What We Can Learn From A Grade School Science Demonstration


If you’ve been in the martial arts world for longer than 5 minutes you’ve probably seen this quote already:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” ~Bruce Lee

It’s great advice.

To be effective, we have to change & adapt to the situation. We can flow around, through, and between obstacles to our final destination.

But there’s a really cool liquid that’s an even better example of how we should move in relationship to our opponent.

Enter, Non-Newtonian Fluids

Isaac Newton is famous for his Laws of ThermoDynamics & Laws of Gravity/Motion, but most people don’t know just how far reaching his studies went.

He also created Laws of Viscosity, expressed by this equation:

I really have no idea what the hell this means, other than water flows like water, oil flows like oil, and molasses in Winter flows very slowly and that principle is called Viscosity.

Non-Newtonian fluids, however, don’t obey those laws and therefore they don’t behave like normal fluids. They all have their own unique properties, but the most popular example is often called:

Oobleck

Popular in 6th grade science classrooms, it’s a simple mixture of 1 part water to 2 parts cornstarch, and at rest it behaves like a fluid: it takes the shape of its container, you can pour it, and it looks like a thick goop.

But things get weird when you hit it. Instead of splashing, it hardens up. You can even ride a bike over a pool of it! (Kinda)

Super cool, right?

It’s a really peculiar behavior that grows out of the simple combination of fluid & solid. Tension & relaxation. Flexion & compression.

You see where I’m going with this.

Force Applied

Just as Oobleck changes its viscosity relative to the amount of force applied, so too can we respond to how much force is being applied to our structure.

Note: This is much different than just tensing up!

Oobleck doesn’t think “Oh, shit I’m about to get hit; I should tense up!”

There’s no “mind” telling it to behave as a solid.

It’s simply the natural expression of its fundamental structure that makes it respond that way.

Wing Chubleck

The ability to flow effortlessly around & through while simultaneously delivering our full body weight to a stricke is what makes the Wing Chun structure so powerful.

When we have proper alignment, our structure allows us to flow like water around incoming force, but when force is applied directly to that structure, then our opponent feels like they’re hitting a brick wall.

We do this by maintaining proper body alignment, relaxation, tension, and compression thereby allowing us to transmit incoming force efficiently through our musculoskeletal system. This is tensegrity in motion.

It’s a bizarre feeling if you’ve never experienced it before.

It’s like the kung fu master is light as fog, and you can’t seem to find a way to land a punch. But, the instant you compromise your structure, the kung fu master slams into you and you bounce off.

(Usually with a loud “Huuuuuuuu” sound as all the air gets knocked out of your lungs.)

TakeAway

Go mix up some Oobleck, play with it awhile, and meditate on how you can take your game to the next level.