Is board breaking important in martial arts? Part I

There is so much controversy and tons of opinions on this subject. How important board breaking is in the martial arts will also depend on what style you practice. Opinions aside, there are some styles that just don’t include strikes. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Aikido are the first to come to mind. You will have not have success waiting for the board to tap out. Nor will you be able to find a hand on that board to manipulate into a painful position.

Now that we have that out of the way we can share a great post we found concerning this very topic. But first, our opinion.

Our philosophy on board breaking

Our karate school holds a Wood-Breaking Week about 4 times a year. Our brown belts are required to set-up and execute a 4-station break as a step in earning their black belt. (A 4-station break means the student must succesfully break boards with 4 different techniques at 4 different set-up stations.) So, there you have our answer. Yes it’s important!

The wood boards are 1″ thick, 12″ long and either 4″, 6″ or 8″ across. The younger and newer students always break the smaller boards. Our advanced students graduate to the larger boards and additionally, stack boards together for high-powered and experienced techniques.

Of course having a board to break is absolutey necessary, but there is more to it than that. We routinely teach and quiz our students on what each needs in order to break the board(s). There are 4 components a student needs in order to generate the power needed to be succesful. Let’s look at those next.

The 4 components for success in board breaking


A student must believe that he or she can break that board. Of course our student’s must have a few classes under their belt as a beginner, and he or she will only be asked to use basic techniques. But believing in one’s own ability is first and foremost in board breaking.


Karate is very repetitive and students practice a specific technique many, many times before attempting to break a board. Proper technique involves using specific parts of your hands, feet, legs and arms. While someone not educated in martial arts may think a kick is a kick is a kick, student’s with proper training know better!


So you believe in yourself and you have great technique. All that means nothing without focus! For comparison, think about hitting a specific target on a stand-alone training bag. If you miss the target by a couple of inches in either direction, you will most likely still hit the training bag itself. Now think about having to strike the exact middle of a 6″ wide wooden board. A few inches on either side could mean missing the board completely. When you want to apply that same technique in a self-defense situation, you don’t get a second chance to get it right!


This is one of the coolest components because it has a lot to do with physics. Simply speaking a student would need to generate a speed of 20 feet per second to succesfully break one board. We could never attempt to explain the science as well as the article we found: How Board Breaking Works BY OISIN CURRAN

As the article mentions, follow-through is crucial to actually breaking the board. We never understood the science behind it (now we do!), but part of coaching a student is to tell him or her to try to hit a target just beyond the board. This helps the student to go through the board, and not stop at the board.

But why is board breaking important?

The article How Board Breaking Works illustrates a couple of the arguments for and against board breaking. It also thankfully puts to rest some of the myths regarding martial arts and injuries.

We’ll go a little deeper and explain why board breaking is an important part of our training in Is board breaking important in the martial arts? Part II. Stay tuned or get on our blog’s e-mail list to automatically get weekly posts!

Why stretching is (still) important for weight loss and exercise

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the value – or lack thereof – of muscle stretching to accelerate recovery after exercise. “Stretching clears out your lactic acid,” and other similar claims abound. Is any of this true?

Sort of.

First, it is important to understand the difference between stretching for recovery and stretching for remodeling.


During exercise, muscles are called upon to work. During this work, fuel is used up, waste products are created and muscle fiber structure is disrupted by multiple micro tears. Imagine a banquet, for comparison, during which the food is eaten, garbage is accumulated (napkins, chicken bones, etc.), and the table settings disrupted. Before the next banquet, the food needs to be restocked, the garbage cleared, and the tables reset.

For muscles, this process of resetting for the next event is called recovery. The muscle is returned to full function without soreness.

This is not the process that leads to body change per se, but it is important for athletes who wish to compete at their highest level multiple times during a short period.

Athletes have tried many things to speed up recovery: cryotherapy, massage, compression, ice water immersion, stretching, hyperbaric oxygen, anti-inflammatories and electromyostimulation, just to name a few. These interventions are aimed at decreasing lactic acid, inflammatory markers and other molecules that build up following intense exercise.

Of these, only massage is consistently effective. Multiple studies have shown that stretching does not aid significantly in waste removal or serve in any capacity to accelerate muscle recovery.


Most of us aren’t training for professional competitions, though, but are exercising to be healthy, lose weight and improve our moods.

For that, we need to focus on our body’s remodeling response to exercise, which is not the same as recovery from exercise.

Plainly said, when we exercise consistently, our bodies adapt to that stressor by changing our muscle structure, metabolism and physiology. It is that change, that remodeling, that leads to all the positive benefits of exercise. To stick with our banquet example, if we realized that 500 people are going to show up at every event, but we only have 10 tables set at present, we would change our capacity to be ready for the next event. We would increase the efficiency in the kitchen and set more tables. Likewise, our body remodels itself to adapt to increasing exercise.

