Saturday, February 15, 2014

Breaking And The Proper State Of Mind

Recently I had a conversation with ChongJae Nim, about breaking. It was born out of a story he told us in class, about breaking and the proper mindset. So I asked him about it, in a brief interview, as he had suggested I write something on the topic of breaking:

Breaking in martial arts and the proper state of mind
by Kyosanim Melissa L. Nichols

Sabeomnim David Eastwood of Kingwood Chayon-Ryu
breaks a brick for his 4th Dan test. Photo courtesy of
Kenneth Young, Sabeomnim Kingwood.
Breaking a board or brick in martial arts has always inspired a sense of awe in those who witness this technique. To the non-practitioner, this can seem like a magic trick as they witness martial arts supermen perform seemingly impossible feats of strength and power.

To the trained practitioner, breaking is seen more as a show of focus and power. Where does this power to break come from --- mystical forces or sheer physical strength?  The answer is neither. True breaking is accomplished when there is union of the physical, mental, and spiritual. That is to say, the focus and power comes from physical training, with the right state of mind, attuning the body, mind, and spirit. Breaking, done in the wrong state of mind with the intent of showing off or impressing people, merely shows how hard one's hand is and not how focused the the martial artist is. Stunt breaking can lead to injury, both to the hand and ego, when things go wrong. Similarly, when one is nervous, he or she is not in the moment and not in the right state of mind, and a failed break can occur. To prevent this, we must clear the mind and rely on all we have learned up to that moment to follow through; only when the right state of mind is achieved will a martial artist be able to execute a proper break.

The proper break begins with the first step in training. It is not something we rehearse, it is born when we learn our fundamentals, growing as we train with humility and sincerity. Breaking is not something we practice by taking bricks or boards home and attempting to break them. Grandmaster Kim Soo says, "We are human beings. Our hands are not hammers," emphasizing that proper mental focus is the more important tool than the hand. With a proper break, we are mentally in the moment, approaching the action with all sincerity, proper humility, and respect.  Understanding that the hand is not what breaks the brick is the beginning of understanding what breaking truly is.

 We break with our mind first, our ki second, and, lastly, the hand, which the energy passes through. Everything in martial arts begins in the mind. The source of our power is our center, our danjan, directed by our mind, driven with humbleness, and coming from sincere training. To practice breaking, Grandmaster Kim Soo tells us, "train and practice your forms, fundamentals, practicals, self-defenses, with all sincerity."

Melissa Dabney of Kim Soo Karate of Baytown breaks for her first rank test. Photo
courtesy of Sabeomnim Kenneth Young, Kingwood Chayon-Ryu.
Breaking is not magic; it is a union of art, philosophy, and science, taking form in our physical/mental/spiritual being to execute and focus our inner power (ki). We should remember to always have the right mindset, sincere attitude, and humility in our training, whether doing forms or breaking bricks.

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