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Why is breaking boards called a carnival stunt by some...

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Question by cheer
Submitted on 2/23/2004
Related FAQ: rec.martial-arts Newbie Guide
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Why is breaking boards called a carnival stunt by some Karate instructors?How did Karate become a sport?

Answer by Mysterious Mr X
Submitted on 3/18/2004
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Board breaking really has no practical application in karate-do. It's just for fun and is usually used for demonstration purposes. When was the last time you where attacked by a board?

Gichin Funakoshi is widely considered the primary "father" of modern karate, I'm sure if you do a search on the web you will have all the info you want. I doubt Master Funakoshi would have considered it a sport, but he did take the first steps in making the art more accessible to the masses.


Answer by bud
Submitted on 3/18/2004
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The origin of board breaking goes back to the early days when warriors practiced smashing wood and stone to penetrate the primitive Armour of the time.


Answer by old karate guy
Submitted on 3/20/2004
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The karate practicioners of old never practiced  board and stone breaking to be able to punch through armor. That is a myth.

It probably started out as a variation of the old samurai method of testing a sword technique by cutting up straw dummies (and sometimes tied up prisoners).

Also it is a good test of spirit to hit unyielding hard objects, and it does require good -if specialized, technique.

All in all a interesting test without fighting applications


Answer by Sheri
Submitted on 5/12/2004
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Breaking boards in any martial art shows the student's progress.  You must have the ability to relax, focus, and do the kick/strike with proper form.  It promotes self confidence when a student accomplishes something that he/she did not think they could do.  


Answer by JoshD
Submitted on 5/23/2004
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Breaking boards, and other materials (ie bricks, tiles, etc.) is a useful tool to the martial artist.

It is true that it's combat applications are few, but it is not a test of combat ability.

It is a test of correct form and technique in the beginning.  Once this is achieved breaking becomes less physical and more mental and spiritual.

To the accomplished martial artist, breaking is more like meditation, which is unquestionably important, although it is not practicing ones fighting skills.


Answer by KyokushinGuy
Submitted on 10/10/2004
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I must respectfully disagree with those saying that breaking does not have any real application in fighting.  The highest goal of the karate-ka is "one strike, certain death."  That type of power does not come from punching the air.  And obviously you can't practice it on your fellow students.  Kicking and striking a bag is helpful, but it still doesn't replace breaking.  For example, when striking a bag with a shuto (knife hand) you can hit with either the wrist or fingers and nothing bad happens.  Breaking forces you to make sure you are striking correctly.  

In addition, many people do not use breaking in ways that would help in a fight.  Supporting boards on bricks and focusing for 30 seconds, practicing the strike 10 times and then breaking is great for starting, but only for starting.  It is important that you take it up to the next step.  One thing I have found very helpful is to have my brother hold two boards and stand behind me.  I don't know where he is standing or at what level he is holding the boards.  I turn around and must break the boards with the first strike.  Another good one is to have my brother moving, acting as though we're fighting.  Here the goal is to be quick enough and powerful enough to break the boards before he moves it or hits you.  

These are things that are obviously very much related to fighting.  A person who can quickly and easily kick or punch through two boards without practice runs will have the ability to take out an attackers knee or rib without difficulty.  


Answer by Sidewinder
Submitted on 2/20/2005
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I agree with JoshD.  breaking boards isn't really about breaking boards.  you will note that more advanced artists usually break things like piles of cinder blocks or bricks.  it comes down to the focus and channeling of energy, proper form/technique and control.  all of which are key elements in any martial art.  the combat application of this sort of thing?  at the risk of sounding rambo-headed, IF, and that is a very large IF, but if you ever encounter a situation that required it, imagine the kind of damage that could be done should that sort of ability be applied to the human body.  with practice, one can eventually come to a point where that state of mind can be called upon almost instaneously.  IMHO, if you have come to that point you had better be good enough and smart enough to avoid trouble in the first place.  something to the effect of "the greatest warrior is one who never need draw his sword" was once said of all those who study the art of combat.  cant remember who but that would be something to dwell upon.  peace.


Answer by Nats
Submitted on 4/6/2005
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I think its a fundamental part of training in your chosen martial art.

I have only just been able to break the board on a holder which I have been trying to do for sometime.

I agree its the technique and confidence of the individual - knowing that when you kick, punch, elbow, hand-strike that very hard object - you will get through it!  

You can't just go up and punch it -how many of you in the beginning kicked the holder! I have until my kick technique was good enough for me to reach the higher board - and break through it! Hooray!  It does make you feel really good and that is something to check your ability against - in the beginning I couldn't even raise my leg up to that point on the holder let alone kick it properly or break anything!

So it might be used as a demonstration piece by some - but i have seen some impressive breaking as probably you all have - but we can't just go and do it can we!!!!


Answer by Mr. Dorasil
Submitted on 5/2/2005
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Board breaking is good for demonstrations because it demonstrates focus and power.  It is also entertaining to watch and can be impressive if there are no tricks involved (fake wood/bricks, slits in wood, thin boards, etc).  Board breaking is also good for training because it allows a martial artist to focus a technique on a stationary target.  This is a good way for the martial artist to measure his or her technique.  It takes good technique, not just brute strength, to break many boards at once.  Board breaking is not the only activity that is needed to train a martial artist mainly because boards do not move or fight back.  However, boardbreaking is one good tool.


