Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Surface Area Measurements for 26 Different Hand Strikes

Sometimes, scientists use mathematics to investigate and uncover beautiful truths about the nature of the universe.  Sometimes they just take craploads of data over and over again.  This is one of those times.


Instructions:  Paint, Punch, Repeat.
First, the punching hand was covered in a thin coat of red acrylic paint.  The paint was applied with a sponge to ensure consistency of paint application.  Then, ten punches per category (at full force) were thrown at a paper towel attached to a body opponent bag (BOB).  The resulting imprint was then photographed, and analyzed using GIMP photo editing software.  The surface area was calculated by counting the number of red pixels in the imprint area.

Test Subject:

My right hand, front and back, shown with a six inch ruler.
Each strike was thrown with my own right hand.  To the best of my knowledge, my hand is a relatively typical hand for a martial artist.  For the purposeless of this investigation, my skill level should be considered intermediate, which means I am experienced enough to throw consistent strikes with "proper" technique (as I learned them, but everyone's "proper" is a little bit different), but my execution can still be be easily matched by other martial artists with a desire to replicate these results.


For now, I am not going to provide much analysis.  Instead, I will provide the data with some commentary, and leave the analysis for a later date when I can provide more color with other metrics concurrently.

If you would like to examine the raw data (in the form of photos of the imprints), please contact me and I will be happy to share, although, if you have interest in this topic, I recommend you also replicate the results on your own and share your findings.


A lot of the strikes were within a standard deviation of each other, so not all differences we see may be meaningful, but for many strikes, the shape of the surface was more enlightening than the total area.  Despite the small sample size, these results do allow for us to make some order-of-magnitude generalizations we could not make before:

  • Boxing Gloves cover about twice the surface area MMA gloves do
  • Boxing Gloves cover about three times the surface area bare knuckles do
  • Punching a compressible target (like a person) results in four times the surface area compared to a rigid target (like wood or concrete).
The process itself was very low-tech, so I highly recommend trying a few of these at home with your own hands and your own version of the technique.  Please feel free to share your results if you do.