Tag is it hard to break wood boards?

young karate girl breaks board

Is board breaking important in martial arts? Part II

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.

Practical reasons

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!

Intangible results

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.

young karate student breaks wodd boards

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

Confidence

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.

Technique

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!

Focus

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!

Speed

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!