Monday, February 22, 2016

The Concrete-and-Jello Tango



Scientia potens est, quoth the sage: "Knowledge is power."
It’s a good thing for me that it is.
If size were power, or strength were power, I’d be long since sunk.
I wasn’t big.
And I wasn’t strong.
I was a fat, wheezy child.
But I wasn’t stupid.

“Martial arts” attracted me because it wasn’t all about brute force. 
Rather it was about the judicious application of science: leverage, geometry, physics. The universal mathematical rules that glue the whole world together were evident in every strike, every lock, every throw.
This is the science that every fighter knows, whether he knows he knows it or not. But knowing that you know it makes it easier to apply what you’ve learned in the salle, and in the dojo to events outside of those confines.

For every action, there is an equal an opposite re-action.
If A strikes B at X mph, the force acting against A will be the same as the force acting against B. It really doesn’t matter if A hits B or B hits A – the forces created will be the same and will go in both directions.

While the forces created are the same, the resistance to that force, i.e., the ability to withstand that force, depends on the nature (hardness or softness) of the body acted upon, relative to the body acting upon it.

I learned about this principle the hard way – by punching someone in the head with my fist.

Imagine a tub of solidified jello.
Imagine a 35 lb block of concrete.
You drop the concrete block onto the jello from a height of 10 feet.
What happens to the jello?
What happens to the concrete?

Now take a tub of solidified concrete.
Drop a 35 pound ball of solidified jello onto the concrete from a height of 10 feet.
What happens to the jello?
What happens to the concrete?

Throw a bottle at a concrete wall, and the bottle shatters, not the wall, because glass is less able to withstand the equal and opposite forces created than the wall is.  (We could call that the Molotov Cocktail Principle.)  But throw a same-size chunk of concrete at a window, and the window shatters, not the chunk of concrete, because glass is less able to withstand those forces than the chunk of concrete is. Throw the same bottle against a featherbed and the result is quite different.

When a cartoon character, like Wile E. Coyote runs through a brick wall leaving behind a perfect cookie-cutter shape of himself, that’s funny only because we know it’s impossible.  We know the wall is actually better able to withstand the equal and opposite forces created than the cartoon character’s body would be. 



When bullets bounce off Superman’s chest, we are impressed because we know it’s impossible. Flesh is less able to resist the equal and opposite forces created than bullets are.

The practical application is simple:  Always direct a relatively harder weapon at a relatively softer target. Never use a softer weapon against a harder target.  You don’t strike your opponent’s forehead with your nose; you strike the opponent’s nose with your forehead. 

You can strike your opponent’s throat with that web between your thumb and forefinger to great effect because his throat is less able to withstand the equal and opposite forces created than your “fishbelly” is. By the same token, you don’t use that strike against your opponent’s shin because his shinbone is better able to withstand the equal and opposite forces created than your hand is.

You can effectively apply a kick to your opponent’s groin, because your foot is better able to withstand the equal and opposite forces created than your opponent’s testicles are.  And you don’t try to block his kick with your scrotum.

Some guy in a bar comes at you with the jagged end of a broken beer bottle, that’s cause for concern. If he’s coming at you with the jagged end of a broken milk carton, not so much.

See how easy this is, once you get the hang of it?
I’ll bet you can come up with a dozen examples of your own without even breaking a sweat.

I love science.
It’s how I know that you don’t block your opponent’s elbow strike with your nose.
 It’s also how I know that aluminum airplanes do NOT fly through buildings made of concrete and steel.

Unless maybe the pilot was Wile E. Coyote.


--aac


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