Force, in Physics, is any influence that accelerates an object. An object experiences a force because of the influence of a field (electricity; gravitation). Force is a vector, meaning that it has both direction and amount. When several forces act on an object, the forces are combined. The total force acting on an object, the object’s mass, and the acceleration of the object are all related to each other by the second law of motion. This law states that the total force acting on an object is equal to the object’s acceleration times its mass. Thus, if a force acts on two objects of different mass, the one with a larger mass will have a lower acceleration. This law of nature is fully applicable in the art of pugilism. Understanding it will help one to maximize his force, speed and mass.
In the study of Physics, acceleration is the rate of change in velocity with respect to time. In the physical world, we measure velocity by dividing the distance with time, thus we terming them “km/hr”, “rpm” etc. The speed of a car is measured in miles or kilometer per hour. A Ferrari will reach 400 km in an hour. A Beetle Bug will do the same distance in two hours. The time difference is significant only when measured in long distances; however, if the measured distance was only one meter, the difference is hardly noticeable, as it would be in the milliseconds. The Ferrari will reach the 1-meter mark in .00015 seconds and the Beetle will reach it in .00030 seconds. Apart from the velocity and distance, there is also the acceleration aspect to consider. From a standstill position to the sprint and to the run, there is an acceleration rate. It begins from zero and accelerates upwards. No object can shoot from zero to 400 km/hr. It accelerates incrementally. Therefore, the velocity difference between a Ferrari and a Beetle Bug at the first meter is even less. One meter and under is what the travel distance is for a fist to meet its target. When two fists of different velocities, traveling from the same point, fired at the same time, to a target a meter away, would land at a time that’s hardly noticeable visually, audibly or tactually. The difference would have to be measured with very sophisticated instruments to see the difference between your fist’s velocity and acceleration against Muhammad Ali’s at his prime. On the other hand, if a Beetle was positioned closer to the one meter finish line and the driver kicked his gas pedal before the Ferrari driver did, he would cleanly cross the meter line before the Ferrari. In pugilism, if your fist is closer to your opponent than his is to you, and you fired it before he does, you are likely to reach your target before he does. This is not to say that the speed rate is not important. It certainly helps not only in reaching the target thousands of a second sooner, but the velocity and the moving mass equates to force when it is stopped by a body.The velocity of a punch of a top fighter is around 400 km/hr; 200 km/hr for an average fighter. A recent study by physicists, using a strobe light and a camera, measured a veteran martial artist’s punch at 14 meters per second, and a novice’s at 6 meters per second. As pointed in the comparison of the Ferrari and the Bug, the time difference is minute when the distance is only 1 meter. However, the difference becomes evident when the impact that the two causes when they hit an object is measured. A bullet, when hand thrown will not cause any or little damage to an object; but when fired from a gun becomes a deadly projectile. The force is in its speed. Therefore, the speed of a punch is more important as a force than time measure in pugilism. The question is: “What makes one punch travel faster than another?”
As mentioned earlier, “an object experiences a force because of the influence of a field (electricity, gravitation)”. Let us talk about electricity first (as I will dedicate a section on gravitational force). We know that there is electricity around and within us. The brain receives and sends messages through electrical impulses. The brain feeds on oxygen drawn from the blood, pumped by the heart, taken from the lungs and inhaled through the nose, mouth and body pores. The red blood cells in our body take the food we eat, the heat, neutrons and protons we soak in from the sun and atmosphere and convert them to energy. When we activate our muscles, we use energy. The more active we are, the more “fuel” we will need to burn and replace. This whole process is simply called “Qigong” (Chigong) in Chinese.
The process of a punch is as follows: The brain receives electrical impulses that it should throw a punch. It sends out electrical impulses to the responsible muscles to begin the process. The heart pumps blood and oxygen to them. Stored energy is drawn to supply them. The lungs and the diaphragm sends extra supply of oxygen to the thrusting muscles to generate and replace burning energy as they accelerate to the target. Electrical sparks fly. Heat is generated. At the point of contact, the energy explodes. This process happens within thousands of a second. It is also a description of a fast and clean punch.
