Ability to break boards in karate? Here’s everything you need to know

board breaking karate

Have you ever seen someone who practices karate breaking boards? You might have wondered how they are able to do that, and maybe even if you could learn to do it. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about breaking boards in Karate:

What is Breaking Boards in Martial Arts?

Breaking boards in Karate is pretty much what it sounds like. You strike a board with your hand, foot, elbow (or another striking surface of the body) with enough force to break it. 

Aside from giving the striker a heady rush and a feeling of awesomeness, board breaking actually has some practical purposes in Karate. 

First, it helps the student develop accuracy and speed. If you strike a board in the wrong place, it likely won’t break, whereas if you hit it in just the right spot, it can snap like a twig. 

Likewise, if your strike lacks speed, you’ll end up with an intact board and an injured hand. 

Also, back in the day they didn’t have the fancy accelerometers that we have today for measuring force. If they wanted to evaluate a student’s speed and power, they gave them a board to break. 

Finally, striking surfaces helps increase bone density. When the bones are stressed and damaged a little by impact, they get stronger and denser as they heal.

The Science Behind Breaking Boards

Remember learning about Issac Newton’s law “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?” That’s what board breaking is all about. 

Striking a board means subjecting it to a force. If the board is unable to provide an equal amount of opposing force, it breaks. If it is able to provide enough force to stop your punch, your hand absorbs the force, often resulting in injury. 

Speed is a key factor in this equation. The faster your hand is moving, the greater kinetic energy it has, and the board must be able to surpass that energy to stop it. 

Strength and Conditioning through Breaking Boards

You might be surprised to know that the ability to break boards is more about knowledge than strength. In other words, it doesn’t take as much strength as you might think to break a board, you just need to know how to do it. 

In Karate classes it is common to see people conditioning their hands before attempting to punch through a board. Punching requires conditioning or you’ll end up with bloody knuckles. 

Conditioning simply means hitting progressively harder surfaces to toughen the striking surfaces of your body. This is usually done with punching bags, padded boards, or dummy targets. 

You might wonder how long you have to train before you can conquer board breaking. If you approach it with the right attitude, you can go break a board once you get done reading the instructions in this article. If you keep your fingers out of the way and strike with the heel of your hand (the padded part of your palm right above the wrist), you can break a board without injury. 

Of course, we always recommend that you train at Super Kicks for board breaking with assistance. If you don’t do it correctly there is a very real possibility of you breaking your fingers, hand, or wrist. 

What to Expect When Breaking Boards in Karate

When you break a board, it stings a little. After all, you’re still striking a hard surface even though it falls away quickly. 

However, when you hit a board and fail to break it — that hurts! And injury is definitely a possibility. 

Always remember that your target is never the board. Your target is a few inches behind the board. Don’t strike to the board, strike through it! This principle is extremely important. You have to commit to that strike or you’ll be in a world of hurt. 

Choose Your Board and Set It Up

Pine boards with no knots about ¾ of an inch thick are a good choice. About one foot on the diagonal is a good size to start with. 

A board this size is relatively easy to break. In other words, pretty much anyone can break it if they do it correctly. Be sure to position the board so that it breaks along the grain. This will be horizontally for a knife-hand or straight punch and vertically for a palm heel strike. 

The board must be stationary. You can either set it up on concrete blocks and strike down on it, or have someone hold it for you.

The holder is just as important as the striker. They must hold the board out in front of them with their arms locked and drop into a strong stance (front stance is good). Hold the board about chest height with a slight upward angle. Make sure the fingers are completely out of the way. 

When the striker comes in, it is important to remain strong. If the holder flinches, they run the risk of both parties getting hurt. 

Break That Board!

Are you ready to show off your Karate breaking boards? Get into a strong fighting stance, one foot in front of the other. About 70% of your weight should be on the back foot. 

Practice the strike a few times in slow motion to ensure you’ll be hitting in the correct spot. Don’t forget to twist your hips to put the full strength of your body into the strike. Make sure that you can reach a few inches beyond the board so you can strike through it. 

Once you’re ready, it’s time to destroy that board. Strike with all the speed you can muster and don’t forget to kiai to concentrate your energy.

See tons of more board break videos here on Super Kicks’ Youtube page.

About Super Kicks Karate

Offering martial arts for children and adults in Ashburn, VA, Super Kicks Karate has the only all-inclusive sport available for families to do together. At Super Kicks we have seen hundreds of families go through our program and thrive both at home, and in their daily activities. It’s not just about kicking, nunchucks, or Mr. Miyagi; Super Kicks Karate offers martial arts classes for families who want to grow, together. Learn more about Super Kicks.

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