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.