Brains not brawn behind black belt punching power
Researchers have discovered how karate athletes pack such a punch - and say it has more to do with their minds than their muscles.
Karate black belts generate massive power in their punches, but how they managed to generate the force has been a mystery. Previous research has shown that the power is not because of their strength.
Now brain scans have highlighted microscopic structural changes that may be helping them to synchronise shoulder and wrist movements to punch harder.
Researchers at Imperial College and University College London said that compared to complete novices, black belts nerve connections that relay signals between brain regions are better developed.
Images published in the journal Cerebral Cortex show - in white - the areas in the cerebellum and primary motor cortex that were enhanced.
"The karate black belts were able to repeatedly coordinate their punching action with a level of coordination that novices can't produce," Sky News quoted lead researcher Dr Ed Roberts as saying.
"We think that ability might be related to fine tuning of neural connections in the cerebellum, allowing them to synchronise their arm and trunk movements very accurately.
"We're only just beginning to understand the relationship between brain structure and behaviour, but our findings are consistent with earlier research showing that the cerebellum plays a critical role in our ability to produce complex, coordinated movements," Roberts added.
The study was recently published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.