What is a slow and poor punch? It is when the brain is distracted, confused and sends mixed signals. Instead of activating only the thrusting muscle (for example, the latissimus and triceps) to shoot forward, it activates the contracting muscles (for example, the pectorals and biceps), that resists the forward motion. Instead of firing off the punch from a relaxed stationary position, it winds back and then moves forward. Instead of exploding the energy at the beginning, it burns energy heavily during travel. Instead of minimizing and making secondary use of other muscles, like the shoulder, facial, and leg muscles, it activates them heavily ahead of the thrusting muscles. Instead of releasing the force at the end, it implodes.
As mentioned before, if two punches left at the same time for the same distance, the time difference is insignificant. Nevertheless, if one left earlier, it would reach its target sooner. So, if you were to face an opponent and he telegraphed his intention to punch you by squinting his eyes, biting his teeth, tightening his neck and shoulder muscles, giving out a yell, drawing his fist back, tightening his biceps, and stepping his foot forward to push (rather than fire) his punch, the chances are that you will beat him to the punch if you just unleashed yours from where it stood, in a relaxed manner, and in the most direct line to the target. In this case, you have fired your punch before he did although he initiated it first. The time difference becomes even more evident if your fist was closer to him than his was to you.
Wing Chun fighting stance positions your hands forward ahead of you not only to protect you but to shorten the distance of attack. Wing Chun trains you to punch in a relaxed and explosive manner. Other schools train their students to punch with their fists starting from the waist (long distance). After a punch, they draw the fist back to the waist. The argument is that the distance enables acceleration therefore generating more force at the point of contact. It is true but at the cost of time, distance, and energy. Wing Chun students fight bodies not wooden boards or bricks. They do not need to hit hard surfaces but vulnerable body parts that do not require massive force. Wing Chin punches do not draw back to the waist. For that matter, it does not even draw back to its original position. If a contact is made, it relaxes and punches again from where it stands. The logic is this: Let us rate the chances of a fist landing on a target from “0” to “10”, with “0” being the farthest and “10” being the hit. So if I were facing an opponent and had my fist, at the waist or in front of me, I am at “0” chance of hitting him. Once I see an opening and throw a punch, the fist moves up incrementally from zero upwards. He may block it at 7 or get hit at 10. Either way, why should I draw my fist back to zero, if I am already at 7 or 10? In fact, if I hit him, the force will move him back, creating a chance of less than 10, perhaps 7. If I drew my fist back to the original position, I would have created a chance of minus three now. See the logic? So here again, time is gained by having your weapons closer to your opponent than he has his to you.
Force is a vector, meaning that it has both direction and amount. A force coming in a straight-line direction will measure more than one coming indirectly. Take a car crash test for example. The most damage a car will cause itself and a wall is if it were to run straight on to the wall perpendicularly. The impact will be less if it were to swerve into it or come from an angle of 15 degrees, and hit it with its side bumper. Similarly, when a punch is executed in the straight line, perpendicular to the target, its force will measure more than one coming at a curve or at an angle other than a right angle. A punch generated from the waist level is most effective if targeted straight to the waist of the opponent. A punch to the face is less forceful than one generated from the same height. Therefore, if your final goal is to immobilize the headquarters of your enemy, shouldn’t you position your soldiers and weapons directly across it (rather than from an acute angle below)?
