Break Day!


Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

The Midget and I had been looking forward to yesterday’s Break Day at our Academy of Okinawan Karate dojo for a long time. As you can see here, we intended to break one board fumi komi, or with a stomp kick. I’ve seen some impressive board breaking displays at our school’s graduation ceremonies, but this is the first we’ve done it in class (board breaking is not part of our school’s regular curriculum). I’ve never broken a board like this before, either, so I was excited to give it a shot.

Our school uses pine boards measuring 10″ by 12″ and 3/4″ thick. They are not scored or cut, nor are they baked or otherwise pre-treated for easy breaks; each student relies on their own strength and speed to break a board. Some say one board is equivalent to a human bone, but as sensei explained, that’s hard to quantify given a bone like your femur is so much stronger than your clavicle.

We started with fumi komi in the basic class. I didn’t expect it would be much of a challenge given the size of my legs, and I was right: my foot went straight through the board. When it came around to the Midget’s turn, Sensei Miller laid out a smaller board.

Even with the smaller board, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With some of the younger students, the instructors will take the student’s foot in their hand, raise the foot, and crash it down onto the board. The instructor’s hand is actually breaking the board, but the student thinks they did it on their own. I wondered if we’d have to do it with the Midget.

Instead he went up there and stomped right through it. The rest of the little guys in our class did the same, which was really neat to watch.

We stuck around for the yellow belt class afterward, and because most of them had broken boards before, they were going to break tetsui, or hammer fist. Sensei took a look at my fist and my technique, and he let me give it a shot, too. Crack! No problem.

The Midget wasn’t about to just sit and watch, so I said he could have another board if he wanted one. Sensei gave him the option of breaking a half-size board tetsui, or a full-size board fumi komi. He opted for breaking a larger board fumi komi, and Sensei set him up.

After a false start where he more stepped on than broke the board, he got that knee up high and kapow, that board went down. I’ll tell ya, watching a five year old break the same board the adults did really makes a father proud.

We got a preview of the future, too. One of our green belts broke a stack of two boards tetsui, and then Sensei Miller broke two stacks of three, one tetsui and one empi (with his elbow). Finally, one of our taller brown belts joined our class and broke a board with a jump kick.

A board myself and another student held seven feet in the air. Yes, we measured, and yes, he made it.

I don’t imagine I’ll be getting a kick seven feet in the air any time soon, but breaking even this single board was a new and fun experience for me. I’m looking forward to next year already.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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