Discovering Point Mass

I first came across the book The Body Builders by Adam Piore some time back but I didn’t buy it. However, when I came across it again a second time I took a closer look and this time I bought it.

The chapter that made me buy the book is the very first chapter “The Bionic Man Who Builds Bionic People”. I mean who can resist reading this chapter particularly when I grew up with the television series The Six Million Dollar Man, a series running from 1974 to 1978 about, yes you guessed it, a bionic man.

However, there was a deeper motivation for me to read the story of Hugh Herr, the MIT Professor, who is a real life bionic man. Aside from being interesting and giving hope to the disabled there are a number of Tai Chi-related concepts in the chapter.

One particular concept, the point mass, describes :-

This approach worked because, like a single spring, the force of a limb could be compressed to varying degrees: ………… the total amount of weight converging from different parts of the body and exerting downward or outward force on a single point in space. In physics this is called a “point mass”

This “point mass” is the key to how we can generate explosive force in our Yang style with minimal outer movement.

One of my FB friends thought I had heavy arms because of huge forearms but I don’t have big forearms. Instead, what I have is the ability to concentrate and focus my body mass onto a single point of contact which I now learned is termed “point mass”.

We use the form to train how to use “point mass”. The training is much more than just gathering together your mass onto a point in space. There is a second more important part that we teach in the form.

As previously we did not have a scientific concept to explain it this secondary part sounds like a bit of mumbo jumbo. Now I know it is not. It is solid science which with the right concepts can be easily categorized and explained. Anyway, this is a separate issue.

Below is a talk by Hugh Herr on bionics. As with the book there are Tai Chi-related information here.

A second talk is even more interesting. Would we see augmented Tai Chi players in the future? Or even Tai Chi cyborgs?


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