Whether it’s the movies or a viral video on Tik Tok, people who break boards in karate make it look almost painfully easy. However, it can be very deceiving to think so. You need a little instruction and nuance. The ease at which you see it done comes from the practice of technique, not just brute force.
At first, board breaking is not an easy thing to do. Although it looks effortless when it’s done successfully, that comes from hours of practice. There is more technique and skill involved than actual strength. The boards are usually smaller, which makes them harder to break. Thicker boards can cause bone fractures if not done correctly.
Instructors aren’t going to have beginners to karate breaking boards on day one. There are a lot of movements and skills that must be acquired by the karateka (practitioners of karate) before breaking is attempted. Since no one wants to end up getting hurt by trying something that they’re not yet ready for, understanding what goes into this skill is crucial. Continue reading to learn more about breaking karate boards!
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What Kind of Wood is Used for Breaking?
For the most part, people breaking boards tend to lean towards pine wood as the wood of choice for karate boards. Although there are a few different types that practices might use, pine seems to be the most common. It’s not as expensive and makes for good practice for beginners to learn how to break boards. You can also purchase pine wood in bulk, depending on size and thickness requirements.
Sometimes people will even use plastic, rebreakable boards that are actually two separate interlocking pieces. This is nice to practice with and get your technique down, as it would save on having to buy new boards every single time. It would also reduce the chance of injury while you’re building up skills and strength. However, you would not see this in a competition or professional demonstration.
Outside of pine wood, the other one (if one lives close enough to access it) is paulownia wood. It is a nice alternative to pine because it has a soft texture similar to pine and is great for breaking in karate. The type of wood used in karate matters, but that doesn’t mean it makes it “easy” to break.
Also, if you know someone who works in a lumberyard, you can get competitive pricing on untreated wooded shelving that you can cut. You would go as thin as you need to here. Prior to any lumber price hikes, you could purchase enough shelving to cover multiple rounds of a black belt routine. Be careful not to get particle board or any other furniture board. You would still need to safely break it at the end of the day.
How Do You Break a Karate Board?
Since we’ve gone through the types of boards that are most commonly used, and how it’s a little more difficult to do than it may seem, we should dive into how to actually break the board itself. When it comes to actually breaking the board, there are a few factors that come into play:
- Strike with the grain: When you look at wood, whether it be a tree trunk or block, there are grains that run through the wood. Trees are made of layers and fibers, so working with or against them will determine how much harder you may have to strike to break the board. When breaking boards, it will be easier if the grains run front to back rather than sideways. As you get better, you can go against the grain, but will need 2 to 3 times more striking power:
- Strong hold: Whoever is going to be holding the board for you, needs to have a strong hold on it with a powerful stance. It would be detrimental if you went to strike or kick with the right force and technique, to only have them get pushed back resulting in the board not breaking.
- Proper strike: In karate, people are taught to strike through and aim for whatever is behind their target. So, don’t aim for the board, aim for what is behind the board. Whether it’s a kick or punch, it should be more in the middle to get a clean break.
Board Breaking Safety and Best Practices
If you use concrete blocks to support the board, be sure to mind the placement and gaps. Besides not running into them or knocking them over, it is important to deliver an accurate strike near the center of the board, pushing through the level of the board. Be careful not to drive your kick or strike too far though, you don’t want to lodge wooden fragments in your extremities.
If you use a partner to hold the board, ensure they are holding it firmly as mentioned in the previous section. Be sure they are holding it sufficiently away from their chest, neck, and face. As you deliver your strike and the board breaks, have them slightly push up and away, almost like they are ripping the board apart to reduce the likelihood of splintering and fragmenting.
Breaking boards in karate are not easy to break for beginners, but there are ways to make it less or more difficult depending on your skill level. The movies make it look effortless, but in real life, there is technique and some amount of practice in learning the proper ways to kick or punch your way through a wooden board.
Start with a thinner board and move up from there. Focus on technique and deliver your kick or strike past the board, but not too far. There are also options for buying boards depending on your budget.
So if you are interested in learning how to break boards, use this article as a reference, but it may be wise to visit with an instructor and see if karate (or taekwondo) is the next thing for you to get into!