Fight Masters

Genres: Science/Technology, Documentary, Documentary Series



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About the Show

Fight Masters (also known as Fight Science) is an American documentary series that brings together a team of experts and a cross section of champion martial arts masters to analyze the world's greatest fighting techniques.

The series originally premiered in the USA on the National Geographic Channel on 20 March, 2006. There are three hour-long episodes in the series.

Fight Masters originally aired in South Africa on SABC2 from 20 March to 3 April 2007, on Tuesdays at 21h30. It was broadcast on SABC2 as Fight Science.

The series premiered on DStv's National Geographic Channel (NGC) on Monday 12 May 2008, at 22h00, under the title Fight Masters.

Episode Synopses

NGC Repeats

Tuesdays: 01h00, 04h00


It strikes four times faster than a snake, it kicks with more than 1,000 pounds (453.59 kg) of force and it can rival the impact of a 35 mph (56.33 kph) car crash. It's the most complex weapon ever designed - the human body.

Fight Masters is a documentary series that brings together a team of experts and a cross section of champion martial arts masters to analyze the world's greatest fighting techniques and find out which discipline has the hardest hits, the fastest moves and the deadliest weapons.

Members of the crash-test industry, the sports biomechanics industry and the Hollywood animation industry come together to apply their combined expertise and technology to a diverse range of martial arts techniques, including karate, kung fu, jiu jitsu, tae kwon do, muay Thai, and wushu, among others.

Using breakthrough combinations of technology they're able to peer inside a fighter's body in real time to discover the comparative strength and limitations of the various martial arts styles.

Fast Facts

1. Fight Science brings together ballistics, biomechanics, and crash-test technology for the first time ever.

2. Engineers measure and map the speed, force, and range of nerves, muscles, bones, and weapons.

3. Data is collected at 20,000 samples per second.

4. The motion-capture technique requires reflective markers over the fighters' bodies, allowing for sophisticated animation of bones, muscles, and nerves.

5. Filming took place in a custom-built dojo - equipped with 32 infrared motion-capture cameras, three high-definition cameras, and three high-speed cameras.

6. The technology allows scientists to peer inside a fighter's body as he moves in real time.

7. Special sensors - used in NASA spacesuits, sports science, and the crash-test industry - take data from inside the fighters' shoes to see how some are able to maintain catlike balance no matter what the obstacle.

8. Measurements indicate that a kung fu punch travels 40 feet (12.19 meters) per second, four times faster than a cobra strike.

9. Data indicates tae kwon do fighters react in only 0.18 seconds-nearly twice as fast as the blink of a human eye.

10. The human body has 206 bones, more than 600 muscles, and miles of nerves.

11. The foot and ankle contain 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 1,000 muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

12. Motion-capture shows that the punch starts not in the fists, but in the feet.

Fighting Styles

Boxing is one of the oldest forms of competition, and was depicted in ancient Egyptian sculptures as early as 1350 B.C. Although the first modern match documented was in Great Britain in 1681, it was not until 1743 that a set of rules was published by Jack Broughton, a man who had allegedly killed an opponent during a fight.

As boxing's popularity continued to grow in the United States, it was revived for modern-day Olympic Games in St. Louis in 1904 and became a permanent part of the Olympics in 1920. Today, the World Boxing Council, the International Boxing Federation and the World Boxing Association recognise titlists as worldwide champions.

Jiu Jitsu
Jiu jitsu means "gentle art." The style evolved among the warrior class in Japan around the 17th century and was designed to complement swordsmanship. Jiu jitsu is a fighting system that employs a range of techniques, including strikes, kicks, and throws, as well as grappling techniques like joint locks and choking.

In Fight Science, a fighter applies 600 pounds. (272.16 kilograms) of force on the critical juncture between the skull and spinal cord on a dummy opponent - enough to kill or paralyze a man.

