Why board breaking is a good idea

If you search Google for “karate board breaking”, you’ll find a few articles that dump all over the idea or practice.


…Breaking is a flawed recognition path…

…Hitting hard objects with a bare hand can cause injury…

…Boards don’t move…

From Board Breaking Tips: How Anyone Can, Why Nobody Should

Kudos to those martial artists that play fair, using materials without any hidden or prepared defects, and circulating them through the audience for inspection. They deserve some credit. But lest anyone forget, ability to hit a stationary target is a poor representation of combat skill, or self-defense skill, or physical and mental balance, or any other significant benefit that one would normally expect from martial arts mastery.

In other words, it is a dubious performance even when the materials are genuine. When they are not, it is an absurdity. Call me when boards start hitting back.

OK, to be fair, I totally agree with the part of both articles that disparage boards that are dried out in an oven and glued together to make them easier to guaranteed to break. Who wouldn’t be against that sort of fakery? And of course it should not be held as the sole tollgate to earning higher rank. At DFK, it isn’t.

But, I do not think that board breaking is some barbaric ritual that should be abandoned. Yes, you can injure yourself if you are not trained or ready to perform a break attempt. But really, board breaking is a mental exercise in overcoming fear and developing courage. And it is as such exactly because it has become the cultural spectacle that the authors above lament.

Board breaking is as associable with karate as a knife-hand chop. It is a spectacle to watch and it captures the imagination of the non-practitioner. This creates a unique pressure on students, and coupled with the physical factor, it creates a task unlike any other in martial arts. When students overcome these odds and succeed, their confidence soars. Really, the physical part of breaking a board is an afterthought when you get right down to it.

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