Thursday, April 7, 2016

It Is All About Physics (物理学与武术)

Kung Fu is no magic and everything can be explained. For example I always like to take Newton’s second law of motion (F = ma) to explain the effects of various Kung Fu posture on the striking force. I am not fond of science, so I would just list down this formula only:

Striking force = mass x acceleration
Acceleration = speed x distance

It is clear from the above formulae that the power of a strike is the product of one’s mass and speed over a distance.

Having said that, let’s review some of popular Kung Fu types in this world:

Weng Chun (永春拳)

Weng Chun is a type of Kung Fu made popular by HK action movies. It uses high horse stance (高马) and rapid hand movements to defeat one’s opponents. So, how powerful is this Weng Chun strike in the eyes of physics?

In order to achieve rapid hand movements, the force of the person should originate from his/her wrists and shoulders. If we were to fit all variables: the weight of one’s arm, the distance that a hand needs to travel to strike etc. We can roughly guess:

Weng Chun force = mass of arm x distance of arm x speed of strike

I am sure that you have already concluded that a Weng Chun fighter needs to make many strikes to topple an opponent. This is of course, a waste of energy. And we are talking about only one opponent.

Southern Shaolin Boxing (南拳)

Southern boxing (snake boxing, monkey boxing etc.) also includes the Japanese karate as the source of this type of Kung Fu is from a practitioner’s waist:

Southern boxing force = mass of upper body x distance of upper body x speed

Without spending too much effort, it is clear that the power of southern boxing is greater than Weng Chun. But there is a physical limitation to how fast our body can react. Having said so, with just one punch alone; great damage can be done compared to Weng Chun.

Northern Shaolin Boxing (北拳)

The northern boxing often makes use of the power of legs. Hence this also includes taekwondo. Again, let’s fit in the formula:

Northing boxing force = mass of lower body x distance of lower body x speed

Taiji Boxing (太极拳)

The traditional Taiji boxing used in actual combat is never soft. If indeed Taiji is soft, then it is not termed as martial arts. Basically Taiji boxing uses the mass of the body and the distance of the whole body to strike:

Taiji boxing = mass of body x distance of body x speed

The conclusion is also pretty obvious:

The most powerful type of boxing amongst of the three is the one that uses the whole body to attack; i.e. Taiji boxing.

Clearly the heavier a person’s physique, the more powerful he/she gets. Likewise a smaller size person can hardly match the power of a person of larger physique.

I had a colleague who is from Costa Rica and who was a former marine. The circumference of his biceps is much larger than the circumference of my thigh! This gentleman can lift a heavy M60 machine gun with one arm! I would never want to face such opponent for sure.

That concludes the discussion of the physic of Kung Fu. 

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