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Just to quickly remind you, here’s what Newton’s Third Law says again.

“When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.”

In my last post I mentioned that awareness of this is important because of the resulting forces on your own body when you strike someone else. Training to ensure the correct position of your hand or foot and the alignment of the related joints is very important, or injury can result.

But much more than this, an understanding of this Law will help you to see why many things are done the way they are in traditional martial arts, and will help you to change your focus so that your technique improves.

Here are a couple of examples: –

The other fist

For instance, when punching, many people focus solely on the fist that they are striking with. Because of this, though, they are ignoring the potential advantage that they could gain by using the other arm.

By concentrating on the non-punching arm (the returning arm) and generating force away from the target with this arm, the balancing force will add to the force of the striking fist.

Hence the famous “push-pull” punching principle of the majority of Eastern martial arts.

Let the ground push back

Many people, when trying to displace, or uproot, their opponent, make the mistake of just trying to push them. This, however, will tend to destabilise the pusher as well, because of the resulting force in their own body.

But what happens if, instead of pushing at your opponent, you push downwards into the ground with your legs? As your force goes down, stabilising you, the resulting force comes up from the ground, and can be directed at your opponent for a much more stable result.

The feeling of being pushed in this way is quite different, as no apparent strength is being used.

These principles are, perhaps, quite counter-intuitive, but it is this genius and profound understanding of natural laws, built into their Arts over hundreds of years, that allow the practitioners of Chinese Martial Arts to perform apparently superhuman feats.

Of course, understanding without practice is worthless. But practice without understanding won’t get you that far either. It is the counter-intuitive nature of many of these principles which means that they can be very hard to uncover without the help of a very experienced Instructor.