ABOUT THE ART OF BREAKING: WHY BREAK?

Any sword that is sharp enough to cut has the potential to do damage, but the sharper the blade, the deadlier the weapon. A razor sharp blade is formidable even in the hands of an unskilled fighter, while a sword with no edge is of little use even in the hands of a master.

Breaking practice allows you to hone your weapons to maximum effectiveness. As a practitioner of combative martial arts, one must forever strive to reach the goal of, "one strike, certain death."

Proper breaking requires proper conditioning. Some people are concerned that conditioning the hands is going to cause long term damage and arthritis. While this is possible, many karatekas and kung fu men with conditioning live well into old age and still have the use of their hands. I believe that superior conditioning is necessary when practicing to fight. Some believe that severe training is unnecessary in the modern age because actual fight situations are rare. I tell people that while conditioning daily for many years may have a negative effect on the hands, breaking the hand just once will definitely have a permanent negative effect. You should feel foolish if you don't condition your hands because you want to save them and then happen to get in a fight and break a bone. In that fraction of a second, you will have permanently damaged that which you aimed to preserve. The hand will never be quite the same and you can look forward to predicting the rain with the ache in your hand like some old arthritic man. I say condition your hands and never suffer a broken bone. People watch my demonstrations and often ask if I have broken my hands many times. I have never broken my hand.

Without the ability to hit hard, you are not truly practicing combative martial arts. It is not uncommon to see an individual trained in kung fu enter a fight, using beautiful movement and countless techniques, only to be demolished by the brute strength of a karateka, kickboxer, wrestler, etc. Unfortunately, the majority of kung fu taught these days does not focus on striking power, even as much as other arts ( which are often inadequate as well). In my humble opinion, if you are not trained in iron palm, you are not really fighting kung fu. A true kung fu man is not just "flowering hands and embroidered pants." His body is hard and cruel, conditioned to be impervious in unexpected ways.

So many people get into practicing the martial arts casually these days. People take a few classes at a local tae kwon do gym and then claim they are martial artists. They advance through belt rankings regardless of ability as long as they pay their dues. Stay long enough, and they eventually get black belts like some kind of employee of the month award. True martial arts development is not based on good intentions. It is based on skill and ability. Some people should never get a blackbelt, regardless of effort and dedication. If one cannot fulfill the requirements, it is just too bad. The core of combative martial arts is the ability to fight. If you are not practicing to hit hard, you are not effectively practicing to fight (unless you are a grappler). If you cannot fight, you are not practicing combative martial arts. Without practicing combat applications, you are just exercising. It is no longer martial art. It is just performance art.

Performance martial artists give the wrong impression of martial arts when they are not distinguished as such. Performance martial artists who believe they are combative martial artists give true fighters a bad name. A classic joke is to see a guy go through a fancy routine of moves and then get knocked out with one punch. A contributing factor is that many individuals enter the arts because they cannot fight. This starts them off with a disadvantage that is not often overcome with the mediocre training of many modern shopping mall dojos.

All this can be overcome if a person has heart and courage. The spirit to fight is one of the most powerful techniques. Breaking is one of the most powerful ways to develop it. Breaking is a tangible means of measuring development of skill and power. You literally set up an obstacle for yourself and then smash through it. As you develop, you set up stronger obstacles and must raise yourself to higher levels of skill. What is at first impossible becomes easy. Apply this to all areas of your training and you will persevere until success.

You will see, undeniably, what you are capable of. You will realize the power of your strikes and see all of your techniques in their true form. What was merely a punch, is now a devastating weapon. The human body is weak compared to the power of the attack. When you have achieved awesome power, you will sooner pity your foe than fear him. "One strike, certain death!"

Conversely, you will learn to be careful with your strikes when sparring. No need to cripple a training partner in order to prove yourself. Demonstrate your skills on bricks and no sensible person will doubt your hitting strength. If you are facing someone with this ability, you will know just how careful to be. Make sure you hit first, or block with something that won't break.

If you are still not convinced that breaking is important to martial arts training, perhaps you are good enough that you don't need to hit hard. Maybe a dull sword is all that you need. I am not that good.