Without going too much into physical science, let us iterate the fact that force is doubled when two forces meet traveling from opposite directions at the same velocity. In pugilism, this means that the force of a punch doubles in amount when the opponent moves into the punch at the same speed of the punch. Wing Chun takes advantage of this phenomenon and moves into attack when an opponent charges. Wing Chun takes into account the danger of “walking into a punch” so have specific precautionary movements designed for you to enter the space of the opponent without endangering your own. It also teaches you techniques to draw the opponent to your punch. Other styles do not teach this. If you watch practitioners from these styles sparring, you will see that one initiates an attack and the other withdrawing from it. The distance (the gap between the two) remains the same. Neither of them is in the line of fire. They continue this cat and mouse game until they accidentally collide into each other for a direct confrontation. What a waste of time and effort! Why go through all this when the objective is to go into the fight and finish it as soon as possible. No matter how far apart you stand from each other or what distance you initiate the attack, you end up within 1 meter to make good the strike. This is why Wing Chun practitioners meet their opponents when they charge. The bigger they are, the easier it is for Wing Chun artists to control the fight. Having a full understanding of the laws of nature, a Wing Chun practitioner can move his opponent at will, strike with force and speed, and conclude the fight precisely.
Ground Force (Gravitation)
When several forces act on an object, the forces are combined. In pugilism, the object is the target. The combined forces are the electrical energy generated by the body to project the fist and the velocity of its travel. A bullet accelerates in air with a mighty force (to a certain distance) because of the explosive energy the chemical reaction creates when the hammer of the gun sparks the primer. A punch does not have such a powerful explosion so travels at a much moderate velocity. To gain more force, another type of force may be added to it, the gravitational force.The Earth is a large mass. There is nothing larger on it. It is as large as it can be where we are. It stores massive amount of energy. We can borrow from it if we know how. In fact, we do it everyday unconsciously. When we need and exert energy we borrow from it. In Qigong, you learn to do this consciously and make the best of it. In Wing Chun, we learn to make best use of the energy of the earth as well. Without getting into the intricacies of Qigong, let us simplify the explanation in terms of gravitational force. We all know that the earth has a gravitational force. That is what keeps us down to earth (pun intended). In order to lift something heavy, we use this force as a leverage to offset the weight of the object. This is the same rule as the two cars crashing head-on when traveling at the same speed from opposite directions to double the force of the impact. Your force doubles when you use your weight against the gravitational force of the earth. Whatever amount of force you apply against it is what you will get back in exchange.
Let us look at another example and situation. You are asked to move a heavy desk. The gravitational pull is towards the center of the earth and you are pulled directly down in a straight line from your head to your heels. Suppose you want to push the desk across the floor. Standing at the edge of the desk and pushing with your hands will hardly budge the desk. You step back a meter from it and lean against it and push it with your elbows tucked close to your ribs. Now, you are pushing the desk using your weight, body’s energy, and the earth’s force to move it. You are not getting the maximum out of your forces. You are leaning at a 45 degree angle and pushing the desk at a direction perpendicular to the gravitational force. Now if you had a perpendicular wall behind you that you could push a leg against, you’d be using direct force against the desk and move it more easily. Now, for instance, you were tied around the waist with a rope and suspended (parallel to the floor) from the ceiling, and were asked to push the desk. As long as there is a perpendicular wall behind you to push both your feet against, you will have no trouble moving it; however, as soon as the wall is removed, you will no longer be able to budge it. Similarly, if you were to throw a punch using your fist as the lead, your force will be at its minimum. This is because the force is generated with little energy and is dependent on the velocity of the fist traveling through thin air. This is similar to pushing the desk from the suspended position without a back wall. If you were to drive the fist from behind using the elbow, you would gain much more force (like you did with the desk). Furthermore, if you were to use your waist behind the elbow to drive the fist, you would gain even more force. If you want to compound the forces to the maximum, add the force of the earth from the bottom to drive the punch. Since you cannot stand right angle to a perpendicular wall and strike your opponent with a direct force, you create an acute angle from your back heels to your fist and combine all available forces to explode a devastating punch.
