Say the word "karate" and many people will have an instant mental image of a belted figure breaking a stack of wooden boards with a bare hand. Breaking boards is a karate technique that requires skill, training and the proper kind of wood, as not all woods are equally suited to this practice. Look for fairly lightweight and cured woods with a coarse, straight grain and an absence of knots or warping. "Green" wood, which has not been given time to dry, is more flexible and resistant to breakage than "cured" or dry wood.
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Paulownia, a fast-growing flowering tree, is not only attractive in the yard but is also a good choice for beginner karate breaking boards. Boards made of paulownia are very lightweight and break cleanly and easily when force is correctly applied.
Pine is a classic wood choice for karate breaking boards. A lightweight wood, pine has a clean grain and a tendency toward dryness--both factors that make this wood a natural choice. Pine boards tend to be stronger than paulownia wood and are good practice or performance boards.
Ash is occasionally used, as its straight grain makes it easy to cut clean boards. But as its other characteristics include high strength and some elasticity, ash can be more difficult for the beginner or intermediate student to break cleanly. Only very dry ash boards should be used for breaking purposes.
Woods Not to Use
Oak, cedar and other heavier woods are either too strong or too brittle to be used for breaking boards. Brittle woods will shatter or not break cleanly, increasing the potential for splinters and other dangers. Particle boards or composite woods are also not recommended.
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