Break Day ’08

Mike’s Break — Tetsui
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

I’ve been looking forward to Break Day all year.

The Academy of Okinawan Karate only does break day once a year, so I made sure my travel plans weren’t going to throw it off. Even the Midget has been calling it his “favorite season” and asked me if it was Break Day before every karate class for the last month.

I broke two boards in each of two breaks this year, once with a fumi komi/stomp kick and once with a tetsui/hammer fist. I knew the stomp kick wouldn’t be tough, but I was a little apprehensive about the hammer fist.

My sensei explained we only hold Break Day once a year to allow for progression. It’s easy to get addicted to breaking boards, and pretty soon you’re trying something you’re really not ready for and it becomes easy to get injured. Case in point, though I only broke one board with a hammer fist last year, I had a slight pain near my elbow that I felt every time I clenched my fist. The only explanation I could come up with? I injured something during the break. It was more an irritant than actual pain, but I really didn’t feel up to dealing with it for the next few months.

I did the stomp kick first, because I’m told that gives one an idea of what two boards will feel like. Makes sense, but of course my arms aren’t near as big as my legs. The stomp kick felt like an easy break, and to be honest I didn’t feel a huge difference between last year’s single board and this year’s two boards.

Nevertheless, I did have a year of conditioning and practice before Break Day. Last year I only had a few months, and as a gold belt I’d only been doing hammer fist for a short time. As I took my practice swings this year, it felt a lot more natural, even swinging all the way down toward the floor.

So I took a deep breath, stepped up to the board, and let out a good kiai with my strike. The boards didn’t stand a chance.

Even better? No surprise injuries this year! My hand stung a bit after the strike, but within a few minutes that passed and now, some sixty hours later, no other pains have materialized.

Now, I’m sure some smart-ass out there is quoting Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon: “Boards don’t hit back.” They’re missing the point.

It’s not about a show of strength, it’s about confidence. It’s a good feeling to know you can do it, and it’s an even better feeling when you can see a definite progression from one year to the next. For the kids it may be about using what they’ve learned or getting in front of a crowd and doing something cool without freaking out, but for me it’s about having the confidence that my karate has had a definite, positive impact on my physical fitness.

I’m already wondering if I could have broken three boards. I guess I’ll find out next year.

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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  1. Noah L says:

    Congratulations, Mike! Two boards is definitely something to be proud of–most people on earth can’t even claim to break one, afterall :P. I was a bit nervous when I tried four for the first time, and that nervousness caused me to bounce off, but the second try was perfect, so sometimes even when you’re trying to build your confidence, you may have to have it knocked down a bit first, haha. After you try three, maybe you should try other techniques like kokuto and kokushuto–that’s when things really get interesting :P

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks, Noah! I’d definitely like to try different things in the future, and I like doing a couple different breaks during Break Day rather than just one. Next year I may try to attend multiple Break Days and see what Shihan Walker and Sensei Miller will recommend.