My question concerns two particular breaking techniques; hammer fist downward strike and horizontal knife hand strike. First, let me say that I am probably the strongest person in our class, but to brag but to help explain what is happening. In my first test of breaking using a hammer fist, I was unsuccessful in three tries to break hit 3 - ¾" pine boards. I knocked the boards from the holder's hands onto the floor and ended up with a big bruise on my wrist. I am having the same problem when using the knife hand strike. Does this occur because the holders are allowing the boards to move with my strike resulting in my injuries, or is it a technique problem?
As you have probably noticed, the size and strength of the breaker have little to do with successful breaks. Many times, small people perform spectacular breaks, while large people go away broken.
Any hammer fist and knife hand strikes, insure that the striking area (padded outside edge of palm) is foremost when you make contact with the board. This helps ensure that the pisiform and the end of the ulna (the two small ball shaped protrusions on the outside of the wrist) do not strike the board. This may be accomplished by using a very slight angling of the wrist, a change in the angle of the strike by adjusting the way the arm and body move during the strike, or by changing the angle that the boards are being held:
- If the wrist bends during a strike, it may be injured. If one or both of the two wrist bones hit the board, it will hurt.
- Do not perform practice swings before a break. Just set up the boards and break them. All practicing should have been done in the months preceding the break. When you perform slow motion practice swings, especially ones that stop at the surface of the board, you are just setting yourself up for a slow strike that stops at the surface of the board.
- Toughening of the striking area though the use of repeated light strikes (forging) helps prevent pain. However, too much toughening may cause other problem.
Successful breaking requires four things:
- Proper technique
Concentration means you must ignore everything around you, and the board, and then ensure the other three things are used. Instead of tensing your body in preparation for a tremendous output of power and the eventual impact, breathe deep and relax. Speed is relatively easy to fix, just strike faster, not more powerfully. Do not try to hit hard; if the other three things are also present, power will just happen. When you try to strike with more power, your technique usually suffer.
Ensure proper technique is used throughout the motion of the break. Many people will make practice swings using perfect technique, and then when doing the break, they tense and try to hit hard, which slows the speed, and their technique lapses, they let the wrist bend or they change the angle of the strike.
Do not try to break the board, just strike at a point in space behind the board. The board will just be something you must go through to reach the target point. If you punch at the surface of the board, you will hit it, and probably stop there. It is a mental thing; if you see the board a barrier you must go through, you tend to concentrate on the board. Instead, concentrate on your relaxation, speed, technique, striking angle, and the target point in space just behind the board; the board itself is of no concern. It could just as well be a sheet of paper. One thing off-road motorcycle racers learn quickly is that, if you look at an obstacle in front of you, you will hit it. You have to look where you want to go to avoid the object, not at the object. Do not look at the board, instead, visualize your target as the point in space behind the board.
The only difference between a technique used in training and the one used in breaking is that, in breaking, a board is between you and your target. People tend to train one way in class and then when it comes to performing a break, they think all they have to do is hit harder. In training, a perfect strike will be a thing of beauty that will make spectators gasp. In breaking, a perfect strike will go though the boards like a hot knife through butter.
To prepare for an upcoming break, practice performing a perfect break with the technique you will be using at the testing. To break successfully, you do not need to train by actually breaking, especially when a testing is near. An injury before a testing will hinder your chances of a successful break at the testing. At the testing itself, you just go for it. After the testing, you have plenty time for any injuries to heal before the next testing.
Therefore, the secret to breaking boards is to ignore the boards and perform a perfect strike.