I remember I read years ago that the direct punch taught in the Jeet Kune Do martial art is proven scientifically to be more powerful than the traditional direct punch used in other martial arts such as Shotokan Do.

The apparent reason that in the Jeet Kune Do direct punch focuses the power of the attack on the last three knuckles whereas, for instance, Karate focuses the power on the first two knuckles ("seiken" - see diagram)

Karate Seiken

Karate Seiken from Wikipedia

In this video, Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do Power In The Punch, the claim is made:

Hayward Nishioka, the Japanese-American National Judo Champion who is also a black-belt holder in the Jeet Do Kune style of Karate ran a scientific test in a California university to find out the difference between a Karate punch and a Jeet Kune Do punch and the finding is that indeed the Jeet Kune Do punch was more powerful and destructive than the classical Karate punch.

Has this been proven?

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    Welcome to Skeptics! We want to focus our attention on doubtful claims that are widely held or are made by notable people. Please provide some references to places where this claim is being made. – Oddthinking Nov 11 '15 at 13:10
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    @Oddthinking Thank you for the note. I asked this question first on Martial Arts website where I have been advised to ask it here. As I mentioned, I read this years ago, I do not remember where but I will make an effort to see where that has been stated. – user29814 Nov 11 '15 at 13:18
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    @Oddthinking I never saw before any member of SE sites doing what you did: adding a precious source that I think it is the same thing I read years ago. Thank you a lot wonderful Man, that is really great you added that. – user29814 Nov 11 '15 at 13:27
  • @Oddthinking linking the tour is also good for an initial greeting. – Ruut Nov 13 '15 at 13:39

It hasn't been proven directly in [that] study.

The article regarding Hayward Nishioka's claim was published in the October 1970 issue of Karate Illustrated.

JKD utilised ballistic (propelling the fist a maximum speed) type movements to impart maximum force. [...] Although JKD proved more effective in striking power, the karate type of punch was more effective as a mean of exercise and physical development as more muscle mass was being used.

It can also be seen at the Academy Fighting Technology Jeet Kune Do website, with a lot more videos of demonstrations/explanations.

Karate Illustrated October 1970

It isn't the surface area of the fist alone that creates a more powerful punch. Rather it is the additional footwork and movement involved with the strike itself that creates more powerful punch.

What is really generating all the extra power is explained on page 95 of The Straight Lead: The Core of Bruce Lee's Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do:

When making tiny adjustments - a matter of inches - while maintaining the fighting measure, that's footwork. If you watch the footage of footage of Bruce demonstrating the straight lead at the International Karate Tournament in 1967... There's the push-off and a tremendous transfer of weight from the left leg to the lead right leg.

The Straight Lead

The 'scientific study' part comes from Hayward Nishioka himself. He is a retired professor of Kinesiology at Los Angeles City College.

His study of the punching power of Bruce Lee was the 'scientific study.'

As explained in a September 21, 2014 article of the Manila Times, a larger surface area will create a jarring effect.

Jason Thalken's book, Fight Like a Physicist: The Incredible Science Behind Martial Arts explains:

These measurements are important to use because a larger surface area reduces localized tissue damage. The energy of a strike can be spent on structural damage to the surrounding tissue, and the momentum of a strike determines how much you can move your opponent (or your opponent's head). Surface area has no effect on momentum, but it is incredibly important when it comes to dispersing energy.

Large surface areas disperse energy and reduce the frequency and severity of cuts, bruises, swelling, black eyes, and other localized tissue injuries. Momentum transfer is unaffected, which means a large surface area provides no protection from diffuse axonal injury too the brain.

Fight Like a Physicist

In other words, immediate tissue damage would be less, but potential internal injury is still there. The increased momentum driven by the footwork will "pack more of a punch."


Larger Surface Area of a Fist + More Energy Transfer from Leg Movement + Greater Diffuse of Energy = More Powerful Punch than Traditional

  • Calling Nishioka's study a "scientific" study is, perhaps, giving it too much credit. No peer review. No results published. No sample size given. No evidence of statistical significance. It was an article in a hobbyist magazine, not a scientific study. – Oddthinking Nov 13 '15 at 14:04
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    @Oddthinking I did include apostrophes around 'scientific study.' There isn't much science in his study in my personal opinion. – Ruut Nov 13 '15 at 14:33
  • Ah, I see what you mean. I think we are agreed. – Oddthinking Nov 13 '15 at 14:54
  • How does spreading energy over a more diffuse area lead to more power? – user29848 Nov 13 '15 at 15:03
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    I did read that. But I find no evidence that supports "Larger surface area of a fist will disperse more of that energy; making it a more powerful punch". That runs counter to my understanding of physics. The surface area doesn't affect the amount of energy transfered in a collision. – user29848 Nov 13 '15 at 15:34

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