WAKO Kickboxing Scientist

July 19, 2021

Dr. Dominik Hoelbling, who is a former Austrian national team athlete with several national and international achievements in Pointfighting Kickboxing, recently graduated as PhD in sport sciences and engineering at the University of Vienna, Austria, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Victoria, Australia.

With this article, we not only want to congratulate him to this exceptional accomplishment but more importantly introduce his outstanding work. During his academic journey, he was able to publish 8 articles in top journals of his field and to present his work at 4 international conferences. Furthermore, 6 of those research papers are directly related to WAKO and its athletes. More specifically, Dr. Hoelbling analysed techniques of some of our best fighters around the globe by developing multiple novel mathematical models to analyse balance, power generation, range of motion and general performance. Thereupon, he utilized the knowledge to create a prototype of a sports device to increase the strength and flexibility of the hip joint. First tests of exercising with the device were very promising, as they showed outstanding improvements in all athletes’ static flexibility and dynamic kick performances.

Based on his successful work, Dr. Hoelbling to date was nominated for two national research prizes and got a job as researcher and IT-project manager at the research group INSO (Industrial Software) at the Vienna University of Technology and RISE (Research Industrial Systems Engineering), which he focusses on, besides being the CeO of his own sports related research and development company ISTec (Innovative Sports Technologies).

To the question “What’s next?”, he replied: “I think it is very important to improve our sport, otherwise we cannot keep pace with the mainstream disciplines, so I am currently planning a systematic, long-term research and development strategy. Personally, I see this as my chance to give something back, to the community, which gave so much to me during my career as athlete. And now, due to my new resources at the University of Technology and my extended network of professionals, I am able to work on complex solutions and advanced systems to improve our sport. Therefore, I am currently working on innovative solutions for different groups and applications, including a game for improving the decision accuracy and speed of our referees, an e-learning system for our coaches, a force- and speed-measuring boxing glove for our athletes, a new type of martial arts specific performance diagnostic for athlete evaluation, a video-based analysis tool to get extensive competition statistics and more. I hope I’m able to soon show some of these innovations to my WAKO family”.

We, the WAKO family, wish him all the best for his endeavours and hope to see more of his work soon.


Figure 2: The Flexibility Trainer ©Dr. Dominik Hoelbling

Here below you can find the links to his Kickboxing related research papers:

1) Kinematic analysis of the double side kick in pointfighting, kickboxing:

2) Sequential action, power generation and balance characteristics of a martial arts kick combination:

3) Exploration of martial arts kick initiation actions and telegraphs:

4) A kinematic model for assessment of hip joint range-of-motion in fast sport movements using spreading angles:

5) The Flexibility Trainer: Feasibility Analysis, Prototype- and Test Station Development for a Sports Device for Hip-joint Flexibility and Strength Enhancement:

6) Acute response on general and sport specific hip joint flexibility to training with novel sport device:

Here you can find the scientific abstract of his dissertation, which includes the last 5 articles as well as the related fundamentals and an extensive discussion:

Winning performance in Martial Arts requires a variety of physical, physiological and technique abilities. Targeted, isolated training of the relevant body structures often significantly increases sport performance. Therefore, sports equipment specifically developed for specific requirements can be very beneficial. However, it requires multi-disciplinary insights to facilitate state-of-the-art techniques, training methods and engineering know-how. The aim of the study is to establish sufficient knowledge of Martial Arts kicking actions by in-depth biomechanical analysis and to apply it to the development and testing of a user-centred sport device.

The cumulative dissertation comprises five papers. The first two include applications of two literature-based (sequential action and proximal-to-distal movement sequences) and two newly developed (balance and stability indicators and initiation action identification) models. Based on the outcomes, Paper 3 comprises additional novel models for performance indication, called leg and femur vector spreading angles (VSA), which allow to differentiate between skill levels of athletes with high accuracy and are strongly related to general hip joint flexibility. The final two papers focus on the development and testing of a sport device for targeted training of hip joint flexibility and strength, to ultimately improve kicking performance. The device, named “Flexibility Trainer” was designed, manufactured, and patented within the EU.

The studies showed significant correlations or group differences between sequential duration, the balance and stability models, and range-of-motion at various phases and nodes during the technique execution (particularly before and during the first kicking movement), as well as at static flexibility.

The device was examined using general and sport specific pre- and post-exercise tests, before and after a training protocol consisting of three exercises with three repetitions each. Results show significant improvements of static flexibility and sport-specific ROM. Therefore, the device is believed to allow for a new level of efficiency in training by simultaneously increasing general and sport specific flexibility by a higher rate than found in previous studies.

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