Grandmaster Knife breaking in competition in 1985. This flying side-kick over the student seated on the bicycle to break 3 pine boards, combined with a triple air kick like the one pictured from another tournament (see below), earned first place in the black belt division.

The same break from a different angle.

This triple air kick break is composed of a right-side/left-front split-kick, followed by a forward turning right side kick, all delivered from one jump.

Then 2nd-degree black-belt Michael Dunn breaking 4 inches with a flying side-kick over 10 people. Had Master Knife not added the triple-kick in the sequence above, this would almost certainly have been the 1st place break. In the event, Michael, God rest his soul, earned 2nd place with this break in that 1985 tournament.

Traditional Taekwon-Doists have always included breaking skills in their training, in order to demonstrate and develop the destructive focus of their techniques. Materials can include brick, cinder block, clay tiles, and even ice and glass plate. Most often, however, the material chosen is finish lumber, usually 1” by 12” kiln-dried pine.

This is available at many building supply stores, and comes in a variety of board-lengths. It is up to the practitioner to cut individual boards to the width of his choice. Kim’s Taekwon-Do School requires students to cut boards a minimum of 8.5” in width for competition.

Students stack boards to create greater levels of difficulty. In the competition photo on the following page, the students are holding 3 boards by hand. Students will find that holding more than 5 boards stacked together in this fashion is almost impossible without a brace similar to the one pictured HERE.

This emphasis on breaking is unique to non-contact practice, and is often misunderstood by the uninitiated to be some kind of parlor trick or act of deception. Nothing could be further from the truth, as anyone who has ever spent any time developing these skills can readily attest.

Several advantages become evident to those who have trained in breaking. First is the awareness of the true weapon surfaces required to break successfully without suffering injury, and the impact conditioning of those surfaces that only comes from consistent breaking practice. Second is the understanding that only with proper mechanics can students develop the true power to penetrate a target using a given technique. Every time students raise their level of difficulty, whether by adding material, using a weaker weapon surface (a forefist, for example, as opposed to a sword foot), or simply trying an unfamiliar skill, they are reminded that brute force will not suffice, and only advanced skill will result in maximum destructive effect.

Grandmaster Knife breaking 4” of pine with a straight punch.

To that end, traditional Taekwon-Do uses breaking as a training device, and all students testing for 5th kup onward must demonstrate specified breaks to advance in rank. Competition breaking is a chance for advanced practitioners to compare individual skills, certainly, but more importantly, it is the best venue to try and advance the boundaries of the practice itself.

In recent years, manufacturers have developed several varieties of plastic practice boards, which offer the financial advantage of reassembly for repeated use. These boards vary widely in quality, however, and at the time of this writing, the best of them is no longer commercially available.

3rd degree black belt Ann Singer breaking plastic with her side-kick as the closing exercise of a traditional workout.

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