Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Did Promise Video

Well, yesterday was The Christmas Parade here in sunny Dorset Parish, and Scottsdale. And of course, that means the yearly ju-jitsu demonstration.

The kids enjoy it. They get to show off in front of a crowd. The parents enjoy it: they get to watch the kids hurling each other about, chasing each other, wrestling, playing martial games, and going through set-piece defenses.

Most of all, the kids love the opportunity to break some pine boards.

Personally, I think board breaking is silly. But having seen how much the kids love it, and having seen how it changes their attitude when they get the chance to do it, I'm for board-breaking as a teaching element.

I don't think it teaches much in the way of technique. You do have to be able to generate a bit of power, sure. And you have to be balanced, and you have to hold your hand (or foot) correctly to prevent being damaged by the blow. But none of it is particularly difficult.

Despite that, it does teach one really important thing. It teaches people -- kids especially, but adults as well -- that they can step past limits that they currently take for granted. Not only that, but it's exciting and rewarding to go past those limits. It helps transform their thinking from 'oh, I don't know if I can do this' into 'ooh! I bet I could do this if I just try hard enough!'

Those of you who've been around this space will be aware that I regard that mental transformation as very possibly the single most important element of martial practice. Not everyone who comes to martial arts wants competition, or fitness, or self-defence. But everyone who learns to shift the mental bars, free themselves from their own doubts, and push their boundaries benefits tremendously. When you stop taking boundaries and limits for granted and start learning to exceed them, you enlarge yourself, you enhance your life, and you greatly improve your opportunities in every area. So: if breaking pine boards helps my young students acquire that mental attitude, then I will buy a whole goddam lumber mill, if the club finances hold.

Happily, we generally only need six or seven metres of good, wide, pine board.

Now. I believe I mentioned that this year I was going to try an interesting trick. I saw some footage of Jackie Chan doing a break, and he did it while holding an egg in his hand. That, I thought, was actually very cool. Breaking stuff is one thing. Breaking things while exerting sufficient control that a raw egg in the breaking-hand remains unharmed shows control, and skill.

I also promised footage. Well -- Natalie used a ratty little camera to shoot the event yesterday. I did, in fact, succeed (and finished up by holding up the egg, then breaking it to show the crowd it wasn't boiled, and swallowing the contents... which freaked them out even more than the actual board-break). So it wasn't very clear on the video.

Therefore, I set up again on the picnic table outside, and got Jake to man a slightly better camera for me. Here's the result.

Can't figure out how to make it show up as an embedded YouTube video. Sorry. If you're curious, you can click the link.


  1. Colour me impressed! I've never tried it. As I've pointed out to others when they wanted to hit someone.
    "You're a tradesman ... your hands are your livelihood ... use your elbow instead" ;)

  2. Damned sensible advice, too. Elbows are a lot more efficient. The only problem is that you have to get closer.

    I've got no idea what I'm going to do next year, of course. I'll have to start looking for nifty martial arts tricks on YouTube or something.

  3. Nice, may give it a go myself sometime.

    Ok, how about the "death-catch" from Bloodsport, where JCVD belts the pile of bricks with his hand, shattering the bottom one only... ?

  4. Distance isn't actually the point, they'd be moving anyway. Stops them by making them think rather than act.

  5. drej: I never did figure that one out. Kinda screws with the laws of physics as I understand them.

    The egg thing is - well, not easy, but perfectly understandable. You have to make a protective cage of your hand, rigid enough that it doesn't deform when you go through the boards; and obviously, you have to do it with a hand which is rigidly open, not closed as a fist. You also have to have enough control to permit the wrist to flex at the proper angle, and keep the arm supple enough to generate the snapping action which does the damage.

    But none of it breaks any physical laws. It's just concentration and control. Punching the top brick to smash one down below (and it wasn't the bottom one; it was somewhere in the middle, IIRC) is outside my understanding.

  6. BTW, Drej - what's your martial background?

  7. Dirk, only 4 yrs of TKD including some MMA training based on the Filipino Eskrima/Stick fighting system.
    Went along with my daughter initially whos now 12 and moved onto other activities, but I hope to take up a more comprehensive regimen when we eventually move from Broome.

  8. TKD plus MMA is good combination. Did they show you how the stick-fighting integrates into open-hand and grappling?

    In any case, four years of TKD is more than enough to have you clobbering pine boards with glee and abandon.

  9. Yep, a large part of the training was termed eskrido, being the empty-hands version of the sticks, and how one leads into the other.
    If you're interested, there are some good Youtube vids up of our SGM Cacoy Canete who developed the system we trained in, such as this one taken earlier this year where he demonstates his mastery of the art - at 92 years of age!

  10. Thank you! I'm always interested in new and relevant material. I do a limited amount of short-stick work already, but it would be nice to add a bit more to the curriculum. This looks like a good source of ideas.