There's a first time for everything, and on Friday night, for the first time in my life, I broke a board with my hand. In fact, I broke several. I was attending a special seminar at my dojo on "tameshiwari," the art of breaking. It was taught by Kaicho Nakamura, the head of our dojo and founder of our style, Seido Karate. That's his signature on the broken board pictured above.
Although I've had my black belt for over a year, I'd never done breaking before. It's not something that happens in the dojo on a regular basis, so I jumped at the opportunity to try it. I had reserved five boards for myself (two bucks a board) and soon wished I had gotten more.
The seminar began with Kaicho explaining to us why we break (a variety of reasons, from self confidence to a demonstration of the power of well-executed techniques). Then he went on to explain the mechanics of a good break. During the course of the lecture, Kaicho executed a couple of amazing breaks, culminating in a shin kick that shattered an extremely strong oak practice sword into two pieces.
When the floor was opened up into about ten breaking stations consisting of cinder blocks stacked upon each other, we assembled into groups around our respective breaking stations. I was the senior member of my group, so I had to go first.
I was pretty sure I could do it, but I was still a bit nervous as I set up the board on the cinder blocks. What if I couldn't? What if I broke my hand, or my wrist? I steadied myself in front of my board, lined up my technique, took a breath and executed a downward knife-hand strike (shuto sakotso uchi) that shattered the board cleanly in two. I did it!
It was an exciting moment, giving me a feeling of euphoria. My friends in the group gave me a round of applause. Then the rest of our group lined up their breaks, and we all encouraged each other. Everyone did very well. Boards were stacked, smashed, and cleaned up.
For my subsequent breaks, I broke one board with a right downward forefist (seiken) strike, and then I tried a break with a downward knife-hand strike using my left hand just to see if I could do it on my weak side (I could). With my two final boards, I stacked them together (without spacers) and did another knife-hand strike with my right hand. They shattered, and I felt really good about it. What a rush!
Don't think it didn't hurt, because it did, but the endorphins made the pain a bit of an afterthought. I can't say I recommend you all go out and try to break boards (or wooden swords, or concrete blocks, or blocks of ice) but I certainly enjoyed it.
Some people broke as many as six boards. I saw my friend Ash on the subway platform after the seminar, and his right hand was very swollen from a particularly tough break.
So the tameshiwari seminar was on Friday night. On Saturday morning I went to a special judo seminar, taught by Kaicho's friend, a judo master named Shihan Matsumura. That was excellent as well. The only experience with ground fighting I really have was from being an untalented second-string wrestler in high school, so I was glad to pick up some tips for grappling.
After Shihan Matsumura taught us some basic techniques for falling and rolling, we paired up with partners and did a few excercises: different types of takedowns, choke holds, arm bars, and even a judo flip. Some people had the benefit of a soft mat, but my partner and I practiced on the hard floor. After it was all over I was kind of sore (still am). It was great fun, though. I like judo. There's nothing like having someone try to choke you to put you in the moment.
Today, instead of going to the dojo, I took a two-mile jog on the track near our house. The weather was brisk, but the sun came out while I was running, which helped me along.