Are You Tougher than a Board? :-)

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate
21 Sep 2007

When I was a youth I use to watch the television program Kung Fu. In that program, Grasshopper was taught the process of toughening up his hands for combat. I read articles in Black Belt magazine and watched tournaments that involved board-breaking. I thought that those guys and gals had to be tough! If anyone messed with them – they would just break the attackers with their power! Karate demonstrations like that inspired me to start breaking boards and jam my hands into buckets of sand.


My breaking experiences started before any formal training. At first I looked around for any old boards in the garage and ended up attacking one inch (equal to 3/4 inch) boards. I quickly discovered the trick of breaking with the grain (the hard way – hurting my hand breaking against the grain). I then wanted to break more boards and discovered that if one put shims in-between the boards – they broke easier.


All was going swimmingly and I was getting better at breaking stuff. I learned to aim through the board so my power increased! Boards everywhere were scared of me (at least in my imagination)!


I started trying to break two by fours with the famous karate chop and ended up hurting my hands. I then decided to lean a large two by four against a two foot brick planter and kick it in two… when I kicked the board – the bottom of the board slid along the grass and the top of the board hit me in the head!!! I got mad and leaned the board again and kick the board again! I got hit on the head harder!


I started to rethink this board breaking stuff and started to realize that not every style of karate was involved with board breaking. The benefits were touted as a practitioner knowing they had the power to break bones. The problem was that breaking a board did not have anything to do with fighting.


When I finally started with Tracy’s Karate – they did not stress board breaking but rather fighting. I was told that it did not matter how hard one could focus a karate chop but rather weather or not a punch or kick actually connected with an attacker.


I still enjoy watching someone breaking a large ice block or a team of karate practitioners chopping a house into small pieces but I do not relate this practice to fighting. I consider breaking in the same category as the karate yell – just interesting and entertaining (more on the yell in a future post). Until boards come to life and challenge me to a fight – I feel pretty safe in this belief. 

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2 Responses to “Are You Tougher than a Board? :-)”

  1. Sly Says:

    I must admit, when I was younger, I fell for the old, “break this board and you can kill anyone with your bare hands” nonsense.

    I suppose if you can’t kill a board then you can’t kill a human? Hmm…well, I think most idiots out there use a knife or gun these days instead of their bare hands.

    Anyway, I completely agree with you that it is more important to learn how to fight and maybe you can still hope to defend yourself against that idiot with the gun or knife, which we all hope will never happen to us.

    What are your thougts on self defense verses someone with a weapon?

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Good point Sly – I’ll cover in future posts self-defense methods when confronted with a weapon in more detail. Surprise is your best advantage against a weapon as the attacker believes they have an advantage. If you can let them think they have an advantage until you spring your own counter-attack – you have a chance. If you practice self-defense, karate, MMA or some other form a fighting, you have a better chance.