We’ll continue where we left off in “Is board breaking important in the martial arts? Part I”. This post will cover some practical reasons for board breaking, and some intangible results, too!
We explained about confidence, technique, focus and speed in our first post. Now we’ll address how all that works together for self-defense.
Board breaking and self-defense
Imagine you repeatedly practice a front kick while holding onto a barre, kicking a heavy bag, and even against a partner while sparring. If you are “light” sparring that kick will be controlled and neither opponent may even be wearing protective gear. Harder sparring will undoubtedly mean full protective gear, including a chest protector. If you land a front kick right into your opponent’s belly, he or she will feel it, but not as much as they would without a chest protector!
Sparring also implies a mutual understanding between partners. Students are usually paired with an equally trained partner. And with consideration given to age, weight and height. That is not the case in self-defense.
Self-defense is not mutual, and never pre-arranged. Self-defense must be fast and effective the first time. A combination of confidence, technique, focus and speed are absolutely necessary for succesful self-defense. The simulation of being attacked and having to defend oneself is rarely, if ever, achieved in a controlled environment like a karate class. So how does a student know if that front kick will work when landed effectively in a self-defense situation? Board breaking.
Obviously, seeing a bunch of broken boards surrounding you is a tangible result! This gives a student better understanding of the power contained in that front kick. Having the ability to control that power is learned when more than one board is being broken in one front kick.
Beginner students always start with one technique, and one board. Progressing through the belt ranks means more boards and more techniques. Compare two adult students of the same age, but one being a white belt and the other a brown belt. You would see a noticeable difference in not only the ease of the technique but in the complete body control of each student. The white belt may exert excessive power to break one board, while the brown belt is able to know exactly how much power needs to be generated to break one board. Crucial differences when it comes to effective self-defense. Self-defense is about “one and done”.
Those are some of tangible and easily seen benefits and results of board breaking. But there is more. Much more!
There are countless intangible results from board breaking! Student’s lacking confidence suddenly find self-esteem after having the courage to break their first board; pushing themselves out of their comfort-zone to break more boards with one technique; Learning to support fellow students who may struggle with board breaking. And on and on and on.
Stop placing limits on yourself
For me personally, I remember three defining moments involving board breaking. The first was when I succesfully performed a “double kick” ; one board broken with a right leg front kick, the other broken with a left leg front kick, simultaneously. That’s when I realized if stop applying limits to my ability – like I was able to do in that moment – I could accomplish anything.
Get out of your comfort zone
The second defining moment was when I was able to break three boards with a spinning back kick. That was my weakest kick, I loathed that kick! I was trembling with fear and anticipated failure, then something clicked. I visualized it, I commanded it, and I did it. Moving out of my comfort zone was scary as hell but it was then I learned that there is more comfort in accomplishment than always playing it safe.
Never underrate being supportive
My final moment of life-changing board breaking came at my test for 1st degree black belt. I had to perform a three-station break in rapid succession. I got through the first two without a hitch. The third one was a jump front kick at chin height. This was a technique I was very comfortable with and had performed succesfully many times before. But not this time. I tried once – “clunk”. I tried again – “thud”. There was only one more chance left to break this board or my test was over! Through an audience of about 200 people I could spot my fellow students who had come to show their support. I saw their look’s of concern and anticipation. I felt their support and confidence in me.
It was that energy that helped me smash through that board on my final attempt. The crowd cheered and I looked around to see my fellow students hugging each other, jumping up and down, shouting their happiness. BEST FEELING EVER.