Maya has a few ways for creating dynamic animations and dynamic simulations. Natively, Maya uses Nucleus, it’s a simulation engine that can handle a lot of different things. Anything with an “n” in front of it, dictates that it is Nucleus driven. This includes nParticles, nCloth and nDynamics. Nucleus replaced the older rigid and soft body systems in Maya, for one that was unified between simulation tasks. Maya also has Bullet Dynamics at hand.
Bullet Physics is a physics engine that can simulate collisions, and both soft and rigid bodies. It’s a popular engine in 3D and game engines, as it is free and open sourced.
If you want to “break” in to working with bullet dynamics in Maya, have a look at Ruan Lotter’s tutorial that shows how to create a simple destruction simulation. Ruan Lotter is a Cape Town VFX artist with his Post house TunnelvizionTV. Bullet is really simple to use, and Ruan runs through the process that can get you started quickly.