See Breaking Materials.
Body parts used for breaking
Practically any rigid part of the body may be used for breaking, including the head, elbow, hand, knee, and foot. Due to Taekwondo's stress on hand and foot techniques, hands and feet are most commonly used in breaking, primarily using the ball, outer edge, and heel of the foot.
Always use one board with untested techniques. Add boards as skill and confidence increase. Do not use a technique that is beyond your skill level.
Be fearless but don't be stupid
Punches fail because of fear, not because of lack of strength. The less your brain perceives the board as a barrier, the more likely the punch will succeed. For beginners, aim beyond the board, i.e., follow through! As any martial artist can attest, the hand hurts more when you fail to break than when you succeed. Being fearless does not mean you should be stupid. Do not attempt breaks without considering the material, the state of the material, and you ability.
Keep hand in a tight fist
Your punching arm should be tight, but all other body muscles should be relaxed. Some martial arts require the thumb of the fist to point upward in a punch. Taekwondo requires that the thumb face inward. Biologically speaking, the strongest support for the punching hand is when thumb is not up or inside but relaxed so it naturally points 45 degrees inside. Punch contact area should be first knuckles of index and middle fingers. This offers minimum contact area for a greater breaking force and it keeps the contact area in line with the forearm to reduce chances of spraining the wrist if the punch is not successful. Punching with other knuckles forces wrist to bend and may result in a sprained or broken wrist. Always punch in middle of board.
Relaxation brings speed and power.
Body condition in itself does not aid in board breaking , but indirectly it helps generate speed and the ability to deliver the technique correctly and accurately. To a certain limit, body mass will add more power to a technique, up to the point that the mass begins to slow the speed.
Position is a combination of correct stance, footwork, intention, focus, and form that is necessary for a successful break
Speed, Power, and Contact time
Factors that influence board breaking are: speed, power, and how long the hand or foot is in contact with the target. Collisions similar to a bouncing super ball are nearly elastic, since they conserve both kinetic energy and momentum. When punching a board, unless the hand has an apparent mass much larger than the board, it will be stopped on contact and the center of the board will begin to bend some from the impact. This type of impact will cause the greatest transfer of energy to the board. This type of strike, called a "speed break," is where a board is suspended by one side. This mean the board must break before it is knocked from the single supporting hand. This type of break requires much training and experience to generate the speed necessary to accomplish the break, so it is probably beyond the ability of a beginner.
A simpler break involves an inelastic collision. In this type of collision, the hand and board remain in contact through out the strike. As the object is struck, the hand continues to exert force and the center of the board begins to bend with the velocity it gains from the collision. The strike continues to apply force past the point where the board reaches its breaking point, accelerating through the board as it breaks. If the hand is moving too slowly, the flex of the board will stop it before it breaks. It would be like trying to break the board by leaning a heavy object on it. At greater speed, the hand will slow as it contacts the board, however, the continued application of force by the arm that is larger than the force the board exert, will keeps the hand's speed high. Eventually, the board will reach maximum flex and break. With high speed punches, the hand will always be moving faster than the board can react.
So do not try to hit the board with all your strength, try to hit with the greatest speed possible. You are not trying the "kill" the board, you are trying to pass though it.
When a static breaking force is applied to each method, the amount of force to break each board is about the same, however, for the board to break, the force must be applied over a longer distance in method (A) since the board will bend more than the boards in each of the other methods. The board in method (B) will bend the least. When method (A) uses hand holders, extra force must be applied since some of the force will be absorbed by the holders. Also, the force must be applied over an even longer distance because of movement of the holders.
A strong support break is against materials placed on solid, unyielding objects, such as boards placed between two concrete blocks. This is the simplest type of break.
A semi-strong support break is against materials held by one or more people. This is a more difficult break than a strong support break since the breaker has less control over the positioning and movement of the materials and the board holders may give way under the power of the breaking technique.
A no support break is the most difficult type of break. In a no support break, the material is held by the fingers of one hand or is thrown or released in the air. The breaker must use extreme speed and accuracy to break the object. Lack of speed will merely knock the object away. Accuracy is important since the object must be struck directly in its center for it to break.
