The Sweet Science of Punch Sound Effects

Friday, January 10th, 2014

The sweet science of punch sound effects bears little connection to reality:

For the gritty “Out of the Furnace,” released in December, the film’s sound-effects designers wanted Casey Affleck’s brutal fist fights to have visceral, fist-on-flesh punch sounds. They recorded a martial artist pounding on human flesh but also had him punch blobs of pizza dough, a slab of beef with a wet towel on it, a watermelon, and—to simulate the sound of bones cracking—dry pasta shells.

In the boxing comedy “Grudge Match,” released on Christmas Day, punches between Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone contain recordings of real boxers hitting each other in a gym. But decisive blows in the big fight scene are punctuated with the bang of a kick drum. And slow-motion super-punches include audio of a howitzer cannon blast and a prison door slamming, recordings that the film’s supervising sound editor Terry Rodman made years earlier for other purposes.


Punch sounds are always added after filming, of course, because the actors aren’t really hitting each other. Early filmmakers felt that the genuine sound of a fist hitting a face was too dull to match its visual excitement. So sound professionals invented more thrilling, phony punch sounds to dub in—audio effects that came to be known in the trade as “the Hollywood punch” or the “John Wayne chin sock.” Hams were slapped, belts whipped. In an old Western, an outlaw getting slugged might be accompanied by a recording of billiard balls clacking. For kung fu movies, bamboo stalks were whacked on boards.

“The sound of a punch that we’re familiar with is not made with any punching. It’s a wet towel slapping on a wall, sometimes with a pencil breaking added in there,” says Leslie Shatz, who worked on “Out of the Furnace.”

Checked Leg Kick

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

After their last bout, Chris Weidman worked on checking Anderson Silva’s leg kicks — and his new skills worked a little too well in last night’s fight:

Wrestler-Turned-Politician Inoki Plans Trip to Pyongyang

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Japanese pro-wrestler-turned-politician Antonio Inoki is planning another trip to North Korea:

A nationally recognized professional wrestler known for his protruding jaw and for slapping people to “instill the fighting spirit,” Mr. Inoki is popular in North Korea for being the protege of the late Rikidozan. The legendary wrestler originally hailed from Korea and is considered the founder of professional wrestling in Japan. Coincidentally, Sunday was the 50th anniversary of Rikidozan’s death in 1963.

You may be wondering, so, how did Rikidozan die, anyway?

On December 8, 1963, while partying in a Tokyo nightclub, Rikid?zan was stabbed with a urine-soaked blade by a man named Katsuji Murata who belonged to the ninky? dantai Sumiyoshi-ikka. Reportedly, Rikid?zan threw Murata out of the club and continued to party, refusing to seek medical help.

Another report states that Rikid?zan did indeed see his physician shortly after the incident, and was told the wound was not serious. He died a week later of peritonitis on December 15. It is rumored by Kimura that his murder was in retaliation for when Rikidozan attacked Kimura during a wrestling match, after Kimura delivered an errant kick to Rikidozan’s groin, ignoring a pre-match arrangement and attacking Kimura for real.

One Mind, Any Weapon

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

I recently mentioned that the US Army has dropped bayonet training and watered down combatives training.

I don’t know how I missed this video from a few years ago, but it suggests that the Marines take close-quarters combat rather seriously:

It also makes the point that mixed-martial artists, despite their cross-training, have hyper-specialized on one-on-one, unarmed combat.

The Marines they’re dealing with aren’t run-of-the-mill Marines, of course. They’re likely black-belts in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. I don’t know how much training they have over and above the bare requirements, but a black-belt in that system only requires as many hours as a BJJ blue belt (the first belt after white).

By the way, that “Last of the Mohicans” exercise looks like fun.

Training for Compliance

Monday, October 7th, 2013

The US Army decided to drop bayonet training a few years ago. Bayonets are responsible for roughly 0.0% of combat casualties, and bayonet training wasn’t so much for building bayonet skill as for building fighting spirit — which they can build with unarmed combatives training.

Now combatives is getting watered down:

The Modern Army Combatives Program, headquartered at Fort Benning, Ga., consists of four skill-level courses — a weeklong basic course, a two-week tactical course, and a basic combatives instructor course and a tactical combatives instructor course, each of which is four weeks long.

Proposals from Training and Doctrine Command call for eliminating all four levels of training and creating a master combatives trainer course that would be no more than two weeks long.

The modern combatives program is based on Brazilian jiu-jitsu — which isn’t geared toward armed conflict amongst groups of fighters, but which does allow troops to train hard, while training realistically, without too many injuries. It is an excellent choice for MPs and the like.

Anyway, a grappler generally reaches competence — a blue-belt in BJJ — after 100–200 hours on the mat, or a little over a year of training two to three times a week. That’s a lot longer than two weeks, even if they’re 40-hour weeks — and I can say that I’ve never survived anywhere near 40 hours of grappling in one week.

Capt. Paul Lewandowski finds the dissolution of Combatives endemic of a larger problem — that training for compliance is favored over training for effect:

Everything from equal opportunity training to cold weather injury prevention is prescribed at the Army level, and every unit is required to maintain extensive name-by-name records. The core theory behind this compliance-oriented training is that there are only two kinds of soldiers in a unit: those who have received the training to the minimum standard, and those who have not.

