Laws of physics rule in karate

Karate black belt and physicist Emily Hall (standing) gives Queen's High School pupil Suzanne Kydd (17) a lesson in pressure, force and momentum. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Karate black belt and physicist Emily Hall (standing) gives Queen's High School pupil Suzanne Kydd (17) a lesson in pressure, force and momentum. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

There was no ''wax on or wax off'' during a karate demonstration at Queen's High School yesterday - just a graphic lesson in physics.

About 20 pupils were taught stances, foot movements, sweeps and other basic striking and fighting techniques by University of Otago Advanced School Sciences Academy teaching co-ordinator and karate black belt Emily Hall.

Little did they know, they were also being taught the concepts of equilibrium, centre of mass, gravity, force, momentum, torque and pressure.

Ms Hall said many pupils did not see physics as an interesting subject, but teaching them karate was a practical and interactive way of helping them to learn the concepts of physics without even thinking about it.

''People who do martial arts have an instinctual knowledge of physics - they understand classical mechanics concepts.''

During yesterday's demonstration, she explained how pressure, forces and momentum worked together when throwing opponents to the ground, and how force, momentum and torque were developed by using basic striking and fighting techniques.

She will present similar demonstrations at this year's New Zealand International Science Festival (July 5-13), during three workshops at the Dunedin Public Library.

The first, Crouching Tiger, Standing Crane (July 7), will show why balance is key to a career as a ninja.

The second, Angry Bull, Crazy Monkey (July 9), will show how a small person can use force, momentum and torque to win against a bigger opponent.

And the third, Throwdown Hoedown (July 10), will show how pressure, forces and momentum work together when throwing opponents to the ground, and how physics can be used to your advantage if you are plummeting towards the ground.

All three workshops will be held at 11am in the Dunedin Public Library.

Ms Hall and Queen's High School pupils will be in the Wall Street mall at 12.30pm on July 5 to show why the laws of physics are so much easier to learn through karate.

Anyone 8 years old and over is encouraged to participate.

You could just take home the key to a career as a ninja, she said.

Tickets for all Science Festival events go on sale on Monday on the festival website and Ticket Direct.

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