Author(s): Jason Thalken
Publisher: YMAA Publication Center, Inc. (2015)
When I first saw the title of the book, I pictured a guy with glasses and a bowtie, who could take care of himself in a fight if he needed to. The author, Jason Thalken, has a PhD, three bachelor degrees, and eight patents. He has studied various martial arts and has a Black Belt in Hapkido. So, after reading and seeing his picture, I figured I was wrong on the look, but right on the fighting.
Fight Like a Physicist is divided into two sections. In the first section, “Internalise the Basics”, Thalken covers topics, such as Centre of Mass, Energy, Momentum, Levers, and Wedges of the Body. He explains where the Centre of Mass can be on your body and how it can move. Thalken describes the concept of how you can use your Centre of Mass efficiently and effectively. He brings up the more advanced concept of being soft over being rigid, and how it can be more advantageous. Sometimes, when people train a martial art, they think being rigid or tensing up is better. Thalken explains why softer can be more helpful than you think. He describes being loose, and something happening far away from your centre stays far away.
Thalken describes how we can use our limbs as levers to give up distance for more force or give up force for more distance. There are also some helpful diagrams to break this down. He states how Wing Chun uses the concept of “wedging out” punches because of the square-shouldered stance, so the opponent’s arms can be redirected from the intended target, with no active blocking.
In the second section, “Protect Yourself with Knowledge”, Thalken addresses Brain Damage and Safety Gear. He discusses the disorder, called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (or CTE), which is caused by repeated blows to the head. He comments that all athletes in collision sports are at high risk of this. He has scientific information on how the brain can diminish from this disorder. Thalken also explains how we can train to be safer. This is a very important subject, and more people should know about this information. On that note, Thalken has some interesting facts about safety headgear. He compares the headgear from different sports and shows how much or how little they protect us.
Fight Like a Physicist is good for the novice or the experienced martial artist. For the beginner, it explains a lot of the basic concepts that the more experienced person should already know. For the experienced person, it can be a refresher. It is always a good idea to relearn or redo lessons or ideas you may not have done in a while. Thalken does a good job using physics to show how and why techniques work. There are detailed diagrams and equations that are helpful and easy to understand. Fight Like a Physicist is packed with a lot of great information and would be a benefit to any martial artist’s library.