Tameshiwari, or the art of breaking, is something that we practice within the AKF. In the 1973 movie Enter the Dragon, Lee (played by Bruce Lee) famously stated, “Boards don’t hit back.” While that is certainly true, we’ve found that breaking boards (and, for the more advanced, concrete bricks) can teach focus, power, and speed. All three of these aspects need to be mastered to break successfully; if any one is off, it can result in an unsuccessful break and a sore body part.
In addition to working focus, power, and speed in unison, breakers also find that practicing and mastering the proper technique can exponentially increase the power generated. Brute force isn’t always the answer (although, as with all things, when you can combine great force AND great technique, success is inevitable). For example, when performing a downward break on a stand, a breaker can find that only swinging their upper body around ends in a palm bouncing off a board. But with a small adjustment to drop in the knees while throwing the strike, there are suddenly smaller pieces of board flying.
We use several different methods, depending on the type of break that’s being attempted. Our master carpenter has built stands of varying sizes to allow for downward breaks of pine boards and concrete paving bricks, as well as modifying stands to allow for horizontal kick breaks. For other smaller horizontal board breaks like elbows, palm heel strikes, and closed fists we use other karateka as holders; the correct holding of a board is an art, to ensure the highest chance for a successful break. And for stomps we’ve built large stacks of bricks, supported by other bricks. Every break is different, and every break is exciting to watch.
Breaking is helpful as a teaching tool for all the reasons listed above, but most importantly, when done correctly it can be a ton of fun!