Fight Science has a YouTube clip of Bas Rutten (MMA Champion) striking an anatomically correct torso, equipped with synthetic organs (except for a spleen).

The spleen came from a pig and was placed in the correct position within the torso. Bas proceeds to strike the torso with his unique hook/uppercut punch, torqued in a way that delivered 1300 pounds of force. The spleen ruptured. A ruptured spleen, untreated, will lead to death. If the spleen has to be surgically removed, then the liver assumes the spleen’s responsibility for fighting germs and coordinating the immune system. The spleen, positioned in the superior abdomen, purifies the blood and stores blood cells.

The liver is another organ at risk in martial arts. The liver, which is the largest gland, is located on the right side of the torso. It detoxifies the blood, aids in digestion by creating bile used to break down fats, stores iron and glucose, converts glycogen to sugar, breaks down hormones, converts ammonia to urea and destroys red blood cells.

The aforementioned organs, based on their position in the human torso, are vulnerable. Noting earlier how the spleen can be ruptured, the liver can be torn if a punch or kick dislodges the cartilage known as the xiphoid, which is the lower portion of the sternum (breastbone) that projects down. This piece of cartilage, if dislodged, can go right into the liver from the force of a punch or kick.

The ribs, to some degree, protect these organs. The arch right under the ribs are where these two vital organs are located, the liver on the right and the spleen on the left. Providing that the martial artist is not a stationary target, the ribs usually receive the force of the blow, impacting the intercostal muscles with minuscule tears and/or the ribs with a fracture.  It is only when the opponents stand toe-to-toe that the organs become vulnerable.

Now that we know just a few of the risks that kick boxers face, let’s uncover what training can do to protect against the blunt force of an opponent’s strike.  As a black belt in kickboxing and trainer of amateur kick boxers, I always emphasize you have to condition the body to allow it to learn to take a blow. To this end, sparring was a critical element in training. But before sparring comes the conditioning.

My favorite abdominal conditioning before the floor exercises was having the medicine ball thrown at the abdomen. Using the Roman Chair to perform sit-ups while your partner slaps your abdomen at the point of flexion and extension is also a very good exercise. This shocks the system and provides the neuro-muscular signals, telling your brain to acclimate to the blows.

Check back next week when Dr. Brancato gives us some more specific training tips!


David Brancato

Dr. Brancato’s cumulative experience in nutrition, alternative medicine, chemistry, toxicology, physiology directed him to holistic approaches in human physiology to correct system imbalances. He maintains his professional certifications as a Naturopath from the American Naturopathic Medical Certification and Accreditation Board; the National Federation of Professional Trainers; Black belts in Kick Boxing and Kenpo.