Cartilage and the Martial Arts

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Cartilage and Martial Arts

Cartilage is very important in the body. It is a connective tissue that binds bones and tissues, allows for recoil of organs, and acts as a frame work for other cells. Cartilage damage is very serious and therefore important to prevent as well as know the tactical use of damaging cartilage during self-defense situations.

Nose

  • There are several pieces of cartilage that make up the nose, the most notable of which being the septal cartilage that forms the central sturdy part of the nose between the two nostrils. This is the major portion of cartilage that will break often causing bleeding to occur.
  • A typical/simple broken nose where the septum is snapped to one side or the other will take 1-2 weeks to heal.
  • If you are the recipient of a typical broken nose, don't be alarmed to bleeding and swelling (often causing a black eye). The typical swelling requires that the nose be set usually 3 days after the break.
  • Strikes
    1. Nose cartilage is likely to snap from a hook punch, non direct punch, headbutt, etc.
    2. Nose cartilage is likely to shatter or suffer severe damage from a direct punch (i.e. straight punch/rear hand punch), palm strike/palm heel, elbow strike, knee strike, etc.
  • Grabbing the nose from around the head can be useful in assisting with throws or turning an attacker off of you. Because of its fragility the person will follow the pressure applied to the nose.

Myth - Many instructors say that a direct upward blow to the nose can cause the cartilage to be pushed up into the brain and cause brain damage. This is anatomically impossible as there is a bone encasing the nasal cavity and separating it from the brain. That's not to say that enough force to the nose can't fracture bones or cause brain trauma but it has nothing to do with the cartilage of the nose.

Ear

  • The external portion of the ear covered in skin is made up of one piece cartilage called the auricle.
  • Anyone who has been an unruly child may know the pain of a mother grabbing and pulling them by the ear. This same concept can be translated to self defense as well.
  • Pulling on the ear (often assisted in pushing the chin in the same direction) can pry an attacker off of you, especially useful in rape defense by throwing someone that is mounted on top of you.
  • A strong enough pull can rip the ear from the side of the head and cause a lot of bleeding.

Chest

Costal cartilage

  • This is the cartilage that directly links the ribs in the front of the chest to the sternum. This allows for the chest to comfortably expand and recoil after moderate impact.
  • With the true ribs these are short segments of cartilage while at the false ribs they are longer segments that have to ascend and merge with others to be able to attach to the sternum.
  • This is sturdy cartilage but can be damaged under high impact like a knee strike.

Xiphoid process

  • This is the very tip of the sternum, a small hard piece of cartilage that is usually ossified in adults.
  • This can be a very painful break, this piece likely to cause damage to the diaphragm.
  • A palm heel strike/push aimed to this spot puts pressure on the solar plexus and because of the costal cartilage can compress the chest putting pressure on the lungs.

Vertebral discs

  • These are pieces of cartilage that are between every vertebral bone in the spine. They act as little shock absorbers for the spinal column. Listed are common disc problems and how they might affect martial artists.
Degenerative disc
This is where the discs start to shrink lessening their ability to absorb shock and the common cause to back pain in aging people. This is the cause for the elderly shrinking in height, but can be prolonged with a health and active lifestyle. For younger people improving posture can help decrease stress over the years. For example rather than doing floor crunches which are bad for your back you can do v-sit, plank, or another exercise with limited back impact.
Herniated disc
This is where a the outer portion of the disc become dry and cracks allowing some of the softer inner cartilage to spill out pushing against the nerves. Usually only in the elderly caused by trauma to the back, otherwise these discs are good at absorbing impact. Staying fit as an elderly person will help reduce this from happening as it can also be caused by elderly lifting with the back rather than the legs.

Joints

  • There is cartilage at all of the joints but of little importance of their own, so please refer to the Joints anatomy page for additional information.



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