Ancient Theory to Modern Science: The Physics of Martial Arts
I have to admit, it's not easy to teach students about physics in a martial arts classroom (you can infer that I do try). For one, there seems to be some stigma attached to "sciencey" subjects like math and physics that makes the average person recoil. Baring the occasional student who actually likes physics, they think they are not "smart enough" to understand such heavy subjects. That just isn't true! The problem with subjects like these is that they have a lot of depth and are unfamiliar. However, for the most part, there really isn't anything within physics that's all that difficult to understand as long as we stick to the basics and take things one step at a time. The concepts, at least, are pretty straightforward. Those that are useful to martial artists can be easily understood by anyone. The ones that aren't, such as Einstein's relativity, are perhaps not that relevant anyway. And if you have any idea what that is, your punch is definitely not fast enough to come anywhere near having relativistic concerns.
As far as most subjects go, they are usually composed of a series of simpler concepts. For example, there is a subset of people who are "computer literate." This group of people can operate a computer without too much difficulty. Nothing you do on a sensibly designed computer is really that difficult. Who would design an application where you have to remember thirteen eight bit unsigned numbers just to change your font style? (You wouldn't, because that would be dumb.) It should be a simple task, and even hard tasks are a series of simple ones. Software engineering isn't that bad, as long as you know the details.
The real difference between all of this is the background knowledge. Once you know the basic user interface of a computer, you can do almost any task. You have to remember all of the concepts, but they will be a reasonably small set (because even the people that know computers would have a hard time remembering a large set). Generally, to understand any concept, you must learn about the particulars of the subject. It is my experience that no one is too "dumb" to understand these concepts. If you can read this text, you could understand the basic premises of quantum mechanics. If you just tried to pick up the latest physics scientific journal and flipped to a few papers on quarks and superposition, you would quickly be flummoxed because you are reading something out of context. If, on the other hand, you went through the history of quantum mechanics, and learned why scientists thought what they thought, and why they proposed the concepts they did, then the papers might make more sense.
What it really comes down to is whether or not a particular subject is interesting or necessary enough to invest the time to study it. You may have a bad taste in your mouth from your academic days (past or present), but there is a difference between what you have to learn and what you want to learn. The former can be work, while the latter can be something that is both enjoyable and useful. For the former, unless it is used often, subjects that are studied quickly for tests are soon forgotten. The mind works on the same principles as the muscles. If you don't use something, your body will neglect its maintenance. A memory will fade if you do not think about it from time to time. Even your cognitive skills can eventually fade if not used enough. A martial artist that applies himself or herself to the study of his or her art is not lazy. To apply that energy to exercising the mind is just as important as the body. The best way to do that is to learn about interesting things. You might actually find math to be fun when the threat of an impending test is not looming before you. Go ahead, give it a try!