Are Taekwondo Boards Easy to Break?

a 1 arm taekwondo player kicking a breaking board

One of the spectacular aspects of Taekwondo occurs when students demonstrate their power by breaking bricks and wood with their bare hands and feet. But are taekwondo boards easy to break?

Generally, taekwondo boards are easy to break especially when used for demos. However, boards that are broken at rank exams are different and not as easy to break. Taekwondo boards can therefore range from very easy to very difficult, depending on the technique needed to be executed as well as the material and thickness of the board used.

Board breaking by Taekwondoin is in nearly every demo ever made in the history of Taekwondo.

Board breaking is a crowd pleaser with Taekwondo making use of it as part of their rank exams.

You may have watched a Taekwondo YouTube video and seen some amazing board breaks going on which would make you wonder just how easy it is to break a taekwondo board.

Well, taekwondo boards can either be easy or difficult to break depending on several factors such as the material used, the size of the board, as well as the purpose for which it is needed.

I’ll explain.

Most board breaks you see on youtube videos and demos are fairly easy to break and are just targets that make a shocking noise to create “awes” and “ooohs”.

However, boards used and broken at rank exams in many schools are quite different and not so easy to break.

To help you better understand this distinction; let’s briefly explain two of the most used boards in each rank exam and demo.

2 Most Used Taekwondo Boards

Pichipen Demo Boards

Many of the boards you see in competitions and demos are made of pichipen woods that are glued together.

This helps in removing the splintering caused by pine boards that are used for rank exams by many schools.

Although Pichepen is very hard (about twice as hard as pine), the board is broken where it is glued (if glued) making it easy to break.

This, therefore, works great for demos as it creates a clean break without the mess of splinters on the floor that could cause issues.

However, the size of the board matters. I’ve seen different sizes in this form, both in thickness and length.

Usually, the thickness is either 3/4″ or 3/8″

Commonly, the 3/8″ is used for kids and the high-flying board breaks as they are fairly easy to break.

The 3/4″ is usually used by adults in class and ranks exams more than demos and is considerably harder to break.

When viewing these demos, it’s difficult to know the difference, so why add difficulty that isn’t seen?

That’s probably why 3/8″ is often used more during demos.

You should know that stacking these glued 3/4″ boards are extremely difficult to break as the glued portion needs to line up and not all boards are glued at the same spot.

Students who do not know this often struggle to break the boards during competitions.

Pine Boards

Pine boards are normally used for rank exams over pichipen and there are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, pine is considerably cheaper to cut on your own and much more easily available at your hardware store.

Secondly, it’s a softer board so there are fewer chances of injuring the foot or fist or whatever part of the body used to break the board.

Lastly, it’s much more consistent when breaking stacked boards without spacers as the boards are not glued together and will break at the same spot.

This makes them more reliable to break when stacked.

Note that when breaking stacked boards, the backboard breaks first.

So, if you see this “ki” demonstration of breaking just one board (or brick) on a video, know that it’s just science and this has nothing to do with ki or chi power.

The backboard needs to break first to give room for the next one to break, and then the one in front of that, and so on.

Many consider demos and videos like this as tricks.

Factors That Can Make Board Breaking Difficult

The downside to pine is that it can considerably vary depending on many factors.

Over the years, I’ve purchased pine boards from different places and I’ve learned how to find the proper boards to achieve consistent breaking.

Here are some factors that affect board breaking difficulty level.

Sappy or Dried Out Board

Some pine boards are still a bit “sappy” making them considerably harder to break.

When I was a first-degree black belt, we had a board brought in by someone years ago at my instructor’s studio.

This board seems to have been mixed with sap and concrete and who knows what else as we often try to break it but failed.

One day, in an attempt to finally get rid of this board, my instructor (who I’ve seen easily breaking a stack of 5 boards with no spacers), decided to break the board.

He took a crack at just the one board, (not stacked with any others) with a sidekick.

He broke it, but just barely.  

The board bent and cracked open as if a supernatural force was trying to hold it together.

Never have I seen a pine board that difficult to break.

Now compare that to a single “normal” pine board of the same size that can be broken simply by applying body weight to the center with any amount of speed behind the technique.

Size of the Board

Aside from whether or not the board is sappy or dried out, the size of the board can also determine how difficult a board can be.

Generally, all boards are 1” thick and 12” wide, then they are cut to the length of the breakers age up to 11”.

For example, if an 8-year-old is breaking a board, it would be 12″x8″x1″.

I typically have my entire youth students break 12”x11”x1” boards, but only 1.

