Kung Fu Science
August 3, 2005 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Kung Fu Science: The BBC News article claims that the site "is primarily aimed at 11 to 16-year-olds," but I refuse to let temporal adolescents have a corner on 25-year-old female PhD students doing physics and then breaking wood planks with their hands. [Flash; both the site and the videos take a while to load.]
posted by gramschmidt (18 comments total)
Now, all I need is some wood.
posted by hoskala at 11:22 AM on August 3, 2005

Wow, what a grossly oversimplified explanation of kung fu! Well, I guess when you're just trying to be atmospheric you don't need to get into niggling little details like what style, exactly, this Chris guy practices, or what qualifies him as an "expert" (I don't see the words "sifu", "sigung", "master" or "grandmaster" in there, which would at least mean _something_).

The generalization that "kung fu punches" are all quick and don't have the goal of knocking the opponent over is as incorrect as the generalization that all boxing punches are heavy and slow.

But yeah, the chick's kinda hot. She reminds me of Winnie from The Wonder Years. A lot.
posted by gurple at 11:26 AM on August 3, 2005

gurple: “But yeah, the chick’s kinda hot. She reminds me of Winnie from The Wonder Years. A lot.
Winnie studied math, not physics.
posted by signal at 11:38 AM on August 3, 2005

Did anyone else think that guy's kung fu seemed kind of shaky to me when he was doing all that prancing for the camera?

Still, board-breaking is not something you need to study for 20 years or anything. Kids do it all the time.
posted by brevity at 1:12 PM on August 3, 2005

correction: to me
posted by brevity at 1:13 PM on August 3, 2005

I couldn't help but notice that that Chris guy blinks at the most inopportune times when striking. For an effective action in martial arts, I've always been taught that you have to keep your eyes open to visualise the distance of the punch (or whatever you may be doing). Eyes are supposed to be not-fully-open as it makes blinking more obvious, and a well-trained opponent will take advantage of that.
Also, it may be just semantics or writers who don't know much, but the "Kung Fu is a form of self-defence..." line bugs me as I've done aikido for ages, and I've always been taught that if you're defending yourself, you shouldn't have to learn, say, spinning back kicks, as they telegraph easily, and it's an attack, not a defence.
Also the girl, while fairly cute, looks totally out of her depth.
*wah wah.*
I think this sums up my attitude towards this thingy...
Daniel: Can you break wood like that?
Mr. Miyagi: Don't know. Never been attacked by tree.

-Karate Kid 2
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:09 PM on August 3, 2005

um, oh and brevity, yes - his strikes were all over the map. Reminds me of some of the swordplay in Highlander: The Series - the tip of his blade was waggling around like a dog's tail. Maybe he's nervous in front of the camera? Or maybe just not really all that good. :)
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:13 PM on August 3, 2005

Spinning back kicks, or flying crescent kicks, or sweeps, or really any reasonable move you can think of, even if it telegraphs easily, can be effective in the right situation. You take advantage of what's open. In my limited experience, he with the biggest bag of well-trained tricks, and the ability to choose the right one, wins.

And offensive moves can be defensive, obviously. If I'm defending myself from an attacker, I'll use everything I've learned, not just my blocks and grabs. If I punch a guy who's attacking me in order to disable him, does that somehow make me the attacker?

All that said, kung fu != spinning back kick. There are a LOT of styles of kung fu out there. If you're thinking of the glitzy stuff, maybe you've seen mainly acrobatic wing chun classes? Some of those guys can get quite ridiculous -- all kung fu is not like that.
posted by gurple at 3:25 PM on August 3, 2005

gurple - you're quite right, of course. I've friends who've taken Wing Chun, but the 'combat' form of it (as opposed to the acrobatic form) and we've had many great conversations about the pluses and minuses of various forms in various situations.
I think "Kung Fu Chachi" in the vid just got up my nose. He's wearing jeans, and looks like lots of loogans I've seen in bars - the Mr Attitude thing. argh. I'm sure I'll calm down in a minute.
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:38 PM on August 3, 2005

I'm with you there; that guy rubs me the wrong way. Doesn't remind me of any sifu I've ever trained under. He reminds me more of Billy Blanks or something.
posted by gurple at 3:40 PM on August 3, 2005

The big red flags for me were the lack of a mention of his style (although some of the strikes look like tiger style), and his fashion conscious outfit (I love Zach_Replica's comment, we should call this guy Sifu Chachi). He reminds me of the sifus people get warned about, it's the same kind of personality who runs a karate school at a strip mall in an suburban enclave, and churns out belt rankings in order to keep getting money from students.