Filipino kali is the art of stick fighting, a martial art specializing in two baton-length bamboo sticks used to defend or attack. While a student in most styles of martial arts is expected to master hand-to-hand combat before moving to any form of weapons, Filipino kali teaches weapons-fighting first.

The art of karate is more than 1,000 years old and originated in eastern Asia, first as monastic training and later as a defense method used by Chinese peasants against armed bandits. It was introduced into the United States in 1945 after World War II.

Translating to "empty hand" in Japanese, karate is a weaponless technique, utilizing punching and kicking to overcome the opponent.

On Fight Science a karate straight punch was measured at 816 pounds (370.13 kilograms) of force and a side kick was measured at 1,000 pounds (453.59 kilograms).

Kung Fu
Chinese kung fu is considered the grandfather of all martial arts. It was created around A.D. 500, when the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma taught secret fighting techniques to the monks of the Shaolin Temple. Kung fu, fostering a better understanding of violence, ultimately teaches how to avoid conflict.

Muay Thai
Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, is a fighting martial art and competitive ring sport known for its devastating knee, elbow, and shin strikes. Unlike Western boxing, all strikes are allowed in the ring. The art of muay Thai has been practiced in Thailand for hundreds of years.

Traditional muay Thai fighters kick and punch banana trees thousands of times a day to harden their bodies and increase their resistance to pain. On "Fight Science," a muay Thai knee strike generates the impact of a 35 mph (56.33 kph) car crash.

The Japanese martial art ninjitsu began more than 800 years ago and developed as a counterculture to the ruling samurai. Peasants were not allowed to strike a samurai - to do so would mean death.

Ninjas were an underground class trained in the arts of war, including unarmed combat, swordplay, weaponry, camouflage, escape, and evasion. The word ninja, translated as "stealers-in," connotes their expertise in stealth operations such as espionage and assassination.

Their training also embraced the spiritual, in pushing their bodies and minds to the limit. Not bound by the moral codes of the samurai, they developed poisons, tripwires, and even explosives to strike fear into their opponents. "Fight Science" determines that a ninjitsu hammer fist rivals the impact of a rubber bullet fired from a shotgun.

Tae Kwon Do
Tae kwon do, translated as the "art of kicking and punching," is a Korean martial art that emphasizes spectacular kicking techniques. It is now an Olympic event.

Tae kwon do is influenced by Karate (from 1910 till the end of World War II, Japan occupied Korea). Although there are technical differences among tae kwon do organizations, the art generally emphasizes high standing and jump kicks, using the leg's greater reach and power to disable the opponent from a distance. Training also includes a system of hand strikes and blocks.

On Fight Masters a spinning back kick generated more than 1,500 pounds (680.39 kilograms) of force.


Dao (Chinese Broadsword)
The dao has a curved blade that is dull on one side and razor-sharp on the other. It was designed for cutting through armor and slicing across the body.

Jin (Chinese Straight Sword)
The jin, lightweight and flexible, was designed for stabbing vital organs.

Kyudo Archery
Modern kyudo is practiced primarily as a method of physical, moral, and spiritual development. Through intense concentration, archers can slow their respiration and reduce tiny tremors in their hands. They can even slow their pulse so much that they can fire between heartbeats.

The weapon of choice for Bruce Lee - the nunchuk - originated in the 13th or 14th century as a concealed weapon. The nunchuk originated as a horse bit, but it developed into a formidable three-section staff, used for blocking, striking high or low, and grabbing/retaining. One blow can shatter a kneecap, crack a skull, or break an arm.

The legendary unbreakable sword of the samurai, the katana, created from folded steel, is designed for one purpose—to kill in one stroke. It is capable of cutting a body in two.

Shuriken (Throwing Star)
Small, and a quick draw, the star-shaped metal shuriken, with its pointed blades, is an "invisible attacker." Its flight dynamics are like those of no other weapon. The shuriken behaves less like an arrow and more like a Frisbee. It pierces the air like it pierces flesh. Like a gyroscope, its spin creates stability.


Narrator - Himself


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