Specifics of Breaking

Breaking (Tameshiwara) is a unique aspect of Karate. You can break objects with almost any technique, so long as it is powerful enough and that part of your body is physically able.

For training purposes, some karate-ka have found breaking to be extremely useful:

     (1) You get used to the impact of hitting solid objects with maximum force.

     (2) It allows you to measure the power of your techniques. This is extremely

           important, because if you don't know how much damage you can do with any

           given technique, you could accidentally injure someone.

     (3) It helps develop accuracy of techniques while using maximum force.

Here are the most common techniques to break with:

Punch (forward, reverse, downward, back-fist)

Elbow (front, rising, side, back, roundhouse, downwards)

Kick (front, side, back, roundhouse, reverse roundhouse, axe)

Palm strike

Knife-hand strike

Ridge-hand strike


Many objects can be used in the demonstration of breaking:


Roofing tiles

Re-breakable boards

Concrete slabs


Glass bottles are also occasionally used, but the risks are obvious.

When using materials which shatter or splinter on impact (e.g. wood, tiles), it is advisable to cover the area of material that will be in contact with your body. A hand towel works well.

Here are some details on some of the breaking materials:


- Always break with the grain as it is produces a clean break.

- Don't try to break wood with knots in it as they make the wood harder to break.

- The ideal size of a board is about 10" by 12"

- The type of wood being broken must be taken into consideration. Pine is the most preferred type of wood as it is light, break cleanly and offers a moderate challenge to break. A more difficult type of wood to break is oak

- When deciding on the thickness of wood to break, remember that a 2" board is more difficult to break than two 1" boards. This is true for any breaking material

- Make sure that the wood is placed on a stable support. Failure to do so makes the break far more difficult

Roofing Tiles:

- Cover the tiles with a cloth or heavy material as they shatter when broken

- Tiles are easy to break and so are usually used in demonstrations to add to the spectacularity of the break

- Make sure that the tiles are placed on a stable support. Failure to do so makes the break far more difficult

Re-breakable Boards:

- These are used for training purposes to develop your breaking techniques without having to pay out a fortune for materials

- They must be struck in the center to break, thus developing accuracy

- Different strength boards are available and strength of boards varies from company to company. You can also only slide the boards only partially together etc to allow for an easier break

- Make sure that the board is placed on a stable support. Failure to do so makes the break far more difficult

Concrete Slabs:

- The problem with concrete slabs is that they vary greatly in strength. To make a slab harder, rock chips, finer sand, more sand and 'setting up' (allowing the slab to harden up over a period of years) are used in it's composition. It is almost impossible to tell what is inside the slabs from the outside.

- Generally, concrete is harder to break than most other materials and should therefore only be broken by experienced breakers. You should cover the slab with a towel or like material in case it splinters when broken

- Make sure that the concrete slabs are placed on a stable support. Failure to do so makes the break far more difficult


- The same principles apply here as for the concrete slabs

- One way to make the break spectacular is to punch the brick just above center. This will make it explode. I don't know exactly how much off center to strike, but it is possible to make the brick explode

Principles of Breaking

AIM:  If the object is laying flat and is relatively knotless, you should strike in the exact center for a successful break. This is especially true when you break harder objects.  If the object is suspended from cords or the like, then for the most successful break, you should aim somewhere between center and the top.  Otherwise all you will accomplish is to have the board swing away from you.  If you strike farther up, there will be more mass below to resist the initial movement.

SPEED: It is not only the amount of mass of which you strike the object with but at the speed at which you hit it. The break is directly related to speed and mass.  Increasing speed and/or mass results in the ability to increase the breaking material.

Also, when the object is hit at a higher velocity, the energy from your striking limb is transferred to the block more quickly like a 'short, sharp shock', thus breaking it more easily. To achieve such a velocity, your body must be totally relaxed so the limb can move freely.

Here, by doubling the velocity (speed) of your technique the energy produced quadruples allowing you to break more.

Discounting the initiation time of the limb movement, the speed will be consistent through out the breaking cycle.  The more relaxed you are, the shorter amount of travel in the initiation travel and the closer to the material you can be to accomplish the break.

When you use these principles to produce more energy and thus more force and put the greatly increased force values into the equation, you can see how much more power can be produced resulting in incredible breaking feats.

FOCUS: When you break, it is vital that you go through the object that you are breaking. This allows you to strike the object at full force due to the body's natural reaction of flinching. You must trick your mind into thinking that the object is further back than it really is. If you don't aim through the object and you stop on it, you will experience much more pain than otherwise if the object doesn't break. This is because your striking limb absorbs all the energy instead of the object. This energy is translated into pain. Once you start feeling this pain when breaking, your body flinches more and you stop on the board more, thereby increasing the amount of pain. This produces a fear of breaking. If this happens, reduce the amount you are breaking until you are comfortable with it. Work your way back up from there.

AREA: The object you are breaking should be struck with the smallest possible area of your body. This will produce more downwards pressure on the board, thus successfully breaking it.  It's like comparing a knife edge to a banana.  The knife edge "cuts" cleanly and the banana would have to "crush" it's way through.

Thanks to simple physics, we can see why:

                                                                   Pressure = Force/Area

Breaking Setups

There are various ways to set up the breaking materials. However, the most important thing to remember is that they must be properly supported so that there is no 'give' when you strike them.

Here are the different setups:

Stacked boards:

The boards are placed face up between two upright supports (usually cement blocks). The boards must rest at least a quarter of an inch on each of the supports. The boards are stacked directly on top of each other with the grains facing the same direction on every board. Sometimes spacers are put between the boards, however, this makes the break easier as the momentum of the broken boards hitting the lower boards causes the lower boards to break before you even come to strike them - in other words, you are cheating yourself into believing that you are breaking more than you actually can.

This setup is used to break boards using downward strikes like axe kicks

Held boards:

The boards are held by 2 people. They stand directly behind the boards in wide and deep stances to secure the boards. One person should stand slightly to the left of center and secure that side of the boards whilst the other stands on slightly right of center to secure the right hand side of the boards. Their arms should be locked. Remember that the boards should be held securely as if the holders move back at all when the boards are hit, the boards may not break.

This set up is used for horizontal strikes like punches

Suspended boards:

The boards are held in the same position as above except they are only held at the top or bottom. This type of breaking is very difficult and requires speed. You have to be quick enough to strike through the board before it has moved back from the force of the strike.  A helpful hint here, is to make contact with the board above center.  As I said before, this aids in preventing the board from just swinging out and away from your strike.

This type of setup is used for horizontal strikes like punches.