With any, strike moving straight at the target, most common, you should hit the target dead center. Strikes approaching from the side of the target, such as an outer forearm elbow strike or a round kick, should strike in the vertical middle of the target but horizontally slightly closer to the edge closest to you. This is important to protect the not striking areas of the attacking weapon, such as the wrist bones when using the elbow strike.
- Always ask an instructor to watch.
- Inspect boards for knots or defects that may cause injury. Do check your material. Wet, sappy boards, or improperly cut boards will make breaking more difficult.
- Make sure board grain is going the right way. When the grain is vertical, the board will not collapse on your arm or leg as much. Align vertically for a side kick, front kick, round kick, or punch. Align horizontally for hook kick, knife hand, or ridge hand. Look at the board from the side, if it is bowed, place the bowed side outward toward you.
A board held in a relatively stable position, such as on both sides, will require less force being applied by the breaker to break the board, than when the board is held suspended by one side. This is because of the negative force exerted on the board by holders. When the board is held on two sides, this force is added to the force behind the punch which effectively doubles the force being used to break the board. When the board is held on only one side, there is little negative force being applied, so the breaker has to provide the full force required to break the board. If you are uncomfortable with the ability of the holders to hold the boards tight, you will have to compensate by providing the all the necessary force yourself, rather than depending on the reverse force provided by the holders.
The board holders are your responsibility, if they are not performing adequately, get new holders.
Check the board holders for:
- Locked arms. Bent arms absorb energy rather than resisting it. Thumbs held parallel to edges of board.
- Thumbs extending down may be injured.
- Deep stances with a slight forward lean.
- Both inside legs should be in back. For certain angular breaks, one holder may have outside leg back so it does not interfere with motion of breaker.
- Holding on the smooth edge with one hand diagonal to the other. Never brace the boards with the forearm.
- Extra holders may brace the holders by pushing on the primary holders backs and/or by holding their forearms from the side.
- Size (they should be about the same height and weight)
- Strength (they should be strong enough to hold for the break)
Palm Heel or Punch
The palm heel is powerful and offers the least chance of injury. The punch is more dangerous since any improper part of the technique may result in injury (such as a bent wrist my sprain or a loose fist may break a finger). Both of techniques use a thrusting movement, the only difference is the contact surface and how you hold your hand. With the punch, contact is made with the first two knuckles, with the knuckles in line with the bones of the wrist and arm. Use hip snap and keep the elbow close to the side to preserve linear movement. To help with this, just keep your arm so that it brushes against your side as you strike.
The basic "karate chop." It is ideal for penetrating strikes and looks more "professional" and impressive than a hammer fist. Knife hands must strike through the object so aim past the object. Start with the hand fully counter rotated so it can snap into the technique. Strike with great speed and tense the knife hand at impact.
A front or downward elbow strikes are the easiest arm breaks to use. There is less chance of injury than if using the hand.
Heel of Foot
The bottom of the heel is best striking surface for a kicking break. There will be a straight line of bone from the heel to the hip.
Ball of Foot
The ball of the foot is best striking surface when using a round/roundhouse kick. Using the instep will probably lead to an injury.
Head breaks are relatively simple but they are deceiving. Although there is no apparent injury, the neck vertebrae take most of the shock. Later in life, the discs between the vertebrae will cause problems because of blows received to the head in earlier years. I speak from personal experience.
Level of Relative Breaking Difficulty of Various Breaking Techniques (from least to most difficult)
Elbow strike (downward)
Fore fist punch
Elbow strike (forward)
Chicken wrist strike
Knife hand strike (horizontal)
Chicken wrist (upward)
Spinning back fist
Spinning knife hand
Spinning hammer fist
Punch (speed break)
Ridge hand (speed break)
Knife hand (speed break)
4” Fore-knuckle punch
Side kick (sliding)
Round kick (rear leg)
Side kick (rear leg)
Side kick (jump)
Side kick (front leg)
Side kick (jump, front leg)
Front kick (head height)
Crescent (rear leg)
Hook kick (front leg)
Round kick (front leg)
Front kick (jump, head height)
Round kick (jump, rear leg)
Crescent kick (front leg)
Side kick (jump rear leg)
Back kick (jump)
Hook kick (spin)
Crescent kick (spin)
Hook kick (jump, spin)
Back kick (jump, spin)
Crescent (jump, spin)