Breaking>Performing a break

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Performing a break


NOTE: When performing a break, the breaker, the person performing the break, is the person responsible for the break. This may include providing the breaking material, selecting the breaking material, setting up the break, selecting the human holders, instructing and positioning the holders, and cleaning up after the break. At any time during the performance of the breaking, the breaker can refuse to perform the break for any reason.

When performing a break, there are steps you must take to set up for the break. In the following step descriptions, the material to be broken is a wood board. When using other types of breaking materials, a similar process is used.

Setting up for the break

Choosing the board

When breaking a board you will need a board. Depending on the circumstances of the break,
  • You may use your own board.
  • Boards may be supplied, and you get to choose the one to use.
  • Boards may be supplied, and you must use the board handed to you by officials.
If you get to select the board you use for the break, select a board using the following criteria:
  • Choose a flat board.
  • If a board has a knot in it, the wood will break around a knot, not through it, and make the board more difficult to break. Choose a board with the least number of knots and avoid boards with knots that run along the length of the board. Small round knots are not a problem but avoid large knots, especially ones near the center of the board.
  • Choose a board that is the light in weight; it has less moisture content and is easier to break.
  • Choose a board that is the light in color; it has less sap content and is easier to break.
  • Choose a board that has grain lines that are close together. Since you are splitting the board along the grain, a board with the grain running in narrow bands along the length will be easier to break than when the grain runs in wide bands. The more grain that tends to run in a vertical direction, the harder the wood will be to break.
  • If a board happens to be cracked and you can get by with using it, choose it, or give it to an official.

For a strong, two-sided hold break

In a strong break, the board is supported on two opposite sides and positioned between two solid objects, such as concrete blocks. The breaker places the board on the supports. When placing the board on the supports, place the smooth sides, not the cut ends, on the supports and adjust the board and the supports so the board barely overlaps the supports; this ensures the board spans the greatest distance and thus is easier to break. If a board has a bow to it, place the bowed side down. If breaking more than one board, place the bowed board on the bottom.

If breaking more than one board, the boards are stacked atop each other. If allowed, spacers can be used between the boards.
  • Spaced not used. When no spacers are used, the boards are stacked directly atop each other. When breaking a stack with no spacers, the breaker must use a tremendous initial striking force and maintain it over a relatively short distance. The strike only needs to penetrate to the depth of a few boards since the energy of the strike immediately transfers to the next board because they are touching each other. The breaker is essentially breaking the entire stack of boards all at once. 
  • Spacers used. When spacers are used, long spacers (such as pencils) are placed atop each board in the stack (except for the top board), one parallel to each side at the edges of the support sides. When using spacers, the breaker can apply less force to initiate the break since he or she is only breaking the first board, but the force must be maintained throughout most of the strike's travel down through the stack so the next board down the stack can be broken.

For a semi-strong, two-sided hold break

For breaks that use more realistic strikes than just using downward strikes against a board placed on low supports, the board needs to be held by a person. When the board is held by a person, it is called a semi-strong break,

Since most strikes in a fight or self-defense situation are against a standing person, it is more realistic to break boards that are held vertically and in various positions. This allows a variety of different strikes to be used in a manner more consistent with those used when striking a person.

In strong support breaks, the board does not move for the first attempt to break it and it will be in the same location for all subsequent attempts. In semi-strong support breaks where unpredictable humans are holding the boards, anything can happen. The holder may cringe and move the board slightly. The holder may let his or her elbows go slack, or be tired and let his or her entire body relax. The holder’s feet may slide at impact or the holder may try to assist in the break by pushing into the impact.

Choosing a holder

The person holding the board for the break is a BIG factor in the success of a break, so choose holders carefully. Choose a person who is big, strong, capable, and confident. If more than one holder is required, choose people of about the same height and weight.

The breaker depends on the holder to provide the static reverse force that resists their applied force to help make the break successful. When the breaker is uncomfortable with the ability of the holder to hold the board properly, it may cause the breaker to lose confidence in his or her ability to achieve the break or cause the holder to overcompensate, and thus case the break to be unsuccessful.