I mean, who emphasizes breaking boards? That's not kung fu. That's shit you do in order to impress postdocs so you can mack on them.

And I bet the acrobatic stuff Gurple was talking about was wushu. That's very pretty stuff, and the flow looks really cool, but I wouldn't want to see a match between a wushu practicioner, and someone who studies hung gar, choy la fut, or wing chun. The wushu fighter would get pwned. Hard.
posted by beaverd at 6:28 PM on August 3, 2005

As a matter of interest, beaverd /etc, do you find any value in breaking boards?
posted by coriolisdave at 8:03 PM on August 3, 2005

Huh, I woulda figured this link would have attracted physics geeks, not kung fu geeks.

/me likes the interface, despite the flash.
/web geek
posted by If I Had An Anus at 8:27 PM on August 3, 2005

IIHAA: You have uncovered our secret ninja school. NOW YOU DIE!!!
posted by brevity at 8:48 PM on August 3, 2005

coriolisdave, I pretty much say meh to breaking of boards or concrete. It's more about showmanship than strong kung fu. You can break all kinds of boards and concrete blocks and still get your ass beat by a skinny little dude.

That said, there are some types of qi gong training (iron palm/iron fist) where you practice doing strikes into water, bags of rice, buckets of sand, etc. The idea is that you start out with something light and then progressively work your way up to stuff that resists your punch more, until you are basically punching wood and stone. But that's more of a training regimen to harden your knuckles and remove your fear of hurting your fists when punching hard. And it kind of fucks up your knuckles. To be precise

And as a physics geek, I did like her work/equations, especially the graph showing the speed of the hand over time and the high frame rate camera used to watch the guy as he broke boards.
posted by beaverd at 9:12 PM on August 3, 2005

Now, all I need is some wood.

She's cute. What's your problem, man?
posted by dhartung at 10:48 PM on August 3, 2005

I saw one episode of that "kick-ass" show and it was total Bullshido. Dim Mak? Iron "penis"? Wtf?

Who the hell is this Chris guy? The video footage leaves me very un-impressed. He moves sloppy. Drops his hands when he hits. Leaves his chin up. And. He's slow.

His website is completely vague and lists no lineage which is fairly important in the CMA world (I've never heard of him and I've been training in the Martial Arts longer than he has been alive).

And CMA (Chinese Martial Arts) aren't exactly known for the external whiz-bang of board breaking and the like. That is a fairly Japanese Karate and Korean Tae Kwon Do thing.

So why is HE the authority for this chick. And instead of illuminating the physics for martial movement there is all sorts of superstitious obfuscation over "chi" and shit. I hope this chick has a plan "B" for grad studies.

He with the biggest bag of well-trained tricks, and the ability to choose the right one, wins.

No insult but as a former MA instructor, boxer, and fighter that is just so wrong. He with the best set of attributes (endurance, speed, power, posture, balance) and mastery of the BASICS wins. NHB and UFC have proven this time and again. Tricks only get you so far. Unless your talking about smacking somebody after saying "Hey! Look. It's Elvis!" or something.

Ask any coach who actually produces fighters... who actually, you know, fight. Not showboat on TV or teach children Kung Fu.

Sigh. Anyway. I blame Hollywood.
posted by tkchrist at 12:22 PM on August 4, 2005

As fun as it is to criticize the martial art aspect, was no-one else struck by how this is a fantastic way to get high-school kids interested in physics?

This is a great project and I wish there were more like it.
posted by quiet at 3:01 PM on August 4, 2005

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