Fight Like A Physicist by Jason, PhD Thalken

Fight Like A Physicist

The Incredible Science Behind Martial Arts
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Thalken explores how physics can be applied to martial arts.

More than a body of facts, Thalken sees physics as a practical discipline: an approach that can be applied to any number of pursuits. His chosen pursuit is martial arts. As in physics, the author says, no authority or status can make a martial artist’s technique effective. Testable and reproducible results hold all the power. His thesis is that by understanding the way the human body moves and balances, a martial artist can gain the upper hand on opponents who do not approach their sport scientifically. Thalken outlines the way concepts from physics reveal strategies in fighting—the center of mass is important for leg sweeps and grappling, hits that travel shorter distances will arrive with greater force and speed, etc. He also debunks common misconceptions about equipment. For example, boxing gloves are not “safer” than bare knuckles; while they distribute force over a wider area, causing fewer breaks in the skin, they allow the fist to strike with more momentum and hit hard surfaces (like the head) more frequently. He also delves into many of the myths propagated by media portrayals of martial arts as well as the pseudoscience propagated by practitioners of martial arts themselves. A relatively short book, the work is more primer than instruction manual, advocating a perspective as opposed to promoting individual exercises or training regimens. There is an infectious energy to Thalken’s prose, one that sells both the no-nonsense combat analysis and the cool skepticism of the physics discussion. As a guidebook, the text has very little fat: section titles like, “Where Is My Center of Mass, And Why Do I Care?” keep readers assured Thalken isn’t trying to force more information on them than needed. The author is an apt communicator of even the more abstract ideas, putting them into a simple, intuitive context. It’s unclear if thinking like a physicist can actually win a fighter matches, but it certainly provides a new grammar for thinking about the ways in which our bodies move.

An enlightening book for martial artists seeking a competitive edge.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59439-338-9
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: YMAA Publication Center
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2015


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