Centrifugal Force: The force that tends to impel a thing or parts of a thing outward from a center rotation.Understanding the science of centrifugal force is a major part of understanding the Wing Chun system. Most fighting style “block” an incoming force either directly or at right angle. A overhead strike (force) is blocked with your forearm going against the force directly. A straight punch is blocked with your forearm going right angle against it. If the overhead strike was forceful or hard like a rod, you could damage your forearm with such a block. To block a straight punch with your forearm at right angle will not only require the same amount of force to parry it, but will require precise timing to catch it. Wing Chun takes into account the science of centrifugal force to use one’s hands or feet to impel an on coming force outward from a center rotation. Both offensive and defensive moves in Wing Chun are generated from one’s centerline towards the opponent’s centerline. When your hand moves out from the centerline, although traveling in a straight line (rather than in circle), it is still a part of rotation (see figure). When a person punches you, the force is coming at an angle because his arm is attached to his shoulder on the sides . If you direct your hands/arm toward his centerline, it will, with very little effort, deflect his arm outward (see bird’s-eye figures).
The total force acting on an object, the object’s mass, and the acceleration of the object are all related to each other by the second law of motion. This law states that the total force acting on an object is equal to the object’s acceleration times its mass.We’ve covered acceleration earlier on and now let’s look into the Mass. The Mass, is the gross weight of the car, speeding and crashing against a wall. What is the mass in pugilism? Is it the fist accelerating to land at your opponent? If you were to look at your fist as a unit and a mass, it weighs only a pound. This is how many punches are executed, throwing the fists. It you were to add the forearm to the fist as a unit, it will now weigh perhaps 3 lbs, an increase of 300% in mass. Now add the upper arm to the fist and forearm as one unit, it will weigh around 5 lbs., 500% more than the fist alone. What happens when you include your whole body behind the fist as a unit to throw a punch? You will apply the maximum mass available to you in that punch! You may think you are punching using your whole weight behind you until you reexamine the nucleus, method, and the path of your punch. It’s not as simple as it sounds. One must learn to feel the “Qi” and the “Yi”. These are Chinese terms for “energy” and “mind”. They are not accurate translations for the two words since there isn’t a Western concept of what they represent. For matter of simplification, we can say that one must learn to feel one’s own body. You must learn to feel and make your body into one unit as well as break it up into many parts when you wish to. When you apply force, you make your whole body into one whole mass. When a force is applied on you, you dissipate it.
We think of ourselves as one unit of course, but in reality, we are many parts joined together. Roughly speaking, we are structured with a spinal cord of disks, framed with a skeleton of bones, joined by tendons and ligaments, balls and sockets, and padded with elastic flesh. This allows us flexibility and movement. When we move, we move different parts of our body at different times. Take walking for instance. From a standing position, we first shift our weight to one leg; lift the other thigh up; stretch the knee out; stretch the calves out, land the heel on the ground; land the ball of the foot; spring off the other ankle; lift the heel up; shift the weight to the front foot; spring off the back foot toes; move the back thigh forward; swing your torso forward to facilitate the push; swing the arms in reverse direction; and etc. If someone was to interrupt your rhythm with an outstretched hand to your chest, you are likely to lose your balance. This is because parts of your body are in front of the hand and parts behind. It is also because that person is more of a unit than you are.A tree is a whole unit. It’s grounded by its roots. The branches move with the wind, but nonetheless, it is connected to the roots. Let us take a small tree and cut it to our size, weight and height. Now try to knock it down. You can’t because it is deeply rooted and is a whole unit. Now slice the tree into parts like ourselves, one along the neck line; one along the waistline; one along the knee line; and one along the ankle line. Pile the pieces neatly on top of each other as it was before cutting it. Now knock it. It will tumble (except the rooted base). The tree is no longer a whole block unit. Cut the tree at the roots, drill a hole through the middle of the trunk, and drop a rod of disks through it, and connect it to the pieces of blocks loosely with some kind of strands. Voila! You’ve just engineered a human body! Now, you can knock it right off its base.
If you think of yourself as a whole tree, you will become rooted and whole like one. Your balance will be firm and grounded. You will be one whole mass rather than pieces. Your force will be massive rather than slight.
What enables a human to stand, sit, lay down, walk and run without succumbing to the pressures of gravity and other natural forces? Although the question sounds simple, and many think they have the answers, it is much more complicated than perceived. Scientists are still arguing and trying to figure it out. The answer is covered in Lecture VI. Knowing how humans are constructed, and how we stand against the forces of nature will enable you to unify your units for grounding and delivering force, as well as breaking up units to dissolve force.