Many studies also have been conducted to determine how to optimize the body’s remodeling response to exercise. After 35-plus years of study, six variables emerge as consistently aiding the body in its effort to reorganize in response to exercise: timing of nutritional intake (specifically protein), type of exercise, massage, sleep, low-dose creatine and – you guessed it – stretching.

Perhaps the most well-known and accepted benefits of muscle stretching exercises are improved or maintained range of motion, or both; alignment of bones and joints; and strengthening of connective tissues – all elements that optimize performance. Many studies have shown that flexibility training (dedicated attention over time to muscle stretching as part of an exercise program) directly improves muscle function, and ultrasound images have documented favorable alterations in muscle architecture following weeks of regular stretching, such as longer fibers. What’s more, a recent study has clearly shown that stretching over time improves blood flow to the muscles during subsequent exercise in animals.

Prior negative commentary around muscle stretching may be misleading to the casual observer. It is true that studies have shown static stretching routines (reach, hold for 30 seconds, release, next stretch) prior to a workout or competition lead to decreases in strength during that event, and that stretching before activity does not prevent injuries, as was long thought. But these are very specific circumstances that don’t apply to most people.

So do I stretch or not?

If you are an elite athlete trying to decrease injury, increase strength or accelerate muscle recovery right before your next event – then no.

If you are most people, exercising to lose weight, be well and improve mood – then yes. It will help with muscle remodeling, connective tissue strengthening, range-of-motion improvement, joint alignment and potentially blood flow during subsequent exercise – all beneficial effects in the long run.

Written by David Prologo and originally published on

Links for your consideration

Martial Arts Fitness

Martial Arts Fitness Series1, Episode 2

Why do students quit at brown belt? Part 2


Our post “Why do students quit at brown belt” received quite a few clicks. It’s a topic that deserves some more insight and discussion. So here is our Part 2 which offers a cool scientific explanation.

Fear of the known

So many people don’t like the word fear. It somehow denotes inadequacy. Quite the contrary, fear can be very helpful in some instances. Fear of driving too fast – because you might lose control. Fear of crossing a busy intersection – because you have a greater chance of being hit. I’m not referring to phobias; just ordinary, daily fears. And those are the ones we can readily admit to. It’s universal – those are healthy fears.

Fear of failure

Then there is fear of failure. That’s the one that will make a brown belt quit, and many times, won’t admit to this fear. Black belt tests can be long and physically and mentally demanding. When a student is afraid of sparring, for example, sometimes that becomes projected onto the instructor for “not partnering me up fairly”. If a student is not proficient in required techniques this can quickly turn into  “sudden symptoms of injury” that would prompt a medical note to cease training. This is the fear that can almost be referred to as ironic. Aren’t the martial arts supposed to instill self-confidence and courage?  This is the one that needs involvement with the parents, the instructors, teachers and the student. It’s important to keep asking and probing. Be realistic and don’t promise outcomes. The focus should be on the insignifigance of failing if a true effort has been made. The best thing about failing is knowing what you need to work on!

When a student has passed test after test, has learned and grown, even prospered in their martial arts training, why would fear of failure suddenly take such a strong hold? It’s true that black belt tests are meant to test technique, but more important is the spirit and drive the student demonstrates to earn a coveted rank. If you can discover the underlying fear of failure ( sometimes evident as anger at everyone and everything ) you have the opportunity to change a person’s perspective for life.

Fear of success

As a martial arts student and teacher for over 28 years I can tell you I have heard many, many excuses from brown belts for quitting. While I was training as a colored belt there were three other females my own age and belt rank. We all made it to brown belt and all trained hard together. But one by one our group of four became a group of one; me!

The first friend to quit blamed everybody and everything. From inconvenient class times to injuries, she began to let us know that she didn’t need a test to be as good as a “black belt.” And she was gone.

Friend number two was at the top of her training for the years leading up to brown belt. She was devoted and interested. Things changed when she earned brown belt. She didn’t feel our teacher was giving her good training. ( So – it was great for three years, but now it’s not?) She said she was going to another dojo to train. She didn’t. Quit at brown belt.

The last friend in the group not only had Brownbeltitis, she was a classic example of Imposter Syndrome.

Individuals with “Impostor Syndrome” tend to suffer from a very specific self-esteem issue: The belief that they are unworthy of success. -PsychTests

Imposter Syndrome

This is a real thing and one of the most relevant statements I read is this:

…the more success “impostors” experience, the more pressure they feel because of the increased responsibility and visibility.     –

Martial arts are known for their heirarchys and expectations of advanced students. What once seemed like an unachievable goal – earning black belt – is now closer than ever for brown belts. Brown belts are looked up to by younger students because of the role they play in the heirarchy. But brown belts are still a part of the “under belts” community. This community is comfortable and known to the brown belt.

And then comes the once elusive rank of black belt. Achieving a black belt is a huge accomplishment and seen as a big success, especially from your peers. Success can mean stepping into a new role with more responsibility, and more eyes watching.

