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Animating Martial Arts

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  1. Posing for Martial Arts
  2. Sample Martial Arts Moves
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Sample Martial Arts Moves

Dozens of martial arts moves exist. This section covers a few, to show you how to analyze and animate these types of motions. Additional reference for these types of moves might be found in a martial arts instructional video or your favorite Bruce Lee movie.

The Punch

A punch shows how even the simplest motion requires use of the entire body. Notice how this punch actually starts with the foot and moves upward through the body. This is just one example—punches can come in all different forms, depending on the character and the situation.

  1. The basic punch starts from a fighting stance, as shown in Figure 1.

  2. Figure 1 Before the punch.

  3. The character anticipates the punch by moving the arm back, as in Figure 2. The weight is on the back foot as well. A good boxer will not anticipate for too long because this tells his opponent that the punch is coming. Alternatively, a drunk character might anticipate for a few seconds.

  4. Figure 2 Anticipating the punch.

  5. As the punch begins, the character takes a small step to place the weight on the forward foot (see Figure 3). This allows the character to place weight on this foot for the actual punch.

  6. Figure 3 The punch begins.

  7. The punch is thrown (see Figure 4). The forward leg straightens to rotate the hips, which, in turn, rotate the torso, shoulders, and arm. The arm extends to full length as it contacts the target.

  8. Figure 4 Finishing the punch.

  9. After the punch, the arm rotates back as the character settles into a stable stance (see Figure 5).

  10. Figure 5 Recovering from the punch.

The Kick

The kick is a good exercise for basic weight transfer and balance. It should be noted that a fighting kick is very different from a dance kick. Whereas a dance kick simply needs to look good, a fighting kick needs to place as much force as possible on the target.

  1. The kick starts from a stable, balanced pose, like the one shown in Figure 6. The character's body will turn 180 degrees during the move, so place the character accordingly.

  2. Figure 6 Before the kick.

  3. The character will kick with the right foot, so he takes a step with the left foot in Figure 7 to get some momentum.

  4. Figure 7 Taking a step to get momentum.

  5. As the right foot lifts off the ground, the shoulders twist to the left to maintain balance (see Figure 8).

  6. Figure 8 Starting the kick.

  7. The torso leans back as the hips rotate upward. As you can see in Figure 9, the right leg is bent at first, to give maximum power to the kick.

  8. Figure 9 The character leans into the kick.

  9. The right leg kicks forward. As Figure 10 shows, the hips are nearly vertical at this point, causing the torso to lean back toward a horizontal position. The right arm extends forward to counterbalance this weight. The left foot might also pivot as the body's momentum pulls it forward, rotating the body 180 degrees.

  10. Figure 10 Maximum extension.

  11. Weight shifts to the right leg as it touches the ground. The knee bends, as in Figure 11, to absorb the weight of the body.

  12. Figure 11 Regaining balance.

The Jump Kick

A more active version of the kick is the jump kick. This not only looks better in a film, but it also allows a fighter to kick higher up on the opponent's body.

  1. The jump kick starts from a stable pose, as in Figure 12. This kick will be with the right leg.

  2. Figure 12 Start with a stable pose.

  3. To get things moving, the character takes a quick step with the right leg (see Figure 13).

  4. Figure 13 Take a quick step to get moving.

  5. As the weight transfers to the right leg, the left leg swings around in a wide arc to give maximum momentum (see Figure 14). The spine and shoulders twist to compensate.

  6. Figure 14 The character begins the jump.

  7. As the left leg moves upward, it carries the entire body with it. You can see in Figure 15 that the hips and shoulders rotate toward the center, and the right leg bends at the hip and the knee to gain maximum energy for the kick.

  8. Figure 15 The body lifts first.

  9. The hips twist quickly as the right leg kicks out (see Figure 16). To maintain balance, the spine and shoulders twist in the opposite direction, and the arms move out from the body. The left leg simultaneously moves down in preparation for landing.

  10. Figure 16 The leg kicks out.

  11. The character lands on the left leg, with the arms out to maintain balance, as in Figure 17. The left knee bends to absorb the shock of landing.

  12. Figure 17 The character lands.

  13. The right leg then touches the ground as the knee bends to take the weight of the body. The left leg takes a step because the character's momentum still moves him forward (see Figure 18).

  14. Figure 18 The character regains a stable pose.

Getting Hit

In martial arts and fight sequences, when one character throws a punch or a kick, it usually is directed against another character. Knowing how to take a punch is as important as knowing how to throw one. When a sudden force, such as a punch, is directed at a character, the body will first react at the point of contact, with the rest of the body following a few frames later. This is because it takes time for the force of the blow to travel through the body.

  1. Before getting hit, the character is in a balanced pose, as in Figure 19.

  2. Figure 19 Start with a balanced pose.

  3. When the blow lands, the force twists the head to the left, throwing the body off balance (see Figure 20).

  4. Figure 20 The character gets his.

  5. The head continues left as the force travels down the body. The character pivots on his toe (see Figure 21).

  6. Figure 21 Momentum twists the character.

  7. The character takes a step and moves his arms out to maintain balance and recover, as in Figure 22.

  8. Figure 22 The character recovers his balance.

As you can see, the body motions involved in fighting are very complex. These examples are simply the basics of getting characters to do battle. Lots more moves exist, and you can find plenty of further reference to consult as well—books on martial arts, videos, and the occasional Jackie Chan movie. Finally, be sure that, no matter how complex the move is, your characters remain true to their personalities and remain in character.

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