Qi (Energy) Force
Qi (pronounced Chi) is a mystery to Westerners who are not involved in Asian martial arts (particularly, Chinese martial arts). It is commonly known to the Chinese even if they’re not practitioners of martial arts. This is because the word is built into the Chinese common language. It is used to express a person’s emotional state or his health. For example, when a person is angry, he is said to have risen his Qi. When he loses his temper, he has fired up the Qi. When he is discontent, he is unable to lower his Qi. When his energy level is low, he is low in his Qi. Qi is translated as “air” in the Chinese-English dictionary. It means just that generally. But Qi can also mean weather, gas, oxygen and a number of other things. However, when it comes to Chinese medicine or the study of Physics, it means something else. Western science understands that when oxygen is inhaled, it is taken up by the blood stream and sent through the whole body for consumption. Oxygen acts as a fuel to provide energy to the human body. Our lower and middle brain controls this involuntary action unconsciously. Ancient Chinese scientists discovered that the conscious mind can control this action. Not only that, but someone else can control it as well. This becomes helpful when the environment or an injury disrupts the balance and flow of the bodily functions. One may control and bring back the balance or have someone else help you on it. We are born near perfection but deteriorate in time through environmental or self-abuse. As children, we breathe using our lower diaphragm. We store our Qi in our lower lungs in the abdomen area (instead of chest) because the capacity is larger. We are able to use it sparingly, therefore have a high level of energy. We never seem to pant or run out of air. When we become adults, because of the stress we put on ourselves, the Qi rises to the chest. We begin to store our Qi in the upper lungs, and use our chest to breathe. The lungs there have less capacity to hold air than the lower part, so we become short of breath easily. (Strong athletes and singers store air in the lower lungs, and using their diaphragms to control the breathing.) When we come senile, the Qi rises above the chest. We use our mouth and throat muscles to regulate the breathing, and therefore wheeze and run out of breath easily. Because the intake of Qi is low, our energy level drops. For those who are not in the habit of breathing with the diaphragm must learn to do so for good health. Our stomach is where the food goes. The nutrients from the food are extracted from there first. This is the best area for the energy to be generated and stored. Our major organs are in this area and act as filters for the unwanted. By the same token, they are supplied the nutrients they need. This area is also best equipped for fighting the enemies of the body. As you know, one can orally intake and digest snake venom although it is deadly otherwise. Most medicines to illnesses are taken orally for them to sit in the stomach and let the bodily function take over from thereon. The chest is a poor place to store your Qi or anything else. It is susceptible to infection or any unhealthy agents. One can control the movement of the Qi by tapping it with the conscious mind. We are not aware of it because we do not think of it, or we do not need to think of it. However, if we have relocated our Qi storeroom up in our chest, then we need to consciously train ourselves to return it to the stomach region. We can also learn to move the Qi to whatever point we will need it for, whether for healing a wound or exploding a punch. How do you feel the Qi? Quite simple actually. Our conscious mind is occupied with the superficial world … or the tangible. All you need to do is think of the intangible. For example, think of the watch on your wrist. You have it on all day but are not aware of it or feel it until you think of it. Similarly, if you think of any part of your body, you will feel it. Think of the top of your head. Once you are aware of it, move this feeling along the centerline of your body from the head to the forehead, to the bridge of your nose, lips etc., right down to your stomach, four fingers apart from your navel. When you really have it down, you will feel the Qi tingling along the path of your thoughts. Qi in martial arts is very important. You use Qi to generate strength and force. You’ve heard of mothers who were able to lift cars to save their children. Western scientists say that the extra adrenaline that the brain pumps out in time of danger is what makes these women so strong at these times. The Chinese call this Qi. We all have it; it’s just a matter of tapping on it. Whether it is adrenaline or Qi, it certainly isn’t just the muscles at work. If you practice martial arts long enough, you will learn the secrets of the Qi.