My adults over 14 also do that same size but stacked with spacers.

Black belt adults start doing 3 or 4 boards thick without spacers.

To add more difficulty, students perform speed breaks, which is when the board is suspended rather than firmly supported at both ends.

You can also throw the board up in the air untouched, and even break boards in front of someone’s body/face demonstrating stopping power.

Many possibilities are available, but these are mostly demonstrations of practice and skill.

Grain and Knots

The grain and knots are other factors that affect the difficulty of the board.

Very thin space between the grains is slightly easier than wide space between the grains.

Knots are the bigger factor.

A big knot right in the middle of the board makes breaking difficult as the board will not break through the knot, but around it making it much harder to break the board.

Generally, concerning how hard it is to break, 1 board is about the equivalent of breaking a rib bone.

This is if someone is securely holding a rib bone, not floating in the body where the body can absorb movement and power.

Therefore, stacking boards begins to considerably multiply the difficulty.

Wrong Techniques

A student must know how to strike with power and in the center as well as know which part of the body to strike with.

You are unlikely to break the board(s) when you strike the board with a flat foot as it disperses the forces over far too much of the board to break.

Striking with the blade of the foot or heel increases your chances.

If the board isn’t properly held, this can eliminate or reduce your chances of breaking the board.

Your success rate also drops greatly if you don’t know how to set the board up to break with the grain.

In addition to understanding proper technique, there are just a lot of “rules” to know to have a higher success rate in breaking boards.

Psychology

Board breaking also has a mental aspect to it.

I’ve seen many students that had enough power, accuracy, and technique to break boards, but then fail when asked to do so.

This is sometimes due to the fear of getting hurt from breaking the boards, which it can if you break them improperly.

There is rarely any pain involved if you break with proper technique.

For some, they strike “at” the board instead of striking “through” the board.

Nothing else will matter if you don’t strike through the board, it won’t break.

Related Questions

Do Taekwondo Break Boards?

Taekwondo break boards and it’s one of the most recognizable moves in taekwondo which involves practitioners striking a wooden board with their hand or kicking it with their feet.

These feats demonstrate the precise control and power that students can master through the study of Taekwondo.

However, breaking techniques are not a daily part of normal Taekwondo training.

The ultimate goal of this art is to improve our bodies and minds, and not to measure our power by the number of boards that we can smash with our hands or legs.

Board breaking is therefore a secondary consideration in the study of the art as they simply serve as a means by which we can show the level of power that we have developed.

This serves instructors and students as a visible indication of development and control of focus.

Why Do Taekwondo Break Boards?

Taekwondo break boards because it allows us to practice hitting a target with our full strength without having to injure our training partners. It also provides quantifiable, honest feedback on striking techniques.

Taekwondo break boards for many reasons some of which are practical for self-defense training.

First, no one likes to be hit with the full force of a technically accurate hand strike or kick, as this can cause severe injury to participants, so boards are preferred instead.

Your sparring partner will thank you for performing that technique on the board instead of them!

Additionally, it’s a great way to see the amount of power that can be generated by the correct technique.

Not much compares to the satisfaction of feeling and hearing the board breaking under the force of your technique. 

You know when you hear that sound which shows that you have done it correctly.

Also, accuracy is everything in tournaments, especially in a real self-defense situation.

Since boards are almost impossible to break with an inaccurate technique, it is a great way to test your skill with full power and speed.

If it doesn’t smash, then you know you need to go back and work on your technique a little more.

Let us not also forget that Taekwondo breaking is sometimes done for public exhibitions and promotional tests.

What Are Taekwondo Boards Made Of?

Taekwondo Boards are commonly made from pichipen wood, pine wood, or plastic re-breakable boards all of which are available in different sizes for various degrees of difficulty. This makes them ideal for testing students and performing demonstrations.

How Much Force Does It Take To Break a Taekwondo Board?

It takes about 275lbs of force to break a standard Taekwondo board if done correctly.

With correct form and training, breaking a single board of “standard” breaking size poses little danger.

However, an incorrect form can break your hand or leg.

Additionally, data has shown that simple addition of the energy required to break a single board gives a poor prediction of the actual energy required for multiple board breaks.

A model used for predicting the required energy for multiple board breaks is presented accurately to within 10%.

Conclusion

Essentially, board breaking is a test of skill and it can be adjusted in numerous ways to increase or decrease the difficulty.

It’s a matter of understanding forces. Force is just

the speed of the mass.

And while it’s more complicated than that, you can break it down that way to better understand it and manipulate board breaking.

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