I started learning TaeKwon-Do at a young age, back then it was under the guidance of Master Lee, I still remember walking into the dojang. We would be training 2-3 nights a week just to perfect the new techniques.
After reaching blue belt I was taught by another Instructor. Master Tam. After one year it was time for my black belt grading. This was a grading like nothing before, it would be an entire day from morning till afternoon, we were tested on stamina, endurance, physical strength, and self-confidence. I was only 13 at the time, what I found most interesting and memorable about the black belt grading was board breaking. For a young teenager, I was light weight, small and skinny. My parents were there to watch the grading, when it came to board breaking they were quite nervous, fearing that I would break my bones rather than breaking the boards. Surprisingly, I passed all the breaking techniques with no injuries at all. This was back in 1993.
After receiving my 1st dan, high school kicked in, more studies, less physical activities, and then came University. Graduating, finding a job, setting up a career and family, now after more than 20 years getting back into TaekwonDo again. Still under the guidance of Master Tam, now GM Tam, I am going for my 3rd Dan grading. Each technique is harder and some techniques have increased to 2 boards. For those of you who never had experience in board breaking before, I hope that by reading this it will give you some insight and to prepare yourself for board breaking.
So why do we get tested on board breaking? In each Gup there are new techniques they are applied through our patterns. In general class we would be breaking down the various techniques step by step and going through them. Each technique there will be a stance with a strike, punch or kick; we would combine these to form that technique.
Board breaking is a test for one’s power in a technique. In TaeKwon-Do we would study and understand the theory of power. In the encyclopedia of TaeKwon-Do it states that there are 6 factors to the theory of power. Reaction Force, Concentration, Equilibrium, Breath control, mass and speed. We combine the theory of power with proper technique and the correct mindset to effectively break the boards.
The Reaction force of yourself would be how the punch or strike hand would be aided by the other hand in pulling back to the opposite direction.
With concentration, you are given a square board and the target is of a small area. We use our concentration to focus and aim in the middle of the board. Not only we concentrate on the target but we concentrate on generating the power at the correct moment to break the board effectively.
With Equilibrium, one must always have a balanced stance. An attack or strike is more effective with a well-balanced stance and always planting the rear foot and heel on the ground to produce maximum power at the point of impact.
Practicing breath control will help to ensure effective breaking. Inhale before the strike, relax, and prepare and exhale at the point of impact will improve the delivery of power for the technique.
A person's mass will effectively have more force with the increase of speed, and would be a greater advantage for one with more mass. For a person with lesser mass we can greatly increase our mass “...by the use of larger muscle groups, and utilize knee spring and applying hip motion where by raising the hip and dropping the hip at the moment of impact.”
Speed would be considered the most essential part in board breaking, with speed and mass we can generate the force or power to successfully break the board.
With the proper understanding and practice of the theory of power and together with a positive mindset you can effectively break the boards. Also for better preparation you can condition your bodies. Understand the words Tae Kwon Do. Tae is the foot, Kwon is the hand or fist, Do is the art or way. In TaeKwon-Do our weapons or tools are the feet and fists. Just like a chef who always needs to keep their knives sharp, or a mechanic to have the proper tools to undo a nut or bolt, We as TaeKwon-Do martial artists should also look after our hands and feet, proper conditioning of the feet, our heel, ball of the foot and the outside edge or blade of the foot. For our hands, condition our knuckles, our palms, inner edge for the reverse knife hand and outside edge for the knife hand. Follow the correct and proper techniques, and as always practice and train hard.
Richard Chan III Dan
Referencing: ITF-tkd.org Encyclopedia of TaeKwon-Do
My journey in Taekwon-Do by Kelvin Chung
Where I started My journey in Taekwon-Do began with a spark of interest back in Singapore when I was just a youngster. The adventure continued when I relocated to Australia, where I had the privilege of meeting Grand Master Tam at the age of 14 in year 8. What initially captivated me were the graceful, powerful kicks and the spirited cheers of my fellow students in the dojang during those days. Despite the interruptions brought about by exams, national service, work, and now the responsibilities of a family, it's taken me an impressive 33 years to reach this point. So,completing my black belt grading stands as an exhilarating milestone.
Preparation One of the most formidable challenges I faced during this journey was recalling all the patterns I learned as a white belt. It often led to amusing moments when I mixed up moves from different patterns. To overcome this, I found myself practicing not only within the dojang but also in my mind and even within my dreams. An effective method was creating stories that incorporated the actions within the Tul. I have always been told by my Sabum nim that grading starts the moment you receive a new belt and we must always be in preparation.
Nerves and Excitement Honestly, I've never been particularly fond of tests. They consistently managed to stir up a flurry of butterflies in my stomach. However, I discovered that building my confidence prior to the grading by actively participating in numerous grading sessions and additional training significantly helped alleviate my apprehension. This meticulous preparation ensured there would be no surprises on the big day, allowing me to deliver my best performance. What truly eased the tension on the grading day was the unwavering support and guidance of our instructors and senior members, who made us, feel like a part of a tight-knit family.
The Test The grading day encompassed a series of assessments, spanning patterns, techniques, self-defence, and breaking techniques. Each facet examined not only our physical prowess but also our ability to control, breathe, and strike a delicate balance between power, speed, and reflex. My most formidable challenge on that day was contending with the soreness and pain stemming from the intense training in the days leading up to the grading. Nevertheless, I was relieved to discover that my kicks remained effective.
Support I hold a deep sense of gratitude toward all my instructors and senior peers who provided unwavering support throughout my training journey. They donned dual hats as mentors and training partners. They readily stepped in as "practice dummies" for self-defence drills, sparring partners, and demonstrators for patterns. They endured the rigors of training, at times bearing the brunt of bruises during our intense sparring sessions, all while maintaining an unwaveringly positive attitude. When it came to the challenge of wood breaking, they firmly held the boards, even at the cost of enduring the force of our kicks and punches, often leaving their hands marked with bruises.
Personal Growth This entire journey presented the opportunity to rectify long-standing bad habits and refine my techniques. It also rekindled cherished memories of the early days of training when youth was on our side. It stands as a testament to the enduring presence of Taekwon-Do in our lives, even as age gradually catches up with us.
Achievement As the day drew to a close, a profound sense of achievement enveloped me. This experience reaffirmed the adage that what doesn't break you only serves to make you stronger.
Conclusion In successfully completing my black belt grading, I am filled with a profound sense of accomplishment. It signifies the culmination of a task that had remained unfinished in my life for far too long. Earning this belt was not a mere handout; it was the outcome of unwavering dedication, unyielding perseverance, and a profound respect for the path traversed by the senior members who had walked it before me.
Kelvin Chung I Dan
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