Martial arts is math. Math in its simplest form is addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Martial arts in its simplest form are basics and combinations of basics; basics are single moves and when these moves are combined, they equal techniques. Simple operations of addition or subtraction in math, give you results. Multiplications double, triple, quadruple results. In martial arts it is possible, too, to multiply results, create more power, combine multiple moves in one move. The artist can divide moves, one move in one direction, another move in a different direction. You can split moves into fractions and make them whole. But it all combines to make a complete result.

Here, we examine martial arts arithmetic.

In this first technique, in Kenpo called “Thrusting Salute”, we see basic addition in that the technique has single moves: A block, a kick, and a strike. We also have subtraction, in that the block subtracts the attacker’s kick. In addition, we have multiplication, because the last strike is delivered to the attacker’s face as his face comes forward due to the kick to his groin: This effect, in Kenpo, is called “borrowed force”. It is the equivalent of a head-on collision, when two objects collide, doubling the impact and damage.

Beginning of Kenpo technique “Thrusting Salute”

As attacker kicks, defender blocks.

Defender kicks attacker in the groin.

As attacker’s head comes forward from the groin kick, defender delivers a heel palm strike, doubling the impact.

In this example we have a very basic form of martial arts arithmetic: A block and a strike. 1 +1=2.

Outward block and heel-palm strike

Here we what is in Kenpo called a Freestyle Sparring Technique. It is basic, yet instructive and effective. It involves grabbing the opponent’s arm, pulling on it at an angle that cancels his weapons, and then delivering a punch to his face; a simple three-beat move that accomplishes multiple things: Checks the opponent’s height, width and depth zones so that he cannot attack, and strikes him to take the fight out of him to sooner end the confrontation.

Man on right grabs opponent’s wrist


Man on right delivers a punch to the face.


In this next set of photos we see an example of dividing and combining one move into three: The block, strike and move into the opponent happen in one move, the two arms move in opposing directions and the foot steps into the opponent’s center-line.

Beginning of Kenpo technique “Calming the Storm”, against a round-house club attack.

As the attacker swings the club, the defender steps in and blocks and strikes at the same time.


Defender bumps attacker’s shoulder to open his center-line. The bump could be a “fraction” move on the way to the next move.


Defender delivers a punch to his opponent’s solar plexus, sternum or abdomen.

Being wound up so using counter-rotation, defender delivers a back-knuckle strike to opponent’s face.

In these proceeding images, we have some basic combinations. So, this demonstrates how single moves can be added together. A basic boxing combination would be: 1 + 1+1=3. A jab, upper-cut, hook combination, for instance.

Lead-hand jab

Upper-cut. Notice the body mechanics, the body turning into the punch, so combining different elements into one techniques.


Finally, the hook punch. Also combining the element of “checking” as he grabs the opponent’s right arm.

Next we will examine the principle of “baiting”. The point of baiting is to present a target, to bait, and then remove the target and then counter-attack. Therefore, I am considering the removal of the bait as a subtraction; both in terms of “erasing” the target and in removing the opponent’s hand from a defensive position.

Man on left presents his opponent with a target, his hand, to bait or draw him to strike it.

When the hand is attacked, man on left withdraws the target and man on the right is left exposed while man on the left is prepared for a follow-up.

Man on left strikes man on right’s hand.

Man on left follows up with another strike, to the head.

Next we will consider the use of feints. We will look at them as fractions and subtractions, because they are inserted as partial moves before the whole move, they are set-ups and not really full moves; in addition, they are meant to subtract, again, from the opponent, take away his defense.

Man on left feints high.

Man on right re-directs punch low and scores with what is called a “progressive indirect” attack in Jeet Kune Do.

Here we have another example of feinting.

Man on left feints a kick to draw his opponent’s hands low.

He then lands and scores with a lead-hand jab

Finally, we cover how a weapon multiplies the impact of strikes. A blunt object or blade increases the damage that a technique does. Here is an example from DeCuerdas Eskrima in a Punyo Style technique (a punyo is the butt-end of a stick) in which the butt-end of the stick is used to multiply the force of the offense defense and also subtracts the opponents attacking hand and limb.

Defender parries attack.

He then strikes the attacker’s hand with the long end of his weapon.

He uses the butt-end of the weapon, or punyo, to strike his opponent’s knuckles and fingers.

He then strikes the nerve on the forearm.

He does damage to the bicep muscle.

He strikes the nerve above the elbow or tricep muscle.

From there, more follow-up strikes can be delivered.

This concludes our examination of martial arts arithmetic. It is one of the most basic elements of martial arts mathematics, but is necessary to put it all together and includes many complex operations.