That last friend I mentioned was living in the wreckage of her future. She had forgotten all the long training sessions, the thank-you’s she received for helping students and the hard-work we all put into reaching our goals. In her mind, becoming a black belt was not achieving a life-long dream anymore. It had become a success she was afraid to achieve.

If I knew then what I know now, I’m confident she would have been testing right beside me!

Get it done.

Links for your consideration

Inspiration: Courage 

Inspired by the “F” word

Why do students quit at brown belt?

Student Spotlight No. 39

Who is in the spotlight this week?

The Bushido School of Karate is so appreciative of the students and families that are a part of our Bushido Karate family. We’ve had the pleasure of teaching for over 2 decades and in that time have been privileged to teach thousands of students. Everyone started at the beginning with no shortcuts, and we are so proud of their accomplishments.  Our weekly Student Spotlight features randomly chosen students on their own journey at The Bushido School of Karate.

This week’s spotlight is on Scott!

Scott is 39 years old, is a commercial real estate broker and is currently a blue belt at The Bushido School of Karate. He began his training with us in July 2018.

The attention to detail and intensity brought to every class pushes me to focus more and try harder. Also, this martial arts style is very practical. It is unusual for the master of the school to teach every class (like Shihan does), and that sets the tone for a great training experience.

– Scott
Spotlight on Scott
July 19, 2019

Teach martial arts to your kids with videos! SERIOUSLY?

While searching online for inspiration on a topic for this week’s blog I got sidetracked by a particular article with advice how to teach martial arts to your kids. It caught my attention because our own karate school has produced online videos as a part of our curriculum. The article turned out to be an advertisement for videos to assist parents in teaching martial arts to their kids. SERIOUSLY?

First things first

The first question to ask yourself before taking on this endeavor is why do you want your child to learn martial arts in the first place? For some people it is simply a means of physical activity at home. Keeping kids moving is important, especially if they have been sitting most of the day.

In most cases, though, it is because either your child has expressed an interest or because the parent has an interest! It could be due to bullying or poor self-esteem. You might think a little self-defense training could help. Or your reasoning might have to do with poor attention skills. After all, martial arts is great for building focus, right? Yes, it can be, and here’s a great article to explain why that is true. But the most important reason for success in any of these areas is having a great martial arts teacher. You are probably a great parent, but are you a great martial arts teacher?

Your kids deserve the best teacher

An experienced martial artist is the person who should be teaching martial arts to your child. From a technical point of view, there is no one better. Years of experience are behind each kick and punch, and there has likely been thousands of kicks and punches thrown. Professional martial artists sometimes get a bad rap. After all, it is extremely physical and can appear to be aggressive. ( Not!) Understanding the comprehension necessary to execute particular techniques, or the cognitive skills required for quick decision-making, will make a parent appreciate the need for a professional to teach your child.

Where you live will determine the availability of a martial arts professional. Read this to help you ask the right questions when considering martial arts classes for your child.

It’s the journey, not the destination

That is so cliche I never thought I would actually use it. Guess what? It’s a cliche for a reason; it’s so true! In my 20+ years in the martial arts I have had some of the best experiences of my life. I can remember my very first class – the trepidation and excitement of it all. Eventually making friends and lifelong relationships, we were all training with a common purpose. We received direction from a teacher, our Sensei, who knew each of our strengths and weaknesses. Karate classes became my “happy place”.

Learning self-defense, gaining self-confidence, improving focus and attention span and having a physical outlet are great reasons for your child to learn martial arts. However, likely the best reason a parent should let a professional martial artists teach their child is to give their child the opportunity for a most memorable journey!

Links to our student’s journeys

Below are a few links to our Student Spotlight feature of our blog. Kids, teens and adults share their thoughts on their training!

Student Spotlight 36 Student Spotlight 31 Student Spotlight 6/27/2018

Student Spotlight No. 38

Who is in the spotlight this week?

The Bushido School of Karate is so appreciative of the students and families that are a part of our Bushido Karate family. We’ve had the pleasure of teaching for over 2 decades and in that time have been privileged to teach thousands of students. Everyone started at the beginning with no shortcuts, and we are so proud of their accomplishments.  Our weekly Student Spotlight features randomly chosen students on their own journey at The Bushido School of Karate.

This week’s spotlight is on Nereo!

Nereo is 28 years old, is a chef and recently achieved blue belt at The Bushido School of Karate. He began his training with us in January 2019.

Nereo got started because he was watching his step-daughter take classes. He tried it for one month – like all new students do – and has been training in our adult classes for 6-months. Our $99 monthly tuition for parents of students was also a great deciding factor. Nereo is getting a great work-out and sharing in a family activity with his step-daughter.

Training at Bushido Karate makes me stronger, and feel more confident.

– Nereo
Spotlight on Nereo!
June 26, 2019