Fundamentals of breaking
IntroSome fundamental things to remember when breaking.
- Materials. Just about anything breakable may be used for breaking. Some materials are easier to break than others. Some materials appear difficult to break but are easy to break, such as ice or a brick. Some materials appear easy to break but are nearly impossible to break, such as a thin plywood board. Most breaking materials are chosen for their visual effect and entertainment potential; they make more sensational breaks and entertain the audience.
- Body parts used for breaking. Practically any rigid part of the body may be used for breaking, including the head, elbow, hand, knee, and foot. Due to taekwondo's stress on hand and foot techniques, hands and feet are most used in breaking, primarily using the ball, outer edge, and heel of the foot.
- Start light. Always use one board when using untested techniques. Add boards as skill and confidence increase. Do not use a technique that is beyond your skill level.
- Be fearless but don't be stupid. Breaks usually fail because of fear, not because of a lack of power. The less your brain perceives the board as a barrier, the more likely the break will succeed. For beginners, aim beyond the board—follow through! As any martial artist can attest, the hand hurts more when you fail to break than when you succeed. However, being fearless does not mean being stupid. Do not attempt breaks without considering the material, the state of the material, and your ability.
- Keep hand in a tight fist. Your punching arm should be tight, but all other body muscles should be relaxed. Some martial arts require holding the fist vertical in a punch. Taekwondo requires holding the fist horizontal in a punch. Biologically speaking, the strongest support for the punching hand is when the fist is not vertical or horizontal but relaxed, so it naturally angles 45 degrees inward. The punch contact area should be knuckles of the index and middle fingers. This offers a minimum contact area for a greater breaking force and it keeps the contact area in line with the forearm to reduce the chances of spraining the wrist if the punch is not successful. Punching with other knuckles forces the wrist to bend and may result in a sprained or broken wrist.
- Relax. Relaxation brings speed and power.
- Body conditioning. Body condition does not aid in board breaking, but it indirectly helps generate speed and power and the ability to deliver the technique correctly and accurately. To a certain limit, body mass will add more power to a technique, up to the point that the mass begins to slow the speed.
- Position. Position is a combination of correct stance, footwork, intention, focus, and form that is necessary for a successful break
- Aim. With any strike moving straight at the target, most commonly you should hit the target dead center. Strikes approaching from the sides of the target, such as an outer forearm elbow strike or a round kick, should strike in the vertical middle of the target but horizontally slightly closer to the edge closest to you. This is important to protect the non-striking areas of the attacking weapon, such as the wrist bones when using the elbow strike.
- Breaking procedures.
- Always ask an instructor to watch.
- Inspect boards for knots or defects that may cause injury; check for wet, sappy boards, or improperly cut boards that will make breaking more difficult.
- Make sure board grain is going the right way. When the grain is vertical, the board will not collapse on your arm or leg as much. Align vertically for a side kick, front kick, round kick, or punch. Align horizontally for hook kick, knife hand, or ridge hand.
- Look at the board from the side, if it is bowed, place the bowed side outward toward you.