PART IV: Application of Science to Martial Arts

Sometimes the phrase ‘Martial Art’ can be misleading, since in the modern area there has been more of an emphasis on science than art. Certainly, the art aspect is still very important in Taekwondo. However, science tends to dig to a deeper level. One can appreciate the work of an artist without knowing exactly how the artist has put together his creation. With science, we search out the fundamental natural principles. For example, one might say “That is a beautiful kick” and appreciate the movement. The scientist would ask “What specific things about that kick make it beautiful?” and then when he discovers them, think how he can apply what he has learned towards making other kicks beautiful in the same way.

It is important to study physics in order to understand the basis behind Taekwondo techniques. It is important to study math in order to understand physics. One important kind of math to study is calculus. Although it sounds difficult, there are two main important concepts to learn.

The derivative- ∂y/∂x- The derivative is just a fancy way of looking at how something changes with respect to something else. So, the above equation is basically just saying the change in y divided by the change in x. Often time (t) is substituted for x. For example, the change in position divided by the change in time is known as velocity, or speed.

The Integral- ∫y – The integral is the opposite of the derivative. It usually has limits applied to the top and bottom of the ∫ and it is basically saying to add up the small contributions of some part to the whole over those limits. It’s also known as the ‘area under the curve.’ For example, to find your body mass, you’d take the integral over the shape of your body of the contribution of each infinitesimally small area of your body. Basically, add up the mass of every cell in your body to find the total mass.

Now that we got the calculus out of the way, let’s go on to some basic physical quantities.

Mass [kg] = The weight of an object divided by gravity.

Force [n] = The ability to move a mass.

Energy [j] = The ability to do work

Position [m] = The location of an object

Notice that the letter in brackets [] states how each quantity is measured. Mass is in kilograms, force is in Newtons, energy is in Joules, and position is in meters. Most of the names of units come from famous scientists.

We must be careful here because in Taekwondo we often think of someone as having a forceful kick. But we usually don’t mean this in the same way physicists mean it.