Martial Arts and Physics (TKD to Fencing)

In summary, the speaker has trained in melee martial arts for 15 years and is now learning fencing, facing difficulties with the use of a blade and adjusting to the different physics involved. They have noticed differences in weight distribution, stance, and movement between fencing and other martial arts. They also mention the importance of angles and lines in fencing, as well as the role of cardio and strength in training for the sport. They have questions about the best weight distribution and stance for fencing, the optimal angle for striking with the blade, and whether training one leg over the other would be beneficial. They also question whether strength equals speed in fencing and where the true center of balance is on the body when holding a blade.
  • #1


Hey peeps! I have a very interesting problem which I need to figure out. I've trained in melee martial arts for almost 15 years. I have a very good concept of how physics works in martial arts. I am a strategist and implement various other sciences in order to read opponents and such; anatomy, psychology... the kicker is that I just started learning fencing, and the physics of using a blade as opposed to one's body is something I'm not adjusting well to.


Tae Kwon Do or just about any martial art relies on the inertia of the body to place strikes. Multiple punches and using the swinging motion to hit harder are very much key in getting force down. Pullback hands are important because the force of the arm going back cause more force to the punch going forward. This is particularly true with boxing. In fencing, there IS a pullback hand, but it's more for movement instead of strikes. In epee you keep the other arm up so that when you lunge, you throw the arm straight out at the lunge and pull the arm back to help get you back into a defensive position more quickly... the problem is that in saber, they tell you to keep the hand at your hip to prevent getting scored on.

Pulling back and jabbing with the blade not only telegraphs your moves, but leaves an opening. You also only have one attacking arm to work with, therefore my previous experience with pendulum physics in combos is void when it comes to the blade. I am noticing inertia is more prevalent in a fencing stance because you're fighting on a strip instead of a square. While there can be 3D fighting to a degree, you only have about two feet to each side of you to shuffle around in. I watch the masters and the Olympians. Though there are times where they use the entire strip, most can just be fine standing in the middle of the strip 3/4ths of the time. In Tae Kwon Do, the wider your stance, the more balance you have... the problem in Epee is that the wider your stance, the more leg target you give to your opponent. I also notice that different fencers have different weight distribution between front and back leg. In Tae Kwon Do, the weight is on the back leg so one can kick. Of course, leg blocking CAN work in Saber because everything under the knees is not considered a point zone, but I'll get to that later. Switching stances is also not an option unless you are trying to bait someone, and even then, that's a risky bait because it would be hard to snap back into a standing position. I leave the entire side of my body open. Tae Kwon Do teaches you to kick with both legs, and I happen to be able to use both hands with equal skill, so switching to a southpaw stance in boxing used to really foul up my opponents.

- 1) Given the back and forward movement of fencing, what would be the best weight distribution on my stance since it's the only stance I'll be taking.

- 2) How wide should my stance be for maximum protection in epee while maintaining balance?

- 3) Should I fight on my toes for more speed or would I get more balance if I stayed a more flat foot?


I am finding that fencing is similar to pool in several aspects. It requires not just force exerted, but angles and lines due to the nature of the blade. I'm still trying to figure out how much force it takes to allow the blade to bend. I notice that it has a give of about an inch to normal pressure, giving the potential circle of the point an inch away if I slide in for an attack when our blades are locked. I know from martial arts and forearm blocking that you want to keep your arm at about 40-35 degrees for the maximum blocking range and least movement of your arm from the blow. I've been taking a protractor to a lot of the Olympic matches on You Tube and trying to see the optimum range of movement for the blade. I can think offensively, but putting the opponents lines into the equation is hard for me. An aggressive stance with the blade pointed straight out because distance is king in this art. It also takes very little energy to be effective with an epee. Saber is more comfortable because I can slash as well as jab. Also, I need to know what sort of game gravity plays in this.

- 1) Considering point rules (full body in Epee and upper body in Saber), what are the angle ranges I should focus on for best use of blade physics and line striking.

- 2) Is it harder to strike upward if your opponent is taller? If so, how can I position my weight to make upwards strikes easier?


Cardio is a given... but the question is; leg strength or arm strength? Movement comes from the wrist in fencing, and if you move the arm too much, you leave yourself open. If your arm gets tired, though, that also leaves you open. I'm leaning more on legs on this because that's where most of the dodging and physics go.

- 1) Would it actually be a benefit to train one leg over the other since you are in one stance, allowing to more easily jump backwards to dodge?

- 2) Does strength = speed? If so, how do I start to maximize my ability to weave the blade with speed since it is more of a skill at the wrist?

- 3) Where in the body, when you are holding the blade, is the true center of balance to the fencer? I can tell it's not the same because the blade is in play instead of my arms and legs.

- 4) The blade isn't a part of your body, so what parts of the body are actually in action when you work the blade?
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  • #2
One of the risks about asking physics types about improving your game is that you're likely to get some well-thought out answers from people with minimal (if any) experience in the field. As a graduate student I remember one of our professors "designing" a hockey stick to maximize slapshot velocity... it turned out looking a lot like a golf-club. One of the grad students who played hockey regularly asked how he expected to stick-handle with it.

In my experience these types of questions are best answered by coaches, who although may not frame their answers in terms of biomechanics, have through sheer experience optimized the problems in an intuitive manner.

That said, I'm curious to see the responses to your questions.
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  • #3
Here's the thing, though. My club is a "social club" primarily. They want me to enter the state games in a few months and it's hard to get the attention of the veterans because they are busy teaching the new people when I have martial arts experience. There is only two other guys in the club who are competitive, one is a 6'4" behemoth with insane reach, and the other guy who has only been fencing for less than a year. The big guy only shows up every now and then.
  • #4
I'm wondering why you are taking up Fencing. Are you not still practicing Taekwon Do?

