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mental_floss's Be More Interesting series will teach you new interesting skills. This week, Max Silvestri learns to break a board with your hand.

(And don't worry--the regular list show will continue on Wednesday!)

Music provided by Scorebuzz Music.
http://www.scorebuzzmusic.com
Max: Today we have Pat Natoli from Mission Martial Arts Academy who's gonna teach us how to turn an ordinary board into a stunning pile of splinters.

(Intro)

Max: Hi, Pat! Thanks for joining me today!

Pat: Hi, how are you, Max?

Max: I'm doing well. So, how long have you been involved in martial arts?

Pat: I've been doing martial arts for about 23 years. I've started my own school/studio/dojo.

Max: You look about 24, so have you- you did it very, very young?

Pat: Actually, no, I started as a teenager; I'm older than I look.

Max: OK, must be all the martial arts...What sort of martial arts do you do?

Pat: I practice a traditional Korean style called Chung Do Kwan; it's actually an offset of taekwondo.

Max: Now, for breaking a board, that's something you usually do with your fist I think a bit when I see- when I've seen displays, Karate Kid type stuff that you do with your fist?

Pat: Well, what you want to do is you wanna minimize the surface area of the strike,-

Max: OK.

Pat: -however you're trying to hit it.

Max: You don't slap it.

Pat: You'd also like to find- No, you don't-

Max: Not a big slap.

Pat: -you don't slap it, and foreheads don't really work too well either.

Max: Oh. What if you have like a five-head? Like Tyra. 

Pat: If you had a five-head?

Max: Yeah. She can do it.

Pat: That'd be even worse; you're really maximizing-

Max: Oh yeah, you need like a three-head or something.

Pat: A three-head, yeah, definitely. Also you wanna find the most durable parts of your body: fists, at the bottom of it-

Max: Your heart.

Pat: Your heart; I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Max: Okay, so you would use the upper bicep. Fair enough. So I was gonna say could you use the bottom of your foot but I can't even really get my leg up that high, so that's not for me.

Pat: Well, actually, the heel of your foot is actually another extremely durable part of your body, but if you were gonna do a kick with your heel, some one would probably be holding the boards up-

Max: Like behind you, like a donkey. You could donkey kick the board.

Pat: You could donkey kick behind you, side kick is also a very popular martial arts kick.

Max: I mean I'm only interested in demonstration, I'm not gonna become a martial artist (Pat: OK) I'm certainly not for self defense, I mean if someone comes at me I'm just going to scream, and run, and yell "fire", BUT showing off how to break a board is very much in my wheel house.

Pat: Sure, I can teach you how to do that.

Max: So, does any.. any board fine? I mean if you just have a board around the house or what, what kind of board are we working with?

Pat: Well, certain really really hard woods, and things like plywood, where your grain is crossed, you wouldn't really wanna try to break that, it's literally meant to withstand, a lot of-

Max: Karate. (Pat: A lot of karate, yeah.)That's why they build houses out of it, so that people can't break in with karate.

Pat: This is pine - this is a pine board. It's a foot long, and you would put shelves in your house. You would paint these and you would put up shelves to hold various karate trophies and things that you have in your house.

Max: Well, I have a pantry full of karate trophies and peanut butter that's all on pine shelves like that...

Pat: You always want to break with the grain; have the lines of the grain facing you, and here's where the challenge is - using your own weight, your own mass, and your own movements, generate enough force to flex this board. Now this all happens in a fraction of a second, but you'd be - you're actually flexing the board so that it passes its strength and ruptures, OK?

Max: OK. Using one's mass...

Pat: Using your - your mass-

Max: I just had, like, a very big taco lunch, so I, like, kinda increased my mass a little bit so I-

Pat: We might have to add a couple boards.

Max: OK, we'll see-

Pat: Today, um, I think we should try a very simple technique,

Max: Sure.

Pat: The old classical karate chop.

Max: Oh, that's a real thing that people still...

Pat: Oh, yeah, you can do a lot of damage with a karate chop.

Max: Wow. You don't see those much anymore. Like, you watch a Jason Bourne movie and it's a lot of like, pens in necks and punching through books and things.

Pat: Uh, you're gonna start by driving your heel down into the ground, kay? Which is gonna turn your hip.

Max: Your front heel or your back heel?

Pat: Your back heel.

Max: Okay.

Pat: Your back heel, and that's gonna allow your hip to turn and your knee to bend. And already, you're taking your mass, your entire weight, from here to here. And that's compounding the force.

Max: Okay.

Pat: Okay. Now you're gonna take your shoulder, and you're gonna drop that shoulder down.

Max: Is that all one thing, or is it–

Pat: That's all one move, but it begins here. If the strike decelerates as it's hitting the board, it probably won't break. It needs to be accelerating the entire time. So speed is going to be extremely important. 

Max: Fast.

Pat: Most people think that big strong people would be able to break the most boards.

Max: Yeah.

Pat: But when you look at it from a physics standpoint, actually a person with less mass and much more speed can generate more force. Now if you were to add another board, kay–

Max: That seems crazy.

Pat: –right on top of it, uh, you greatly increase the tensile strength of that mass. So it's gonna take a lot more force–

Max: Because of the other board.

Pat: –because of the other board. It's going to take a lot more force. So three boards would even increase that greater.

Max: Where in the world would you find three boards? I mean…

Pat: When you're doing–

Max: Who's gonna build a house with three boards? This is still for breaking through houses, right?

Pat: Shelves.

Max: Shelves, shelves, yeah. Peanut butter, karate trophies.

Pat: Karate trophies.

Max: I call my peanut butter karate fuel, 'cause that's just all I eat before I win trophies. Okay, so you've got three boards now. Is this something you can do? Or…

Pat: Yeah, three boards is a good way to measure how much you've learned over the years of martial arts training. 

Max: That's like, a solid three inches of like–

Pat: It's about three inches of wood.

Max: Yeah. Three times one. That's how I figured it out. And I'd like to see this movement–

Pat: I'll show you—I'll show you this—I'll show you this movement. Space your feet out, about shoulder width, okay? Begin above the board, okay? Remember, you wanna be focused on a point–

Max: Below.

Pat: –about four inches, four or five inches past the board, and be accelerating the entire time.

Max: Woah, that's great, that's amazing. Yup, clean through.

Pat: You ready? And remember, try to organize the movements. Twist first, drop, and then let that bring your arm down. 

Max: Sorry, one more time. Okay. Wow, you really go super fast when you do it. Imma do it. Yeah, that's great! That feels great!

Pat: That was excellent. You have a big future.

Max: Aw, thank you. Big future. Whew! I'm going to go throw up in the bathroom. I think. 

Now you know how to absolutely punish an inanimate piece of wood. And nothing cools off a sore hand like a refreshing Dos Equis. Until next time, I'm Max Silvestri for Mental Floss and Dos Equis reminding you to stay interesting.