Board breaking is when someone uses a strike on a number of boards of wood. It's possible to buy boards designed specifically for breaking, but timber merchants should supply suitable wood. Depending on the circumstances, the type and quality of wood may differ. For instance, demonstrations usually use wood that easily breaks and falls to pieces whereas competition boards are generally much stronger. The number of boards varies from a single piece to around four. You've probably also seen martial artists break bricks as well as slabs of concrete, but for the purpose of this post we will focus on wooden boards. Whenever I see a board being broken, I am reminded of this quote from The Karate Kid, Part II:
Daniel: Hey, can you break a log like that?
Mr. Miyagi: Don't know. Never been attacked by tree.
A lot of martial arts performances have some form of object breaking. There's no doubt that breaking boards is entertaining and looks cool. It may even earn a round of applause.
If you've never done traditional martial arts before then you may be surprised to learn that board breaking is rarely done. As to why, the most obvious explanation is that almost anyone can break a board so breaking one isn't an indication of skill.
Break Board Tips
- Use low quality wood. Not only will the wood be cheaper, the boards will actually be breakable. Break the board in such a way that it will split along the grain. Pine, particularly if it's cooked, should be good enough for breaking purposes. Avoid strong wood such as oak and mahogany.
- Fix the board in place. Ensuring that the board cannot move backwards is essential for an easy break. It's always better to have the board bridged between two blocks as opposed to having someone hold the board in front of them.
- Separate multiple boards. When breaking multiple boards you should separate them so that there is a small gap underneath each one. Doing this will make breaking multiple boards almost as easy as breaking a single board.
How do you break a karate board?
Warning: Breaking any board can cause damage and serious injury including, but not limited to, broken bones, bruising and strains. Do not break a board without a qualified instructor present.
I will describe how I break boards:
- Prepare. I find four cinder blocks, stack them in two sets of two and bridge them with a suitable board. I make sure that the gap underneath the board is large enough so that I don't hit the cinder blocks or the floor.
- Choose a technique. I choose the technique I will be using. I've seen people use kicks, punches, elbows, side of open hand strikes, palm heel strikes and sometimes even their head. I've generally found that kicking a board is too easy and that punching a board can be painful. Don't even try doing it with your head. I prefer to use a palm heel strike.
- Proper Stance. I take up a comfortable and stable stance, putting one foot in front of the other.
- Strike. I focus the force of the strike through and at a right angle to the board. As with any strike, I aim past the target. I make sure to commit to my strike, follow through and kiai.
How hard is it to break a karate board?
It's incredibly easy as it relies on strength rather than technique. Even kids with no formal training in martial arts can do it.