Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Breaking Bad

In most karate clubs I’ve attended (and I’ve attended quite a few) there is little or no focus on board-breaking outside of the occasional school fete demonstration. When I took my shodan in…cough… 1990 I was presented with a piece of pine for the first time - having never hit anything harder than a bag in the last four or five years - it took me several attempts to snap it.

In the UKITF schools breaking is seen as a fundamental discipline, along with basics, patterns, sparring and drills (more of these later). Whilst sensibly restricted to adults only and with supervision at all times, all grades are encouraged to practice on re-breakable boards held securely in a horse. At each grading, there is a progressive expectation not only that you can break, but break with multiple techniques and using both sides of the body.

Being relatively new to breaking despite my many years of training I was slightly nervous/excited to see which of my techniques had the focus and power to break the plastic board. The board we use, I am informed, is about twice as resistant as a 1 inch pine board and must be hit on the break-line, (unlike wood which you can pretty much whack anywhere on the grain). Now, in any fighting art the principle of attack tends to be (whether on a bag, board or a body); complete the technique past the point of impact. In other words, focus on a point a few inches through what you want to hit and follow through.

My first few attempts have varying success. A roundhouse elbow strike (palgup chigi or mawashi empi) I have no problem with and break on both sides, ditto with a piercing side kick (yeop chagi or yoko geri kekomi) which pops the board into two pieces with a satisfying crack. However my side fist, palm heel and front punch attacks don’t guarantee a break every time and after a few goes my wrists are beginning to get a little sore. I’m sure there will be plenty of karateka tutting at my poor technique and sighing but as a 5’5” 9 stone veteran, hitting the board exactly on point every time from a standing start with enough power to break is not as easy as it once was.

Now I see the value of the sine wave! Yes, it still feels slow and impractical to me compared to the single line snap of a karate technique but for generating power it has a lot going for it.  By rising and dropping my weight down into the punch my small frame can generate more power and the board shatters. As I discussed in my blog on taekwondo basics, I would not use the sine wave in regular sparring, but as a finishing technique or to bring a slower larger opponent down, I am storing this one for later use.

For confidence building, for proper alignment and for power I can absolutely see the value of having breaking as a regular part of the class and would happily add this to my karate repertoire.

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