I remember my first time watching Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport and thinking that martial arts was about breaking bricks and kicking people off platforms. Then I grew up and learned that it is all a bunch of Hollywood bologna. Some people on the other hand are still getting there. Here is an excerpt from a website I was reading the other day:
“It is said that one who masters [Karate's] techniques can defend himself readily without resort[ing] to weapons and can perform remarkable feats: the breaking of several thick boards with his fist or ceiling panels of a room with a kick. With his shuto (“sword hand”) he can kill a bull with a single stroke; he can pierce the flank of a horse with his open hand; he can cross a room grasping the beams of the ceiling with his fingers, crush a green bamboo stalk with his bare hand, shear a hemp rope with a twist, or gouge soft rock with his hands. Some consider these aspects of this miraculous and mysterious martial art to be the essence of Karate-do. But such feats are a small part of karate…”
Interesting, but not Karate-Do
These feats have nothing to to do with Karate-Do. Anyone, given enough conditioning (and maybe some steroid), can do these feats, or at least most of them. Then, what does that have to do with Karate-Do? Nothing.
I often see or hear about people breaking boards for promotions to a new rank. I fail to see what these “man tests” have to do with Karate-Do. If someone reading this has some insight, please offer it. There is value in the dedication needed to become conditioned well enough to break a board, but the board breaking is not your only means of showing that.
Karateka need to focus on the things that matter, like one’s understanding of why it is important not to fight. Once they get good at the essence of Karate-Do, they can train to perform some of Bruce Lee’s tricks like the two finger pushup.