The 'Bull'

heard somewhere that karate does not consist of putting your weight behind a blow and pushing it 'through' a target but rather is properly implemented by 'throwing' one's hand at the target at maximum velocity (ostensibly to take advantage of physics . . . energy = 1/2 mv^2).

I can't imagine what the hell such a person could be thinking of . . . unless they had no experience with breaking things or perhaps this analysis comes from one of those 'show' guys who break a board with the grain.

In fact, delivering the maximum force (energy) to a target is best served by the aforementioned "mucho macho" technique, i.e. just plow through it.
I know. I've been there.
So if you want to really impress someone with your destructive capacity ( I mean REALLY impress) just read on and be instructed.

The Straight Dope

When I was 19, I worked behind a shear in a steel warehouse. One fellow I worked with was a rather drab unimpressive guy (30'ish, about 5'8" tall and slightly chubby at 175 lbs.). One day he showed me something he had learned to do with the wood pieces that break off skids and packing crates and are always lying around in a warehouse.

He got a piece of dry wood roughly 1/2"-5/8" x 4" x 6", placed it, one end on each of two metal stands about three feet high (in such a way that there was just enough clearance for a fist with little to spare) and . . .
proceeded to whack that sucker so hard with his fist that it exploded into more than a hundred little pieces. Mind you, this is AGAINST the grain.

I was terribly impressed with this and, of course, had to do it too. At the time I was 5'10" and 155 lbs. and no body builder.

He informed me that he would impart the secret but that I would have to be patient (wax on, wax off) because it would take a month or so and much practice to "work up" to it. Else you could very well break your hand.
As I had seen him do it, I knew I could do it as well and eagerly accepted the Master's tutelage.

I now impart this wisdom to you. If you hurt yourself, well . . . remember Nietsche

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger".

The Secret

  • You will be dealing with the limit of human capability. Strength does not matter too much because after a certain amount any more would result in a broken wrist. Understand that the amount of force you can deliver to a target is limited by the strength of your wrist bones not your arm muscles, i.e. if you deliver more force to a target than your bones can take, they will break and not the board. (5/8x4x6 is close to human limits. No human will ever break a 1.5"x4"x6" board. His wrist will break instead.)
    Warning!!! The wood must be dry. If green, prepare to dial 911 with you other hand.

  • Practice with the grain until you think you are really ready because when you finally go for it, if you fail to make it, you will be hurt. Not necessarily a broken wrist, but you will feel it for days at least. Always select your wood carefully examining it for faults, knots (these can be hazardous) nails!? . . . just whatever.


    1) Set up your little board (likely pine or spruce) between two supports about waist high, leaving enough clearance for your fist.
    2) Focus your mind.
    3) Focus your eyes on a point a few inches below (underneath) the board. Do not focus on the board itself.
    4) Visualize. Imagine your hand crashing through the board causing it to explode and passing through that point beneath the board.
    5) Tense all of the muscles of your body concentrating especially on the fist and arm.
    6) Whack the sucker with the full force of your being committing yourself completely to the action.

  • If all is correct . . . if you have not wavered . . . and you are one with the universe . . . you will experience the magnificent thrill of causing that amazing explosion and you will feel no pain at all.

  • If not . . . you have trouble. Try again when you heal.
    I did this at 19 yrs 5'10" 155 lbs. You can do it too.

  • One last note: You hit the target with the fat heel part of your fist, not your knuckles and don't ever use the open, flat hand karate technique. That's a sure trip to the emergency room. Knuckle and flat hand are for playing around with 'sissy' boards not for "blowing things up".

Scientifically Speaking . . .

The reason this works better than just throwing your hand at the target is that by tensing all your muscles you become equivalent to a metal statue, rotating in space, which encounters a fixed obstacle.

When you throw your hand at the object, that's all you throw. Given that the closing speed is the same in either case, the former, of course, delivers much more energy since there is more mass behind it.

Focusing your eyes on a point below the target, allows you to "commit to the action" without hesitation or reserve. It is fundamentally a psychological ploy but an effective one. (And a necessary one as this is a hazardous endeavor which may cause one to "flinch" resulting in failure.)


I laugh when I see people break a common board with the grain. I broke eight of those silly boards at once using the aforementioned technique. (And got hurt a bit because the last board didn't quite come apart so I didn't manage to pass through that imaginary point under the stack. But the other seven just fell apart completely when I examined them. The eighth barely held.)

I exploded many small boards. Occasionally I got one a little green and got hurt. But all in all it was a magnificent experience. I recommend it to all men (women should just forget about it).

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