I don’t know if any of you have experienced this… Those of you who are reading from a country that doesn’t get snow every year likely haven’t… I remember being in grade school during the winter, and we’d often try to make a giant snowman. This would usually include gathering snow and slowly starting to roll it so that the ball would get bigger and bigger until we were ready too use it as our base. Then we’d start the process over in order to make a smaller one for the torso, followed by an even smaller one still, for the head.
It was loads of fun and usually ate up recess and lunch hour for a couple of days (weather pending) until we had our gargantuan snowman completed. The key to a successful construction was to go slow and be gentle. If you had even one of the participants push too hard, force at the wrong time or go against the flow of movement we had going, the snowball would fall apart. Even though a certain level of strength/force is required to get such an amount of snow moving, it’s the amount of force and how it’s applied that makes the difference. This concept can be easily applied to the martial arts. But today, I’ll address two different perspectives; force and size.
First, let me make a statement that’s seldom heard from guys… Size matters! And before y’all go thinking I’m being lewd, I mean the size of a person, overall. Let’s examine this from a real-world perspective for a moment. You find yourself in a situation where it appears that things are going to take a violent turn. Setting aside the fact that there’s always an alternative to fighting for a moment, you square off with your opponent as you fight off your body’s fight or flight instinct and brace yourself for the physical confrontation that’s about to take place…
You size up your opponent… Maybe they’re the same approximate size and body mass as you are. This would be good. That would mean that the outcome of the fight will be dependent solely on individual skill, mixed with a generous sprinkling of luck. But let’s assume for a moment, that your opponent has a significant weight advantage on you. 60, 80, maybe even 100 pounds of added weight. It’s safe to say that if they manage to land a strike against you with that bulk, they’re going to do damage, regardless of your skill.
This may be an unpopular opinion for those who enjoy seeing the little person overcome the larger enemy. We all have a David and Goliath story to draw from, and there’s a reason why that story has endured for so long (besides where it originates from). People love seeing the little guy win… It’s an example of overcoming great opposition when faced with impossible odds. I get it. It’s inspirational. It just isn’t very realistic. The idea that someone who weighs, let’s say 150 pounds can fend off and win against someone who may be 250 pounds is reasonably laughable. is it impossible? Of course not. Is it unlikely? Pretty much.
That may be an unpopular opinion among those who train in a dojo where everyone is taught material in a consistent fashion and they like to encourage their students that proper skill will allow you to overcome any enemy. And I’ll admit and believe that increased fighting skill will certainly be an asset if you find yourself against a larger opponent. But if that larger opponent manages to lock a hand on you and deliver a strike, all the training in the world won’t help you if you’re unconscious.
Now that I’ve likely pissed off half of my martial arts readers, let’s get into some physics and the aspect of not forcing things. Martial arts employs more physics than your 11th grade physics teacher knows. After all, this is the physics formula for Force:
F = m x a
For those of you who slept through high school physics, this formula basically tells us that Force will be equal to the mass of a given object times its acceleration. This is important in the martial arts because a 1-pound weight moving at a given acceleration will do as much damage as a 2-pound weight moving at half that acceleration. Make sense? Or did I just give everyone nightmarish flashbacks of school where they couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept? The important thing to remember is that speed and acceleration can be important in the amount of force that a given strike will deliver.
Problematically, the martial arts are not designed to be learned using maximum force. You can’t, really. One needs to take the time to properly learn the nuances of particular technique and develop some muscle memory before putting the full strength that one’s body allows behind it. Soft and slow can lead to hard and fast. And in the martial arts, it almost always does. Take Tai Chi as a good example…. When Tai Chi is mentioned, most people picture groups of people in a public park, swaying and moving slowly like a pack of zombies. Most wouldn’t associate Tai Chi with a combat art, but it’s actually based on a very effective and powerful style of Kung Fu.
It may seem a little convoluted, as I seem to be indicating that bigger and stronger will always win while simultaneously claiming that you have to take things soft and slow in order to become faster and stronger. The former won’t be true, 100% of the time. But the latter is. At least in my experience, they are. There may be some who would view it differently and have a different perspective. But that’s why I have a comments section and why I always invite good discussion and conversation. ☯️