Anatomy – Skeletal System

You will continue your studies of human anatomy. In this belt you will study the human skeletal system, including the various bones, skeletal sections, skeletal system functions, and types of bones.

Understand Anatomy

In your belt curriculum for each belt beyond Yellow Belt you have been introduced to various aspects of human anatomy. This will continue for many belts to come. It is critical that students appreciate human anatomy for a variety of reasons.

The first is of course to understand where an opponent might be susceptible to a strike or manipulation. If you understand where bones are located, where overlaying muscles are thick or thin, where nerves are located, how joints and associated ligaments are structured, and where key organs or located then you will have a better understanding of what pain or injuries might be inflicted upon an opponent at any instant in time.

Conversely, knowing anatomy will help you understand where you yourself might be vulnerable to a strike or manipulation during a chaotic conflict. Knowing what critical areas may need protection may help you decide where to place your hands or what portions of the opponent’s anatomy you will want to check. Developing a deep understanding of anatomical structures will allow you to instinctively know what anatomical features you need to protect and the most reasonable way those features can be protected at any instant in time.

A third reason why we focus so much on anatomy is so that you have some idea of what areas of your body may be affected by a fall, blow, or other impactful event. By having some detailed information about anatomy you may well be able to identify when an apparently innocuous injury could benefit from a professional medical evaluation. You may also be able to notice when a portion of the body is no longer functioning properly, again allowing you to seek professional medical counsel.

The final, and perhaps most important purpose for studying human anatomy is so that you learn and appreciate how to take care of yourself even into old age. Appreciating how the body works will enable you to adopt positive habits while avoiding activities that may have long-term negative effects on your health. This will enable you to consider beneficial exercises, dietary practices, and lifestyle patterns that promote a long and healthy life. Toward this end we hope you will study as much as possible about your anatomy and how best to prolong its health and vitality.

Anatomical References

Before we begin studying the skeletal system we will need to discuss a few general terms that will make it easier to envision and understand discussions about the human body. These terms refer to the relative positions of any two parts of the body. One part of the body may be in front of or above another part of the body. As the body moves, bends, and twists the terms “above” and “in front of” may no longer apply. So the scientific and medical communities use a different set of terms to describe the relative positions of any two components of the body.

We have provided a separate article describing some common anatomical terms. You may find it beneficial to refer to this page as you study not only the skeletal system, but other bodily systems as well. These terms are found on the page titled Anatomical Terminology.


Discussions of anatomy, anatomical features, and anatomical processes are intended for informational use only and are neither intended nor should they be used for medical diagnosis or as medical advice. Always consult with a physician regarding any medical or physiological decisions, questions, choices, or options. Never rely on the following anatomical discussions for any medical or physiological advice.

We strive to be accurate in our presentation of anatomical information but there may well be some errors in the material we have provided. We also are unable, within the scope of this manual, to provide everything related to the anatomical topics we cover. You are encouraged to review other sources of information on anatomical studies to broaden your understanding, verify or reinforce our information, and explore anatomical studies in more detail. There are countless books, web pages, and videos on anatomical matters that can provide you with further information and detailed analysis of anatomical topics.

The Skeletal System

The skeletal system provides a variety of functions that make it possible for a human body to grow, stand, move, ward off disease, and provide various forms of nourishment. The skeletal system is often a direct or indirect target of martial arts strikes and manipulations and therefore warrants detailed analysis and study. This belt requires students to become quite familiar with the human skeletal system.

When you were born you had roughly three hundred individual bones. As an adult the human body has two hundred six bones. As we age, even throughout our teenage years, many of our bones fuse together so that multiple bones become a single bone. This is particularly apparent in the cranium, where the infant head contains some 45 bones. In an adult there are a total of 22 bones in the head which have fused together to form a single bony cranium plus a mandible. Note: different reference sources will list different counts for the bones in the human head. This is because they count using different strategies. Some count bones in the ears, while others do not. Some count bones that are present on both sides of the head only once. So it can be difficult to come up with an accepted and repeatable count for the number of bones in the head.

We will not only study the individual bones, but the various functions that the skeletal system provides. We will not only study the bones, but the attachments of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage that connect individual bones to one another and to the skeletal muscles. This is a very complex and diverse system providing a great many benefits to the human anatomy.

We will not ask you to name all 206 bones in the human body. Neither will you need to know the names of individual ligaments, tendons, or cartilages. You should, however, understand the basic functions of ligaments, cartilages, and tendons. You should also come to know the names of the major arm and leg bones, the basic structure of the spine, rib cage, hips, and skull.

The Human Skeletal System

The Axial Skeleton is comprised of all of the bones of the body that are not part of the Appendicular Skeleton. Many of these bones protect vital organs. Many other ...
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The term Appendicular Skeleton refers to the set of bones associated with the limbs of the body. This is primarily the legs and arms and the support structures associated with ...
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As we have seen your body is continually producing, replacing, and remodeling your bones. It is important to keep your bones in good condition both now and as you age ...
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A joint occurs whenever two bones articulate or make contact with one another in some manner. The nature of these connections can vary significantly which leads to classification of joints ...
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Bones are obviously the core structure of the skeletal system. There are many different shapes, types and classifications of bone that warrant some discussion. These various bone types can serve ...
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The human skeleton consists of all of the bones within the human body. Some of these bones are quite specialized. Many bones provide anatomical support while others provide more generalized ...
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The Hand The human hand is a unique and incredibly dexterous tool make possible largely by the location and utilization of the skeletal features of the hand and forearm. Above ...
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Ranking Examination Knowledge

Much of the information provided about the skeletal system is rather detailed. It is not necessary that you recall every minor detail about this system. Much of the information is provided for completeness and to embellish the knowledge of those who wish to consider exploring the skeletal system in more detail.

If you are under the age of 13 you should be able to talk about the various skeletal systems, identify the major sections of the skeletal system (spine, skull, rib cage, etc.), and recall the name of the bones in the legs and arm. You should also have a general understanding of the major functions of the skeletal system.

Those who are 13 years of age or older should also be able to describe the general structure of bones, the types and purposes of bone marrow, blood production, and joint types. You will also want to be able to identify groups of bones such as the ossicles, carpals, metatarsals, phalanges, etc. (though you do not need to recall the name of each bone in these groups).

In a ranking examination you will be asked to, “Tell me what you know about the skeletal system.” If more than one person is involved in the examination then each person may be asked to describe some different portion of this system, such as, “Describe the axial skeletal system,” or “Tell me about blood production.”

You are then free to discuss what you know about the topic in a free form disclosure. If you are thought to have a sound understanding of the topic then no additional questions will be asked of you. If you seem to have overlooked some vital information or failed to discuss a relevant topic then some prompting questions will be asked to elicit additional disclosure of those topics. We want to ensure you have a sound general understanding of this (and all other anatomical systems) but do not require that you recall any specific bit of information or memorize every piece of scientific detail. You will want to ensure you understand this system well and can explain it in some depth, but we will not question you about things such as the percentage of blood volume occupied by platelets.

While we are not strict about what specific knowledge you retain about the system, failure to recall any relevant or significant volume of knowledge about a topic will likely result in ranking examination failure. Simply put, convince us that you know what you are talking about.

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