developed for NASA spacesuits – take data from inside the fighters’ shoes to see how martial artists – especially ninjas – are able to maintain catlike balance no matter what the obstacle.
“In my research, I have seen car crashes, I have seen impacts on the football field,” said Tim Walilko, an engineer working with Kelly who studies impact trauma. “I have never seen feats of strength like this in any of the other disciplines that I’ve done research in.”
For the filming, live-action moves were recorded with high-speed, high-definition cameras. While typical film speed is 24 frames per second (fps), the producers utilized film speeds as high as 1,000 fps to capture lightning-fast kicks or to track the extraordinary force that breaks through layers of cinderblock. The results yielded crystal-clear images of remarkable energies at work.
“I’ve been training for 25 years and everything that I’ve been doing up until now has been based on hearsay,” says ninjitsu expert and stuntman Glen Levy in the film. “To me, it’s exciting to actually have data… it makes it more real.”
Over the centuries, martial arts fighters have supplemented their techniques with instruments like staffs, swords and nunchaku developed to magnify death-dealing potential. Fight Science also explores how the designs and techniques of weaponry can exponentially increase an already fearsome fighter’s impact, control and range.
Ultimately, the tour de force that is Fight Science cedes its evaluations to the place where training, power and grace reach their ultimate balance: the heart, mind and spirit of a warrior, where fighting techniques transcend skill to become a true, unequivocal art.
Martial arts supervisor for Fight Science is James Lew, a renowned member of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Participating on screen are (in alphabetical order) tae kwon do master Bren Foster; undefeated jiu jitsu champion Rickson Gracie; karate expert Mark Hicks; three-time national wushu gold medalist Alex Huynh; Dan Inosanto, one of the world’s leading authorities in jeet kune do; Li Jing, famed practitioner of Chinese wushu; fight trainer, choreographer, leading stuntman and ninjitsu expert Glen Levy; Dean Lister, the “world’s greatest grappler”; Melchor Menor, muay Thai kickboxing expert; Obata Toshishiro, member of an elite group of martial artists and a descendant in the samurai line of the Heike clan; undefeated professional boxer Steve Petramale; Craig and Paul Pumphrey, master demonstrators of breaking techniques and other outrageous feats of strength; and Amir Solsky, founder and leader of Capoeira Los Angeles.
In addition to Kelly, scientists include Dr. Cindy Bir, an expert in ballistic and human body impacts; Dr. Tim Walilko, an impact trauma and sports biomechanics expert; and Dr. Norman Murphy, a leader in force and pressure data capture, analysis and interpretation.
Fight Science is produced by BASE Productions, Inc. for the National Geographic Channel. Executive Producers are Mickey Stern and John Brenkus. Writer is Gary Parker. For National Geographic Channel: Executive Producer is Jenny Apostol. Senior Vice President, Production, is Michael Cascio. Executive in Charge of Production is John B. Ford.