Why Hit Something That Can't Hit Back?
Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts Association Logo by Mark J. Colangelo
Bricks and boards never attacked anyone, so why break them? Because breaking can be a significant training aid and is all too often neglected.

Some martial artists only break bricks or boards because it is required for belt rank promotion in many styles. They donít realize all the benefits proper breaking practice can deliver.

Speed, Focus and Power

The basic elements of any successful break are speed, focus and power. Breaking practice will necessitate, to a martial artist's benefit, the improvement of his or her speed, focus and power. These improved elements will also benefit martial artists by making for sharper, crisper and more powerful-looking techniques or kata (prearranged fighting forms) during testing, demonstrations and teaching. Additionally, with the improvement of speed, focus and power, a martial artistís self-defense abilities are enhanced because the same three elements are necessary for an effective combat technique.


A technique seemingly balanced when executed to the air, yet unstable when executed against a solid object, is obviously useless in a self-defense situation. Breaking practice forces martial artists to develop or increase their ability to deliver any given technique with the balance required in a self-defense situation.

Street Control

Techniques executed in self-defense are not the same controlled techniques of sparring or merely an out-of-control sparring technique, but rather, are techniques executed with the exact control necessary to execute a successful break.


The practice of breaking forces the development of oneís powers of concentration. Once learned, the ability to concentrate will obviously benefit martial artists in self-defense situations and in learning new techniques. However, the ability to concentrate can benefit martial artists in ennumerable other aspects of their daily lives (for example, academics and employment). The power of concentration is the power of personal and continuing achievement.


A successful break increases and confirms a martial artistís belief in his or her abilities and the application of a given technique. It is the confidence in one's own abilities to apply techniques in a real-life situation which lessens the likelihood of such a situation ever arising. This increased belief in oneís abilities also benefits martial artists in daily life, because without confidence people would never set or reach their goals.


Since breaking requires complete discipline, a martial artistís abilities in each area will naturally increase. With added self-discipline, you can increase your achievements in martial arts, academics and employment, as well as improve your relationships with others.

All martial artists must be disciplined individuals when complying with the most basic principle of the martial arts, that being to "only use your fighting skills in self-defense." Breaking requires some degree of self-hypnosis.

In breaking, self-hypnosis involves mind over matter and performance over pain. Consciously, you relax and fill your mind with only positive reinforcements such as "I break this board" and "I will break this board." Once the mind is filled with these self-made suggestions, this reinforced positive mental attitude greatly assists in physically accomplishing the break. This self-suggestion is, to many, the key to self-improvement. Successful breaking demonstrates to individuals that the mind is the master of life. How we live is demonstrated by how we use our minds. Through breaking, martial artists can and do demonstrate that they can, by self-hypnosis, make their subconscious minds work to their advantage by leaving no room for negative thoughts.

Breaking develops the numerous physical aspects of executing proper and effective techniques. The mental and psychological aspects of breaking benefit individuals by instilling self-confidence, self-worth, self-respect, satisfaction and fulfillment. Once these characteristics are firmly ingrained in the subconscious, individuals have strong foundations (inner self) from which to accomplish and achieve their goals.

As said by La-Tzu, "Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment."
By breaking bricks and boards and improving your techniques, you may actually be breaking subconscious and self-imposed limitations which will, in turn, result in your being a more balanced and fulfilled individual whose concentration and confidence (unlike a board or brick) cannot be broken.

Advantages of Breaking Practice

Breaking also strengthens the correct striking surfaces and provides a good method of testing oneís techniques. In short, proper breaking practice improves incorrect or weak techniques, decreases the chance of injury, and increases self-defense skills.
Mark Colangelo is a fourth degree black belt in Cuong Nhu and has been an instructor of Cuong Nhu for many years. Cuong Nhu is a Vietnamese martial art which combines both hard and soft styles of martial arts. Setting Sun Martial Arts, Mark Colangelo, 4993 Niagara Ave., Suite 109, San Diego, CA 92111, (619) 223-8827

Martial Arts articles of interest by Jade Dragon Online:
Part 1 of our two-part series Martial Arts:   An Overview
Part 2 of our two-part series Martial Arts:   An Overview
The Roots of Martial Arts
Profile:   Sifu Share K. Lew

Martial arts websites:
Martial Arts Links

Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts Association

Police Martial Arts Association International

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