In certain tasks, providing soldiers the minimum standard of training in accordance with clear, published, specifications is the best and most effective method. However, there is a disturbing trend in which more and more training is being treated as “regulation compliance.” Reporting the results of training on a spreadsheet or PowerPoint slide captures the effect of training only in the most narrow, linear sense. It treats the soldier who sleeps in the back of the classroom and the soldier practicing until his/her hands are callused as one and the same. Effective military training has an incredible transformative power that cannot be articulated within a slide deck — such as when a squad finally develops the camaraderie to be a high-functioning team, when a young soldier understands that his/her responsibilities aren’t a burden but a source of pride, or when a young lieutenant finds the courage to lead by example. Training has the power to do more than alter a slide — it can alter a soldier.

Combatives training is a sterling example of transformative training. The basic Combatives course is 40 hours of instruction almost always done as consecutive eight-hour days. The course curriculum is physically demanding, with virtually no conventional classroom time. It is extremely taxing on soldiers’ bodies and minds. To graduate Combative level I, students engage in roughly two hours active fighting against one another. Students also must execute a “clinch drill” in which the soldier closes with and takes down a trained instructor who, meanwhile, is actively striking the student in the head and body. The instructors wear boxing gloves but the only protective equipment for most soldiers is a mouthpiece. The vast majority of students report these two aspects of the course — the active combat against other students and being hit full force while achieving the clinch — as the two most harrowing, yet rewarding, aspects of the course.

This type of intensive training offers each individual soldier an unscripted version of combat. Virtually no other training pits individual soldiers against a reactive, intelligent, aggressive enemy.

It’s upsetting that no other training pits individual soldiers against a reactive, intelligent, aggressive enemy.

Vladimir the Fencing Robot

Friday, September 20th, 2013

I find Vladimir the fencing robot oddly compelling:

Left-Handedness in the Ultimate Fighting Championship

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Left-handedness isn’t good for you — it’s “associated with fitness-lowering traits” — but being a southpaw yields a certain advantage in many sports — and in fighting, which is why it has persisted so long, the evolutionary story goes.

So, researchers decided to look at left-handedness in the Ultimate Fighting Championship:

The finding that left-handers are overrepresented in many combat sports is interpreted as evidence for this hypothesis. However, few studies have examined sports that show good similarity with realistic fights and analysed winning chances in relation to handedness of both fighters. We examined both, in a sample of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a fierce fighting sport hardly constrained by rules. Left-handers were strongly overrepresented as compared to the general male population but no advantage for left-handers when facing right-handers was found, providing only partial evidence for the fighting hypothesis.

I would say that finding left-handers overrepresented is rather strong evidence that being left-handed is helpful, since anyone fighting competitively is in the top fraction of one percent of fighters.

Conversely, not winning more often suggests very little, once the pool of competitors has already been selected for fighting ability — and matched up by fighting ability.

Wrestling is getting a makeover

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

To boost its popularity and stay in the Olympics, wrestling is getting a makeover:

So say goodbye to singlets and hello to shirtless Greco-Roman wrestlers. The stage too could change – why be limited by a boring square mat? Taking the lead from the MMA world, wrestling is thinking big and bold when it comes to showmanship. Incorporating staged weigh-ins, walk-out music, lighting, visual effects and video screen replays are all being discussed.

If only wrestling had thought to introduce showmanship earlier…

Practical Jiu-Jitsu

Friday, April 26th, 2013

A Pakistani bus driver in Dubai went to rape an American woman at knifepoint.  She was a US navy sailor on leave, and she knew enough jiu-jitsu to triangle-choke him:

The woman, an off-duty US navy sailor, knocked the knife from his grasp, broke it in two, bit his hand, wrestled him to the ground and put him in a stranglehold between her thighs.

Having beaten him into submission, she left the bus and reported the incident to her commander.


Police arrested the driver the next day at his home.  “He was drunk at the time of arrest,” said the attending officer.

The driver, K?S, 21, from Pakistan, was charged with attempted rape, threatening to kill, assault and consuming alcohol illegally.

He confessed only to the alcohol charge and said he was too drunk on the night to remember what else happened.

She broke the knife in two?


Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

How did I just find out that Neal Stephenson is setting out to make a realistic sword-fighting game, called Clang?

What Martial Arts Does Batman Use?

Monday, February 25th, 2013

What martial arts does Batman use? From the beginning, he has used a mix of boxing, jiu-jitsu, and various other arts.

Batman Training Robin in Boxing and Jiu-Jitsu

Olympic Wrestling Dropped

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

I thought it was bad enough that the modern Olympics lacked pankration, but now wrestling has been dropped by the International Olympic Committee:

Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling will be contested at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but they will be excluded from the 2020 Summer Games, for which a host city has not yet been named, the I.O.C. said Tuesday.

The decision to drop wrestling was made by secret ballot by the Olympic committee’s 15-member executive board at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. The exact vote and reasons for the decision were not given in detail.