As stated above, the breaker is responsible for the break; therefore, if the breaker thinks the holder is not performing adequately, he or she should request a new holder.

Preparing the holder

The breaker should check the holder(s) before each break attempt for the following:
  • Stance. The holder should be in a solid, deep stance with a slight forward lean; either leg can be forward. When two holders are used, both holder’s inside legs should be in the back. For certain angular breaks, one holder may have the outside leg back, so it does not interfere with the breaker’s movements. For powerful breaks that use more than one board, more holders may be needed to brace the primary holders by pushing on their backs and/or by bracing their forearms from the sides.
  • Hands. The holder’s hand on the same side as his or her front leg should be on the top of the board. 
  • Grip. When one holder is used, the board is held vertically by gripping the middle of the smooth sides with the lead hand on the top. When two holders are used, each holder grips the smooth side of the board near the outer ends. Each holder's front hand is on top on their side of the board, and their back hands are on the bottom of the opposite side of the board; this means the holders' bottom arms will cross each other.
  • Fingers. The fingers should be pulled back some to keep them out of the impact zone. The fingers only need to hold the board in place, the palms are what take the force of the strike. Don't curl the fingers; if the strike hits the fingers there will be less chance of injury if the fingers are flat on the board.
  • Thumbs. The thumbs held parallel to the back edges of the board. Thumbs that extend downward may be injured when the board pushes against then during the impact of the strike.
  • Palms. The palms should be flat and firmly against the board in a firm grip since they will take the full force of the initial impact of the strike. 
  • Elbows. The elbows should be straight and rigid but not locked. Slightly bent elbows let the arms pass the impact forces around and through the elbow joints; whereas, locked elbows can be jammed and injured.

For no-support break

The no-support break also called a speed break, is where the board has no firm support and must be broken by a high-speed strike before the board is knocked away. This includes a board that is in free-fall or a board that is held on one-side.

Free-fall break

In a free-fall break, the board is dropped or tossed into the air and is broken before it hits the floor.
The breaker must ensure the holder knows what to do and how to do it:
  • Dropped board. When using a speed break against a dropped board, the holder holds the board outward at a height selected by the breaker, letting the board hang downward while being held lightly by the fingertips on an end chosen by the breaker. The holder may be instructed to drop the board on your command or at a random time after you indicate you are ready.
  • Tossed board. When using a speed break against a tossed board, the holder lightly tosses the board into the air while ensuring the surface of the board to be struck is facing the breaker.

One-side support break

In a one-sided support break, the holder either holds the board downward or upward, or the board is free-standing.
  • Downward hold. When using a downward hold, the holder holds the board outward at a height selected by the breaker, letting the board hang downward while held lightly by the fingertips on an edge chosen by the breaker.
  • Upward hold. When using an upward hold, the holder holds the board outward and upward at a height selected by the breaker, letting the edge chosen by the breaker rest in the palm while keeping it upright aby lightly supporting it with the fingertips.
  • Free-standing. When breaking a free-standing board, the breaker balances the board on an edge face on a support so the board is standing upward.

Executing the break

When ready to perform the breaks:
  • Move to your starting position and perform whatever salutations are required by your school or organization. 
  • Perform any preparatory movements, set yourself, and strike with power and perfect form, with a loud kiyup.
  • If the break is unsuccessful:
  • Remain clam and professional. 
  • Thank your holder(s). 
  • Bow out according to your school or organization's procedures 
  • Pick up the pieces of wood if required. 
  • If you are permitted another attempt, regroup yourself, relax, try to forget the failure, and start the break again from the beginning.
  • If the break is successful:
  • Remain clam and professional.  
  • Thank your holder(s). 
  • Bow out according to your school or organization's procedures. 
  • Pick up the pieces of wood if required. 

REMEMBER: In all breaks, the breaker is responsible for the success or failure of his or her break.

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