Board breaking

Did you know that I hadn’t broken a board with a punch until I joined DFK? At that point, I was a 2nd degree black belt and had been doing Tang Soo Do for 15 years! I didn’t have enough confidence in myself and hadn’t really had any practice or instruction in board breaking. Therefore, I am writing a post about board breaking to share what I have learned.

Mental preparation

Confidence is really the key to board breaking. You have to be confident in so many aspects of your training. You must be confident that your striking surface is conditioned enough to recovery. Many students are fearful of the pain. The pain is temporary. You need to be fearless. You must learn to not fear pain, but rather, ignore it. You also must be confident in your training in your technique, and confident in your ability to ignore the board itself and strike through it (exceptions to that in the next sections).

When your self-doubt says “You can’t do this, it will be too painful”, look your self-doubt in the eye and say “I am the pain“.

Power breaks

Power breaks are typical board breaking where the board is held in place at both ends. In power breaks, your entire focus is to strike through the board. When setting up yourself and your target, align your distance so that you will strike the board in the middle of your technique. For example – if you have a human partner holding your board, aim for your partner’s body, not the board, and strike as close to the center as you can.

Speed breaks

Speed breaks are a special type of board breaking where only 1 end of the board is held in place. This requires both power and speed. The technique used for a power break will not work for a speed break, because striking through the board will only move it around, since only 1 side is being held. In a speed break, you must be quick, fast, and powerful. A special consideration in a speed break is the material of the board. If you are breaking wood, it sometimes is more effective to strike slightly closer to the end being held. The reason is that this will create a shockwave that travels up the board, causing it to break.

When I was testing for 4th degree black belt, I had to do a speed break with ridge hand attack. I failed the first 2 attempts when striking near the center of the board. A testing assistant advised me to strike lower towards the end being held. I broke the board on my next attempt.

Self-hold speed breaks

Self-hold speed breaks are speed breaks where you are the holder of the board. The same mechanics apply, except you have the added complexity of being both the holder and the breaker. It is essential that you keep your board as still as possible during the strike. Any excessive movement will absorb the momentum of your strike and will ruin your attempt to break.

Check out this video of Mr. Peter doing a self-hold speed break.

Board holder

Let’s not overlook the person holding the board for a power break or a speed break. This person’s performance can also impact the result of a break attempt. For a power break, generally the holder should take a front stance with locked elbows, holding the board as still as possible. For a speed break, holders usually hold the board with both hands and reinforce the board against the inside of 1 forearm.

In both cases, the board holder has to remain absolutely still. If necessary, look away or close your eyes so you cannot anticipate the impact and involuntarily flinch.


A quick word about board composition – typically, wood is easier to break than plastic rebreakable boards. Often, you will see boards that have been power-broken when they have been hit off-center. This is why practicing with a rebreakable board is great training, because it is much stronger than wood and much less forgiving. In general, I bring my 1-inch rebreakable board to Saturday classes with me and anyone is welcome to borrow it during Open Practice time.

Now get out there and start breaking

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to KI HAP!

2 thoughts on “Board breaking

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