Sports like snowboarding have been added to the Winter Games to broaden the audience. Golf and rugby will be added to the 2016 Rio Games. Among the sports that wrestling must compete with for future inclusion are climbing, rollerblading and wakeboarding.

The I.O.C. may have also grown frustrated that Greco-Roman wrestling did not include women, experts said. Women began participating in freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Athens Games.

Politics also play an inevitable role in the workings of the I.O.C. Among the sports surviving Tuesday’s vote was modern pentathlon, also threatened and less popular internationally than wrestling. But modern pentathlon, a five-event sport that includes shooting, horseback riding and running, was invented by Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Games. And it is supported by Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., son of the former Olympic Committee president and a member of its board.

Wrestling was the final event of the ancient pentathlon, which comprised the long jump, javelin throw, discus throw, stadion (~200-meter) sprint, and wrestling.

Ahmed Dogan Assassination Attempt

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Ahmed Dogan, the ethnically Turkish leader of Bulgaria’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms, just survived an assassination attempt:

It would appear that the assassin’s (tiny) pistol malfunctioned. Then Dogan (inexpertly) deflected the gun away from his face. The assassin gave up without much of a fight — and then took a beating from just about everyone present.

On the one hand, he was already subdued. On the other hand, it’s human nature to kick an attempted murderer when he’s down. It just is.

(Hat tip to Michael Yon.)

Human Hands Evolved for Punching

Friday, December 28th, 2012

David Carrier considers humans substantially more violent than other great apes, which are already relatively aggressive amongst mammals.  His latest study, with Michael Morgan, suggests that human hands evolved for punching:

First, they analyzed what happened when men, aged from 22 to 50, hit a punching bag as hard as they could. The peak stress delivered to the bag — the force per area — was 1.7 to 3 times greater with a fist strike compared with a slap.

“Because you have higher pressure when hitting with a fist, you are more likely to cause injury to tissue, bones, teeth, eyes and the jaw,” Carrier said.

The second and third experiments determined that buttressing provided by the human fist increases the stiffness of the knuckle joint fourfold. It also doubles the ability of the fingers to transmit punching force, mainly due to the force transferred from the fingers to the thumb when the fist is clenched.

In terms of the size and shape of hand anatomy, the scientists point out that humans could have evolved manual dexterity with longer thumbs, but without the fingers and palms getting shorter.

Gorilla hands are closer in proportion to human hands than are other apes’ hands, but they and no other ape — aside from us — hits with a clenched fist.

The infamous boxer’s fracture might suggest that we’re not particularly well evolved for punching.

Jon “Bones” Jones’ Spinning Elbows

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Jack Slack analyzes Jon “Bones” Jones’ spinning elbows:

Jon Jones doesn’t throw the spinning elbow at random for the simple reason that it is difficult to land correctly and if the opponent is stepping in towards him it pretty much gifts the opponent Jones’ back. An excellent example of this came in the first round of Jones’ bout with Mauricio Rua as the latter was lumbering towards Jones. Jones threw the spinning elbow as Rua plodded forward but missed and gave the injured Brazilian back control. Fortunately Rua’s wrestling was not a huge threat to Jones, and instead the champion attempted to drop for a heel hook, giving Jones top position. Notice below how Jones’ elbow flies past Rua’s head and Jones’ shoulder is the only point that contacts Rua with a soft thud.

The actual striking surface on a spinning back elbow is actually remarkably small, unlike Jones’ elbows from guard in which if he misses with his elbow the rigid bone of his forearm still does ample damage, if Jones misses the spinning elbow he only connects with the triceps or shoulder. When this is the case very little damage is done for such a high risk manoeuvre. For all the talk of how Jones’ enormous reach allows him to take risks without fear of repercussions, Jon Jones’ spinning back elbow essentially gives his opponent’s their only chance to get in range when he fails to land it correctly and he still uses it in most of his fights.

The variation with which we are now all most familiar is Jones’ spinning elbow along the fence. This has proven to be the most reliable scenario from which Jones can place himself in position to spin as safely as possible and line up his target to connect with the point of his elbow. Below is the standard Jon Jones set up for his spinning back elbow.

Notice that Jones has Rua pressed against the fence with his head to the left and keeps control of Rua’s right elbow. Every time Jones clinches an opponent along the fence, he frees one arm so that he can spin while using his other hand to drive the opponents head back from underneath their chin. If an opponent holds an overhook or an underhook on either of Jones’ arms he is not free to spin — consequently this technique doesn’t mesh as well with Jones’ takedown game as it appears. If both of Jones’ hands are free and he is still pushing his opponent into the fence, a spinning elbow is pretty much assured.

You will also notice the unique position Jones has to assume before he spins — Jones brings his right leg across in front of himself. In every spinning or turning technique, finding ways to shorten the spin by bringing your pivot leg across yourself while distracting your opponent is vital to improving the likelihood of success. Jones’ use of the clinch — a position in which he is famed for his wrestling — to conceal the preliminary movements or his turning strikes is a wonderful strategic turn and shows that Jones is willing to give up the prospect of a takedown to inflict one shot damage.

There’s much more.