BTW. Check this out from a proud father.
  • #5
I got mentally blocked at red belt. I'm a 6'0" behemoth with a kick that can push someone to the other side of the ring. Aggressive tactics were my bread and butter in sparring particularly when I mixed in Boxing. At red belt, though, you are in college. Everything you learned in high school is a moot point. People start fighting smart and with all the years in and out of the art, I could NOT learn how to fight smart in that style. My only hope was to try and find a style that forces me to think intelligently and not just rush in and start pounding on them in combos. Fencing requires you to fight smart. My goal is to beat the one guy in there that requires nothing but pure skill to beat... bigger, longer reach, and two years my senior in the style. He slaughters everyone. Once I beat him, I'll have it wired in me to be a thinking fighter.
  • #6
I don't think I will ever understand the desire to fight, but hey, if you like it and you don't hurt anyone, go for it.
  • #7
I find my opponent my teacher. It's a learning experience that makes both of us more confident and better people as well as keeps us in shape. I tried to do MMA for a little while, but... yeah, I started to feel guilty about truly injuring other people after I couldn't get a grip on grappling (if you make them submit, then there is actually less likelihood of injury than if you're a striker). I took enough boxing to learn how to punch and not how to knock out since TKD doesn't allow punches to the head. More the physics of using your whole body when you punch. I believe getting hurt on a small level makes you stronger, but when it crosses the line into injury, then that's when you need to pull back. It's a test of myself as a person. I tend to be a very aggressive personality. I've tried to suppress it and... that makes me very unstable. Sublimating it into something productive which can help other people reach their goals not only helps me but the people around me.
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  • #8
vilechylde said:
(if you make them submit, then there is actually less likelihood of injury than if you're a striker).

It seems this would only be true if the person taps out in time. Of course, repeated strikes to the head will cause brain injury and trauma (esp in the long run), but if someone is too proud to tap, then it seems quite easy to injure your opponent via submission. Especially e.g. heel hooks which can easily tear tendons and which don't hurt as much, thereby making it more likely that the person doesn't tap out before injury. It's possible to break bones striking of course, but it seems somewhat rare.
  • #9
Evo said:
I don't think I will ever understand the desire to fight, but hey, if you like it and you don't hurt anyone, go for it.
It's a guy thing, Evo. Or so they tell me. I'm a guy, but I'm a coward. I don't want to fight anyone. :smile:
  • #10
phinds said:
It's a guy thing, ...




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  • #11
Oh my gosh, the referee looks just soooo gorgeous ! :nb):w
  • #12
dlgoff said:
Yeah, I know. When I took TKD about 30 years ago the 2nd toughest fighter in the class (outside of the sensei) was a 120lb woman who could stomp on all the guys.
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  • #13
Evo said:
I don't think I will ever understand the desire to fight, but hey, if you like it and you don't hurt anyone, go for it.

Today's mma (mixed martial arts) is really like a chess match and you would be surprised how much respect most of the these guys show. Even for the most heated rivalries, they generally leave it all in the ring.

Even if you're not a's fun to watch.
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  • #14
vilechylde said:
I am finding that fencing is similar to pool in several aspects.

How nifty to find a fellow fencer at PF!

I find that fencing is similar to dancing while playing a musical instrument.

However, it would appear you are involved in sport fencing, whereas I have been studying classical fencing with the French foil for about 15 months. I'm taking weekly classes plus twice/week private lessons from the provost of the salle I attend. Thus I am able to offer only limited advice, since our two forms of the art and science of fencing are so different.
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What is the connection between martial arts and physics?

Martial arts and physics have a strong connection as both involve the understanding and manipulation of energy, force, and movement. In martial arts, practitioners use physics principles such as leverage, momentum, and center of gravity to generate power and execute techniques with efficiency and precision. Physics also plays a role in the design and construction of martial arts equipment, such as weapons and protective gear.

How does physics explain the effectiveness of martial arts techniques?

Physics explains the effectiveness of martial arts techniques through concepts such as force, acceleration, and energy transfer. For example, when a martial artist kicks, they generate force and acceleration by using their leg muscles and transferring that energy to their target. The application of physics principles in martial arts allows practitioners to maximize the effectiveness of their techniques and overcome opponents who may be physically stronger.

What are some examples of martial arts techniques that utilize physics principles?

Some examples of martial arts techniques that utilize physics principles include the pivot in a punch, where the rotation of the hips generates more force, and the conservation of angular momentum in a spinning kick, where the speed of the spin increases the power of the kick. The use of leverage in grappling techniques, such as joint locks and throws, also relies on physics principles to overcome an opponent's strength.

How does the study of physics benefit martial artists?

The study of physics can benefit martial artists by helping them understand the mechanics behind their techniques and how to maximize their effectiveness. By understanding principles such as balance, center of gravity, and energy transfer, martial artists can improve their technique, power, and efficiency. Additionally, knowledge of physics can aid in injury prevention and equipment selection, as well as provide a deeper understanding of the martial arts philosophy and its connection to the natural world.

Is there a connection between physics and fencing as well?

Yes, there is a strong connection between physics and fencing. Fencing, like martial arts, relies on the understanding and application of physics principles to execute techniques with speed, accuracy, and power. The design of fencing equipment, such as the weight and balance of the sword, also incorporates physics principles to improve performance. Furthermore, the study of physics can help fencers anticipate and counter their opponent's movements, giving them an advantage in competition.

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