Bruce Lee’s One-Inch Punch


It’s truly incredible that a man can throw a punch from a distance of only one inch that can throw you off your balance and send you to the hospital for treatment right away. But that’s why Bruce Lee is so famous. His one-inch punch had made headlines in the media for decades. One-inch punch is now highly regarded by martial arts students and masters around the world.

Now the question that comes to our mind is, how was he able to do it? Well, to understand how Bruce Lee performed the one-inch punch technique, we have to analyse his body movements and study how his muscles worked while he’s throwing the punch.

The one-inch punch is not as simple as it looks. The process involves his whole body, and not just his hand. His legs, arms, and even his brain are involved in the procedure. According to Jessica Rose, a Stanford University bio-mechanical researcher, the whole process actually starts with his legs.

She observed that before making the punch, Lee quickly straightened his legs with a sudden jerk. This made his hips/waist twist very fast, and the fast twisting motion of the hips made his shoulder move forward with a lot of power and speed. Through this whole process, the energy from his leg muscles and hips flowed into his shoulder, and that energy was then transferred to his clenched fist.

As soon as the fist touched the opponent’s body, Lee pulled his fist back immediately. This decreased the impact-time of the punch, which increased the effect. (Decreasing impact time increases force, and increasing impact time decreases force)

So the total force from the muscles of the legs, the waist, the shoulders and the fist is used in one small punch. And since all that force is applied on a small area, a lot of pressure is created on the punched object or body (pressure is inversely proportional to the area). Moreover, the impact time is kept low, which further increases the effect of the punch.

During the whole process, many body parts, including several bones and muscles, are involved. The punch cannot be made effectively without a proper co-operation between all these different bones and muscles. The muscle fibres cannot communicate with each other themselves. Neuroscientists say that the brain must be involved to make this complex coordination possible.

In 2012, Ed Roberts, a neuroscientist at Imperial College of London, made an experiment on martial arts practitioners to understand how their brain worked during performing martial art techniques. He found that the activity of the white matter in their brain affected how they performed each martial art trick. The white matter is a substance in a region of our brain known as the “supplementary motor cortex”. The different cells in our brain communicate with each other through the white matter. The white matter makes co-operation between the different muscles in our body possible.

The experiment showed that whenever the martial artists were performing a very complex and advanced technique like Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch, the white matter made more abundant and complex cell connections in the brain possible, and this helped the person performing the punch to make better co-ordination between the different muscles in his body.