Internal strength and Aikido – An experiment in breaking boards

Its always interesting to experiment with Aikido applications.  Sometimes the experiments work out, sometimes not.  Its all part of the learning experience.

With this spirit in mind,  I recently decided to participate in a test to see if Aikido principles could be applied to break boards normally reserved for students of striking arts.  Now I should state from the outset that I have never previously tried or even considered breaking a board with my hand.  The chance of being attacked by a pile of lumber just seemed too remote to bother with such a proposition.

I resolved to attempt to break a board with an open palm downward atemi (strike) using the suwai sho 2 movement from the Aikido Yuishinkai junan taiso.  This taiso exercise is something most Aikido Yuishinkai students do at the start of just about every  class. Most importantly for the subject experiment, it’s an exercise that generates power from your centre in a downward direction.

Throwing  caution to the wind, I tried to break a (new) JOLS re-breakable board designed for advanced karate students. Of some concern was that, according to its packaging, the board required 114kg of impact power to break. Further, there was internet commentary  to the effect that experienced striking art students often had difficulty breaking the board.  This information didn’t inspire me with confidence.

My first attempt failed miserably and painfully. Fuelled by trepidation, I used the one strategy that could never work – I resorted to physical strength.  On contact, my palm felt like it was going to explode and the throw back vibration went through both my hand and arm so hard I’m sure my ancestors felt it. There was no doubt some well deserved bruising was coming my way.

Just prior to my second attempt, I resolved this time to rely only on fundamental Aiki principles – standing straight, relaxing completely, moving from my centre, keeping weight underside, dropping through the elbow and maintaining an unbendable arm.  I also removed from my mind the fact that the point of contact with the board was going to be my still smarting hand.

I’m pleased to say my hand this time went through the board like it was slicing butter (see video below). I didn’t feel any pain or reverberation at all.  After breaking the board a few more times, I then had a go at breaking 2 boards which required 143 kg of  impact power to break.  Succeeded again!

So there you go – Aiki principles like moving from your centre, weight underside, unbendable arm and relaxed power really do work!

All the best


Credits: Big thanks to Robert Monro for his help in setting up, support and encouragement of the experiment. Also to Darren Philips for his impromptu recording of the exercise.


  1. Reblogged this on Aikido Brisbane and commented:
    A little unconventional – but great to see someone (Ian ) putting aikido to the test and finding it comes up trumps. Physics ( says there is the power of a lawn owner in dropping the centre just a few centimetres – and here it is in action. don’t try this at home kids 😉

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