Answer by ġ
Submitted on 7/2/2005
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Breaking on most levels is basically used to as demo.  For example, speed breaking shows your ability to break fast, breaking rocks requires a lot of hand conditioning.  I believe that hand and food conditioning is one of the most overlooked components of martial arts.  If you had to hit someone with an object in your hand, would you use a water balloon or brass knuckles?  So, when you talk about conditioning the hands and feet you talk about rebuilding the bones and skin to be harder.  The easiest way to do this is by hitting something hard such as a brick wall at about 10% power...over time your hands get stronger and so on....To say that "boards don't hit back" is extremely stupid.....it's obviously said by someone that has never studied martial arts.....usually if you have completed a break successfully it won't hurt.....but to hit a board, tiles, or whatever you are attempting to break, unsuccessfully can result in broken bones, trust me I know first hand....So I challenge anyone who thinks this is a trick to attempt to break a cinder block and then tell me that boards don't hit back.


Answer by Rabid Weasel Lawson
Submitted on 8/8/2005
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I realized that this is a stale, dead thread but no one ever answered the original poster's question.

So, years later, I know answer it.

It's considered a "stunt" because breaking a board is really, really, easy to do and requires pretty much no understanding of martial arts or any particular martial skill.  All it requires is a basic knowledge of physics, force application, and the fact that wood splits along the grain.

I've seen people with absolutely no martial arts training "karate a board,"... one, a home improvement show host, did it to demonstrate that wood is weak along the grain and this is the reason houses are built in such-and-such manner.

Can it be *made* to have a martial meaning or some sort of martial use/training?  I suppose.  But when non-martial artists with zero martial training do it, then it should tip you that maybe it's not really all that important.

Peace favor your sword,


Answer by pugilist
Submitted on 9/10/2005
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Breaking boards,bricks,ice. As long as it is not seperated by any spacers and not flimsy it can be broken with the use of good technique and Qi or Ki depending on your system.  Yes these items do not hit back.  If they can break multiple bricks with one punch imagine lessen strikes to any part of the body would do.


Answer by Mr V
Submitted on 2/13/2006
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People board breaking has it's place in fighting. Tons of people do kicks and punches hitting a bag, and some are what I call push punchers/kickers.  When hitting and learning to break boards you power increases for those who have not developed the skills yet.  It quickly shows them what they are doing wrong. It forces them to develop upperbody torque, snap, focus, and much more.  So yes board breaking has it's place.  And if you take the mentality that boards don't fight back, then neither does the hanging bags, focus mits, speed bags, etc so throw them away then.  See how that analogy makes no sense.  It is just another avenue to your training.  Everything has it's purpose.  Don't be quick to dismiss things.


Answer by ColdRedLee
Submitted on 4/6/2006
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It's not a carnival stunt, but rather a real test of skill.  A 1" pine board has the tensile strength of a human rib.  If you can punch a 1" pine board and break it, you can break somebody's rib.  

How important is that in defending yourself?  Think about it this way.  The heart is close to a rib.  Break a rib in the correct place, and you peirce the heart.  

Assailant falls on his or her face, dead of a perforated heart.


Answer by Dan
Submitted on 6/27/2006
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I break bricks and boards personally.The reason this is called a "carnival stunt" is old instructing. The instructors are top and if they cant compete then they are harder on whoever does it. Yes this is the sport type of Karate But is a way to express your love for martial arts.


Answer by RandomBob
Submitted on 11/28/2006
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Breaking boards does have a practical application in martial arts.

In order to transform their bodies into weapons, martial artists undergo training in which they break the trabeculae in their bones -microscopic calcium structures which make up the interior of the bones- so that these will reform and grow thicker, in accordance with what's called Wolf's law: bone is depositioned in proportion to the stress it must tolerate.

Training for many martial arts involves some form of hitting hard objects: Muay thai fighters kick banana trees, Shaolin monks break iron bars, karate fighters break boards and concrete blocks. It's all part of high resistance strength training.


Answer by john h
Submitted on 3/25/2007
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board breaking is a test of power, focus, and form. in theory if you can break a board you can break bone


Answer by Jack T
Submitted on 5/15/2007
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Plymouth Pine has the only breaking boards our instructor will let us use.



Answer by wolfe
Submitted on 5/21/2007
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If you have the power and focus to break stacks of wood and stone, then that power will also carry over into your fighting skills and forms...


Answer by jacktutucin
Submitted on 7/1/2007
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Yeah, I'm not sure why it called a carnival stunt, maybe it's just the way it is presented by some people. For  most people, I think it is about proving to themselves that they can do it. I've been breaking boards for years and it's always been a good activity to help me get centered. I used to cut my own boards, but now there are inexpensive online stores which deliver to your house, I use a company out of MA called Plymouth Pine www.plymouthpine.com



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